SIPBLOG: From game dev noob to tilemap expert – 7/10/20

Published on Friday, July 10th, 2020

From Game Dev Noob to Tilemap Expert

Baking My First Black Forest Cake

By Alina Zheng’ 23, Wellesley College

Hello MassDiGI-verse! I’m Alina Zheng, a rising sophomore at Wellesley College and a participant of this year’s Summer Innovation Program. More specifically, I am associate producer of Team Black Forest, a small group of driven artists, programmers, and designers hoping to make it big with our cutesy puzzle game, Danger Ducklings.

Duck Heart imageWhile that may have sounded like a standard pitch for our team, I can assure you that the knowledge and supportiveness of my coworkers-turned-friends cannot be understated. In addition to being an associate producer (who lends a listening ear to the producer during decision-making), I am a programmer who, prior to SIP, had no experience in Unity whatsoever. Coming from a pure computer science program with very little material in the way of game development, I entered the SIP with a healthy dose of nervousness and a not-so-healthy ambition to cram as many Unity tutorials as possible outside of work. However, I soon realized that there was no need for this, because I already had two resources that were more valuable than any Brackeys YouTube video or Unity forums post: my co-programmers Ezra Szanton, computer science major at Tufts University, and Cavan Vince, game development student at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Thanks to Ezra and Cavan’s patience for teaching, as well as my observations of their  lightning-fast debugging skills, efficient navigation of the Unity environment, and solid grasp of the C# scripting language, I quickly overcame the learning curve and became our programming team’s resident tilemap expert.

Our talented artists Sofie Levin (Rhode Island School of Design) and Arianna Sargent (Lesley University), as well as our capable designer John D’Amico (Becker College) have been working hard to churn out polished artwork and levels. John is also our team’s pragmatic producer. He has been an incredible asset to our team’s workflow, always driving good discussions and getting us back on track when our meme bonding sessions have extended for a little too long. Thanks to the hard work of all of our team members, our game is slowly reaching the “juice” phase, when we can focus on making the game as satisfying and gorgeous as possible.

SIP20 has been an incredible experience so far. Not only has my work in Unity and C# helped me develop a stronger grasp of programming fundamentals, I have also learned that, with the power of Google Hangouts and Zoom, it is entirely possible for a group of hard-working, fun-loving young people to come together, befriend each other, and create something they’ll be proud of for the rest of their lives. I hope that my experiences will encourage other college students—especially those who do not consider themselves experts in game development—to apply to SIP. MassDiGI gave me my first glimpse into the world of video game design, and I am very grateful for that.

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