Phillip Bossant works for the America 's Army Game
Project Public Applications Team in a dual role as both executive
producer and art director. He has been an integral part of the
America's Army online multiplayer game for nearly four years, and has
been involved in all of the game releases since the original game debut
in July 2002. He began as an artist with a bachelor of Fine Arts before
entering into software and game development. He has worked in the game
industry for over 13 years in various capacities from independent
contractor running a small studio, to start up and large game company
experience to the current U.S. Army Game development team.
Typical Day in June 2005
6:00 AM– Is
when I usually get up. I have an alarm as a back up but I prefer
shutting it off before it goes off. I'm a light sleeper so I'm often
noticing the time well before then. I have a rather long commute so
sometimes it's necessary to get up even earlier to get a jump start on
the day. I am on the West Coast so at times this is necessary to
effectively work with others from East Coast teams on the project. I
work most often onsite in Monterey but am also set up at my home office
with high speed and remote access.
not naturally a morning person but it has turned out this way through
necessity. Balancing years of aggressive work schedules with family
life has always been the norm in my household. After getting dressed, I
head downstairs with my dog, and boot up the computer.
– Morning time is always busy and by now I should have already freshly
ground and brewed a pot of nice dark roast coffee, fed and walked my
dog, read and/or replied to some email, fixed a quick breakfast while
reading comics and briefly going over the newspaper, and packed a
lunch. From then it's upstairs again to get the first of two kids up
for school. Back down to the computer to do more email and prepare any
files or items I need to take into the office. Time to get the next kid
up and a breakfast ready for him.
becoming team lead, I was full-time doing art and asset production and
would typically have already gotten in an hour or two of painting by
7:40-8:30 – Carpool
duty means I either take my daughter and neighbor to school and/or drop
my son off at his school before heading to the highway for my long but
beautiful commute to the studio in Monterey. Sometimes this is when
some of my first business calls begin. Many people involved with the
Army Game Project are on East Coast and it tends to be a good time for
quick calls. If I'm not doing that then it's music or audio books for
the drive. I've knocked off dozens of novels at this point and found it
to be an unexpected pleasure and unique way to experience a novel based
on the skills and artistry of the reader. Either way, it's a bit of a
chance to clear my head before starting at the office.
9:30-10:00 – A
typical time for me to be at my desk again taking care of emails that
require file transfers and phone messages. I generally greet team
members and let them know if I have any special requests for the day or
to pass on any news or updates. Today it's to let team members know
that it looks like we have secured a new office space in the San
Francisco Bay area. The Army Game Public Applications Team (the team
responsible for the public version of the America's Army game)
has been in Monterey for several years now and while it is quite
beautiful and wonderful to visit it is not an optimal location for a
game development team by any means. This new location in the Bay area
will help us gain numerous advantages, and finding and attracting good
talent is not the least of it. We are looking forward to adding new San
Francisco developers to our team, and are also pursuing a sort of
partnership with a local Digital Media college there to set up access
to each other's top-of-the-line studios. I also check in on our two new
animators and their progress in our 24 camera motion capture studio.
They are setting up and preparing to tackle a very long list of
animation needs for both upcoming releases and government projects.
11:00-12:00 – This
is the usual time for a Team Leads or special task meeting to deal with
design/production issues. Today, we have our Army Game Project weekly
production meeting where we have representatives from many of the
groups involved in the project.
Army Game project has a unique team structure. The project is run out
of the Office of Economic Manpower & Analysis (OEMA) at West Point.
They direct the efforts of the various development teams which include
the Public Apps team, the Government Apps team (team that manages the
integration of the AA game technology for training), and the Future
Apps team (team that uses AA for new weapon modeling). The Army works
with the teams to make sure they are provided with all of the relevant
information and materials needed to achieve their mission.
example, the Army provides Subject Matter Experts (SME), like our
current integration manager who is our active duty SME from the 20th
Special Forces Group, for activities like content review and to arrange
visits to Army posts. We've had many visits from these SMEs who look at
our game and make suggestions to make it more realistic, whether is the
stance of a soldier, how he's holding a gun or the smallest detail on a
weapon. This feedback is invaluable to our team. We've just come back
recently from a “green up,” with them and I need to transfer photos
taken from it for other groups. These "green up" events are set up from
time to time to get developers on the project out to various Army Posts
to get some first-hand experience of some Army training and to collect
reference material as well. Each time we go we come back with tons of
photos and video footage as well as a better understanding of the Army
and how our soldiers train. Plus, there is nothing else quite like
taking a high speed banking dive into a canyon on a Blackhawk
helicopter ride to inspire and enrich our future designs for the game!
our weekly meeting, OEMA, all of game development teams, our web
support team, our marketing agency, and others come together to discuss
upcoming issues and milestones. This meeting is a good time to connect,
trade notes and share information. On this call the various groups talk
about upcoming visits from OEMA, another green up event, upcoming
tradeshows and events featuring the game, and game release dates.
12:00-12:30 – Almost
always finds me eating at my desk while working. Not a great habit
certainly but I'm already switching channels to start art tasks.
12:30-3:00 – This
is the time I'm often trying to work on assets and deal with art and
level design issues. We've always had some terrific talent on this
project and the current art and design team is no exception.
Fortunately, the look and feel of America's Army has already
been well established and it's typically not hard to steer the artists
and designers in the right direction. This and their skill level is the
main reason I'm able to handle my dual roles with any success at all.
Our team is not large so everyone here has opportunities to spread out
a bit and not be pigeonholed into a single role or type of asset
creation. We try to play to each individual's strength. I enjoy sitting
with people one on one to check out their progress on assets and
levels. Many times, I'm just providing feedback but sometimes I am
directly involved with making the solution. If I'm really lucky there
might be large sky backgrounds that need to be hand painted but it's
rare that I get to spend much time painting on the project these days.
3:00-3:30 – Checking
email, there are some screenshots and other assets to look over that
were just sent from Ubisoft. I've already been to their office in S.F.
several times to go over various parts of their production. They are
producing the first console versions of America's Army called America's Army: Rise of a Soldier,
which comes out this fall on both Xbox and PlayStation 2. They are
using many core assets from the PC game while approaching many game
design issues with different and newer concepts.
3:30 - 4:00 – I
try to get outside for a bit and check in with some of the guys. I
might even have a cigarillo (mini cigar). This time usually provides me
with a decent spot and break to discuss issues.
4:00 - 5:00 – Will
often find us playtesting new levels. We try to include the whole team
which serves multiple purposes. Working out and tweaking gameplay
issues are obvious benefits but it's also an opportunity for the team
to be aware of challenges faced by other disciplines on the team.
During testing we can see the status of each other's work whether it be
new designs, assets or possible code issues.
5:00- 7:00 After
playtesting we share some feedback and ideas and most of us get right
back into making some of the solutions. It's another block of time
where I try to get art issues taken care of.
I'm about out the door by this time if I'm not staying overnight.
Sometimes there are more calls on the road but often it's back to
music, baseball on the radio, or audio books again.
8:30-9:30 or so This
is where I grab some dinner, usually with wine or maybe a brew and get
“caught up” on family issues. I might help with homework or if it's all
done already then maybe help my youngest get past a “tough” game level,
get him a bath, a story, a song, and finally to bed.
10:00 - Now
I have a bit of time to finally chill, chat with my wife, maybe even
watch a movie. I try to crash before midnight but don't always make it.
There's a lot to do tomorrow.