EAE Virtual Graduation - Team of 2
Designer and Engineer
The EAE Virtual Graduation was an MMO style experience designed to help Cohort 9 of the University of Utah's Entertainment Arts & Engineering Masters Program have a special graduation experience despite a global pandemic.
The COVID-19 Quarantine started midway through the final semester of my Masters of Entertainment Arts and Engineering. Not only were we not going to get a normal graduation, but after two years of making games together my cohort suddenly and without warning found out that we wouldn't be able to see each other again. It was absolutely heartbreaking.
Well, maybe we couldn't have a normal graduation, but why couldn't we have a virtual one? It was a small team, me on Design and Engineering and Doug Hawthorn on Art, but the two of us dedicated every spare second we had. I was already up to my ears in work: finalizing the publication of ArchiTac remotely with my team, finishing two final projects for my classes, and coping with a global pandemic, but I somehow still found time to prototype out an MMO-style Graduation experience capable of supporting 80+ concurrent users. We kept it secret, both for the surprise value and because we didn't want to get anyone's hopes up while we still weren't 100% sure that we'd be able to deliver, but after two very hectic weeks of frantic prototyping we had something truly unique and special.
It took some duct tape and bubblegum, but thanks to my networking experience while working on Mechromancy we managed to get it working to the specifications we'd set out to meet. We brought in Jacob Nielson in the 11th hour to help do some optimization, and without a minute to spare we were ready. Watching the rest of my cohort enter the venue when grad-day came felt like watching kids on Christmas. EAE Virtual Graduation is by far the shortest term project and smallest team on my portfolio, but I can think of no project that better exemplifies my ability to rapidly prototype under extreme pressure and tight deadlines.
ArchiTac - Squish-Fish Games (Team of 11)
Systems Designer and Producer
ArchiTac is an Unreal-based Resource Gathering and Crafting game that follows a simple gameloop: gathering resource lets you build new things, building new things gets you access to more resources. It's adorable aesthetic, casual gameplay (no survival mechanics), and use of vertical expansion are unique twists on the gathering/crafting genre that help the game appeal to younger and more casual players.
I learned a lot while developing ArchiTac, but probably the greatest lesson I picked up was the vital importance of strong onboarding design. If your system doesn't do a good job of introducing itself to players, they're either going to be frustrated by it or just ignore it. You need players to be able to adapt to your mechanics gradually, so that each new part of the system feels like an exciting new discovery. Strong onboarding means players can teach themselves your systems, which keeps them engaged as learning each step fires off those sweet, sweet congratulatory endorphins.
When we hit Alpha with ArchiTac we realized that our building and automation systems were too complex and we threw our players into them way to quickly. So we trimmed the automation system back while also adjusting our level design and blockset costs so that players would encounter different mechanics more gradually.
Mechromancy - Fe Labs (Team of 11)
Technical Producer and Designer
Mechromancy is an Alternative Controller game inspired by the Alt.Ctrl.GDC showcase. Instead of a traditional controller, players use an arcade-style array of buttons to control their mech, with the catch that the mech is powered by a plasma globe built into the controller. The player has to keep their hand on the plasma globe at all times, or the mech loses power.
This, of course, proved a unique challenge in that game devs don't normally need to build their own controller alongside the game. The Plasma globe was originally my idea, so I was the one who wound up spearheading the controller's development. I gave myself a crash-course in electrical engineering; many shocks and one fried USB port later we finally had a working controller. It was during Mechromancy's development that I obtained known as the person to go to for "Creative Solutions to Even More Creative Problems."
Alongside the controller I also continued working on the game itself. As a Technical Producer and Designer I worked primarily with the engineers. I did a lot of work helping them find and fix bugs so they could focus on feature implementation, but once we hit the point where we wanted to start integrate 3 player networked gameplay I dove in right alongside them to learn networking. A decent amount was initially over my head, but I picked up enough to help debug things when particle effects weren't being replicated and similar issues popped up. This first foray into networking would prove to be invaluable to me a year later when I prototyped out the EAE Virtual Graduation.
Overclocked: The Aclockalypse - Timewind LLC (Team of 17)
Overclocked: The Aclockalypse is a Unity-based roguelite bullet hell where the player can manipulate time. It features a number of unique player abilities, power-ups, procedurally generated levels, and 4 unique boss encounters.
Overclocked was my first long-term project with a sizable team: 17 developers working through an eight month development timetable. I'd been doing Production on a small scale, trying to apply self-taught agile principles to extended game jams and the occasional 2-month side project, but this project was the first one to really make me put my money where my mouth is as a game dev. In some places I excelled, and in others I found I had a lot to learn; but learn I did.
I started diving deeper into agile, learning scrum and kanban more formally so I could properly manage our product backlog and keep things within scope. I dove in headfirst to learning proper publication pipelines so that we could publish on Steam. I single handedly managed our legal company formation, securing our Steam Developer account, creating all the external store/community pages, and build/patch releases. And most importantly, I learned how to keep a team motivated as they hit roadblocks, and how to work to improve the development pipeline to prevent those roadblocks from popping up again.
Hey there! If you made it to the bottom of my page I'm hoping that means you've liked my work! I'm Light, a game developer specializing in Systems Design and Production. I love the games industry because it's a place where my passion for art, people, and telling stories intersect. In my mind there's nothing more satisfying than bringing exciting people together in order to turn a shared vision into a tangible user experience. When I'm not busy making (or playing) games, you can probably find me geeking out with my tabletop rpg group, trying to learn a new instrument, or curled up with a good book and a cup of tea. ♥
If you want to know more, feel free to reach out to me!