MegaloMalady: Creating a team – 6/30/15

MegaloMalady: Creating a team

By Maxwell Maynard, junior, University of Southern California

There is one main difference between a group of people working together and a team. Any group can seek the same goal, but ultimately, their destinations differ. A common destination is a treasure only a team can lay claim to.

In two weeks, the group of developers working on MegaloMalady became “Team Awesome.” We dropped the unnecessaries of courtesy and convention. We unified our separate visions with compromises, votes and new ideas that were just plain better. We strove for clear communication. Our effort to designate a unified vision was what gave us combined ownership over the idea we devised. It is that combined ownership that allows us to work as a whole and professional unit.

IMG_5785Communication is the bread and butter of our workflow. Every morning, we stand to update each other on our current progress: what we did yesterday, what we plan to do today, what’s stopping us from progressing. We work close to each other, meaning questions between fields of expertise are only a table away. Multi-disciplinary tasks are easily collaborated upon between programmers, animators and illustrators. Above anything, we are never afraid to critique or be critiqued. Feedback is essential to success so there’s no sense in being shy about it.

Where one person is lacking, the next person is strong. Sometimes we like to think we turned a misfit rabble of talents into a capable party of developers, fit for a proper adventure. We all see a published, enjoyable game at the end of our 10-week-long journey and we are proud to dedicate ourselves to that collective cause.

Team Awesome consists of seven members, one designer, two programmers, three artists, and one audio ninja. We are creating MegaloMalady, an incremental game where you play as Germy the monster who seeks friendship and brings disease.

To get all the latest, follow us on Twitter @MegaloMalady.

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Cooking up a game: Hibachi Hero – 6/19/15

Cooking up a game: Hibachi Hero

By Team Hibachi

Looking back, the past four weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. Before we were Team Hibachi, we were just a collection of students from near and far. Two programmers from Becker College, Chris Bruno and Rejon Taylor-Foster. Another from Northeastern University, Mackenzie Denker. Three artists with mixed skills in 3D modeling and digital painting from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis; Uyen Uong, Melissa Chiu, and Sai Timmermann. One audio ninja from Berklee College of Music, Alex Ripple.

IMG_5798When we started, we were individuals. Most of us didn’t know each other’s names. By the end of orientation week, we could recite everyone’s names and schools, but we didn’t know much else about each other. We were placed in a team together to work on an idea we had nicknamed “Zen Leaves”, a game where you control the flow of raindrops on a car window in order to push around leaves and other items that stuck to the window.

The first days of development were difficult. We were excited to be working on a game, but we were struggling to find the “fun” within the abstract concept. By the end of the second day, we had made the bold decision to scrap “Zen Leaves” and start fresh. We each took five minutes to come up with a concept for a game that could be played with one finger then pitched the ideas to the rest of the team. We then voted on which ideas seemed the most fun, and decided that we would spend the rest of the day making small prototypes of our top three ideas.

Each of our programmers worked on a separate concept, choosing to work into the evening so that we could make our decision first thing in the morning. We ended up setting aside two of the concepts: a tower-defense game where you protect a turtle crossing a busy road and a game where you tap on flashing squares to set off chain reactions to claim every tile on the map. Our remaining concept was a game where you used a slingshot to defend baby turtles from incoming hungry seagulls. We liked the mechanics of the game, but it didn’t take long for us to decide that we weren’t in love with the story behind it, and so we took some time to brainstorm other ideas that incorporated the mechanics we had built. The suggestion to slingshot knives at food clicked with the team, and “Hibachi Hero” was born.

The idea to cook the cut food pieces on a grill at the bottom of the screen followed shortly after, and we ended up ditching the slingshot in favor of simply flinging knives at the food. By the end of the week we had a working prototype that we could bring to the Playcrafting Spring Expo at the Microsoft New England in Boston. We watched as various developers from the Boston area came by to try the game, and each of us noticed the same thing: people were fascinated with flinging knives. Even as they were giving us feedback on some of the weaker aspects of the prototype, they would continue to fling knives as if they were in a trance. We had found the fun.

