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  • Writer's pictureCharlie Kowalski

Capstone Development Blog #2 - Midterm Assessment

Hello and welcome to my second development blog! If this is your first time reading this, I am Charlie Kowalski, a 4th-year Game Programming student currently working my way through my capstone development game Achromatic. Achromatic is a first-person horror story game taking place in an abandoned carnival filled with mind-bending geometry, fungal infections, and carousel horse horror. The Achromatic team contains 16 full-time students ranging in skills from Production, Art, Design, and of course programming with me as the lead programming along with the Ai programmer. Our game is marketed for players 18-26 intending to capitalize on the player markets created by games like PT, Resident Evil, and Alien Isolation and we are set to release in May of 2022 for the a image of our main monster, Carousel Horse

PC, you can expect our release here on itch.

Q: Describe where you are in the process now. What milestones have you achieved? What is on the horizon?

A: I would describe our current progress point as a transition point from content development to content cohesion. We have spent the last half of the semester creating and developing systems/mechanics shifting towards tuning and connecting them all to deliver an entertaining experience. Some of these milestones are

  • Hiding system

  • Ai Monster advancements

  • New enemy type

  • FOV testing tool

  • New Narrative

  • Level remodeling

  • Item inspection and interaction

  • improvements of lighting system

On the horizon I see us having further updates to monster Ai, lighting, and of course our levels, the biggest milestone is the high fidelity art pass. Where we will place and render all of our textured art assets giving us the first glance at our final product, I believe this will give us the momentum needed to finish the product strongly.

Q: What went wrong? How did they impede progress?

A: A large issue our team encountered was our initial failure of passing greenlight and over-scoping our initial vision. The way our program is structured we are required to present our game five weeks after the beginning of the semester to see if we are in a position to continue development. This date of greenlight happened to coincide with our presentation to our professional mentors, Rockstar games. During our feedback session, Rockstar games gave us incredible feedback but were also very clear that we were over-scoping our game and losing pieces of the horror we tried so hard last semester to obtain. With this feedback, we decided to entire rework our project and refocus on embracing our carnival roots. This resulted in us failing to pass greenlight and losing a week of production to do restructuring, I wish we caught onto this loss of vision early and made the proper adjustments ahead of time. We had plenty of time to bring our ideas to testing or host workshops with professors to determine our vision to be as clear as possible before structuring our production around it.

Q: What needs to change? What areas need the most attention to improve your game and your process?

A: For the team, I see the areas that need the most attention are our design. Our game is very story-driven means the narrative elements have to ensure the player is invested and most importantly understands what story we are trying to tell. We are not putting a lot of focus into this pipeline mostly having our non-level designers help with the programming/balance side of the game but I would love to see a shift in focus into the narrative. I say non-level designers because I believe our content amount ride-or-dies on our level design. We can either end up with too little of a level resulting in our project looking like we wasted our resources or having too much and having them feel baron as we don't have the assets to populate them. The designers and the artists need to be having those conversations about our end goals now instead of later.

For me, I need to take more initiative in the project, at the current moment I am just drifting through my tasks not driving any kind of advancements for the project. I weirdly feel the best way to fix this process is to take a break from work(using spring break of course) to recuperate my drive and passion for the project as the last few weeks I have been plagued with feelings of burnout.

Q: How are you growing as a professional? What are some of the strengths that you bring to your team that will support a professional environment and increase the opportunities for success? What are some things you still need to work on to be more professional and engaged in the work that still needs to be completed?

A: I feel myself growing in a lot of auras but the one most prevalent at the moment is non-coding related work for projects. I have been doing a lot of blog posts, website showoffs, and documentation updates for this project in particular and I finally am starting to enjoy the process of documenting my work. In previous years I would struggle to do documentation as I felt it useless and embarrassing as I think of myself as a bad writer (still do). The small things slowly started to redeem it like positive reinforcements from team members who read my documents for them to work on the project.

Some strengths in my mind are

  • Decisiveness I see myself as a person on the team that is always looking forward when working on the game, this allows me to help designers make complex decisions on what content to add or sideline.

  • Adaptiveness Lots of times over the semester I have had to make last-minute or sudden changes and they have become easy to implement as I code in a style that allows for easy expectation or change.

  • Cohesion I feel I get along well with nearly everyone, I have never had issues with team member's behavior or them with me.

I do need to work on basic C++ and C knowledge, I'm strong in working with game engines themselves like unity and unreal but my knowledge of the language is rusty. This would allow my code to be even more malleable and it is an asset that is highly sought after by professional studios.

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