Satellites and Startups: How we went to space and why you should too
- Monday, September 15, 2014, 5:30 p.m. –
Join Spire’s Nick Allain for a first-hand look at how Silicon Valley’s space race is heating up and how satellites, the size of a large coffee, are changing the way we listen to signals from Earth. Nick will speak about what it’s like to join a space startup like Spire, the process of building a cubesats, and how you can get involved – and, maybe even get hired.
Nick, from Charlton, MA, is an alumnus of Becker College. He graduated in 2009 with a bachelor of arts in interactive media. He has spent time the game industry and higher education. He now lives and works in the Bay Area.
This special talk is co-sponsored by MassDiGI. Light snacks and refreshments will be available. Free an open to the public.
Location: Becker College, Weller Academic Center, Room 210, 61 Sever St., Worcester
MassDiGI managing director Monty Sharma will deliver a keynote talk at this special LearnLaunch and GA event which brings thought leaders together to look at future trends in learning. Information here.
The 2014 MassDiGI Summer Innovation Program Open House on August 7 featured four great games and attracted over 150 attendees. Read about the Open House here in Worcester Magazine, here in WPI’s Daily Herd or watch CharterTV3 WNT’s report below.
As game developers, we often tell ourselves stories when making games. Not the ones that you see in a script, but ones about the people who will play the game. “Okay, so this part will introduce the player to mazing, and then they use that to defeat the boss, and then they’ll feel awesome.” Every pixel, line of code, or variable changed all has a purpose, and we tell ourselves that the player will interact with it in a particular way and get a specific reaction out of it.
In reality, things aren’t that easy. Our stories about our games are often as fictional as the stories within them. That’s why we playtest. But playtesting isn’t an exact science; it’s often much more qualitative. And that’s good! There are a lot of changes that require qualitative feedback more than raw data. But there are also a lot of risks that come with it. We tend to gloss over feedback more easily. Every piece of info we receive gets contorted into our story. It’s all too easy to assume that the tester is an anomaly, that most players will play the game ‘properly.’
But with quantitative feedback collected from all players, the illusions disappear. It’s no longer, “I didn’t see the button,” but rather “Out of 100 players, 63 didn’t see the button.” Likewise, it’s no longer “This player just doesn’t understand,” instead “63 percent of players just don’t understand.” This summer, we’re using Splyt Analytics to help drive our decision making on Midnight Terrors. It’s hard to argue with the data, because data doesn’t tell a story. Data is the story.
That’s not to say data is infallible. It can be outdated or incomplete, and it can certainly be misinterpreted. But it can never be wrong. That’s because data is just what happened. It doesn’t carry any analysis of its own, it’s just a series of numbers and events.
In some ways, it’s a bit intimidating to use analytics. It’s effectively handing off your game, and letting whatever will happen, happen. You can’t coach people, and you can’t hide from the results. In some ways, it’s like launching a title (just with a quarter the stress). But it’s absolutely necessary, because polishing a game can’t just be an art. It needs to be an art and a science. And for that, we need data.
At this point it is safe to say that many people have played a match three game (cough, cough Candy Crush Saga), or a variant of the genre. Match three was the idea given to us to brainstorm about at the beginning of MassDiGI’s SIP, so we took it as far as we could. Starting with “we should throw ragdoll limbs at a wall; that could be fun”, and from then on that was the idea that we embraced. Eventually taking on a mad scientist feel and a more friendly robot zombie limb approach, after much debate, Limbs moved forward out of the planning phase.
Limbs features a little alien kid named LAK, but he has a few problems. He came to your planet to make some friends, but those friends eventually turned against him and you must protect him. Of course, you do this by throwing limbs at those that turn against LAK. Combat isn’t just simply matching three colors; you need to plan ahead for certain limb combinations that make combo creatures. Limbs tries to break the boring routine of match threes and offers interesting battle mechanics that effect the game board as a whole. Plus, throwing ragdoll limbs at an enemy is extremely satisfying.
The team that is making Limbs become reality consists of five students from five different colleges, and we had never met each other before this.
Renzo Heredia – Audio Engineer and Composer – from Berklee College
Andrew Krischer – Producer and Programmer – from Northeastern University
Sienna McDowell – 2D Artist – from WPI
Catherine Shen – Art Director, 2D Artist and UI Designer – from RISD
James Spavold – Lead Programmer and Build Manager – from Becker College
Working in the team has been a great experience for all of us. Personally, I have worked in a handful of teams in my college career, and they have been on both ends of the spectrum. This has definitely been the most motivated team I have ever been on. At first SIP’s eleven weeks seems like a large amount of time, then you start and get halfway through the process and it feels like no time is left. Even when our team hit that point, we didn’t lose much motivation, and this was the first time that one of my teams has powered through that.
It feels great to be working in this environment. Meeting my team, and also the other teams working alongside us, was a great opportunity. Not only to make games and extend your network, but also to make some great friends with similar interests and feelings towards games. With this great atmosphere, working forty hour weeks isn’t that bad at all. In fact coming into work feels great knowing that by the end we will have a fun and interesting game to show our friends, family, and future employers that we made start to finish.
Motion control technologies have fascinated and frustrated players and developers alike. They’re great when they work, but long or difficult gestures increase the chance of hardware losing track of the motion and players feeling cheated. When our team approached the Leap Motion, a USB infrared camera for PC and Mac that tracks hand and finger movement, we knew that whatever game we designed would have to feel natural for the player and work well with the device’s capabilities.
From that emerged the idea for Many Mini Things, a mini-game compilation game. In it, you’re standing at a capsule machine, popping in coins to get toys. To get the toy, however, you have to defeat the mini-game lurking inside each capsule. In order to win, you’ll have to move, spin, point, swipe, and grab through fast-paced games to attain sweet victory – or hilarious failure.
Many Mini Things is the product of a seven-person team from various colleges:
Pat Roughan, WPI – Producer & Artist
Yuka Ninohira, Becker College – Art Director & UI/UX Designer
Aaron Lin, Becker College – Lead Programmer
Owen West, WPI – Build Manager & Programmer
Oliver Awat, Becker College – Level Designer & Unity Programmer
Hannah Klales, Smith College – Level Designer & Unity Programmer
Renzo Heredia, Berklee College of Music – Composer & Sound Designer
The idea for Many Mini Things started with us MassDiGI SIP interns being greedy, wanting to have a bunch of different ideas as the final game we were going to pitch at the end of our quick 10 minute brainstorming exercise. However, we quickly cut down each idea because of how short the game would be or how tiring it would be, and that continued until we had nothing left. Eventually, we came up with the best idea ever, which was “Let’s just put them all together in one game!”
Over the course of development, Many Mini Things has gone through several drastic changes. And by drastic, we mean it almost looks like a different game each time we look back. We went from a 4-scenario game to a game where a knight is adventuring through a cave, and ultimately ended up with a game where you play with a capsule machine.
In the past 7 weeks, we’ve faced a number of challenges and obstacles from coding to art, but we’ve also gotten closer to our goal, close enough that we can actually sit a person down and watch them enjoy our game. There is nothing more rewarding in making games than a person coming up to you telling you that they enjoyed what you worked on, and want to play it again someday.
We’ve got 4 weeks left in development, and we’re hard at work making every day, every hour count (with occasional donut breaks, of course).
You can follow our progress on our social media pages: