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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