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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GAME LAUNCH: Pounce your way to victory in Kitten Coliseum – 12/10/21

Kitten Coliseum imageKitten Coliseum, a free, fun action battler, is available for download now on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Play as an honorable cat fighting against hordes of the despicable, but tasty looking, mice from the Mice’s Republic of Swiss Cheese! Control your honorable steed, the Robot Vacuum – and drive, slash and pounce your way to victory!

The mobile game was created during the fall 2021 MassDigi XP3 internship program by Steve Kruger, Jian Liu, Annie Higgins, Margaret Patel and Matthew Peters.

Watch the trailer here and download Kitten Coliseum today for iOS and Android!

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GAME LAUNCH: Eat your fill in Flytrapped! – 12/10/21

Flytrapped imageFlytrapped, a free, fun 2D platformer, is available for download now on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Follow a flytrap’s struggle to escape a treacherous lab filled with mutant plants, dangerous obstacles and (of course) flies! Eat, bite, and climb to make it out alive. Do you have what it takes to help rescue the fly-boy from impending doom?

The mobile game was created during the fall 2021 MassDigi XP3 internship program by Audrey Spencer, Giancarlo Spizzirri, Hyeongjun Kim, Kenny Venancio, Philip Lund, and Zihong Ren.

Watch the trailer here and download Flytrapped today for iOS and Android!

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XPBLOG: ​​Mood boards and how they inform the creative process – 11/24/21

When a designer identifies the core feeling that the game wants to give to the player, it is important to consider that all game elements serve to deliver that feeling. One of the most intuitive feeling games reveal to players is first and foremost visual. A game must have its unique artistic elements in it in order to bring players psychological satisfaction, such as the connection between art style and UI design in casual games, they tend to be cartoony with bright saturated colors. So, the elements of a well-integrated game need to match. These elements need to be matched between art styles such as color and texture and designs such as cartoon or realism to create a sense of harmony. However, the artist’s resources need to be abundant, both in quantity and quality in order to achieve this harmony. So, the bulk of our pre-planning stage uses mood boards to help us before we actually design.

Mood board is the key tool for improving and evolving our ideas throughout the design process. The benefits are obvious: it improves team members’ efficiency and guides a cohesive art generation process. 

We began our journey by brainstorming potential game concepts. We created mind maps which generated two concepts we felt had potential. 

The first game we tentatively called “Snail Mail”, which is a casual Endless Runner game. The second, also tentatively named, “Venus Flytrap” is an Endless Platform game. 

After establishing the concepts to move forward with, we began the mood board phase. 

The aesthetic we chose was retro futurism (’50s sci-fi) for “Snail Mail”

Because the feeling we brought to the player in this game was first and foremost crazy and fantastical, we chose a lot of products from the retro-future, such as retro nuclear-powered cars and community scenes. Because our game wants to provide a relaxed and lively palette. 

We choose a lot of high-brightness and low saturation colors on our color palettes. In this way, we hope to bring players a relaxed and joyful experience of the game. 

We established “Venus Flytrap” to be quirkier and more earth toned. The game’s design focuses on the jungle environment. So, for the mood boards, we tended to look for elements from nature, and we got a lot of pictures for our reference, including dark forests, exotic Venus flytraps, insects, and some carnivores.

Both “Snail Mail” and “Venus Flytrap” games were beginning to shape themselves into more concrete ideas we could present to other teams but our team was more eager to focus on the “Venus Flytrap” idea as we were able to find more reference pictures, ideas, and motivation from the team as we progressed.

From the elements of these pictures, we extract new color palettes, most of them are green and blue palettes with high grayscale. After that, we redesign all the elements to fit the overall game environment. 

After that, our game gradually began to have a storyline, and according to us, the player character was a fly trap escaping from the lab and constantly needing to get food in order to survive. So, we started looking for pictures of abandoned greenhouses and laboratories to meet our design needs.

To make our design more believable, we took a lot of different species of Venus flytraps and designed them to be enemies in the game. For example, we liked a Venus flytrap of Cobra Lily and thought it looked like a boa constrictor that could swallow the main character. This design not only meets the overall environmental needs of our game but also improves the sense of harmony between game elements.

As we are moving forward to more environment and enemy resource research, more enemies that tend to affect the game mechanism are created.

The moss from the mood board inspired our team’s game designer of a “platform murderer”, which can kill the player’s character. In addition, we have many new designs to add to the game, all inspired by mood board.

To sum up, mood boards are the integration of our inspiration sources, and their establishment lays the foundation for our entire project. From the beginning to the middle of the game, we’re constantly adding new elements. In the browsing, constantly exercise our design thinking; Change, add, or remove elements of the game to nurture and grow into a mature product.

By Zihong Ren


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