dev diary #4

Prompt: – Write about the week’s lecture and readings as they relate to your project 
– Write about this week’s industry guest speakers (if any)
-Write a description of your progress (both positive and negative) on your current project
– Must include at least one piece of media:
GIF, link to video, screenshot, sketch, etc.

A few days ago we got an email about a one-hour UCSC seminar on Imposter Syndrome. I was planning to attend before I tried to find the location and realized it was happening on the main campus. Bummer. But that is an issue I feel I’m struggling with at this point in the program, most of it directly stemming from the difficulty I’m having with C++ and my overall fear of programming. I know it doesn’t look great that I’ve waited three dev diaries to start admitting that I’m halfway expecting to get kicked from the program, but there’s this massive C-shaped hole in my skillset that’s negatively affecting my ability to contribute meaningfully to the duo project or to complete my assignments on time for C++.

Pretty much the only thing I’ve done for the duo project is asset creation. I’ve created over a dozen animations and four dozen sprites to populate Tyler’s vision, and as Emily pointed out when she learned this, “the program isn’t testing for that.” You want programmers and Tyler has programmed the entire game on his own. It’s also his concept; as mentioned in my last diary, I decided to withdraw my suggestions on fields and music in favor of going with Tyler’s office space and basketball mechanics because both concepts were equally usable and I figured Tyler would do a better job programming something he was invested in. I don’t have access to Tyler’s dev diary so I have no clue whether he’s pleased with my level of contribution to the project, but he certainly seems pumped about things when we talk. I’m quite satisfied with him as a partner as he’s open to suggestions, flexible with reacting to setbacks, eager to overcome obstacles and an overall hard worker. While we’ve both contributed plenty of suggestions and design concepts to the game, and I’m very satisfied with the final project, I can’t help but feel I’m regressing into my lifelong habits of avoiding programming by filling the void with content creation. I should have taken advantage of the solo and duo projects to learn Unity, even if it would have resulted in substandard products, because the proficiency disparity between me and the other students will only grow as the program goes on.

It’s just so easy to let him do all the programming and insert myself into more of an asset-creation position because that’s playing to my strengths. I can crank out sprites (I don’t think they’re particularly good but Tyler insisted he wanted to use my artwork and not default assets so apparently they’re of adequate quality in everyone else’s eyes) and I don’t know Unity as well as he does, so it’s logical and easy to let him program. But I didn’t come to this Master’s program to learn sprite creation, and we’re going to have an entire University of San Jose to do that for us for the next project. I need to find a way to serve a useful role on a team, especially considering nobody’s games from any point in this quarter have required a writer.

This all boils back to my fear of programming, something that’s plagued the majority of my life. When I was 11, I couldn’t wrap my head around a month-long tutorial of DarkBasic, so I used Multimedia Fusion (nowadays called Clickteam Fusion) to make games. As an undergraduate, I briefly considered switching my major to Computer Science but a terrible experience in a C class squashed those plans and I continued using Clickteam Fusion for my portfolio projects. After graduating, I took an online Unity class but eventually gave up after six months had passed and I couldn’t program anything more complicated than a text-based adventure game. Even in this class, I chose to use Clickteam Fusion for my solo project when I probably should have created an inferior project in Unity. I feel like the metaphorical elephant who learned as a calf that he couldn’t uproot the stake tying him to the ground, so he remains rooted even as a 15000-pound adult who could easily escape that stake if he tried to.

This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that I’ve tried my absolute hardest to learn C++. I know that’s Andrew’s opinion on himself, but I feel like I should (and could) have worked harder, instead of constantly distracting myself by putting 110% into my other homework assignments. I love every other class in this Masters’, but I bet if I’d spent less time creating sprites, writing 2-page dev diaries and pulling all-nighters on The Wolf and the Waves I could have probably learned C++ at the same time. Instead my vision just swims when I stare blankly at Visual Studio and I do something superfluous like programming Tic-Tac-Toe instead of Connect Four. I can see the massive potential of games programmed in C# and I’ve wanted that knowledge for years, and this degree is probably the greatest chance I’m ever going to get to learn it. If I fail now, I’ll forever regret losing this opportunity.

Our lectures and reading discussed how the game designer uses the formal elements of a game. As a sandbox-style game, “Explore” would probably fit best as our player’s intended motivation. We found that most players clicked on everything once they were bored of shooting paper balls, so we didn’t to worry as much about telegraphing what items had scripted actions tied to them. (We added a few for the Inbox anyway, since the player misses a huge chunk of the game if they don’t click it.) The thing about ‘Calmness’ is, we had to avoid most of the things that video games use to create challenge because challenge isn’t calming. Our player character has infinite resources, no objective, and no stress because otherwise the player might not feel calm. We didn’t even have a clear ending (everything fades away and you’re now relaxing in the Rockies with nothing to do) until the very last build; we intended to let the player sandbox forever but playtesters didn’t find it calming when the game never clearly ended!

Believe it or not, Andrew Corcoran’s lecture actually helped us in a major way. He discussed dynamically adjusting your game so that it catered to people with different preferences. Originally, we tied the “slacking off” mini-game as calming and the “working” event as neutral. After Emily playtested our game and had the opposite reaction to both mini-games, we realized that some people found work more calming than laziness. So we tied the calmness mechanic to the player’s progress in either mini-game. Now people can finish the game through whichever playstyle they prefer, just like Corcoran’s UI and menus cater themselves to the player.

end sprites

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