Learning the ropes – 11/17/22

By Logan Cooper, NEIT ’22

Through RIDigi, I was given a chance to work with MassDigi in their studio program which has been a wonderful opportunity and an exceptional experience.

This studio, which is essentially an internship, is serving not only as a co-op for me at NEIT but also as a gateway from progressing from student life to work life in a more integrated way. From this I’ve come to learn both how personal workflow becomes when in an actual professional environment compared to school, the general structure of how a game project is organized, and new coding skills that I’ll be able to use for future projects.

Logan C.Though there were some bumpy spots early on for me, the program treats everyone with equal respect and fairness when working on various projects.  Once I got going, I joined a team – one of a few – to work on a mobile game called Cafe Cat in hope of adding new features and increasing player retention. Initially, this stunned me since I thought that everyone involved was going to be working on the same project. But, aftter joining the team we were given our specific roles for each of which we needed to both learn and perform over the course of the next twelve weeks.

I was assigned to the role of general programmer and more importantly to game dev analytics of which I only had a basic understanding at the time. Over the first week or so I spent most of my work hours learning there new programs to use and coding style, so I could perform at the same level as those who had originally worked on this project. The work environment being remote was also a change but a simple one at that since given we were able to create our own meeting times and additions for the project has personally allowed my group to flourish.

MassDigi and its producers understand that for people here they have personal, school, and other work lives outside of the internship and are accepting with open arms when something comes up. From my own group we have had a little bit of scheduling issues / personal issues which has resulting in people possibly missing meetings but being more self motivated than something like school work has allowed us for easy workarounds by rescheduling meetings or catching people up with the meeting notes we take each time after our Google meets.

The change from school to this work can be a little challenging early on requiring those participating to learn new programs or styles from existing methods they may already know but learning that these are the standard programs lets us learn once and use often for any project given to us by the industry thus preparing us for any work given. Our group and MassDigi as a whole has been using Dev-To-Dev for analytics for the game, Plastic for source control and group game development, and Ryver for communications with others in our work groups. Though something like Plastic is an extension to existing programs like Unity, learning these programs are both needed and beneficial.

Progress can be slow on development as people balance there lives but seeing the determination from my team members and MassDigi as a whole has lead to us already improving upon our Cafe Cat and pushing out changes to the public that has already seen a player increase of seventy people at the time of writing.

The skills I’ve learned, the people I’ve met, and the understanding of how an organization actually works in the game industry has really opened my eyes to the work I’ve produced. I would gladly recommend to all who have the ability to take the opportunity to apply for this studio program to both improve yourself as a game developer and as a team member.

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Making progress, moving forward – 11/9/22

By James Taubman, NEIT ’25

James TaubmanI consider myself fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work with MassDigi in their semester-based studio program. Through the help of RIDigi and the dedicated faculty at New England Institute of Technology I was given a path to further my journey to a career in the video game industry. The team from MassDigi is quite informed, offering a well-planned out remote program. This studio program, or internship really, has been challenging while also helping me progress and develop important career-related skills. Working remotely brings on its own obstacles, while introducing contemporary industry tools. This also helps create the ability to connect with other students of varying skills.

The program has a specific approach that feels as if I am working at a professional video game studio. Our team is tasked with helping build a mobile app/game for Android and Apple users. We look at one of MassDigi’s recently released games and using analytics, we work to improve on parts that need fine tuning. To start, we spent time introducing ourselves to and getting to know our team members. Following that is the onboarding process which makes sure everyone is ready to go before moving forward. Afterwards, the teams start breaking down goals and how they will be resolved. At this stage in the program, which is a couple weeks in, we are starting to be assigned tickets/tasks that will need to be resolved before new ones come in.

This program has been challenging so far, without being overly exhausting. They keep in mind students have outside schedules and school assignments, but make sure to have it use a good part of your free time. I am working mostly with the development team while also helping with sound effects, since I have background in audio.  For development, we are first looking at how to improve the code scripts for analytics to make sure it is reporting accurate information. The analytics will help us figure out where balancing and fine tuning needs to occur to facilitate a more engaging gameplay experience. After that we are fine tuning smaller pieces like collision issues, health damage, and new obstacles.

