XPBLOG: UI from the perspective of a 3D artist – 4/12/21

UI from the perspective of a 3D artist

By Emi Jenkens-Drake

Team CustardI came into the MassDigi Experience Program (XP) as a 3D artist, but after managing director Monty Sharma assigned me the ‘Lead Artist’ role on Team Custard my job quickly expanded past 3D. One of my new responsibilities was the UI of the game in Unity, something I knew absolutely nothing about. As someone who went to a design school I did have a lot of the fundamental design principles under my belt so it wasn’t a huge shock. But what I didn’t expect was how much I enjoyed doing the UI design.

After the initial phase of learning how to implement everything correctly it was a blast to do. I think moving between 3D and 2D is really valuable and helps with assessing a game. How does this box work with the 3D space we are looking at? What’s the shape language like? Et cetera.

I really enjoyed it and I am looking to do more of it in the future. I think I would not have learned about UI or how much I enjoy it if not for XP. I think it forces people to try out different things in a good way. I would advise anyone taking part in any MassDigi program in the future to get out of your comfort zone because you never know who you might find.

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GigaSword earns top prize in 10th annual Game Challenge

Last week we held the tenth, and first virtual, MassDigi Game Challenge, an annual pitch contest that gives developers of all ages, experience levels and backgrounds a chance to make friends, meet game industry professionals, get feedback, gain some confidence and, maybe, take home a prize or two.

GigaSwordOver that decade, the event – which really is a ton of fun – has featured nearly 400 pitches from indies, hobbyists, high school, college and university students for everything from rogue-likes and platformers to match-3s. GigaSword, an super cool action-puzzle metroidvania, and The Camera That Bleeds, a horror mystery game, were this year’s standouts. Other top performers from recent years include games like the much-anticipated Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion, the comedy stylings of The Call of Karen and the pixelated-platformer Feral Frontier.

So, what can we say that we’ve picked up from all this? Not much. Just kidding. We’ve learned a ton and here are some of the top lessons:

  • Spending a lot of time thinking about the business model along with platform choice, genre comparisons and price really helps focus a pitch. It provides needed structure to help stay in scope.
  • Lore is less important than an interesting mechanic. Ten years ago we would often hear exciting stories about the game world only to discover the core mechanic was either basic, poorly executed or, simply put, not fun.
  • From year to year, we we’ve seen returning teams improve as well as relationships between teams grow, creating a positive feedback loop with the community. This has been an effective way for all involved to build up networks, identify new team members and raise expectations.
  • Teams that prepare, practice and iterate well in advance of the contest typically stand out from the crowd on the big day in a big way.

No one knows what the future holds but one thing we’re pretty sure of is that we’ll be back next year with another Game Challenge and we hope you’ll pitch in and join us. You’ve got to be in it to win it.


Originally posted on April 2, 2021 as “The art of the Pitch” on Gamasutra here.

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XPBLOG: Building bridges – 3/31/21

Building Bridges

By Glenn Morris

Hard realities set in after graduating college, and 2020 was a year of reality setting in on multiple levels. For game careers in particular, there’s an awkward transition between the academic approach to game design and development, and the insight gained through practical experience. A graduate picks up quickly on the two being fundamentally different, but these things can exist in concert, rather than conflict. MassDigi XP is an opportunity to bridge those two worlds, and whether it’s there, or some program akin to it, spending some time on that bridge is essential before crossing it.

For me, it was also about getting back on the horse. Those wild adjustments between college and career were coupled with quite a few other personal ones, and though I will never regret my time at Northeastern University, which was beneficial, I did feel trapped. I saw myself stuck in a career choice that I wasn’t ready for, having been prepared for something that doesn’t exist outside the walls of academe, and also trapped in my passion for research and broad understanding, despite my need for practical skills becoming more immediate.

Through MassDigi XP, I’ve been able to spend time on that bridge between two worlds, instead of trying to jump the wide crevasse between them, instead of rejecting whatever lies on the other side. It’s proven to be one of the better choices I’ve made, and I recommend we build more bridges like it.

