The museum of summers past
By Kazmuir Long ’21, Temple University
As part of the first-ever SIP Fest, Henry Stadolnik, Vlad Karashchuk and I created a Minecraft museum with statues of all SIP games past and present from 2012 until today. SIP alumni (and friends) can view all of the exhibits in the form of a “roller coaster ride” using minecarts and rails.
We spent about 15 hours on this and each exhibit is labeled with a sign description of the game title and the year it was developed.
The Minecraft server connection address can be requested by SIP alumni via email at infoatmassdigi.org.
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Team culture in the time of COVID-19
By Sofie Levin ’22, Rhode Island School of Design
Greetings MassDiGI-verse! My name is Sofie Levin and I am a rising junior at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and the lead of SIP20’s culture team, also known as Team Yogurt. Our team was specifically created this year with one purpose: to find ways to create bonds between all the SIP20 members while living and working in different places and in different time zones.
Working remotely during this internship has its challenges – not just for us, but for most people working remotely right now. From audio issues to our WiFi shutting down on us, one significant challenge has been trying to connect and bond with the rest of SIP20 members. Since we all belong to our own respective teams, SIP20 has few opportunities to connect with members of the other teams. Team Yogurt’s mission has been to create ways to familiarize everyone with each other and create a SIP community similar to that of past SIP years.
Our team consists of one member from each SIP20 team: Ashley O’Handley from Team Donair, Whitney Kluttz from Team Linguini, Jasmine Duerk from Team Pork Dumplings, Marcus Johnson from Team Chowder, and me, representing Team Black Forest. When the team was first formed, we were like a rag tag group working together to solve our way out of a dungeon without any clue on where to start. Barely acquainted with each other, it seemed almost impossible to try and tackle this quest to create a meaningful connection between all of the SIP20 members. As the leader, I too felt like I was ill equipped for this role. But as the weeks went by, we all were able to overcome our doubts and uncertainties and started to organize outside events which all of SIP20 could participate in.
Thanks to the power of technology, we have been able to find outlets which allow us to all communicate daily fairly easily. There are a plentiful amount of online platforms that enable us to reach out and participate with each other, such as Discord and Zoom. We have also used additional platforms which enable us to communicate with each other from the comforts of our own homes such as Netflix Party and more recently Amazon’s Watch Party. Jackbox, Minecraft and Smash Bros tournaments have been crowd favorites. We all have been able to find ways to connect with each other one way or the other, including the use of social media. With our main goal of creating a bond between all of the SIP20 members, we realized that we should have as many options as possible available for people to connect with one another, as some might not have certain platforms listed above. While Team Yogurt has organized our own events for the rest of SIP20 members, some outside of our team have already found ways to network with each other without our team’s help, something that I am thrilled to see happening.
While the connection we have in SIP20 differs from the previous years, I would argue that our connection in SIP20 is strong and equal to that of past years. We all have had the drive and desire to build connections with each other and, given our current services worked creatively to make it happen. It has been a lot of fun.
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From Game Dev Noob to Tilemap Expert
Baking My First Black Forest Cake
By Alina Zheng’ 23, Wellesley College
Hello MassDiGI-verse! I’m Alina Zheng, a rising sophomore at Wellesley College and a participant of this year’s Summer Innovation Program. More specifically, I am associate producer of Team Black Forest, a small group of driven artists, programmers, and designers hoping to make it big with our cutesy puzzle game, Danger Ducklings.
While that may have sounded like a standard pitch for our team, I can assure you that the knowledge and supportiveness of my coworkers-turned-friends cannot be understated. In addition to being an associate producer (who lends a listening ear to the producer during decision-making), I am a programmer who, prior to SIP, had no experience in Unity whatsoever. Coming from a pure computer science program with very little material in the way of game development, I entered the SIP with a healthy dose of nervousness and a not-so-healthy ambition to cram as many Unity tutorials as possible outside of work. However, I soon realized that there was no need for this, because I already had two resources that were more valuable than any Brackeys YouTube video or Unity forums post: my co-programmers Ezra Szanton, computer science major at Tufts University, and Cavan Vince, game development student at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Thanks to Ezra and Cavan’s patience for teaching, as well as my observations of their lightning-fast debugging skills, efficient navigation of the Unity environment, and solid grasp of the C# scripting language, I quickly overcame the learning curve and became our programming team’s resident tilemap expert.