The tools we are using are industry standard and are set up in a way where students must figure out certain aspects of it on our own. We are using DevToDev for our analytics information but must set up a lot of how it functions ourselves. We are also using Ryver for communication, as this position is remote, and Ryver is just like any other form of remote business-oriented communication tool. We are also using Miro for tickets and task building, where the team will reference it for any important information. Since this is a more independent style of video game creation the main engine we are using is Unity, with the IDE and Modeling software being up to the individual student.

This program has also provided a great space for networking. As we are communicating with students of all different experiences, skill levels and schools. Most of the students on my team are from different colleges in the New England area. All the students are amazing at either art, coding, or music. They are all open to working together and creating easy communication with each other. This also opens the door for a lot of future opportunities, as the skills I am learning here apply to many jobs within the game industry, as well as the tech industry more broadly.

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SIPBLOG: There and back – 8/15/22

Hello, it’s Brendan Horack again

SIP22SIP22 ended 10 days ago and I have had some time to process all  the fantastic and chaotic events of the past few months. I had the privilege of taking part in this program with a unique perspective. It was amazing to be able to watch the teams work, learn, and see the ideas they had grow and change. That being said, I also saw the teams make mistakes and work through frustration. Fortunately, we were mostly able to stave off Covid-related issues.

The cliché is that every year SIP games get better. It’s true. No disrespect to the teams of past years. Every game that comes out of this program is stellar, but even this year’s teams will have to learn to understand that next year will probably be even just a little better. During the ideation phase, I sat in with every team at different points, and for the most part, I could tell which ideas they were really passionate about very early. They would continue to come up with other concepts, but there was just something missing. One team, not going to point fingers here, briefly ran with an idea that ultimately was not what I thought they would, and they ended up changing concepts and it worked out really well for them. 

Farewell lunchSeeing so many of my coworkers break out of their shells and grow in a social manner was one of my favorite things to watch this summer. I have a lot of fun networking and talking to new people with new and different perspectives and ideas in this industry. I mean, I’m 22 years old and still in college. I can learn something from anyone I meet. We had so many great opportunities for everyone in our program to meet and learn from SIP alumni, industry professionals and veterans, and some folks that fall into both categories. Our event with Modulate at WPI Seaport was probably the best networking event MassDigi has done for SIP. 

Finally, critiques. Wrangling scope is something that even professionals deal with. Some teams ran into issues wrangling their scope, but I believe this is something that can only be taught through experience. Many professionals also deal with crunch. Crunch is not inevitable but is typically a symptom of scope creep among other issues. I can’t blame them. Everyone had big dreams for their games and 11 weeks to make them come true. These teams did amazing work and made some really important mistakes that they learned a lot from. 

Personally, I had the pleasure of speaking with and scheduling a lot of guests and events. There were so many great people and I wish I could thank them all here. However, there were also hiccups and struggles with communication along the way. But I learned a lot about communicating and planning events. In fact, I almost messed up the timing with our friends at Elm Park Community School. But with some extra effort, we made it work. All my mistakes helped me grow when it comes to managing under stress (which I needed). Throughout the summer I even began to work on documentation to make scheduling speakers a simpler process regarding those we feel are essential to bring in. I also had the privilege of connecting with some higher up marketing professionals that help me personally when it came to planning the campaigns for the fall. I have a LOT of plans. I have ideas for where, globally speaking, to market the games, and ideas to make our 2023 PAX East booth more engaging. You’ll just have to keep an eye on us to see what happens. 

B. HorackI can’t wait to see how well these games do with some advertising support behind them. To everyone I worked with this summer: Thank you so much for making this experience great. Programmers, artists, designers, composer. Everyone. You are all so talented. 

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SIPBLOG: The complicated art of networking – 7/29/22

Hello!! I’m Julia Sherbal, a rising senior at Northeastern studying computer science and game development. This summer, I’m working as a producer and programmer for Team Samosa on the game Cafe Cat.

Throughout SIP, I’ve done a lot of challenging work. Brainstorming game ideas, programming a game from scratch, and managing my team’s tasks are all difficult jobs I had to learn how to do properly. However, none of these things were as scary to me as the complicated art of networking.

