Monthly Archives: November 2013

Super Mega Happy Fun Time: Group Work

A group sitting around a table talking to each other.

Communication is at the core of productive group work.

Sharing is caring. So it’s time to work in a group. Nothing of any significance was ever done by a single man or woman, not even in the world of video games. 

“HEY! What about that guy who made Minecraft?” – random internet reader

No. Not even Markus Persson, or more commonly known as ‘Notch’, the creator of Minecraft did it alone.

And if you think about it in a more philosophical way, we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. I don’t think I can say that as a software programmer I made the app that I made the other day all by myself. There are so many libraries, algorithms, lower level compile processes, design interfaces, et et that others have made that helped me get to where I am today. And I am thankful.

But whether we look at it in a practical way or in a philosophical way, great works of humanity are usually done by groups of people working together towards a common goal.

Some of the benefits of working in a group are that you have people to argue and fight with. And no this isn’t a bad thing. Bouncing ideas off of other scholars, arguing about opinions, and embracing new ideas is simply amazing. At the core of these acts is potential growth for both you and for your project. Your project can’t succeed without growth. 

Working alone has its pros and cons. One of my favorite things about working alone is that you don’t have to waste time with super long meetings. I can just have an idea and then go to work on it. Yet on the other side of that coin, the thing I hate the most about working alone is that no one is around to tell me my idea is pure and utter crap. 

Working in a group also has its benefits and drawbacks. One of my favorite things about working in a group is the potential for “enthusiasm rub off”. I can illustrate what I mean by that term by giving an example. When I work on projects, I usually get very excited and enthused about them if I truly believe in the project.  When I see other group members’ enthusiasm, their enthusiasm rubs off on me and I get even more motivated to do a great job. It causes me to go above and beyond anything I could have done alone because of the responsibility I feel toward my team.

If it is still hard to understand, then think about the concept of having a gym workout buddy. Think about why it is easier to find yourself consistently attending the gym when you have a workout buddy compared to how inconsistently you attend the gym if you don’t have a workout buddy, personal trainer, or fitness class.

Yet one of my biggest fears of group work is also enthusiasm rub off. But in this case the other group members have no enthusiasm and don’t care about the project at all. Often if I find myself in this situation, I tend to also loose interest in the project. I tell myself if my teammates don’t believe in the project, then why should I. 

Hopefully in the future I’ll be able to turn the emotions around, rally the troops, and make the team members who don’t believe in the project into team members who believe and truly care. 

Two people sitting at a table talking, giving feedback, and iterating.

Communication, feedback, critique, and iteration are key elements of group work.

Yet regardless of pros and cons, or hopes and fears. If you want to have good group productivity. You and your team members need to communicate. Communication is at the core of productive group work. Your concerns will never get addressed if you don’t bring them up to your team members. Concerns are important because without them your project will never grow and become great. 

In short, group work isn’t perfect, but it is the best thing that we have in order to make amazing things. And if you know how to communicate with your teammates, then you will be able to think as one and create something truly amazing. 

P.S. To all those who were expecting a topic from the last post, I’m sorry. This was a required assignment post. I’ll try to post one of those other topics next week. 

 

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New Posts

I have a few ideas for some pretty interesting blog posts. I hope I have time to write and publish them this weekend. If the following topics interest you, then check back this weekend.

  • Ripple Effects of dual wielding Weapons in Halo 2
  • Halo 2 and Xbox Live: How Halo 2’s multi-player systems changed the way online console games are played.
  • IGM Interactive Media Guild Halloween Hack-a-thon 2013 Postmortem.
  • A new Blog sub page on Multiplayer FPS Design, Opinion, and Research.
  • An update on “Mystic Mysteries”
  • Maybe I’ll even post some of my portfolio work up here.

I feel pretty confident that one of these will be up by Sunday, November 17, 2013.

Here is a little preview: 😉

Fig. 2 - Pick up and dual wield

(from one of the upcoming blog posts) – can you guess which one?

Until next time… Later nerds.
– Nicky Da B

A Blog Post that has nothing to do with Giant Film Noir Robots from Space in a 3D Action Adventure Platformer Stealth MMO Game

As I sit here at my desk typing away furiously at a keyboard at 12:58 AM on a Monday night (Tuesday morning), I realize that most of the things that I do are because other people ask me to do them. Not to sound like some sort of depressed loser, but looking at my recent tasks and accomplishments, it is the truth. Even this blog post is a mandated upload from a Professor for a class assignment. I’m not saying that I’m not motivated and that I can’t get off my lazy butt and do things, but when is it okay to break away from the chains of mundane tasks and follow your dreams?

