SIPBLOG: Game dev in the world of COVID-19 – 6/23/20

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.

Blog imageI 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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SIPBLOG: Welcome to the MassDigi-verse – 6/11/20

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.

Miro screenshot

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 – 6/1/2020

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.”

JSGS imageThose 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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STEAM LAUNCH: Bop baddies in Roller Riot – 4/29/20

Roller Riot, a free, fun and fast-paced beat-em-up game, is now available on PC. Download it on Steam now!

Roller Riot trailerCrazy 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 – 4/22/20

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.

SIP20Choosing 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.

* In addition to the above, we were able to support another team, SIPD, thanks to UMass Dartmouth.

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Welcome to DevConnect (or what we’re doing in lieu of GDC) – 3/18/20

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.

Kindl at SIP19 Open House

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.”

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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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SIP20 application deadline revised – 3/17/20

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Summer Innovation Program application period will now close on March 31, 2020 at 11:59 pm ET in order to allow students more time. Applicants will their receive acceptance, wait list or denial notification on or before April 8, 2020 at 11:59 pm ET. SIP20 is scheduled to run from May 19 to August 16, 2020, though given current circumstances everything is subject to change.  For more information about SIP, please click here.

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Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion takes grand prize in ninth annual MassDiGI Game Challenge – 2/10/20

Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion takes grand prize in ninth annual MassDiGI Game Challenge

Worcester, MA – February 10, 2020 – Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion by Yukon Wainczak of W. Springfield, MA swept through the ninth annual MassDiGI Game Challenge pitch contest on its way to winning the Grand Prize this past weekend.

Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion is an adventure game where you play as an adorable turnip who just so happens to be an absolute menace to society. The game was created by designer/programmer/artist Yukon Wainczak along with designer/artist Jennifer Kindl, marketer Jordan Kegler – all of whom met while students at Becker College – with music from Flowerblvck.

“All our hopes for Turnip Boy were realized when we won the Game Challenge,” said Wainczak. “If you have a passion for making games then this is a required event. You learn so much from all the other competitors and the judges, too.”

The game edged entries from independent game developers as well as other student game development teams representing institutions such as WPI, Lesley University and Northeastern University. Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion will be released later this year.

“The feedback we received at the Game Challenge was amazing,” said Kindl. “We have a much better idea of the direction we need to go to produce the game we want to make and how to make it successful.”

The MassDiGI Game Challenge helps indie and student game developers and entrepreneurs sharpen their business focus and shape their ideas and products for launch. This year 22 teams from across the New England registered to compete in front of a crowded house at the Colleen C. Barrett Center for Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Becker College in Worcester.

Other winners included Mazu which took the top prize in the Indie Category. The game, a hack ‘n slash bullet hell inspired by Asian folklore that lets players explore a fresh and vibrant world and fight mythic monsters, was created by Greater Boston-based Oxhead Studios.

Since the MassDiGI Game Challenge began, over 300 different teams from around northeast and beyond have pitched games and taken home prizes valued at over $100,000. Top past winners include titles such as Feral Frontier, Salad Hunt, PWN, Catlateral Damage, Depression Quest and Starlot Derby.

The annual event is a showcase for the expanding game development community in the area. Over the event’s two days, dozens of game industry veterans served as judges and mentors.

As the Grand Prize, People’s Choice Award and a College & University Group Category winner, the Turnip Boy team won cash and other prizes valued at more than $2,500.

“This year’s contest was as competitive as I’ve seen,” said Monty Sharma, managing director of MassDiGI, “Each and every team was really impressive and the creativity and skills on display improves every year as do the games.”

The other College & University Group Category winners were Shattered Journal Games from Becker with Last Slice, a brawler where there’s one slice of pizza left so you have to fight for it with whatever you can find, but the longer you play, the weirder it gets and Geometrick Games from Becker with Grayland, a stress-free platformer where the player must bring color back into the world.

Runner-up awards went to:

Group – Crullers – College & University Category

-Net King’s Call by Greystone Games – Category Runner-up – Becker College, Baruch College, Berklee College of Music, Nova Southeastern Univ.

-Mailfolk by Jusiv – Category Second Runner-up – WPI

Group – Fritters – College & University Category

-The Call of Karen by Trumbus – Category Runner-up – tie – WPI

-Seahorse Saga by Abysso Games – Category Second Runner-up – Becker College

Group – Bear Claws – College & University Category

-WitchWorks by Sunburst Studio – Category Runner-up – WPI

-Weapons Inc. by Greystone Game – Category Second Runner-up – Nova Southeastern Univ.

Group – Cookies – Indie Category

-Don’t take it personally by DontTakeIt – Category Runner-up

-GigaSword by Hybrid Games – Category Second Runner-up

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Link to Gamasutra story.

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Game Challenge – finalists and winners! – 2/8/20

The 2020 MassDiGI Game Challenge finalists and winners are:

  • Group – Crullers – College & University
    11 – Turnip Boy (Yukon Wainczak) – Category Winner – Grand Prize Winner – People’s Choice Winner – Becker College
    14 – Mailfolk (Jusiv) – Category Second Runner-up – WPI
    18 – Net King’s Call (Greystone Games) – Category Runner-up – Becker College, Baruch College, Berklee College of Music, Nova Southeastern Univ.
  • Group – Fritters – College & University
    8 – The Call of Karen (Trumbus) – Category Runner-up – tie – WPI
    3 – Seahorse Saga (Abysso Games) – Category Second Runner-up – Becker College
    1 – Last Slice (Shattered Journal Games) – Category Winner – Becker College
  • Group – Bear Claws – College & University
    4 – WitchWorks (Sunburst Studio) – Category Runner-up – WPI
    17 – Weapons Inc. (Greystone Games) – Category Second Runner-up – Nova Southeastern Univ.
    7 – Grayland (Geometrick Games) – Category Winner – Becker College
  • Group – Cookies – Indie
    2 – Mazu (Oxhead Studios) – Category Winner
    15 – Don’t take it personally (DontTakeItTeam) – Category Runner-up
    12 – GigaSword (Hybrid Games) – Category Second Runner-up

Total number of competitors: 22

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Save these dates! – 1/7/20

Please save the following dates!

MassDiGI Game Challenge pitch contest – Feb. 7 & 8 – registration is open through Jan. 17.

Made In MA at PAX East Party – Feb. 27 – tickets are on sale right up to the event.

MassDiGI Summer Innovation Program internships – May 19 to Aug. 16 – accepting applications through Mar. 20.

Made In MA at GDC Party – Mar. 18 (tentative) – our usual venue is not available on our preferred date so we are exploring other options including moving the event to Weds. evening. Stay tuned

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