Our talented artists Sofie Levin (Rhode Island School of Design) and Arianna Sargent (Lesley University), as well as our capable designer John D’Amico (Becker College) have been working hard to churn out polished artwork and levels. John is also our team’s pragmatic producer. He has been an incredible asset to our team’s workflow, always driving good discussions and getting us back on track when our meme bonding sessions have extended for a little too long. Thanks to the hard work of all of our team members, our game is slowly reaching the “juice” phase, when we can focus on making the game as satisfying and gorgeous as possible.
SIP20 has been an incredible experience so far. Not only has my work in Unity and C# helped me develop a stronger grasp of programming fundamentals, I have also learned that, with the power of Google Hangouts and Zoom, it is entirely possible for a group of hard-working, fun-loving young people to come together, befriend each other, and create something they’ll be proud of for the rest of their lives. I hope that my experiences will encourage other college students—especially those who do not consider themselves experts in game development—to apply to SIP. MassDiGI gave me my first glimpse into the world of video game design, and I am very grateful for that.
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Expect the Unexpected
By Marcus Johnson ’21, UMass Dartmouth
Two months ago seems like an eternity, but it was then that a professor offered me a position in a new partnership program between UMass Dartmouth and MassDigi’s Summer Innovation Program. I figured it would be a good learning experience and that I could get some in-depth discussion on video game production. I had no idea how much it would completely change the way I see not only the business of creating, producing, and marketing video games, but the whole of the working environment.
Starting this program, we were tasked with doing research into idle games. When we first heard this, we were all particularly disappointed, thinking, “I can’t believe we’re going to have to do a lame idle game. All you need to do is click.” At least, that was my mentality until my team of colleagues and I started diving into idea generation. There we learned all the in’s and out’s of why our ideas fell flat, didn’t take into consideration our audience, or were totally beyond scope that it would be impossible to actually complete. Only through weeks of head scratching did we finally come to terms that creating even a “simple idle game” proved to be much more complex and involved than we could have possibly imagined. It was a humbling experience that has and will continue to shape how I go about creating games in the future.
During this time, I had been working on creating a video game on the sidelines. It’s a multi-person project that I’ve been nurturing for a couple of years with an obscene amount of pre-production time. It was during the first few weeks of SIP that I was quickly learning that the game I had been running lacked critical foundations that I thought it had. The more I learned and the more I had my other game ideas picked apart, the more I realized that my own pet project was looking more and more like a disaster! SIP enlightened me and made me realize that a difficult decision needed to be made: leave my project as it was, or start fresh and to make sure that the correct details and information were in place. Fortunately, I went for the latter, and while it was tough to get everyone else on board, it was thanks to my mentor’s notes and talks that I was able to successfully get them to understand where I was coming from and why the decision of starting fresh was warranted. It was thanks to SIP that I learned the hard lessons of game development without the nasty consequences of needing to deliver to real people with real money on a real deadline.
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Game dev in the world of COVID-19
By Olivia Bogs, Worcester Polytechnic Institute ‘21
Hello MassDiGI-verse! Team Linguini here with another update on SIP20.
I’m an environment artist for Team Linguini, along with our lead artist Vlad Karashchuk from Becker College, our producer Kazmuir Long from Temple University, associate producer Brandon Coulombe from Becker College, lead programmer Henry Stadolnik from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, lead designer Whitney Kluttz from Rochester Institute of Technology, and our “Queen of Sound” Primrose Kirk from Berklee College of Music.
In our last blog post, JD Calvelli briefly touched on the SIP experience while working remotely during COVID-19, and I felt this week’s post would be a great opportunity to expand upon this! One common theme with having SIP run remotely, as well as the end of the past semester, is that in the post-COVID world remote work may very well become the new norm. This is especially true for an industry like ours that is more easily adaptable to remote work. I decided to interview my teammates to see what their thoughts were on the remote experience, and any challenges they have faced in the adjustment process.