Seaport teamLast week, we had multiple events for networking. As a programmer, I tend to be shy, and social situations can get quite awkward. For these events though, I had to tap into my producer side to be prepared for small talk and asking for LinkedIns… Horrifying. Being a producer has helped me step up and be more outspoken as I’m the one who has to represent our team.

On Monday, we had the opportunity to show off our games in Boston at WPI Seaport! I have made games in the past for school work and game jams, but people never actually play them. It was nerve-wracking to put our game out on display, but I knew my team had been working super hard, and I was excited for people to see it.

It was really rewarding to see people play and respond well to our game. We’ve been in production for about two months now, so a lot of hard work and care has gone into our cat game. All of that effort paid off when I saw how people lit up upon seeing our cat character designs, bad puns, and glitter effects. Watching people excitedly scramble to make enough tips in our game is one of my favorite moments this summer. Every little detail my team and I worked on over this summer had built up into a project I’m really proud of!

Cafe Cat screenshotAt WPI Seaport, I got to meet really cool people from companies like Modulate, Maxis, The Deep End, and Fire Hose Games. If you were at WPI Seaport and played our games, thank you so much! I want to work in the games field, so it was great meeting industry people in the Boston area, hearing what cool stuff they work on and how their journeys brought them to where they are now. There were also a bunch of past SIP alumni, and it was fun being able to see the network of talented, awesome people I now belong to! Turns out I had nothing to be scared of, everyone was really nice and easy to talk to.

We only have a week before our game launches, which is really exciting! It’s also quite scary, as there’s so much left I want to do. I know I’ll miss going into the Innovation Studio every day and working with my team.

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SIPBLOG: The homestretch – 7/15/22

Hey there! My name is Skye Pritchard, and I’m a Game Development major at WPI going into my Junior year. I’m working this summer as an artist and the producer of Team Channa.

It is an important week at MassDigi SIP, with every team hurrying to finish clean-looking builds for a big Demo Day at WPI Seaport in Boston next week, and the end of the program looming over our heads. Demo Day aside, each team has only a little over two weeks left to work on our own games and a mountain of great ideas that we need to cut down and fit into our limited time frame. It’s time to buckle down and manage the heck out of our time. As a producer, the responsibility falls on me to make things go smoothly.

Team picture

Over the past two years at school, as I’ve looked toward my potential future in the games industry, I was never really sure where in a team I would best fit. My skills have always followed my interests, which range from programming to game design to art. I expected to have to limit myself to one subject, sacrificing all my passions for the sake of that one thing, but my experience at SIP has taught me that things are not always so black and white, and being a producer inhabits that gray area that I have always instinctively sought after. I have learned where I fit best, and more importantly, I have learned how essential every team member is to a project of this scale.

Our game, Demigod Daycare, would not be the beautiful thing that it is if not for our lead artist’s visual development skill or our lead programmer’s attention to detail with VFX, or our build manager’s knowledge of the codebase (and Greek mythology lore), or our ability designer’s creative mechanic ideas, or our lead designer’s UI/UX knowledge. It is a privilege to be able to work with this team and facilitate this project, and it’s an experience I could never know in a classroom setting.

Character variations done by Skye Pritchard and Mim Dow

It’s weird and bittersweet to know that this summer of SIP is coming to an end, but I don’t have time to dwell on it; I have to run and finish a game now!

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SIPBLOG: The jams and the games – 7/6/22

My name is Katie Rupinski and I am a Composer and Sound Designer for Video Games and Film. I’m going into my final year at Berklee College of Music double majoring in film scoring and interactive media scoring.

Rupinski

Katie in one of WPI’s music spaces

Growing up, the music in games was the most memorable part for me. I can still sing all the music from the MMORPGs I practically lived on. Being part of MassDigi’s Summer Innovation Program has helped me take a lot of the teachings from school and dreams of gaming, apply them to real-life games, and substantially improve my craft. It’s been amazing working with such talented coders and artists but definitely my role as audio has different expectations and responsibilities.

