UX Lab Quest, Part 15

This week is a very interesting week, in that our client, TEQGames is currently at I/ITSEC, the world’s largest simulation conference.  What this means is that getting confirmations regarding upcoming mission requirements will be next to impossible for this week.  Everyone is busy in that regard.  Naturally, there are pros and cons to everything, so even though development work is on hold for the week, the artists can still do what mojo that they do and management and documentation remains constant.  Also, we the producers will attend I/ITSEC later this week, and that will be fun.

In my case, the mission 10 curriculum powerpoint should be done today or tomorrow, depending on how the days go.  I was finally able to sit down with the producer/designer yesterday to iron out the details for the walkthrough.  Incidentally, the powerpoint serves multiple functions besides curriculum suggestions.  They are, in no particular order:

  1. Provide suggestions for how to incorporate the mission into education curriculum.
  2. Provide a walkthrough of the mission; Note that this is not necessarily the “ideal” path for completing the mission.
  3. Provide mission-specific and game-specific details, from joystick controls, HUD details, etc.

Having previously worked in education, I can honestly say that not many teachers are gamers.  Mind you, I’m not saying they don’t play games like a Farmville or Angry Birds on their mobile device of choice.  But if I were to ask them who Nathan Drake or Ezio is, or if they’ve heard of Blizzard, Bioware, Bethesda, etc.  But I digress; the point is that it was my intention to try to give the educator using these missions user-friendly documentation that will allow them to succeed in implementing these missions into their teaching.

It’s questionable whether I’ve succeeded or not, but I can say I’ve tried my best each and every time.

Game Industry Quest, Part 14

I was busy working at home when the UPS man knocked on my door to deliver a package.  I dutifully answered his knocking, signed for, and received a rather large box.  I knew it wasn’t a box of supplements, so my mind was racing, wondering what can be so big.  Opening the box revealed it’s contents: the collector’s edition for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

In a word: HUGE!  I’m suddenly wondering where exactly I will fit this beast when it comes time to move…anyways, this was obviously 17 days ago on on 11/11/2011, the date Skyrim released.  Due to an insane amount of work and a great deal of dedication and sacrifice by me, I actually did not play the game until this past weekend for the first time.  It’s quite a fun game, with great music and atmosphere.  As is custom with Elder Scrolls games, I created an Orc named Hulk, a berserker warrior with little patience for anything.  Also, I typically travel everywhere by foot in these types of games to increase immersion, but due to time constraints with work responsibilities, and found myself fast-travelling more often than not.  I also remember how encumbrance became the bane of my existence, as I typically love to loot everything to sell off, and when there is something I am unable to take, it frustrates me to no end.  Especially if the item in question is something I feel I’ve earned.

Getting off games for a moment, I do hope that I will see positive results from all the work I’ve been doing as of late that has kept me up late at night, trying to be perfect with every single detail.  Then again, lately I’ve adopted the policy of “hope for the best, expect the worst.”  Arguably sad, but true at the moment.

It’s a shame I can’t just take my war-hammer, and like Hulk the Dragonborn Orc, power attack all my problems.  Life would be so much easier.

UX Lab Quest, Part 14

In the previous, I mentioned how the tides of change had swept the UX lab with losing producers to graduating.  I now wish to talk about comings, and the new personnel that have joined us in the UX lab.  Interestingly enough, this week will be their first full week.  They officially started last Monday, but the Thanksgiving holidays cut the week short, so they only worked two days.

Three new producers have joined the UX lab.  An influx of fresh talent is always a good thing.  In no particular order, the first producer I’ll mention is Vance Banks.  I actually met Vance quite awhile ago in the Full Sail GDMS program.  His exact background evades me, but he brings a good skillset to the lab.  For example, he’s skilled at using a program called 3DS Max, and we use stripped down version of said program called GMax to insert our 3D art into Microsoft Flight Simulator X.  The second, Eddy Lin, is native Chinese, though from where exactly evades my feeble memory at the moment.  I believe he has a statistics background.  He’s a tad on the shy side, though it could be a language barrier issue.  To be fair, I think his English is fine.  I’ve certainly heard worse from people where English is their second language.  The third, Frank Reed, is from Colorado I believe has a business background.  All three people are good natured people with a sense of humor, smart, work hard, and have good attention for detail.  I think all three will grow very well with this internship.  They’ll be pushed, but they’ll also gain a lot from it.

UX Lab Quest, Part 13

Sigh…I was working on this blog post when my computer froze.  It’s been prone to freezing lately ever since I upgraded my video card, which now seems to permanently run hot.  It’s gotten in the way of work that’s needed to be done, which can be aggravating.

Anyways, back to the topic at hand: there have been quite a lot of changes in the UX lab as of late.  Because of this, I’ve decided to split these events into two categories, thus two blog posts.  The first category has to do with goings.

Two of our producers graduated last Tuesday, but their time and contributions to the lab are more than greatly appreciated by me.  Zack McCann brought a great dry humor to the lab, and his background as a programmer from his computer science bachelor’s degree was invaluable.  Tom Shaw was our lab manager who despite a film background, managed to become a strong developer, scripting missions for the lab as well as doing audio work.  It was a pleasure to work with both men, and I not only wish them great success in the game industry, but I also hope I have the pleasure of working with them again.  Or hanging with them playing games; either would work well for me.

