Tag Archives: game development

“Show and Tell” — Week Three Recap

Stephanie Whitlow

When we were six-years-old and brought that smelly, plush teddy bear to our kindergarten show-and-tell, we were utterly proud of our artifact … despite the Kool-Aid stains and bits of questionable gunk clinging to its fur. It was ours, and we loved it.  We weren’t afraid to show others our most-prized possession, even though it was flawed.

As we age, however, some of us become more self-conscious and aware of what others think of us. We learn to present ourselves to the world daily, sometimes worrying about how we come across.

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Our daily meetings are streamed live.

At Reactuate Games, we’ve chosen to film, stream, and document our entire development process from day-to-day. Our goal is to share a behind-the-scenes look at how a video game evolves, as well as the company who creates it. But as we have found out, it’s not all rainbows and lollipops inside a startup company. We have run into roadblocks and gotten embarrassed or nervous about our work, too.

We first encountered this last week. I interviewed one of our digital artists, Katey, for a clip on YouTube (You can see that awesomeness here). While editing the material, though, I became super self-conscious about my video-producing skills. At one point, the video bothered me so much I almost wanted to scrap it and re-film.

Also last week, our artists created some amazing graphics for the game (a command center, some mineral shards, a builder unit), but as with most creative products, they were first rough drafts. So rough, in fact, some questioned whether or not to show our followers.

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Mineral shards with bottom half of Command Center

The temptation to only report the good news is strong here. After all, we are representing a company. But we are much more than that at Reactuate Games. We are dreamers, and students, and gamers who are trying to create a video game that people will love and enjoy for years to come. And we want to share with others our experience.

So how do we ignore these self-conscious tendencies when we are devoted to recording the good, the bad, and even the ugly?

Ron constantly reminds the team  of what digital artist Feng Zhu says in this GDC video session (you should take a look–it’s pretty inspiring). Shown to us on week one, Zhu’s video encourages game developers and artists to not be scared of the blank canvas or making mistakes. Because if someone is scared to try things, learn, or produce imperfect work, then he/she is also afraid of progress.

Though we aim to show our successes, inevitably struggles will occur along our journey. And that’s okay. We’ll document those, too. It’s all a part of the process. Plus, we’re proud of our game and our company. Even if it does have some gunky, imperfect parts.

“Danger Zone” — Second Week Recap

Nothing pumps us up more than Kenny Loggins’ 1980s hit “Danger Zone.” Sure, Tom Cruise has gone a little cray since Top Gun, but most of us at Reactuate Games can still get a rush from the adrenaline-inducing tune, which is a part of Ron’s special morning playlist. And as the second week got under way, we learned more about Ron’s music tastes (hint: he has the Xena theme song in there, too), our game, and each other.

The Reactuate Games team received more info on the game this week and shared the Super Secret Game Design document with email subscribers. This file explains the backstory of Colony Manager (possibly changing to Colony Maker) and how the player advances through the game. We shared this as a thank-you to our subscribers, so if you’re interested in the original design for the game, sign up here.

We’re actually creating graphics for the game now, too! Sam drew up a spiffy rocket ship, Austin played around with some terrain, and Katey created a monkey for scale purposes. Slowly but surely, the RG team is moving along.

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Katey’s monkey on a mountain. Cute, huh?

Last week, we also took a field trip to The Gathering Place, an Abilene hotspot for gamers to hang out, compete, and play all kinds of games. We met with them in hopes to sponsor an event in the near future or at least get the word out to our Abilene audience. Afterward, we stopped by 7-11 for much-needed Slurpies to rehydrate and refuel before getting back to the office. Because work is hard and stuff.

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Katey was crowned victor of the first RG Game Bracket

On Friday, we had some Internet connectivity issues, which hindered our Twitch stream some, but that didn’t stop us from battling in our NBA Live 15 bracket and meeting a few new followers when we were broadcasting. Katey came out on top (*cough*… it was her game…*cough*), but it was a fun team-building experience, and we learned a lot about how gamers should get to skip tutorials, i.e.,  we spent thirty minutes watching our fearless leader learn to dunk.

Our second week together came and went quickly. The constant sound of mouse clicks filled the office, as we accomplished many of our week’s goals and  built a sturdy foundation for our game and our company. And I personal can say it’s all due to Kenny Loggins.

Thanks, Kenny.

Now on to week three!

P.S. Need some motivation? Watch a 1986 Cruise fly really fast.

 

The Agile-Scrum Methodology

Confused about what we mean by Scrum Master? Here’s a look at how we’ll be working at Reactuate Games.

What is Agile-Scrum?