Composition can be highly subjective so finding which music works for which game mostly has to do with research into similar game types. Then, the composition has to be done in a way where you forget all the music you just heard because coming too close could be dangerous for your game in terms of copyright. Personally, I like to take inspiration from instruments and tempo and then the rest is freehanded by taking chord types I already enjoy. Sometimes I will look into old classics like jazz standards and look at how the chords interact with each other and how they make me feel, then taking the emotions I’m going for, I’ll take apart and restitch those chords back together.

Sound design is a whole different ballpark that includes analyzing real-life sounds and what they are made of. There’s a fine balance between sounding realistic and fitting a game with art that requires an over-exaggerated voice. I like to start with a base sound of whatever I’m going for and add layers that will accentuate movements, contact between objects, or room dynamics. For example, if I’m making a sword sound, I like to start with a metal clanging or slashing. Then I can add a metal sharpening sound with my knife sharpener to give it some drama. Adding a swoosh sound gives it more movement and adds imagery with sound. Finally, with both sound and audio, mixing is a huge part of the process. Making sure nothing sticks out too much and takes attention away or that nothing blends in too much with the background.

Rupinski

Logic X Pro, a software Katie uses in her work on a daily basis.

The final result of putting music and sound effects together can be nerve-wracking and require a lot of edits to make sure the listener isn’t getting overstimulated, but the finished result is more magical than anything I’ve ever seen. Being a part of that process takes any form of media and gives it so much life to me. Working with the team and getting them to hear what they imagined is extremely rewarding and exactly why I do it.

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SIPBLOG: Struggles and magic – 6/24/22

What’s up y’all! My name Is Kristophe Yen, I am a rising Junior at Brown University. I am one of the programmers for Team Batura and am working on Grandpa Run/ Raving Grandpa.

Walking into SIP I was incredibly excited to share the ideas and visions that I had for games that my team and I would potentially work on. It was one of my first times working on a multidisciplinary team and I wanted to contribute in any way that I could. This process did not go the way that I expected. At all. I gravely underestimated how tedious and, at the time, repetitive the brainstorming phase of our games was. Along with the fruition of new and fun ideas that we all wanted to tackle together also came a mountain of rejection. At one point each time we pitched our ideas I walked in being ready to have our idea shut down.

Pic 1

Our team and the visiting 5th graders

I failed to realize why we had to put away so many ideas that we truly believed we could execute. It was not until two distinct moments that I realized the importance of going through such an iterative process to release a successful game: having the 5th graders come in to play our game and having to put away a game that we were excited to work on. At the moment when we put away our first idea for a game that we started working on, it hurt to stop producing a game that we had already put so much work into. But the rejection I faced before showed me the importance of cutting a game short when multiple red flags are pointing toward struggles, we may face in the future. When we had the 5th graders come in, I could not help but be happy when they were excited to play our game, I was able to see all our hard work finally instill joy in someone’s gaming experience, and I could not be more grateful for an experience like that. It was a full-circle moment!

Pic 2

An older build vs the most recent

I am not sure if it’s because I am a programmer, so I have become detached from reality after staring at my computer all the time, but I am a thorough believer in magic. Due to this role, I often feel the need to execute a vision perfectly. As a programmer with a team relying on you, you want to make sure that you can make the dreams of all your teammates come true. Writing this out I guess I have taken the guise of fairy godmother unprovoked, huh?

SIP has introduced me to many struggles but has also introduced me to a strong support system. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity and people I have met in the program as professionals and as friends. Walking forward I hope to release a game that we will all be proud of, and I promise none of the teams will disappoint, the work that they have all put in will speak volumes once the games are released. Tune in because SIP22 will shake the table!

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SIPBLOG: The toughest critics – 6/17/22

Heyhey! My name is Evelyn Tan and I’m a rising senior in Illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. I am currently working with Team Samosa as Lead Artist for a time management reverse cat cafe game.

cat cafe 1

This week, we were visited by a wee hoard of 5th graders who helped us playtest our games. Even though our builds are still very rough, it was so rewarding to see them responding to the game and getting invested in the gameplay loop. The kids were super responsive, and offered tons of feedback both verbally and also through their gameplays–watching them play allowed us to identify areas of ambiguity within the loop, and also plenty of opportunities to add ‘the juice’ to the art. (If any of y’all are reading this, thank you so much! <3)  I know I’m making myself seem old here, but it was also so great to see them experience a taste of the childhood joys of our main comp–the flash game known as Penguin Diner.