Game Industry Quest, Part 13

There were a number of high profile game releases last week.  On the console side of things, we have the XBox 360 exclusive Halo: Combat Evolved: Anniversary Edition from 343 Studios.  I can’t say I love Halo the way others do, though it’s definitely one of my favorite FPS games, when I’m in the mood to play an FPS.

Halo: Anniversary Edition

*Chants Halo Theme*

Moving onto a multiplatform release, we had Saints Row: The Third.  The first Saints Row was fun, though once the main campaign ended I was more or less done.  Saints Row 2 was fun, but I didn’t even finish the campaign for that game.  Saints Row: The Third looks ridiculous.

Saints Row: The Third

Insanely silly...there are no words...

I took a moment to download the character creator, and the customization options are both numerous and extremely silly.  Case in point, I made the Incredible Hulk with spiky anime hair.  What other game allows that?  That alone has pushed this game to a must buy for me.  However, I won’t be getting the game immediately, as my backlog of games must be played first before I get into anything new.  Still, Saints Row: The Third is something I’ll definitely pick up.

Of course, there’s one more game that released closer to the end of last week that as of this writing, has a 95 out of 100 on metacritic.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Skyward Sword FTW!

I actually just bought a Nintendo Wii, though not for the sole purpose of playing this game.  That’s not to say this game was a key influence in the decision. The reason I decided to buy the Wii is that Nintendo has re-designed the Wii for the Holidays.  It’s now smaller…and no longer backwards compatible with Gamecube games and controllers.  My desire to have that backwards compatibility prompted me to get a Wii before everyone runs out of stock of the last iteration.  It should be arriving today in the mail; also soon to arrive in the mail should be Skyward Sword.

Now if only I can tear myself away from Dark Souls to play anything else…

Game Industry Quest, Part 12

There’s quite a number of things to write about today, but perhaps the first thing I’ll mention is the cool event I came from less than an hour ago.   At Full Sail University, in your final months, if your Global Professionalism Standards (GPS) score is high enough, you occasionally are invited to what’s called a Green Room event, where an industry professional will talk to you.  It’s both a networking and educational opportunity, so it’s really quite cool in those regards.  It’s on a first come, first serve basis with limited seating, so I feel fortunate to be able to attend.  MY GPS score is currently 122; I have no idea how that compares to my other classmates, whether that’s high or low, but it was good enough to get me an invitation.

Our industry professional for the Green Room was Cordy Rierson, a Full Sail Graduate who’s had a long, great career in film, television, and games.  Usually, when one mentions transmedia, one applies that to an intellectual property, but talk about someone who’s worked in production in multiple entertainment genres, that would be Cordy.  She’s on the board of director’s for IGDA, and currently works for Microsoft in a number of different capacities.  The big three things she does is university relations, Kinect Fun Labs, and Kinectshare.com.  She shared her insight and expertise acquired from her experiences, and presented herself incredibly well.

Incidentally, three traits she looks for in potential hires are: passion, critical thinking skills, and communication.

We all had an opportunity to ask questions.  I had taken the time to think of several before the Green Room event, though many of those were asked by others.  I eventually got to ask her what she would recommend with regards to maintaining contact with your networking contacts.  This is something I’ve always wondered about, since networking is emphasized so much in the entertainment industry.  With that said, how often should you email / contact that president of so-and-so company you met yesterday?  Daily?  Weekly?  Bi-weekly?  What she recommended was contacting people using industry conferences as the base schedule.  So get in touch with someone to find out if they’re going to attend the Game Developer’s Conference for example, and see if he / she is available for face time.

I also asked about project manager and scrum certifications, both of which she said were very good ideas.  Both are expensive however, and add to that how expensive conferences are, and I’m going to have to pick and choose my battles carefully.

In the end, she was accepting resumes / business cards, which I gladly handed her both of mine.  She had mentioned her interest in singing before she went to school for film, so I wonder what she’ll think about my music background…

Onto the world of games, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has the lab ablaze with excitement.

Skyrim

Oh, how I wish I had time to play thee...

My first Elder Scrolls game was Morrowind on the original XBox.  I still remember the classic Elder Scrolls theme.  It was serene and peaceful, yet it somehow, some way transported you to another world.  For me personally, this is a great example of just how powerful any single element of a game (gameplay, graphics, audio, etc.) can be.

If I remember, I’ll try to post more about the Elder Scrolls series in an upcoming blog.  I feel like I’ve rambled long enough…for now.

UX Lab Quest, Part 12

With our next deliverable, mission 9 due today, it will likely be an endless day.  Well, not truly endless, but along those lines, if the schedule is maintained we are supposed to be done sometime today.  Assuming everything remains par for the course, we (the producers) will see the sun rise tomorrow.

With the consistent all-nighters being pulled every one-and-a-half weeks, I must admit they’ve taken their toll on my ability to perform optimally.  Usually it takes anywhere from 24-72 hours to fully recover from the experience.  To be clear, it’s not that I’m NOT working, it’s that everything I do seems slower than usual, and just takes up much more time than I’d like.  It’s an infuriating part of this internship, but it’s also something I’ve accepted many missions ago, probably sometime around the time when the third all-nighter was pulled.

Speaking of which, I need to finish the curriculum for mission 9, as I’ve been splitting my time between 9 and 10, which threw me off my game and the usual routine I’ve tried to maintain.  It’s off to the races.  I’ve brought caffeinated diet soda to help me through, but I fear even that won’t be enough and I’ll be throwing money at the school vending machines at some point today.