Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Team PPJ: 5/23 - 5/30

This week was a hell of a week to say the very least.

First and foremost, we can officially declare any mode of capturing footage that isn't from a first-person viewpoint dead. After 6 hours on Sunday and 40+ hours of work previously trying to make the sequencer work and ending with nothing to show for it but a BSOD, we were left slightly insane and more than a little frustrated. Seeing 40+ hours worth of work wasted is sure to make even the most patient man consider murdering an innocent.

Other than that, we did successfully capture updated footage from both the first-person perspective and an outside perspective, with more energy this time.

As well, our build has been cleaned up, all models and textures are implemented, and it's ready for the showcase as far as we can tell.

Pros:
  • Final build looks pretty good
  • We're on the home stretch finally
Cons:
  • lots and lots of time flushed down a great big toilet
  • i am ill

Tyler Schacht PPJ: 5/23 - 5/30

--- Normal PPJ ---
   So this week I worked on the main menu a little more, but unfortunately it will most likely not be making it into the Showcase build (not that you would see it anyway to allow more people to try out our game).  I'm still going to try to push for it to be implemented for Senior Showcase.  It will probably be pushed to Steam at a later date.
   A lot of classes have deliverables this past week so I have had to work on those as well.  Not only that but as you may have guessed from reading everyone else's PPJs, the UE4 Sequencer lost us a lot of time.  We spent 14 hours working on solely capturing footage and about half of it was unusable ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Total Hours: 17 hours
- Footage Recording / Team Meeting: 14 hours
- Main Menu work: 3 hours

Positives: I didn't go completely insane after literally every single thing went wrong.

Negatives: I wish I could've had more time to work on the main menu to have it in the trailer.


--- Post Mortem ---
I'm extremely happy that I was able to partake in Senior Project.  Even though it was extremely difficult and challenging trying to balance all of my other classes with this one.  The experience was well worth it.

3 Things that went Right:

- I could not have a better team, all of us really meshed well together and were able to meet multiple times a week to hammer out designs, issues, art, coding, etc. Then there was Stefan who wasn't able to meet with us all the time, really guided us in the right direction of how to properly use VR in a game

- Our motto in the beginning was "Under-Sell, Over-Deliver" (I believe that was coined by Stefan).  Where we present a pretty basic gameplay, but then over time start adding things.  This was extremely useful to us.  The main mechanics of our game Gravity Whip and Gravity Wells took so much coding time that almost all of our "stretch goals" were never able to come to fruition.  We still had to cut things, but this mentality saved us from being under more stress and not having to cut as many ideas.

- How could I have almost forgot STEAM.  Our game became the first ever game to be commercially available on Steam Early Access (Mirrors of Grimaldi only made it to GreenLight).

3 Things that went Wrong:

- Creating a VR game for the HTC Vive was a great experience, however, probably shouldn't have done it for a Senior Project... but I would still do it again.  Half of our team were not able to really work on the game for a good portion of time since they didn't own Vives, there was some spots they could use but not too often.  Plus setting up for presentations was a nightmare for me at least (even drove through a blizzard so we had a Vive to set up for the Beta Presentation)

- When trying to record something.  Something. Will. ALWAYS. Go Wrong.  Multiple recording sessions that would take 10+ hours and we would get only 3 minutes of usable footage.

- Trying to get feed back from a VR game when almost all of the faculty hasn't even looked at our game through the headset was kinda frustrating.

Things that I Learned:
- I learned about the process to actually publish a game onto a big platform, such as Steam.

- I learned how one has to set up VR games.  Such as, no HUD or else that messes with the player's sight.  It acts more as a smudge on glasses rather than the usual HUD that most are accustomed to in traditional 2D gaming.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Cory Zicolella PPJ: 5/23 - 5/30

We must get steady footage via Unreal Engine 4's sequencer.  For the Vive.  With objects that instantiate after game start.

Three hours pass.
Four.
Five.
Six.






Needless to say, the sequencer, and everything about it, belongs in the deepest, hottest layer of a special hell.  And now that half the art team has gleefully wasted six hours of time that could have been devoted to other things, I ended up doing what I usually do and edited the showcase trailer with normal patented OBS technology.