The Agile-Scrum methodology is a new workplace-development process. Using this method, employees have more say over how long it will take to complete a task, and they will get feedback more often. The Agile-Scrum system encourages frequent check-ins at Scrum Meetings so that others may help their team members when a task-problem arises.

What is a Sprint Planning?

First off, a sprint is the duration a team has to accomplish tasks. These periods of time can be a week long or longer, depending on how much work the team has on its plate. The Sprint Planning involves the product owner and the employees listing their upcoming tasks, ranging how large the tasks are, and ordering them based on priority for the company. These meetings take place on the first day of the sprint.

What is a Scrum Meeting?

A Scrum Meeting is a five-minute gathering of the team where all employees answer three simple questions:

  • What did I work on yesterday?
  • What am I doing today?
  • What is standing in my way?

It’s a time to briefly meet and check on each other and his/her progress throughout the week. Team members are also able to offer help to others by eliminating what is standing in his/her way. This speeds up work flow and promotes team building.

What is a Sprint Retrospective?

A Sprint Retrospective takes place at the end of the sprint, and it allows the staff members to discuss what each one accomplished that week. The team can also talk about what is to come in the next week.

What is a Scrum Wall? 

A Scrum Wall is a place where the team’s tasks are shown, usually on sticky notes. Three categories split the flow of production– To do, Doing, and Done. As an employee works on his task, he moves the sticky note to the corresponding slot. This technique displays the progress being done in the office and where each teammate stands on their tasks.

Who is the Scrum Master?

The Scrum Master is the MC of the Scrum meetings; however, this person does not always have to be the boss. Scrum Masters can vary daily, and everyone can end up being the scrum master at some point. The main purpose of the scrum master is to resolve any issues standing in a team member’s way.

Our First Week

The first day of any new job can be nerve-racking. Five individual first days with a brand new company … perhaps even more so. But that didn’t keep the Reactuate Games (RG) team from expressing their eagerness to start building a video game from scratch. On the fifteenth floor in Abilene’s tallest building, the Enterprise Tower, Ron introduced the team to the RG command center, a two-room office with red couches, five Ikea desks, and a great view of West Texas. Here we would develop a game from nothing. Here we would create what was once only a mere thought.

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For most of us, our first week at Reactuate Games was a learning experience. Not only is working in a business environment with elevators different for some, but producing a game of this magnitude with a handpicked team is a special experience some of us have only wistfully daydreamed about until now.

Throughout the week, we studied design tutorials, coding, andIMG_6847 photo-editing programs, learning skills we will need for everyday tasks during this intensive summer launch. Humbly, we even looked to the Google-gods for help with a few of our problems. After our Agile-Scrum development training, (a relatively new workplace methodology we will discuss in another post), we transformed the office into a productive and “stream-friendly” atmosphere. We moved around the furniture, created a Scrum Wall, and had our first Scrum meetings, which were a lot less painful than any Rugby player may presume.

We had a lot of questions at first– Where do we start? How does this game development stuff work? What are our goals, and how long will it take to reach them? It seemed as if we had more questions than answers.

But questions are not necessarily a bad thing, especially for our new company. Asking means that we care. It means that we are excited and willing to work. It may even mean we are all a little anxious about the journey ahead of us. However, despite not knowing the territory we will venture into in these upcoming months, we are all packed and ready to go.

Ready Player One, Our First Fiction Library Addition

I can’t remember the last time I purchased a paper fictional book. I’ve gone totally digital for a number of reasons that I won’t go into here, but tonight, with much help from a friendly staff member at the Abilene Books a Million, I found and purchased two copies of Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One.

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Ernest Cline and me at 2012 Austin Comiccon

I already own both the Kindle version and the Audible version — which is read by Wil Wheaton, who is the perfect reader for this book. Matter of fact, when I met Ernest at an Austin’s comic convention a few years ago, I didn’t have anything for him to sign. So I got a picture with him instead.

Why is this the first book added to the company fiction library? Well if you are asking that, you haven’t read the book. It’s an obvious addition and the OASIS is an obvious influence on Colony Manager. Just like how Snow Crash would be.

And why do we have a fiction library? Because of the article, “No Dickheads! A Guide to Building Happy, Healthy, and Creative Teams.” That was the first article I made my team read.

Interestingly, the things I remembered out of the article were the “wall of fame,” as I called it, where you print and post work people do in the studio, the cooking, the families, and the meetings where people can listen in. Stephanie remembered the books and the reading. She’s the word-lover in the company. I have little doubt she’ll be the first to pick up one of these codexes and read it.

If you haven’t read Ready Player One, let me include the words on the back here. It does a much better job of telling you about the book than I normally do.

         In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

If you haven’t read it, go out and do so now.

My 2012 Review of Ready Player One