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Note regarding Becker – update – 3/29/21

As we stated a few weeks ago, MassDigi is part of the Becker family. Today’s news, though expected, was still difficult and sad to see on many levels. Over the ten years since our establishment we have called Becker home – and it has been a fantastic experience. Where we go next has yet to be determined. We have been flattered by the outreach and, as mentioned in our previous statement, the work we do at MassDigi is the work we do and our expectation is that it will continue. We will share more information when we can.

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Game Challenge results – 3/26/21

Game Challenge results

What a year! Amazing people, amazing games!

GC '21Grand Prize Winner

People’s Choice Winner

Indie Category

  • GigaSword by Hybrid Games – an action-puzzle metroidvania in which you wield a huge sword that weighs you down. By sticking the sword in the ground, you’re able to jump higher, but you become unable to attack. Many of the puzzles revolve around sticking the sword into interactive objects that transport it around the room to areas you wouldn’t have been able to reach while holding it. With cataclysm on the horizon, it’s up to you to ascend the ancient tower and recover the God Crystal, Gnosis. 
  • Don’t Take It Personally, I Just Don’t like You by Christian DeCoster et al – A dating sime where not everyone wants to date you.
  • Betty & Earl by Giant Light Studios – a puzzle game where you move the heroes, enemies, obstacles, and everything else, all at the same time. You will explore the tragic and hilarious nature of interconnectedness by crashing enemies into each other, using them to open doors and disable traps, and then sacrificing them to the ever growing flames and clear a path to reunite the disconnected couple. Discover what it means to live in a world where we depend on each other, and learn how growth and destruction are both collaborators and adversaries.

College & University Category

  • The Camera That Bleeds (RIT) – a horror mystery game with a noir graphic novel visual style where you play a ghost-hunting detective, solving ghostly mysteries using an instant camera that can see into the invisible, supernatural world. Follow footprint trails, look through drawers and cabinets, “manifest” supernatural evidence with your camera, and figure out what happened at the crime scene. Be careful to avoid the monster, however – don’t make too much noise if it’s nearby, lest it hear you and chase you down!
  • Out of CTRL (Tufts & Northeastern) – A haunted chatbot on a decrepit old computer. You can only form sentences by cleverly Copy/Pasting it’s text back to it in this creepypasta inspired interactive fiction game.
  • Isogirl (Becker) – an action platformer roguelike in which you delve deep into the world to determine its secrets.




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XPBLOG: Learning from others – 3/19/21

Learning from others

Andrew Beaulieu

MassDiGI’s Experience Program (XP) has passed its midway point and the teams are buckling in for the final stretch towards releasing their games. I wanted to give perspective on why meeting new people and working on projects with them is a fantastic opportunity, and how it allows everyone involved to grow as developers.

I am a part of Team Cake, a group of seven people who have never met before, given the task of developing a completed mobile game in eleven weeks. Every person on the team came in with a strong set of skills, yet each of us has grown in new and exciting ways by learning from one another. This growth not only enables us to make our game better, but also gives us experience that we can take forward to our future projects.

The classroom can teach basic skills, and online resources are an incredible tool, but the greatest learning opportunity comes from the people you work with. Being able to absorb all the lessons that your colleagues have learned in a fraction of the time is an amazing benefit of working on a team. Working with the incredibly skilled people here at the XP program has given me the experience of working on dozens of different games, all in less than three months.

In the coming weeks Team Cake, as well as Team Pie and Team Custard, will be finalizing our ideas and releasing our games. It will be a bittersweet moment, and one that will be upon us far too quickly. My advice to my peers at XP and to everyone interested in improving themselves is to squeeze out every drop of knowledge you can from those around you, and not to be shy about spreading your own skills and ideas to others.

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Note regarding Becker – 3/3/21

MassDiGI is part of the Becker College family. Yesterday’s update regarding the college was tough to read. We appreciate the messages of support we have received and welcome any questions though we may not have any answers – not yet, at least. That said, from our perspective, the work we do at MassDiGI is the work we do and our expectation is that it will continue. We will share more information when we can.

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