Lecturer in Game Design | PhD Student

PhD Blog

Posts tagged Teaching
01/02/2018 GGJ, Teaching, Feedback and Florian Veltman.

This two-week block also contained teaching the Quality Assurance & User Experience tutorials. The students were introduced to a new product and have been taught how to search for open bugs, log new bugs, regress old bugs and write a basic test case. The intention is to provide all 4 groups of student equal opportunities to log bugs for their portfolios. Teaching is going well and I have given feedback to a few students about their portfolios and homework so far.


Global Game Jam 2018

Event Date: 26/01/2018 - 28/01/2018

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My friends Andrew Lindsay, Emma HoughtonJamie King, my partner Carrie France and I attended this year's Global Game Jam 2018 (GGJ). The theme was "Transmissions". Our natural development process began with idea generation using post-it notes and a large, blank wall. By giving ourselves a short, limited time-frame to generate ideas, a large variety of concepts are generated. The next step in this process is to collate post-its with similar themes and vibes. By doing this we expand upon the original points and begin shaping multiple product concepts. In this situation we had around 4 distinct game products on the wall. From here we evaluate each product based on how achievable they will be to create within the time frame, how enthusiastic we are to create said product, and what market appeal the product may have.

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After the evaluation of the idea has taken place the entire team fill a folder with reference images for visual style, gameplay and similar inspiring products. After deciding on a visual style we create a list of the mechanics, assets and text required to create a minimum viable product (MVP). Discerning what is required for an MVP is essential during game jams as the intention is to have a playable product by the end of the 48 hours. Polishing and expanding the product can be done outwith the allocated GGJ time. Due to having worked with the team before and having a knowledge of our capabilities, strengths and workflows allowed for us to create a larger scale environment and higher number of objects.

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The asset lists above display both the filler objects needed for the game world to appear 'alive' (not displaying the entire list) alongside the "Memory Objects" which were key assets required to tell the game's story. After detailing the work required and assigning it to the correct team member, we began work on creating our assets. This year Andrew was working in engine working on gameplay and lighting. Emma worked in 3D and level design. Jamie worked in 3D. Carrie created the 2D memories and textures. I worked in 3D, audio, collision and writing the game script. Due to the nature of our previous development experience (Game Designer and Artists) we used Google Drive to store assets and backup builds to. Although this is not ideal, Google Drive allows you to roll back files to previous versions due to the built in version control, thus using it is better than nothing! It is essential however to establish a file structure before development that is easily readable and usable by the team; searching for an asset left in the wrong folder can waste precious time!

Our previous titles from GGJ revolved around the player navigating a confined room environment, this year we decided to deviate from the norm and create a linear narrative experience in what appears to be a vast open environment. The first image of the gallery above depicts the environmental scale whereas the second image shows the linear path the player must progress through to complete the story. The player is guided by a manually created collision track that allows a certain degree of exploration whilst naturally guiding the player through the linear experience (Image 3).

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Lighting, post-processing and scene dressing went through multiple iterations for each location within the game to help capture the tone of the narrative. The story itself was also evaluated, re-written and re-evaluated as much as time would allow for. The use of the mobile phone to receive story through text messages provides the player with some basic backstory and personal notes of the character, but allow the user to fill in the gaps and attempt to piece together the narrative by themselves. We wanted the game to tell a specific story, but at the same time allow each user's experience to be unique.

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The intention is to justify the academic relevance of No Response in regards to my PhD. The game will undergo multiple stages of evaluation. Currently it is being evaluated during my Quality Assurance & User Experience tutorials by a group of 80 students to provide bug reports and first-pass feedback on the game. This will then be followed up with a few smaller focus groups to discuss the design, visuals, narrative and whether or not the key message was understood. The third method of evaluation will be feedback gained from taking the game to a play-party setting on the 20th February 2018 hosted by IGDA. These evaluative techniques will then feed into the writing of a short paper on the creation of a Serious Game within a game jam setting. All documentation and evaluation on No Response is an ongoing effort.

More images of the product can be found in the No Response page of my portfolio.


Florian Veltman Talk

Event Date: 25/01/2018

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Abertay hosted a platform talk from Florian Veltman. It was extremely interesting to listen to the approach Veltman takes to game design, especially considering he came from an illustrative background. Veltman's portfolio consisted of games developed as either freelance work or produced in a game jam setting - not unlike my own works. What intrigued me was how Veltman had a preference to linear, tailored narrative experiences and stated that dialogue options can water down the player experience. This helped influence the set narrative of No Response as last year we developed Causeway - a game all about narrative choice. Drawing parallels between narrative structure of games and film is a typical conclusion for designers but Veltman likened game story more to that of a book - the player is in control of the pacing. They can experience the story whenever they wish, at whatever pace suits them. The final point stressed was that A-B testing of features is crucial in the decision making process for designers.