Angry ranting aside, I was pretty busy this week, as was most of the team.  I remade most of the videos used in the showcase, remade the trailer entirely using the new footage we gathered (which by the way, there have been a myriad of small quality of life improvements to the game itself this last week, and it overall just looks and feel better), and made an updated (finally) video for our website, as to replace the very very old video we have autoplaying right now.

Many many hours went into this week, and at least half of them were put towards something which in the end, wasn't usable.  Unfortunate.

Hopefully in the last weeks we can really crank out the small list of things we have to do.

Postmortem:

This project was a really great experience overall, I feel.  For me, it meant I got to work with a larger team than I ever have before, and really got to know the problems that each team faces as we move forward through development, and learn how to solve those issues and come to a resolution as a dev team (speaking about game issues, not inter-team issues).  Some positive highlights were:

  • Being one part of a large team, where everyone matters
  • Frequent meetings that were productive and necessary into making the game what it is today.
  • Learning how to develop for VR
  • Techniques in how to better time manage
  • Getting a better grasp of the initial process (concepting/revision/scoping)
  • Gaining a solid foundation for VR (mechanics first and foremost, art after)
  • Affirming the CCI team is fundamental into allowing the game to function.
  • A unique style identity for our game
  • An early access release on Steam!!!!!
Some negatives that came out of the project were:
  • Time management.  While also a positive to learn how to do it better, that also means that for a large part of the project, it was done poorly.
  • Integration.  Many of the things we made/planned to make took awhile to actually become included once we initially got the hero assets in.  It is a larger issue now that we have a list of relatively small final touches to do.
  • Accessibility.  For the team members, given that we are developing for the Vive, not everyone has access to it or knows how to set it up properly.
  • Basic things we know needed to be implemented either aren't finished yet or won't be in the showcase build.  While they're important, some things just aren't completed as easily as you'd like, and the game will suffer somewhat because of it.
  • Sound.  Sound design has been a plaguing issue for the team, particularly this term.
Things that I learned:
  • VR.  Everything virtual reality.  Going into this I didn't really have an understanding of what modern day VR was, how good it worked, or what could be done; I actually had very little interest in it and saw it as a gimmick; then again, I only knew of the Oculus.
  • Design strategy.  Early on, we wanted to focus on story within our game.  Stefan shed some light on the situation, stating we have all these great stories but absolutely no mechanics to speak of.  That's when it dawned on me that mechanics have to be done first and foremost in order to have a game and not a book.
  • VR-specific design.  Create solid good feeling mechanics first, make sure models are high poly (for things that are near the player), high framerate performance, and proper utilization of what the hardware offers.
  • Team communication.  I feel I've always been good at this; but Wetware really let me know what it feels like to be part of a functional team, with little snafu's and general friendliness.  We all can joke around when we want to, work when we need to, and someone is around to guide us if we need help.  I haven't really found that in a team before now, and I was starting to feel like this idea never would be a reality.
  • It's important to destress.  Our team really hasn't had a chance to just hang out and not do work, aside from a singular meeting.  While work is incredibly important for the vitality of the game, it is equally important to make sure that the team also has a chance to be normal people too.  The one time we just had fun was really memorable, felt great, and was a good motivator for the last half of the term.  If I had to change one thing moving forward, it would be to have these on a semi-regular basis.  Far too much of our time is knowing one another strictly in a working state, which isn't necessarily the best.

Ryan Badurina Postmortem & PPJ: 5/23 - 5/30

[Postmortem can be found after production update.]

PPJ:  F--- Sequencer.  That's all I have to say.

I was able to finally get the project working properly again this week (it was an issue with data caches stored by UE4), and was able to do some work and help out with recording footage for what could have been our updated trailer.  I proposed the idea of using Sequencer earlier in the term to get gameplay recording from third person angles as opposed to the first person angles of a VR Player Camera.

While it helped somewhat, Sequencer proved to be unreliable for recording footage in VR.

Some of the objects we needed to record were objects that only spawned during run-time, aka objects that weren't inherently a part of the arena level.  Also, while recording, the frame rates dropped significantly, making playing the game normally extremely annoying and slow.  Finally, rendering out footage still proved to be a non-explained and frustrating process.  We spent several hours getting this stuff ready for recording, and it netted us zero reward.  We did get some nice 1st person and real-life camera shots, but we were hoping for footage from more of a birds eye view as opposed to the player view.  We decided to drop the sequencer stuff for this term as it is frustrating and not worth the time in the current VR environment.  Hopefully in the future it will be more VR friendly and allow for the recording of "spawn-able objects."

