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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SIP 22 team selected – 4/11/22

SIP22 team selected

By Timothy Loew, Executive Director

Since 2012, applications to our Summer Innovation Program (SIP) have grown year over year in terms of quality, geography, major and diversity. This time around we received applications from 251 undergraduate and graduate students representing 71 colleges and universities from around the world making it, once again, one of our most competitive year ever.

Choosing only 25 as interns was very challenging. After many hours, we selected a really talented group. This summer’s SIP22 team will be made up of interns from 12 institutions including Berklee, Brown, Clark, Fitchburg State, Lesley, Northeastern, Quinnipiac, RPI, RISD, RIT, WIT and WPI.

SIP22 begins on May 17 and concludes on August 5. Over those 11 weeks or so, with guidance from staff and industry mentors, SIP22 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.

Like last year, there’s still a pandemic on so we may be impacted by that again. In addition, this will be our first summer running SIP entirely at WPI and expect a few wrinkles with that, too. The world may still 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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XPBLOG: A robotics engineer’s introduction to Unity – 12/16/21

Despite being someone who has been interested in gaming as far back as I can remember, I had never had the opportunity to try and develop a video game until I was part of this internship. Pretty much all of my programming experience so far has been in relatively simplistic coding environments such as Eclipse and VSCode, and the only output was usually a text output or behavior in the physical realm. While there are similar themes in all coding environments, Unity would prove to be quite the new and interesting experience.

The first challenge that I had to face when using Unity for the first time was the complicated user interface. While I know my way around it now, practically at the end of the program, the sheer amount of buttons, scenes, and new terminology was more than multiple skims of the manual could prepare anyone for. In Fig. 1, instead of being presented with a central area for coding, like in Fig. 2, the user is presented with nothing more than the camera. Also, unlike in Fig. 2, where the user can get coding immediately, the user has to create a script somewhere under assets, which is an idea foreign to most programmers.

Figure 1: Unity’s new project screen, which is relatively complicated

Figure 2: Eclipse, a common IDE, which is simplistic

After getting a grasp on Unity’s UI, Unity began to feel natural. By this point, I had taught myself a bit of C# and had written a few basic functions. Despite this, I still found myself struggling with yet another roadblock: applying scripts. In Unity, there is a good number of ways to reference assets within code, such as through public variables (which allowed for dragging and dropping the assets into the script’s Inspector), which I discovered to be good for tasks like spawning a number of the same asset, or using a find command, which works best for quickly finding something static that already exists within the game scene. I would argue that at this point, any programmer would know the basics of how to use Unity, but in order to do something of any complexity, there are a few quirks that any user must deal with.
The largest of these so-called quirks is transforms. Someone new to Unity, like myself initially, assumed that all of the coordinates were relative to the world. However, this was not the case. This unfortunately led to a few issues in game, such as defining the maximum distance an enemy could move as a box around the enemy, but since it changed based on the enemy’s position, it always stayed in the middle of the box no matter where the enemy moved, effectively allowing it to go anywhere, as seen in Fig. 3. To fix this common issue, the best approach is to make it dependent on something which does not move, including putting it at the same level as the object which contains the script.

Figure 3: One of the pesky bugs who kept going offscreen

Another of these quirks are the Find methods, which I briefly mentioned earlier. In short, their role is to refer to specific game objects elsewhere in the script. Despite these functions having a role integral to just about any game, they can be difficult for new users to wrap their head around, like it was for me. The two different versions of the function are GameObject.Find(), which is used to look through ALL GameObjects that exist in the scene, and GameObject.transform.Find(), which returns the transform (not GameObject!) child of the searched object. This method can also use .parent to go to whatever it is nested in (it’s parent). The first method should be used to find something that exists many steps away and is unique, while the second method is best for items that exist nearby to the script, or within an object which has multiple instances. This is due to how the first method cannot handle repeats, and the second one handles them by going up and down the GameObject’s tree. Variables references in the inspector are a great way to completely mitigate this issue, but both of them have their own use cases.

Overall, I would say that I had a positive experience in Unity after climbing over a few hurdles that presented themselves to me in the beginning. Unity is luckily well documented, which allowed me to use new methods with ease. Also, since scripts are applied to assets very easily, making it possible to see the results of code very quickly, I was as fulfilled as, if not more than, what I get from Robotics projects; there are simply few things as joyful as seeing your code in action. In short, I have had a positive experience with this software which has further sparked my desire for game development, and has shown that it is, in fact, a possibility for my future. I hope that my next projects are as fun as this one.

By Philip Lund

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GAME LAUNCH: Ice, ice, baby! Game on with Freezy Match – 12/10/21

Freezy Match imageFreezy Match, a free, fun and fast-pace matching game, is available for download now on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Fill penguin orders as they quickly slide across the ice; drag and drop colorful snow cone chunks onto their cones, or risk missing out on some valuable points! As time goes on, you’ll really start to see how hectic this tundra can get. Miss three penguins and you’re out!

The mobile game was created during the fall 2021 MassDigi XP3 internship program by Andrew Lobasso, Ben Lipkin, Gaspare Spizzirri, Jordan Dube, Joseph Benson and Victoria Kelley.

Watch the trailer here and download Freezy Match today for iOS and Android!

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