Cat cafe 2

SIP so far has been an incredibly unique experience–I’ve had group projects at RISD but have never developed a project of this scale. Communication has been an integral part to the group process, but creating and completing plans on the Kanban as a group has been very satisfying. On the arts side, I’ve learned a lot about the unification of style and the importance of establishing brush settings and color palettes. Though there are certainly challenges in the development process, it has so far been a lot of fun. It’s also so wonderful to be able to walk around the Innovation studio and see these games come into fruition–I’ve found many times that aesthetic issues within our game were resolved very quickly with the insights from other teams, and it’s always great when teams do the same and we can get a little sneak peak of what they are up to.

I’m so excited to see how all of these games progress and evolve, and can’t wait to download and play them at the end! In the meantime, we will be returning to the drawing board. Thank you so much WPI for hosting us and also a big thank you to the SIP team and team Samosa for being such great teammates <33

Cat cafe 3

(^I promise they will be reassembled later)

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SIPBLOG: A rewarding return – 6/8/22

My name is Ryan Normand, I’m a Game Design student from Fitchburg State University in SIP working with Team Naan as a Producer and Artist.

ConceptsWe’re over 3 weeks into things, and after transitioning from a virtual on-boarding period to in-person dirty builds and arduous concepting, I can definitively say it has been a whirlwind of a process. Functioning online with my team was never particularly difficult, but there are always those hiccups in video meetings that come with working from home—wifi connectivity issues, accidentally being muted, people talking over each other, dogs desperately begging for attention (thanks, Riley). Nothing new to us all after the past 2 years, but that experience has made this week of working in-person with everyone all the better and more rewarding.

One thing I underestimated was the value of working in the same area as all the other teams. At my university, I’ve worked in classrooms where several teams are all working on separate projects, but it’s never been quite like this; perhaps it’s the fact that we’re not students here, but instead are professionals. Well, maybe not professionals yet, but that doesn’t stop us from trying to come close.

In all seriousness though, being able to get up and actively look at what your team is working on is an insanely valuable experience, whether it’s that moment when a programmer gets that script finally debugged and the game looks a step closer to what you all imagined, or when they don’t and you all have a laugh at the funny thing that happens instead (sorry, programmers).

TeamThis experience isn’t exclusive to your team though: getting up to see what other teams are working on, as long as you aren’t totally interrupting them, is also a very constructive experience. I know without a doubt that every team has benefited from gathering input from others in the space around them, especially as all our minds are deep in game-design mode. And on that note, wish us luck as we continue to try our hardest and head into the many many stages of production!

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SIPBLOG: At the beginning – 6/1/22

Hey there, my name is Brendan Horack. This summer I’m heading up marketing for SIP along with some other management/ coordination stuff. I’m a production focused IMGD student at WPI.

SIP 2022 has begun and the teams are all working diligently to refine ideas and find inspiration for the amazing games that they will make over the course of this summer. I’ve been sitting in with every group and have had the opportunity to see distinct styles of organization, ideation, leadership, and more. That being said, I think they are all acclimating well to their teams after some brief orientation. Some teams are working with word clouds, and some have made mood boards. They have come up with a wide range of concepts with all sorts of unique themes. None of the ideas are final, but the teams have shown a lot of promise.

Team Naan - mood board

Mood board – Team Naan

My experience has been a bit different than the others due to the nature of my role and my responsibilities. As I said, I spent some time sitting in with the different groups to hear and see what they were working on. However, while I was observing them work, I was working on preparing details and plans for our marketing goals and setting up some exciting guests and other experiences for us throughout the summer. We have some plans for SIP alumni, local developers, and more. I’m looking forward to sharing the happenings with everyone on all our social media platforms. Check those out if you get the chance.

Concept art - Team Channa

Concept art – Team Channa

We were online for the first two weeks, but it seems like move-in went relatively well. We are hosting SIP at WPI for the first time and are experiencing understandable hiccups, but everyone was excited to get moved in and take advantage of the cool facilities the campus has to offer. Stay tuned for more as we work towards releasing some awesome games!

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