GDC 2018

This past week at GDC has been truly amazing. I have met a lot of new people as well as getting to experience new things with good friends. When I was packing up my stuff to leave on Friday, I had a touch of sadness in my heart that it was over, but a fiery passion to apply the new things that I have learned.

I went to GDC with the Summits + Conference pass, and it was totally worth the extra bucks for what I got out of it. At every talk I went to, I met at least two new people with common interests. With the number of talks that I went to, I met a lot of people.

On top of the talks, I went to as many round table sessions as I possibly could, especially the tools and automation ones. Having been exposed to a lot of new concepts with tools and automation, I think that may very well be what I want to do with my career in game development. Don’t get me wrong, I love making games and doing things like gameplay programming and design, but there is something so satisfying to me about how I can optimize the workflows of brilliant and talented people.

I already have made things like automatic bug reporters and build automators, so going to GDC and meeting people like [The Toolsmiths] has really set it out for me.

Challenges of GDC

I didn’t struggle with a lot of things in GDC, but there were a couple notable
points that I think can be improved upon not only by the conference, but in the industry as a whole.

Being a student is hard at GDC. That is just the plain truth. It can be very difficult to feel like you belong in a place filled with the most talented people in the industry while you are just beginning. However, that’s not the main problem for students in my opinion. Before I came to GDC I was avidly warned not to tell people that I was a student. This was because most of the people just assume that you are only there to find a job, and that you have no knowledge to share. I feel like this is not only very unwelcoming, but also a great way to turn new people away from our industry in general.

I think the root of this problem partially stems from how quickly the upper education system has changed in the past couple of years. Colleges and Universities that specialized in games did not exist just a short couple of years ago, and it is fair to be weary and judgmental of the students coming out of them. However, I do understand why students have this kind of stigma around them. During my time there I witnessed some students who just seemed uneducated that this event is not really about getting a job, but making new connections and learning from our peers in the industry.

The next thing that I think a lot of people would agree on is that GDC needs to decrease the cost of going there. I think that the passes are way too expensive, especially considering how many people end up going to the event. And not just the passes themselves, San Francisco is a very expensive city to stay in for a week, especially the area that GDC is located in. I think that moving GDC to a different area that is more accessible and less expensive would be the right choice. I doubt that is going to happen though.

Positives

Roundtables

The roundtables that I went to were by far my favorite thing about GDC this year. In particular I really enjoyed the Technical Tools sessions not only because of the topics, but because of the community around them. I found out that a ton of people have started to pick up the ELK stack as a way to do error reporting and build logs, which I really support. Another reason that I really liked the roundtables is because they were a nice break from just sitting and watching a talk. I loved all the talks that I went to, but it was nice to have something interactive throughout the day to shake things up a bit. Furthermore, because the roundtables were set out in a way that it “Tools Day 1”, “Tools Day 2”, etc. it meant that a lot of the same crowd was going to the same roundtables. This let me meet people and continue talking with them the next day, and build better relationships.

Talking with speakers

This may be obvious, but being able to go up and talk to the people about their talks afterwards was a favorite things that I did while at GDC. I really loved continuing the conversation afterwards.

Parties

I feel like I can’t do a write up about my GDC without touching the party aspect. There were so many opportunities at GDC to meet new people, but parties were nice because everyone there just wanted to hang out and have fun!

Aurum Kings Demo – A Post Mortem

Recently I wrote a blog post on the official Bull Horn Game website about what went right and wrong at the Mini Maker Faire, and what the plans are for the game in the future. However, that wasn’t really in depth about my personal development process, and what I learned from the working two months on this project.

One of my game design professors recently gave some advice that everyone should do a post mortem of every game they make, and keep it somewhere so you don’t forget the lessons that you have learned. I have done some post mortem type stuff in the past on this blog, so I figured why not keep it here? Hopefully one day someone else will learn something useful from this too.

What went wrong?

Organized To Do List

Over the course of the project, I tried out a couple different methods for keeping a solid to-do list, but it took me a while to find one that I actually liked. Eventually I was spread pretty thin between different things like Todoist, a white board, and Trello. I ended up using Trello to keep a nice and organized list of feedback, bug reports, and to-do list items.

Process of Creating Art

I ended up doing all of the art myself, which took way longer than I wanted it to in order to get the environments to look how I wanted them to. At the beginning of this project I had never used Blender before, and really was not too familiar with Gimp either. I used those tools specifically because they are free to use and don’t require me to use any special licenses. This was an awesome learning experience, and now I know how to make mediocre 3D models in Blender, but I really wish that I had teamed up with an artist. Speaking of Blender, I took advantage of the fact that Unity auto-generates .fbx files to use in the engine from .blend files, and didn’t actually export my models to .fbx myself. Let me tell you, that was a huge mistake. At the end of the development cycle I was planning on just using the cloud build offered by Unity to target Mac and Linux. Cloud build does NOT support .blend files. Future Ben, please keep your 3D models in a separate folder and export them into Unity or whatever engine you are using.

Lack of Confidence throughout the development process

Something that I really learned how to do during this project is how to actually talk about my work. I used to just talk about my projects almost in a negative tone, which doesn’t get the person you are talking to about it very excited. If you are passionate about your work, then others will be too. I think that this was also more of a personal issue where I am way too critical of my own work, which is something that I addressed simply by surrounding myself with positive people. This year was really when I started to be around other game devs on a daily basis, and actually enjoying my time spent working.

My work environment

Being in college and trying to make a side project like this is tough. Not only because of classwork and whatnot, but because of distractions. At the beginning of this project I was just working on this project whenever I could, which lead to a lot of distractions from my room mates, people wanting to play games, etc. What I did to address this was allot time in my calendar every day to specifically work on this game. Close my door, listen to some flowing music, and get to work. Not distractions. This worked pretty well for a while, but I got to a point where this game was almost the only thing that I did in my free time. Remember to go out and have fun. Step away from the project for a day or two, it really helps you clear your head and get in a better mental state.

What went right?

Audio Creation

Working with Rowan Waring was a huge positive in this game, and he really did a great job with the music in this game. Don’t be afraid to ask other people if they want to be a part of your project, especially if you are a programmer and they do art things. Art and music are extremely valuable and can make or break the feel of your game.

Rapid Prototypes and Iteration

Fortunately, I created the systems necessary to very quickly tweak and create new abilities in Aurum Kings. I definitely recommend taking the time to do things like scriptable objects, custom editor windows, and so on in Unity specifically. Something that I want to work on is to write a simple batch script or something that will streamline my build pipeline. Just to quickly target multiple platforms, and not have to sit at my computer for 30 minutes building for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Playtests

I was fortunate enough to be with a group of other game devs and designers who held regular playtest nights, which was awesome! Along with that, my roommates (not game devs) were willing to playtest any  new build that I put out, and give me really valuable feedback.  Playtest as often as you can, especially if you are the only one working on a project. 

 

 

I think that is pretty much it for this post mortem of Aurum Kings so far, hopefully somebody can get something out of this as well!