Since then, the team has moved away from our prototype and begun work on our alpha stage of development. We’ve expanded some of our features and trimmed back others, and we’ve spent a considerable amount of time and effort to perfect the feeling of throwing the knife. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing – one of our biggest disagreements was deciding what types of food should be included in the game – but our struggles have built us into a stronger, closer team. We’re about halfway through this roller coaster of an experience, and we can’t wait to see where the rest of the summer takes us. Team Hibachi, signing out!

Follow Team Hibachi on Twitter @HibachiHeroGame

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Crafting Life: Finding our way – 6/8/15

Crafting Life: Finding our way

By Devi Acharya, sophomore, Brandeis University

Two weeks ago the folks who run SIP–Tim, Monty, and Walt–said that in two weeks we would be part of a team with working prototypes of our games. I didn’t think it could be done, and yet here we are, two weeks later, with a game, playtesters, and convention meetups. But it hasn’t all been fun and games–we’ve been learning some important lessons in getting to where we are today:

DeviBe Ready For Change – For our team’s game, Crafting Life, we are working with researchers to use our game as an alternative to drug treatments. This means that we have to be on the lookout to see how we can change our game to suit the needs of the players, creating a game that is both fun and functional. We have to be careful not to become too attached to any one idea or style because a different path might end up being the better one to take.

Ask Around – We’ve been told that at all times we should be either working, teaching, or learning—and I’ve discovered that I have a lot to learn from my team. From just making sure that we are all on the same page to learning the ins and outs of certain programs, we have worked together learn all that we need to know about getting our game to work and all potential forms that our game could take.

Know Your Story – When Bill Gardner, a local developer at The Deep End Games, came to speak with us about our game, he said that while he liked it he couldn’t quite see a unified direction. It was then that we realized that we didn’t really have a direction—while we had a solid game, there wasn’t a story or experience we wanted to invoke. With his advice in hand we went to look at what we wanted to say and how our game could say it.

In short, my team and I have learned a lot over the last two weeks, and we’re certainly hoping to learn more both from each other and from experts in the field. What matters is that we’re continually pushing ahead, working together, and finding our way in order to make something great.

 

  • Other Crafting Life team members are: Ari Green, MIT; Shannon Mitchell, Champlain; Joseph Gillen, LYIT; Isaiah Mann, Hampshire, Matteo Lanteri, Becker; and Alex Ripple, Berklee.

 

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The deep end: SIP15 development week 1 – 6/2/15

The deep end: SIP15 development week 1 

By Liam O’Donnell-Carey, senior, Letterkenny Institute of Technology

After a reasonably lighthearted orientation week in which we all got a chance to meet the other interns and familiarise ourselves with each other’s experience levels, Tuesday the 26th saw things start to get serious. We were divided into four teams of six, with each team having three programmers, three artists, and a game concept to work with.

That morning started much the same way for all of the teams, scrapping the parts of their idea they didn’t like and building on the parts they did. However, the teams did take different approaches. For example, our team was reasonably happy with the core mechanics of our game, but we decided to re-theme it, which would involve more concepting work on the part of the artists. Another team started almost from scratch, pitching an entirely new batch on ideas amongst each other before settling on one to run with.

FullSizeRenderFor me personally, it was refreshing to then dive right into development for the rest of the week and start working on code. Having just finished work on a year-long project for college that involved an entire semester of research and planning, getting the chance to implement systems and find issues later was a welcome change of pace. Additionally, coming from a program that teaches solely programming, I was really impressed with the work-rate of the artists! It’s great motivation to finish implementing a system due to the necessary sprites already being finished and ready to go.

Working as part of a tight-knit team and getting immediate feedback for every bit of work I do has been a great experience so far, and having industry veterans like Michael Carriere from Zapdot give us advice on the likes of playtesting is invaluable. In addition, the support and interaction between teams is great, with programmer lunches and coding jams outside of work hours helping everyone solve any problems that they may have. All in all, it’s a really fantastic workplace to develop a game in, and I can’t wait to see what’s around the next corner!

