So planning the Proof of Concept Tech milestone has been an exciting experience. That’s not to say that the process hasn’t been without its challenges.
The structure of the TGP facilitates the sharing of art and code assets across the entire cohort. As limiting as this sounds, the cohort has a total of five artists and seven programmers – quite the low count for a class of 24. Rather than divide the cohort into teams and require them to craft their own art and code assets, we decided to have the cohort vote on a single game universe. From this universe, the artists would create a pool of assets that the cohort would share across all teams.
The cohort’s final choice was a toy themed CTF that takes place in a toy store after hours. The four teams chose different toy themed sub areas as their own unique levels. With these areas defined, my classmate, Adrianna Clonts (a fellow production student whose specialty is art) organized the cohort’s five artists into a single tiger team. This team is charged with creating the asset pool for the entire TGP, and each team will use assets from this pool. For example, our artist is responsible for created a new pistol model. This model will be available for use in other teams’ games.
A similar process occurs for the weapon code. My team’s programmer is responsible for coding the pistol’s functionality. This code will be made available for use by the other teams. As an alternative, the other teams can modify our pistol code in order to customize the weapon for use in their level.
I believe that this system has been largely successful. However, the planning and coordination of this effort has been a massive undertaking. As a producer on this TGP, my responsibilities have expanded from planning milestones for my team to coordinating those milestones with the art tiger team. This has required much cross collaboration with the other producers and other teams.
Furthermore, the ‘sharing art assets’ model is very challenging in that you run the risk of every game looking the same. Although each team’s game takes place in a different area of the toy store, certain clutter assets are going to look the same. This is an understandable yet undesirable side effect of the art asset sharing structure.
In order to combat similarity among levels, each team is required to have a unique interactive landmark in their level. These landmarks are a single, large asset that each artist builds for their team. These landmarks are unique to each level. Additionally, much of the differentiation process rests with the level designers. The challenge for the designers is to not only create interesting gameplay, but to also use the shared assets in unique ways that differentiate the levels from one another.
Overall, the experience has presented its own set of challenges that are far different from my other other leadership experiences thus far. Coordinating the core team has been mostly smooth, but cross-team and tiger team coordination has been difficult to keep up with. The structure has created even more layers of communication which we must cross in order to execute the project. This of course increases the risk for miscommunication across all teams. As long as we keep these lines of communications clear, however, this TGP will not only be a great exercise in cross-team communication, but also result in four awesome CTF maps.