A little under a year ago I agreed to be the lead (and only) developer of a VR game as a senior project. I had no prior experience with developing video games, and I wasn’t going to be a senior. Looking back on it now, I’m definitely crazy for agreeing to do this in the first place, but I’m also both proud and amazed of what we accomplished in only three short terms.

Throughout all of this, I think my largest strength was my ability to learn quickly and to adapt. At the start of the project I spent as much time as I could learning how to use Unity and creating prototypes to get a feel for what I’d need to do. It took several weeks, but eventually I learned when I should Google a problem, and when I should simply ask Sydney or Erin. I once was debugging our game for several hours and finally asked Erin for help, when she told me to check if the object was marked ‘Static’. To which, of course, my reply was “You can mark things ‘Static’?”. Despite my Unity shortcomings, I was quickly self sufficient and able to work through my assigned tasks as efficiently as I could manage. As we started play testing more, I also had to figure out how to adapt the current state of the game to the changes we wanted to make, in order to make it a better user experience. Erin and I definitely wrote a lot of code that ended up being thrown out, but we were also able to reuse a lot of it and solve the same problem in several places with one solution.

Where I believe I struggled the most with this project was time management and, in this past term, communication. At the beginning of the project I was smarter about when I started my weekly work, to give myself enough time to accomplish everything without having to rush. As the project continued on, I started my work later and later in the week, until I was finishing all of it at the last minute. I always made sure to get it done, but I created unnecessarily stressful long work sessions for myself where there didn’t have to be. I also started being less proactive about doing additional work, and only focused on my assigned tasks for the week, even if it only took me 4 hours to do them.

Finally, this past term I started having issues with notifications on my phone, which made it difficult for the other members of the team to communicate with me. There were many instances where someone tried to ask me a question that I just didn’t see until several days later. I took many steps in an attempt to mitigate this issue, but I’m still having problems with it. It definitely wasted some of my team members’ time, and I wish that I had taken more time to fix the problem when it first started occurring.

Overall, I’m proud of what I accomplished in this project – and now I can say that I have some experience developing video games.

This is the 36th week of Senior Project, and it’s time to start reflecting on what we’ve accomplished.

This whole shebang started when Sydney and I decided to split off from our original team to build our own and make something a little bit out there. We resurrected an old concept and starting working it into something that could be a capstone project for our time at Drexel.

We built a team of people we knew we’d want to work with.

We set ourselves as team leads.

Here, I want to take space to reflect a little on the experience of being a team lead: the places I felt I did well, and the places I could have done better.

I think both Sydney and I were very good about being accessible – one of us was on hand to answer questions almost all the time. I, personally, was reliable in making sure our weekly updates got in on time and that the mountains of paperwork and preparatory documentation we had to do got sent to the right people. I feel I did well answering my teammates’ questions while fielding concerns from professors and adapting plans to suit what they felt would be best for the project.

Where I feel I struggled was with being proactive. Often, due to most of the team having several other weekly obligations, schedules got pushed back and questions didn’t get asked of me until too late; I should have been more on top of anticipating needs and offering help earlier in the week. My schedule, too, pushed things until later than I’d have liked and so my work tended to get done late at night and in a rush too.

I also didn’t contribute to the art as much as I’d have hoped – I spent my time with my hands in the code or screaming at other deliverables. Finally, I wish I had planned more regular meetings with our sound team – ideas got miscommunicated because we weren’t in touch as frequently as we could have been, and that caused some difficulties in getting the right things in the right places.
Overall, though, I’m proud of myself and I’m proud of this team. No member had an easy go of it – we’re all involved with clubs, classes, extracurriculars, D&D groups, EGS projects, co-ops, grad schools, job searches, and about a million other things – and we were still able to finish an hour-long VR experience that people actually enjoy playing.
I’m proud of us.

The weather is getting warmer and Senior Showcase is getting closer! We’ve been working hard to polish everything up for our big day. Lots of changes and updates were made to our showcase slidedeck and video, and we fixed the two biggest bugs in our game.

The player can now throw the DNA lamp in what is being hailed as a “groundbreaking feature.”

Our artists are hard at work finalizing everything from character models to the decorations in Ellis’ lab.

Plus, we have new media, like this showcase poster.

We’ll see you next week for final updates and individual postmortems!

Tasks:

  • Bugfixing – 3h
  • Gameplay Recording – 3h
  • Showcase Deck – 3h
  • Implement Madeline – 2h
  • Re-UV Machine Model – 1h
  • Small Sound updates – 30m

Total Hours: 12h30m

Positives: 

We’re ALMOST THERE! The time I spent banging my head against Navmesh was well worth it despite it ultimately being irrelevant to the actual fix for the problem. It’s a programming truth that it often takes several hours to figure out a 5-minute bug fix, and after about six hours over the last two weeks, I was able to track down that 5-minute fix for our “characters getting stuck problem.” That and SnapGrabbable working with gravity were the two biggest remaining bugs in the game – keyword were. I took care of the getting stuck issue and Samara was able to make SnapGrabbable work as intended. I recorded a TON of gameplay footage for Joe to use in both our showcase video and in other videos for our slidedeck.

Additionally, I was on coordinating the slidedeck updates themselves, which were pretty major after our meeting with Dr. Muschio on Thursday – he gave us some great feedback that we’ll be putting into practice this week and next week for the final (we’re still waiting on some media because our team members have a finite amount of time).

It might be a meme (shoutout to Joe for the overlay), but here’s a pitcure of me working on setup for gameplay recording, which (if you include the preparatory and intermediate bugfixes) took up a significant portion of my weekend.
At least our apartment wall makes a good backdrop.

Negatives: 

If Erin isn’t stressed, did we really submit a slidedeck? Unfortunately, I had some miscommunications with Joe about who was doing what and needed to jump in at the last minute because I hadn’t realized some things were my responsibility. Additionally, late materials from teammates greatly delayed my gameplay recording (I finished about 7 hours later than originally planned) and my compilation of the slidedeck itself. We also ran into some issues actually submitting it, because why not? I’ll be planning to get to this MUCH earlier next week for the final so I don’t actually have a heart attack 2 weeks before the showcase.

Also, I didn’t get to the updated soundtrack implementation like I wanted to. However, I did chat with Shiloh about structure and whatnot, and only have a few more decisions to make before I get all the new stuff in. It’ll be done by this time next week.

Looking Ahead: 

  • Final slidedeck
  • Bugfixing/polish
  • Finalize all music

Tasks:

  • Video – 3h
  • Poster – 3h
  • lighting – 4h
  • other junk – 1h 45m

Total Hours: 11.75 hours

Positives: 

Poster done. Game coming together well. I think I can fix lighting now. Great feedback from Glen. Making headway on next rev of slideshow and video.

Negatives: 

Lighting broke. Entire walls or sections would turn pitch black. I had to start over. Made me sad. I wanted to be done last week. Took priority because footage would need to be redone. I’m behind on so many things.

Looking Ahead: 

  • INSTRUCTIONAL GRAPHICS
  • INVITATION
  • LIGHTING FINISHED
  • UI IMPLEMENTED
  • SLIDE DECK THEME + CUSTOM SLIDES
  • FIX MY BRAIN
poster I made.