 

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Getting going: SIP15 orientation week – 5/26/15

Getting going: SIP15 orientation week

By Shengmin E., sophomore, Becker College with Devi Acharya, sophomore, Brandeis University and Sai Timmerman, senior, IUPUI

With final exams ending for college students across the US, we are looking forward to a whole summer of fun and games. The students of this year’s Summer Innovation Program (SIP) are no exception, but for aspiring entrepreneurs like us, “fun and games” takes on a whole new meaning.

Shengmin E

Shengmin E

There is no opportunity quite like SIP. From 214 applications to the program, 24 interns were chosen representing 15 institutions from California to Ireland, working to create games over the next 11 weeks. Every one of us has something that made the selection team say “wow,” and we now put our skills to the test.

Orientation got going at 9:30am sharp on the morning of May 20. MassDiGI managing director Monty Sharma took the podium and, assisted by executive director Timothy Loew and producer Walt Yarbrough, introduced us all to the ropes of the program. Concepting exercises began the very next day.

Students mixed and matched into random teams, combatting challenges with creativity, building  problem-solving skills, and striving to harness the essence of “fun.” To cultivate fast decision-making skills, every prompt was a race against time. There was little time before the groups shuffled again and a new challenge became the focus.

Jake the Lion

Jake the Lion

Visiting SIP was guest speaker from the Worcester Bravehearts baseball team accompanied by team mascot Jake the Lion. The team presented a challenge to the us: make a game featuring Jake.

In addition, we also were challenged by Boston Children’s Hospital to come up with a game with engaging mechanics to help combat attention deficit disorder.

All in all we came up with a dozen great ideas for games. Which projects will we build? We narrowed it down to just a handful and by the end of week one, we’ll be solidly on our way and several of these great ideas will become the foundation for published games by the end of the summer.

You can follow our SIP15 journey all summer on Twitter @mass_digi or by liking MassDiGI’s Facebook page.

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Growing the team – 5/6/15

Growing the team

by Tim Loew, executive director, MassDiGI

djlWe are excited to announce David Lennon has joined MassDiGI as our Technical Director. David brings a wealth of engineering experience to our team – something we need in order to grow our operational and technical capabilities. His addition will allow us to better deliver our programs and services – be it the Summer Innovation Program, Live Code, Mentoring on Demand etc. – and expand our own game development activities. David, who is also currently consulting to Metaversal Studios, was most recently executive director of engineering at Turbine. Welcome aboard, David!

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Free speech in a culture of outrage – 4/26/15

Free speech in a culture of outrage

By Christopher Ferguson, Ph.D., associate professor and department chair, Stetson University

Last month ex-Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling publicly identified two young men who allegedly posted sexually threatening comments about his daughter. These comments were replies to a twitter feed by Schilling congratulating his daughter for committing to the Salve Regina softball team. Just last month the New York Times Magazine carried a piece on Justine Sacco, whose career as a PR executive imploded after she tweeted insensitive and racially charged remarks about AIDS in Africa before getting on a flight to the continent. Taken together, these incidents bookend the struggle modern society continues to wrestle with regarding free speech in the internet age. How do we balance civility and courtesy with respect for free speech, even offensive speech, when anyone can say anything publicly? And what are the proper ramifications for offensive speech? Is free speech only about the First Amendment?

The hateful, misogynistic and threatening comments toward Schilling’s daughter represent one end of the spectrum. If these statements threatened assault on the young woman as news reports suggest, they would constitute harassment or incitement to violence and wouldn’t be constitutionally protected by the First Amendment. But what if they were not physically menacing but were vicious, demeaning and bullying? Here I’d argue that even non-assaultive hateful speech targeted at specific individuals can threaten free speech, to the extent that they serve to silence the voices of marginalized or underrepresented groups. Young women (and their fathers) should be able to celebrate their successes without being exposed to a cascade of misogyny. Schilling was quite right to call out his daughter’s harassers. Whether a legal matter or not, these individuals should not be shielded from the professional and personal ramifications of their actions, as their behavior specifically sought to silence the voice of young women.