“Working remotely has emphasized the importance of time management for me. I easily get overwhelmed if I do not plan out my daily tasks in the beginning,” said producer Kazmuir. On the plus side, they mentioned that being independent from a physical workspace allows for more time spent outdoors.
Henry said that remote work feels normal now, having adjusted to online classes for school this past semester. He also pointed out the importance of maintaining work-related tasks within the confines of work hours to help preserve work-life balance when you’re living and working in the same space.
Artist Vlad realizes that while the situation is out of personal control, he does miss having in-person interaction. Like Henry, he also touched on work-life balance, saying “[i]t’s hard to keep a balance between feeling like you’re working and feeling like you’re resting when your workplace is the same space as your comfort area.”
Primrose mentioned time management as a challenge as well. “It’s definitely much harder to stay motivated and manage your time when working remotely.” However, she’s very proud of the connections we have been making as a team and hopes to see the team in-person in the future.
I can certainly relate to all of my teammates’ experiences. One way remote work impacts me is by being in a different time zone than everyone else – it’s just a one hour difference, but it definitely alters how I structure my day! I wake up earlier and eat lunch earlier, but I also end my work day earlier. This gives me time in the evening to go outside and garden, just like how Kazmuir uses their spare time to enjoy the outdoors.
At the end of the day, while remote work has both its upsides and its challenges, SIP has still been an amazing opportunity for us so far. It’s been especially helpful with online networking. Every Friday, past SIP members act as our mentors and hop into our Zoom call to look at our game concepts, provide feedback, and talk about their experiences during SIP. Former SIPers have also started a Discord server for all SIP alumni to stay in contact. Being remote has also made other forms of networking more accessible; Kazmuir has started a series of weekly video talks hosted by employees from Riot Games, EA, and Ubisoft. Team Linguini has weekly game nights on Thursdays to build our connection in a social, non-work setting (so far we’ve played Don’t Starve Together as well as Minecraft and both led to some interesting experiences!). We’ve also had SIP-wide gaming events; last Sunday we had a Mario Kart 8 tournament, and last Friday Team Pork Dumplings hosted some Jackbox for everyone to participate!
In even better news, we now have the option to return to work in-person starting July 18th. Regardless of where our SIP20 team is located – online, in-person, or a combination of the two – we have been working hard and making plenty of memories along the way.
As far as what Team Linguini has been up to as of late, we’ve narrowed our potential game concepts down to a final choice with the help of SIP mentor feedback, and feedback from all of our fellow SIPers this year! Our focus this week has been getting test builds ready, fleshing out some more in-depth design elements, and solidifying an art style so we can begin production. We’ve also been preparing for a webinar we’re hosting this Thursday on “How to Make a Game”. Stay tuned for next week’s post for more updates on SIP20!
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Welcome to the MassDigi-verse
By JD Calvelli, Brown University ’21
Hey there MassDigi-verse, my name is JD Calvelli, a rising senior at Brown University participating in this year’s Summer Innovation Program. This is the first of many blog posts to come from our SIP20 teams; we’ll be using this platform to keep everyone updated on our thoughts, feelings, and, most importantly, our progress on our games throughout the summer.
As for me, I’m the producer on Team Pork Dumplings, which are coincidentally one of my favorite foods. My fellow Dumplings are assistant producer Jasmine Duerk from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, programmer Andrew Knollmeyer from Northeastern University, programmer Sam Shapiro from Clark University, programmer/artist Jack Breen from Framingham State University, artist Lexis Harvey from Becker College, and Primrose Kirk from Berklee. As producer, I’ll be responsible for making sure the team runs efficiently and effectively while being respectful of everyone’s needs and opinions, facilitating our progress through obsessively taking notes and organizing our tasks while keeping our goals and limitations in mind. This is my first time assuming a role like this in game development specifically (usually I’m writing stories, designing systems, or making music!), and, although I’m a little nervous, I’m excited to think I know what I’m doing only to find out the absolutely unreal amount of stuff I don’t know! But, in all seriousness, I’m incredibly excited for the opportunity to grow as a producer and programmer; I have a lot to learn, but I have an incredible team supporting me throughout the process.
