Paper Plans are good.

One thing when I come into a new project, one thing I struggle with the most is getting a full idea of what is being made. So, I end up with a lot of half thought out elements that were designed midway through the project. This isn’t the best with smaller projects, but at least it’s manageable when there isn’t much in the overall game. Now that we are entering into larger projects however, it’s becoming an issue. So, how do I work out more detail? Paper plans. With the use of paper plans, my team was able to realise the elements of the game that we were not aware of and make decisions about how elements would work that we didn’t know would be needed until the paper plan was in production. We used it to properly think through our UI and think about how the mouse would need to interact with the individual elements of the game. For example, the patch bay was an element of our game that we had thought would be very simple. But then, when we came to bringing it into our paper plan, we discovered that a proper representation of a patch bay for an audio console in our abstract multipurpose approach would be a lot harder than expected. So we were forced to make decisions about how it would work with greater detail, being able to draw each step of the process to layout how it would operate. Resulting in a more realised understanding of its function and a clearer understanding of our game overall. Of course this will never be what we have in the end, because game development almost never ends with the exact idea it was started with.

patchbay.png

So that is how one example of paper plans work, but one thing paper plans aren’t the best at realising is 3 Dimensional games. This is mostly because they are hard to draw, because we’re game designers. Not artists. (perspective is hard). So one way that this can be taken care of is to draw the paper plans from only one perspective (top down/side on) and then creating an objects, actions, and interactions table to show how each element planned for the game interacts with other objects or actions. This lets you understand more about what needs to be done when it comes to making the game and what specific situations need to be designed, and gives you an advantage on designing these interactions to encompass all of the game’s elements in the most efficient manner. I have used this on another project I am working on and it was helpful to discover that there wasn’t much interaction in the game, and we were then able to find more places for interaction to happen. Both these methods have really helped me and my teams create and obtain a better understanding of the games we are making, now the only thing left (really not the only thing but for the sake of a good closing statement) is to see how they end up.

Learning about sheds

So I have a possible project coming up that would require me to create a shed designing app. But of course I have no idea what it takes to create a shed designing app, or what they need to be able to do. So, I looked at what already existed. Starting off with the Shed Boss android and web app, which through discussions seems to cover most if not all the areas needed for the project. There were some obvious improvements that could be made. For example, having a web app that worked in more than just internet explorer and firefox, and having a UI that doesn’t obstruct so much of the view. But most of the other features could be mostly recreated with minor improvements and adjustments to fit the client’s needs. But for the sake of better improvements, I had a look into what other apps exist for the same purpose, to see what they had on offer. For example, the Fair Dinkum Sheds app has quite a few improvements on the shed boss app. For example, fair dinkum sheds lets you enable and disable each wall of the shed individually unlike the shed boss app. This makes customizing the shed much easier. The fair dinkum sheds app also allows the user to adjust lean to’s with more detail, adding them to any shed type and being able to tweak their height and roof angle individually.  This gives the user so much more freedom with the designs, but, depending on the company, they may not want to offer these features upfront but prefer people ask them directly for the additions.

 

A lot of what will need to be done for this project is up in the air at the moment. So there can’t be any final decisions made at this point. But this research will be very helpful for how to make the decisions when the time comes. One key thing we will need to do on this project is to make sure that the program can easily be used by the target audience. Most of these apps would be used by older people whose knowledge of games and computers in general can’t be relied upon. So things will need to be clearly labeled with text and icons, and it is paramount that we test with the target audience before we deliver to the clients. So we can know to the best of our abilities that it is suited to the target audience. To make sure this is done right, more research will need to be done into what suits our audience better. But that’s for another day.

What is a project Lead?

I have been placed as the lead on our upcoming project, what does that mean? I’ve been a project lead before, and I’ve been overstretched because I did not know what the role meant. I don’t really want this to happen again. So, how do I keep myself from becoming overwhelmed on this project and others? If I can figure out how to do this, I will be much better prepared for continuing with my degree and my career as a developer.

 

So, from brief research it appears that what a lead does is to make sure that the pieces being designed by the rest of the team is good and fitting to the overall design, giving pointers and tips or even scrapping things when necessary (hopefully not). It also appears as though they do design of their own as well. But their whole job is not entirely design, it is instead split between design and management. This is according to Gamedesigning.org, but I have no idea if this site uses the same terminology that I am used to and if it was written to try and divide between those who actually want to design games and those who just like games. However, this description of a project lead is what I thought a project manager would do (which might explain why I am terrible at separating those roles). From what I understand, a project manager keeps tabs on other members progress and keeps the project going forward and finishing on time. So, from this confusion, I’m going to try and find the separation between the two by looking at an analogy given by my lecturer Adrian Forest. He said that the difference between a project manager and a project lead is like the two people in a rally car. One person in the rally car is there to drive and keep the pace, they’re there to make the car go and go fast. The other person in the car is there to make sure the car is going the right way, and to make sure the driver is ready for what’s coming next. Adrian said that in this analogy, the project manager is the driver, and the lead is the navigator. Because a project manager can keep a game going, but it’s not their job to make sure it’s the game that was intended. The project lead is there to make sure that the game that is made is the game that was intended, but they don’t need to worry about how quickly it gets there.

 

So, from this I think What I need to be doing on this project is making sure that our team is heading the right way and is making the game that our stakeholder wants. To do this, I need to know what they want as best as I can. I need to be ready to ask and answer questions when they come up both from my team and for the stakeholder. I also need to make sure that what my team is doing fits this vision, it’s my job to keep them on the path, but not my job to keep them on track