But what about Justine Sacco? Before a trip to Africa in 2013 she tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” This racially charged tweet makes light of a humanitarian crisis in Africa as well as centuries of white privilege that has held many people of color in lives of bondage and economic deprivation for generations. Was this a message of hate meant to silence African voices, or a stupid, even satirical off-the-cuff comment?

To be clear, I don’t support Sacco’s tweet, which, at best, was ill-advised and insensitive. But I’m also concerned about the “culture of outrage” that has emerged over such events. The New York Times Magazine piece details a frenzy over Sacco’s tweet that seemed more spectator sport than true moral concern. The narrative involved her being a PR executive (who presumably should have known better) and having her fate decided unbeknownst to her while she was on an 11-hour flight. Sacco’s case appears to me to have as much to do with the bloodsport of watching someone’s life splinter in real time as it does any sincere moral concern.

Perhaps more absurd was the case of Breanna Mitchell, a teen girl internationally condemned for the crime of smiling while taking a selfie at Auschwitz (something I suspect most people would unconsciously do). Why does the internet community seethe with rage over slights such as these to the point we demand that these people’s professional lives and self-worth should be ended for all time?

When it comes to saying insensitive, stupid or boneheaded things, if we’re honest with ourselves, most people do this from time to time. If we expected everyone to be fired for ever having said something awful, frankly, the world would be unemployed. In most day-to-day discourse when we say something insensitive, we are given the chance to be confronted and reply, “You know, I was just trying to be funny, but I now realize my comments were offensive. I should have been more thoughtful and I hope you’ll accept my apology.” A careful and constructive challenge to insensitive speech can often set up a situation in which the offender can reflect on what they’ve said and be enlightened why such speech can be hurtful. Sure, some people are jerks and don’t care, but often these situations can be resolve easily with both people satisfied and no one losing their jobs. Unfortunately our culture of outrage deprives people like Sacco of this opportunity.

Of course people need to be careful about what they post publicly. But we also need to think more about whether our outrage fits the crime, and whether our calls for public humiliation do society more harm than good. At what point does this culture of outrage begin to chill not only offensive jokes and tweets, but legitimate dialogue on sensitive issues? How do we have frank and open discussions about race and gender if people are worried that saying the wrong thing might cost them their jobs or place in society?

I think it boils down to what I call sanctimony bias: our tendency to feel better about ourselves by pointing out the moral failings of others. We tell ourselves “I would NEVER make a joke about AIDS” even as we laugh at jokes about a myriad of other public tragedies. It’s hypocritical and it does damage free speech. Sure, the First Amendment doesn’t protect us from professional and personal consequences of the things we say, and free speech should not be a license for public idiocy and bigotry without challenge. But neither should this observation be an open license for cruel overreactions to minor buffoonery that can both damage people’s lives and truly limit freedom of expression.

References:

Curt Schilling: http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Family/Modern-Parenthood/2015/0302/Curt-Schilling-defends-daughter-from-Twitter-bullies-with-help-of-followers

Justine Sacco: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html?_r=1

Breanna Mitchell: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/24/auschwitz-selfie-girl-breanna-mitchell_n_5618225.html

christopher-fergusonChristopher Ferguson, Ph.D., is an associate professor and chair of the department of psychology at Stetson University. His research interests include examining the effects of media on behavior, such as video game violence, thin-ideal media or advertising effects.

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SIP15 roster chosen – 4/8/15

SIP15 roster chosen

By Tim Loew, executive director, MassDiGI

Year after year applications to our annual Summer Innovation Program (SIP) have grown in terms of quality, quantity, geographic reach and diversity. This year we received applications from 214 undergraduate and graduate students representing 55 colleges and universities from across the world – making it by far our most competitive year ever.

sip15yellowChoosing only 24 was a challenge. After much discussion, the committee selected a talented group. This year’s SIP teams will be made up of interns from 15 institutions including Becker College, Berklee College of Music, Brandeis University, Champlain College, Hampshire College, IUPUI, MIT, Northeastern University, RPI, RISD, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Southern California, University of Southern Maine, WPI – and our first international institution, Letterkenny Institute of Technology in Ireland.