Our team’s Miro board
Before we even got to the challenges inherent to game development, our SIP teams as a whole have had to struggle with the reality of working in a COVID-19 world. Our internship this summer is being held digitally, with the hope that maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to spend a week or so together on site at the end of the summer. A lot of what former SIPers have mentioned as the most impactful part of SIP are the passing conversations, dorm gaming sessions, and impromptu student on student mentorship that went on in between official team meetings. We’ve been doing our best to recreate that experience over Discord (we even started our own SIP Minecraft Server!) and the incredible Team Yogurt is working on new ways to build a SIP20 community culture everyday. Our team, Team Pork Dumplings, has been trying to hold weekly game nights. Last week, we played Broken PicturePhone, and learned first hand why I am decidedly not an artist!
Currently, all of the development teams are in the process of finalizing our concepts before entering official production. Last week, we were able to meet with some awesome members of SIPs past to get feedback on our initial concepts, and we’re excited to meet even more mentors this Friday. This time, we’ll be presenting some playable tests, or “whiteboxes”, of our ideas, in the effort to finally choose what game idea we’ll be pursuing for the rest of the summer. We’ve all put so much work into cutting, changing, adjusting, and reflecting on all of our preliminary designs up to this point that we’ve settled on some game ideas that we really love. It’s going to be hard to have to say goodbye to the ones we don’t choose! Up next is finalizing pre-production on the idea that we choose, and starting actual production. It’s still a long road ahead, but we’re all fired up and ready to hit the ground running.
I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to join such an impressive community of people, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer brings. JD signing off!
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Jump Start Game Jam announced
The IGDA Becker Chapter is offering the Jump Start Game Jam for interested high school students, parents or teachers, on June 13-14. The virtual event is free, but preregistration is required by June 9.
Game jam lets participants try their hand at creating a video game.
“Our Jump Start Game Jam has been designed with first-time participants in mind,” said Gavin Camlin ’21, IGDA Becker Club vice-president. “High school students who have a passion for games and are searching for fun, new things to do during the pandemic will enjoy game jam.”
Those who sign up will also get the chance to hear mini-talks from game industry professionals like Owen Leach from ZeniMax Online (Elder Scrolls Online) and Gwen Frey from Chump Squad (Kine).
“Creating a game is a great experience,” said Robby Williams ’21, IGDA Becker Club secretary. “It opens up a whole new world. Every game jam I’ve been involved in has always produced some amazing work.”
For participants, there will be a dedicated communications channel on Discord with IGDA Becker Club student members, so participants who have questions, want advice, or experience problems can connect.
The club will also provide participants with an introductory game jam “kit,” which includes some game jam basics, free software recommendations and some game assets that the participants might need.
The virtual event will be co-sponsored by MassDiGI.
The IGDA Becker Club anticipates that the games created during the jam will be posted online on Itch.io for all to play at the conclusion of the event.
To preregister for the Jump Start Game Jam, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/jump-start-game-jam-tickets-106914969552.
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Roller Riot, a free, fun and fast-paced beat-em-up game, is now available on PC. Download it on Steam now!
Crazy cyborgs are causing chaos in the city and have made their way towards the Roller Derby District. You are the last one standing. Punch, kick and roll your way through a frenzy of different enemies hell bent on taking you down. Show them that you are a force to be reckoned with and that they chose the wrong street. And, don’t forget to use your cyber upgrades to take down more enemies!
The mobile game was created during the 2019 MassDiGI Summer Innovation Program (SIP) by students Oriana Carletto from SVA, Denis Gillespie from LYIT, Ben Aube from Becker, Jason Gertner from Becker, Amanda Saker from MECA, Sarah Ke from Mt. Holyoke and Ethan Reese from Berklee.