In the meantime, I'm currently looking over and importing / programming in various sound effects for some of our assets, as a few of them are either out-dated or need to be fully implemented.  I wasn't able to fully get into this for this week because of my project issues and because of recording, but with Sequencer being dropped I can work fully on the sound for our game for the rest of the term.

Time:
  -FIXED THE PROJECT!!!  FINALLY!!!:  4 Hours
  -Team Meeting(s):  9 Hours
  -Trailer Recording:  4 Hours
  -Source Control:  1 Hour
  -Sequencer Setup:  1.5 Hours
  -Sound Research & Import: .5 Hours

Total Time: 20 Hours

Pros:
  -Project finally reopens along with the level.  Stupid stored caches,

Cons:
  -Sequencer recording was just a waste of time.  I feel ashamed for even recommending it this late into the term.
  -Audio was pushed aside in favor of the BS Sequencer.  Will be working on it for the next week.




Postmortem:


This probably has to be the best project I have worked on while at Drexel.  I knew it would be a serious time, considering this would be a main portfolio piece and valuable experience for the future, and I'm happy I joined this team when I did.

For over a year, I have been working with these guys in trying to develop something that we could be proud of, but also something we would want to play ourselves.  From our summer days in a small apartment work-shopping ideas to the winter days in a high-tech computer lab for developing and programming our game, we have been very busy and hardworking to make sure that our game was simple, yet effective.  We had debates on how somethings should be done, but overall we found a compromise or solution and continued moving forward.

The highlights of working on Shadow Circuit?:
  -Working with new technologies and software to bring our game to life.
  -As much of a design challenge as an art and programming challenge.
  -Awesome and friendly teammates who constantly remained connected and communicative.
  -A great CCI team who were just as much of the design process as the DIGM team.
  -Releasing our game on Steam, something I never imagined would actually happen for me at Drexel.

Some things that didn't go well/wish we could have done:
  -Weren't able to implement other features to enhance the game experience.
  -Some of us, like myself, lacked the proper hardware to properly play the game.
  -Some topics or assignments we should have been done earlier, aka research and do before the last minute (like myself with Sequencer).
  -Because I was commuting, I unfortunately was not able to communicate in person as often as I would have liked.

Overall, what did I learn?:
  -Virtual Reality and new technologies and (relatively) new software (Unreal Engine 4).
  -More about animation for assets other than humanoids.
  -Modularity in art assets.
  -Playtest, playtest, playtest.
  -ALWAYS communicate with your teammates, both in and outside of development, so as to show you're working and so you can build your relationships with your teammates.

Lastly, would I like to continue development of this game?

Absolutely.

But I gotta be realistic; once most of the work for my classes are done, I'm immediately polishing my portfolio and sending in my Resume to various companies in the hopes of getting a job.  All of the other guys on the team are taking time off, but I need to get my stuff ready for job searching.  Once I'm out, the loans come out in full and I gotta have a means of paying the interest rates.

I'm not against continuing this work, though.  This experience was incredible and I'm happy to have worked with these lovable guys in bringing our game to life.  Even if I decide I need to leave the group as a developer, I'll still remain in contact with them as a friend, and as someone who is happy to have met them.

God speed, everyone.  If you have a dream, pursue it, and make it come true no matter what.  It will be hard, but it isn't impossible.  If it can be done, you can do it as well.


Daniel Ingman PPJ: 5/23 - 5/30

[POSTMORTEM CAN BE FOUND AFTER PRODUCTION INFORMATION. IT IS THERE, I SWEAR]

This week I implemented the new AI model and its new texture.

AI model in-engine

AI model w/ animated texture


As well, we spent a good amount of time in meetings and capturing final footage. This was a god-awful process as we were able to figure out that capturing footage from anywhere other than the default headcam view in VR is next to impossible. Placing a separate camera in the scene and piping footage from that takes the view away from the player rendering them blind, so that didn't work. We tried using Unreal's sequencer toolkit, but it failed to capture any movement of the whip, spline, or ball, and eventually caused a memory leak in my computer and gave it a BSOD. 12 hours well spent, so thanks for that.