SIP begins on May 19 and concludes on August 7.  Over those 11 weeks or so, with guidance from professional staff and industry mentors, SIP teams will be responsible for all the work necessary to successfully launch their games. There is no internship program like it in the country.

As in previous years, SIP students will receive housing courtesy of Becker College as well as a modest stipend. Most importantly they will all receive the greatest game development experience of their lives. Yes, it may be a lot of work – but it’s also a ton of fun. We can’t wait to get going.

Updated 4/16/15

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Ready, set, go! MassDiGI and HackerRank announce CodeSprint – 2/20/15

Ready, set, go! MassDiGI and HackerRank announce CodeSprint

By Tim Loew, executive director, MassDiGI

Are you the best game coder in the world? Prove it by competing in our MassDiGI CodeSprint challenge. The challenge, conducted in partnership with HackerRank, gives competing students the chance to test their programming mettle with the winners taking home some great prizes like $250, a Nvidia Shield Portable or a 3-day 2015 PAX East badge. Click here to enter. The online competition starts today and closes on March 3  – with the final bot competition presented at the Pre-PAX East Made in MA Party on March 5.

hrHackerRank is a site for hackers from all over to solve programming problems in different computer science domains like algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and to excel in different programming paradigms like functional programming.  It is the planet’s fastest growing developer platform and it is on a mission to make the world fast by making hackers the best at what they do.

Companies like Riot and Pocket Gems use HackerRank as part of their recruiting process  – so competing students just might find they get a call after this CodeSprint is over! Good luck to all.

Link: https://www.hackerrank.com/massdigi-codesprint

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2015 Game Challenge Announcements – 2/7/15

Update – Read full results announcement here on Gamasutra. Read the story here on VR World and here at the Daily Herd.

Update – Winners announced:

  • Grand Prize – Wooplex “Wooplex”
  • People’s Choice – Team Future “Black Hat Oculus”
  • Indie Demo/Alpha – Mob Made “Descendants” [Runner up Zephyr]
  • Indie Beta/Near Release – Wooplex “Wooplex” [Runner up Team Future]
  • College Demo/Alpha – Play Nimbus “Private Eyes” [Runner up Deli Bar; 2nd Runner up Two Brothers]
  • College Beta/Near Release – Maximum Crash “Starlot Derby” [Mustachio]
  • Serious Demo/Alpha – Studio REKS “Paper Pests”
  • Serious Beta/Near Release – Skylight “Lyrical” [Runner up DynamicX]
  • High school – The Kilskast “Math for Honor” [Runner up Nostradingus]

Update – Finalists announced:

  • Indie Demo/Alpha – Mob Made “Descendants” and Zephyr “Florafiora”
  • Indie Beta/ Near Release – Team Future “Black Hat Oculus” and Wooplex “Wooplex”  (honorable mention to UE Games)
  • College Demo/Alpha – Deli Bar “Carpe Diem” (Becker, UMass Lowell), Play Nimbus “Private Eyes” (Becker) and Two Brothers “Hyper Syntax” (Champlain) (honorable mention to The Hurly Birds  “Get Up, Chuck”(Northeastern))
  • College Beta/Near Release – Maximum Crash “Starlot Derby” (Becker) and Mustachio Games “Red Survivor” (Binghamton, Northeastern, Hampshire & RISD)
  • Serious Demo/Alpha – Studio REKS “Paper Pests” (WPI)*
  • Serious Beta/Near Release –  Skylight “Lyrical” and DynamicX “The Shield: By Sword and Knowledge”
  • High school – Nostradingus “Insula Noe” (Millbury, MA) and The Kilskast “Math for Honor”(New York, NY)

Stay tuned for more detailed posts soon.

* Category winner

 

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