Yesterday I promised a student, who I worked on a project with in the past, that I would re compile the project and send it to him so that he could show it to potential employers.

Last weekend I really wanted to make a blog post about my experiences with the IGM Interactive Media Guild Halloween Hackathon. I planned to go into detail about how I hadn’t touched character modeling and animation in over 2 years and how I went from pre-concept all the way to a fully animated character model in about 18 hours. I really wanted to express my feelings of crunch time production and all the great bonding experiences I shared with other game developers who shared the same passions for greatness. But instead I had to do homework for my other classes.

A picture of my set up from the game jam.

A picture of my set up from the game jam.

Over the summer I wanted to make a cool and goofy flash game and publish it on the internet to a website such as Kongregate.

For this entire past year I wish I could go back to my hobby of level design and world building by having some time to work on my Counter Strike maps.

Yet it seems that I’m working crazy long days averaging about 6 hours of sleep on a good night. So where does all the time go? Is it Facebook, reddit, or maybe sitting on my ass telling myself to get my act together? No, it’s not! Well, maybe some of it…

But mostly the time has been getting eaten up by other people like I mentioned before. It’s usually school related, both directly and indirectly related to class work.

Honestly I don’t know why I’m writing this. El’ says to ignore the man and follow your dreams. Clive says that writing helps our brains exercise and what not. Everyone has their opinions. I’m not here to judge. Blogs are suppose to be short little dribbles of thought with 50% entertainment and 50% information. I’ve already past the point of no return in terms of attention span, and so far this blog has been 0% entertainment, 0% informational, and 100% garbage data.

So for the reader who is still reading, I implore you to stop. Close this window and go and follow your passion. You’re not fooling anyone, I know reading this blog isn’t your dream.

…You’re still reading…

Well okay. If you insist, then I’ll continue with a long and boring opinion of my first semester of Graduate school. Oooh. Feel the excitement. I told you to stop.

Well, here goes nothing. This is the story of Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man

Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man

Yep, that’s me trying to adventure through this crazy thing we call academia.

So Grad School for Game Design and Development, all we do is play games right? It doesn’t seem that hard. This semester I’m enrolled in four classes, which are Game Development Processes, Game Design, Gameplay and Prototyping, and Colloquium in Game Design and Development.

Game Development Processes is a very interesting class. In this class we discuss game production, how to produce and develop a game from start to finish, and how to deal with all the formal aspects related to documentation and such. It has really opened my eyes and reminded me of topics that I already knew about. I have definitely taken a new approach to game development while taking this class. One of the core elements that I took away from this class was that now I always make a game design document for any game that I work on, whether it is for a full fledged game intended for production or just a pitch with 5 slides in a power point. It really helps with making a better quality product.

Game Design is a very intensive literature and philosophical based class. I do a lot of readings for this class. Most of them are very interesting, and I wish I had the time to read them in full detail rather than skimming for material essence and core content. But the really valuable experiences in the class are from the dialogues with the other students in the class about the reading material. Bouncing ideas off of other scholars, arguing about opinions, and embracing new ideas is simply amazing.

Gameplay and Prototyping is a very work intensive class that simulates what, I assume, one of the parts of R&D to be, at a game company. Our assignments can be clearly mapped to a producer at the company coming down to your desk, informing you of a game idea, and asking if you can have a playable prototype by the end of the week to show to the rest of the team in order to figure out whether the game is fun or not and therefor inform the decision on whether or not to fund this as a full time project for the company. Getting the opportunity to practice these skills is super valuable. The only way to get better is to really get enthusiastic about the tasks and practice, practice, practice. Through time, critique, iteration, and willpower even a square marble block can become a grand vision of art.

Colloquium in Game Design and Development is a pretty unique class in the aspect that the topic changes every week. Sometime I call it “Special Topics” because of that. Sometimes we have professors come in and talk about there research projects or their special interests of study. Other times we have special guest speakers from industry, who give us an inside look on how the game industry works from their point of view.

But honestly, I really love it. It has been a great experience so far. I only see it getting better. We are going to make the next great games of tomorrow.

Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip: It's a magical world, Hobbes, Ol' Buddy... Let's go exploring!

It’s a magical world, Hobbes, Ol’ Buddy… Let’s go exploring!