Working over the summer, the team produced a beta/near-release version of the game. From there, we brought the game into our LiveStudio program at Becker during the fall ’19 and spring ’20 semesters. Through LiveStudio, more students across a range of disciplines, including business students, had roles in polishing the game and getting it ready to launch – watch the trailer here. For a roster of all the contributors to the game, check out the credit roll. You can download Roller Riot today for PC as well as on iOS and Android.
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SIP20 team selected
By Timothy Loew, Executive Director
Since 2012, applications to our annual Summer Innovation Program (SIP) have grown year over year in terms of quality, geographic reach, major, and diversity. This time around we received applications from 371 undergraduate and graduate students representing 98 colleges and universities from around the world making it our most competitive year ever.
Choosing only 25 as interns was very challenging, especially this year. After many long hours of discussion, we selected a really talented group. This summer’s SIP20 team will be made up of interns from 15 institutions including Becker College, Berklee College of Music, Brown University, Bryn Mawr College, Clark University, Framingham State University, Lesley University, Northeastern University, RISD, RIT, Temple University, Tufts University, Wellesley College, Wentworth Institute of Technology and WPI.
SIP20 begins on May 26 and concludes on August 14. Over those 11 weeks or so, with guidance from staff and industry mentors, SIP20 teams will be responsible for all the work necessary to prepare a game for launch. Simply put, there is no internship program like it in the world.
Unlike prior years, there’s a pandemic on so SIP20 interns will work remotely. The world may be a bit messy right now but we are adjusting to create the best program and greatest experience ever – and we can’t wait to get started.
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Welcome to DevConnect (or what we’re doing in lieu of GDC)
For many game industry professionals GDC is a critically important and irreplaceable annual event. For many students and recent graduates looking to break into the industry it is no less so. Since we work with many students we wanted to create something that could offer them some value and help take a little of the sting out of GDC’s cancellation. And, after putting a call out to our awesome friends in the game industry for help, we have been able to do just that with what we are calling DevConnect.
“This is a hard time for everyone,” said Monty Sharma, managing director of MassDiGI and lead organizer of DevConnect. “And, it is inspiring to see so many busy professionals taking the time to help young people just getting started.”
DevConnect, beginning today and running through Friday, will give dozens of students and recent graduates from 13 different colleges and universities the chance to take part in online mini talks, one-on-ones and portfolio reviews with game industry professionals from 16 companies, studios and organizations.
“When GDC was canceled, everyone was standing around and wondering how we would make up for the lost opportunity,” said Sofia Syjuco, a Carnegie Mellon University ‘19 alumna as well as an IGDA Velocity ’20 and IGDA GDC Scholar ’19 awardee. “Luckily, MassDiGI took action and it’s making a big difference for us!”
For students, this is an opportunity to interact with professionals and learn, gather feedback on their body of work and get a sense of where the industry is headed.
Jennifer Kindl at the 2019 MassDiGI Summer Innovation Program Open House
“As I get ready for graduation next year, connecting with professionals is an important part of my plan to begin establishing relationships in the game industry,” said Jennifer Kindl, a current student at Becker College and an IGDA Scholar ‘19 and Microsoft Game Changer ‘19 awardee. “DevConnect is the kind of event that will help me do that even amidst so much uncertainty.”
For professionals, this is an opportunity to connect with students and give back, offer guidance and scout the next generation of talent.
“Building a network is crucial to making it in any industry,” said Sigurlina Ingvarsdottir of Bonfire Studios. “This is a problem for students everywhere, but once a year we used to see them at GDC. It is great that everyone was able to work together and make this happen.”
Special thanks to all the participants from Bungie, Riot Games, Day for Night Games, BeamNG, Adventure Labs, FIX Health, Bonfire Studios, Obsidian Entertainment, Happy People Games, Filament Games, Vision Online Games, Standing Stone Games, MassDiGI, Twisted Pixel Games, Mythos CEX and GDC/Gamasutra.
And, of course, many thanks to the students and recent graduates from WPI, Wellesley, USC, SVA, RIT, Northeastern, MECA, Lesley, FAST NUCES, CMU, BU, Brown and Becker.
– By Timothy Loew, executive director, MassDiGI
*A version of this post can also be found on Gamasutra here.
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