18/01/2018 Game Jams, Teaching and Project Update

Although things have been quiet on the blog since the festive period, I have still remained active on my PhD and working on related projects.

Firstly, I have been tidying up work done so far to ensure that my workflow does not get too messy. I have reformatted my Evernote system so that quotations for the Thesis can be easily located, as well as highlighting the most relevant. Every text that I have dissected so far has now also been imported into RefWorks and formatted to ensure that upon writing my thesis the bibliography will populate correctly.

Using Pebblepad I have also started and updated my Professional Development Portfolio (PDP) so as to track all events, projects and learnings relevant to my development as a researcher. This portfolio will assist with the delivery of my Viva Voce when defending my research.


Games Are For Everyone

Event Date: 29/11/2017

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Myself, Carrie France, Andrew Lindsay and Emma Houghton traveled to Edinburgh to attend the "GamesAreForEveryone" indie showcase hosted by "We Throw Switches". I attended the showcase to network with other local independent developers and gain some inspiration from the innovative, arcade-like experiences on display. Although the experiences being showcased would not lend themselves to being adapted in an educational setting, the simple control schemes and use of communal (multiplayer) elements tended to engage the users more in these products.


SICSA Funding

Narrative Play Design Project - Funding Application

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As a follow up to the first part of the Narrative Play Design Project I have applied for a funding bursary from SICSA to attend the second aspect of the project. This follow-up to the first meet up in Glasgow will be held in Loch Insh and be hosted by an old peer of mine Jonny Freshwater. The event itself will consist of a few days of further developing our original concepts, but also include team building outdoor exercises. Although there have been a few hitches with the funding application so far, I am hoping funding will be secured and that the event will take place (as it is reliant on industry sponsorship).


Endemol Shine

Games Researcher: Lego Live Stage Production - Application

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An interesting opportunity arose for a Games Researcher to assist EnemolShine in hosting a Lego Live event in New York. The event requested someone with a working knowledge of games such as Minecraft and Lego Worlds to join their team in developing courses and event maps for a stage production in New York. Unfortunately due to the lateness of receiving the request the position was filled by the time my application had been processed but the events organizer was interested in my studies and requested that the next time I am in London that we should meet up for coffee. They also are keeping me on record for potential future events. Although this application was unsuccessful, the process has helped build my industry network.


Serious Game Jam

Event Date: 10/01/2018 - 12/01/2018

A while back I signed up for the 4th Abertay Serious Game Jam. The purpose of the Serious Game Jam was to develop a game application for highschoolers/ early university students teaching them about Chemistry. The activity was hosted at Abertay University and run by Iain Donald, Kevin Jones and Phillip Smy. I worked with a small team of undergraduates to create a game experience of the experiment "Reduction Using Metal Hydrides". Due to this event being some of my teammates first game jam, I decided to take a back seat and allow them to learn the jam process and build skills in their respective disciplines. On occasion I helped steer conversation and development when the team strayed too far from productivity or were coming up with ideas outwith a work-able scope. By the end of the jam we had a minimum viable product for the first mini-game experiment, all the art assets and a design document detailing how the project would be taken further in future.


Teaching

Quality Assurance & User Experience

As of Tuesday 16th January, both Alice Bowman and myself have become teaching assistants for Dr Iain Donald's module "Quality Assurance & User Experience". We take 4 tutorial classes a week and are teaching a total of 80 Games Design & Production Management students. In this module the students will learn the QA process and actively test multiple projects - of varying scope - throughout the year. Our first week of classes has gone surprisingly well. Generally, I would say that I am not a very confident public speaker, but I feel that my delivery of the first 2 classes went without a hitch. The first session has comprised of getting the students to play the product and perform some basic agile testing. This is to get the students used to the general 'game feel' and gain a better understanding of the product that they will be providing further structured testing on.


Potential Narrative Project

Stormcloud Games - Frank Arnot

I was recently contacted by Frank Arnot of Stormcloud Games about the potential to provide assistance on a narrative-based game project. I believe that if development goes forward, that it would be of great benefit to my professional portfolio to work with Frank. Not only would the work provide further experience of narrative development, but would be a chance to enhance my network within the games industry. I will hopefully hear further information on the project in this coming month.