Hours spent: 23 hours
  • AI texture final touch-ups: 4 hours
  • AI implementation: 2 hours
  • Footage recording: 14 hours
  • Presentation practice: 3 hours
Pros:
  • I got more sleep this week, thank goodness
  • AI model is present.
Cons:
  • A lot of hard work that could have been spent on other things went to waste.

With that out of the way, let's dive right into the postmortem.

Overall, this was a very positive experience for me. Being able to work with a team that got along very well and worked very hard was a rare experience and I'm glad it happened to be my senior project team. A lot of things went very right during this quarter, as I shall list:
  • The team got along very well.
  • Communication was strong and constant.
  • Meetings were productive and frequently attended by most team members.
  • The CCI team was a design equal and not just a workforce.
  • The core mechanics of our game came out very strong and fun to play.
  • The game is visually striking and has a strong identity.
  • We released on Steam Early Access.
In terms of what went wrong, a few things did. Mostly:
  • Some topics should have been handled earlier (better recording of footage primarily).
  • Time management was an issue for me, personally.
  • Vital portions of our game did not make it into our presentation or the showcase build.
  • Basic game mechanics of our game don't function yet (menu, etc).
  • Some team members didn't have access to the required hardware that they needed in order to properly work on the game.
So what did I learn from all of this? Well,
  • Think of your game in terms of mechanics first, then fill in the gaps with your setting/story.
  • Find people you like to work with but also whom you can trust to do their work well and deliver on time.
  • Do lots and lots of concept art, frequently.
  • Create a style guide.
  • Playtest and iterate often.
Whew. This was a great experience but a draining one, to say the least.

Mike Cancelosi PPJ: 5/23 - 5/30


This week I did some polishing, quality-of-life iterations to the game. For instance, spinning the audience, fixing the ball textures, and helping others implement art into the game. We, unfortunately, spent some time trying to fix the repo after breaking it, but that's bitbucket for you. Also, we shrunk the stadium as we had received a lot of feedback that says it is too large.

Hours Spent:10 hrs

Pros: Got done a lot of little things that needed to get polished.
Cons: Lot of bugs/bug fixing.




-------------------POST MORTEM----------------------

Can't believe we are already here. What a year.

I think Senior Project was a tremendous success. I do not feel as if I wasted my time here. I learned a lot and am excited for what's next. All I needed was a portfolio piece out of Senior Project, and I feel as though I have a great one. There was a lot of work done, and I think it shows!

Steam! We got our game on Steam. I think that's something to brag about ( which I absolutely will to future, would-be employers.)  While our Steam build needs to be updated, I think the game needs to further improve before I start trying to apply. I feel as if the game is in between a great and amazing piece and I think a summer of work will bump it up. 

I think the best decision we ever made was to under-scope. Every project I've had at Drexel was over -scoped. People wanted to focus on world building and storytelling but never attempted to make the game fun. We made the time for iteration, and that's what really made the difference. For Shadow Circuit, we spent the time to prototype, and honestly, that made it all the better. While I'm glad for the game we got, I still wish have tried other ideas; namely the pirate ship battle game, and the one where the player would control a miniature army on a table. I think those were cool ideas worth taking another look at. 

For the first time at Drexel, I really felt like I was designing a game. And that was awesome, thanks team.


Of course, there were things that we could've done better. Namely, time efficiency. On our Sunday meetings, everyone would get there at around the same time, but would'nt really have a plan. We'd spend a lot of time talking and warming up, and once we did we'd get sidetracked. With Sundays, both sides of the team would be there, so it was 10 people in the room. This was not always needed, and more often than not, a couple people would work while everyone else sat around talking and waiting for something to do. I think if we had kept doing the biweekly scrum updates where everyone is specifically assigned something, we would have gotten more done. There were many weeks where I didn't know what someone had been doing, or if they been doing anything. 

There was a lot of time getting used to the new software. This was expected, but there were a few times that well into production, I'd find out a coder doesn't know how to a very basic part of the engine, or an artist doesn't know how to upload to the project. 


All in all, I'm proud of what we got done this year, and I look forward to working on Shadow Circuit more... after a small break. :)