Tag Archives: Unity

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Spec Ops 4 – Post-Mortem

The Spec Ops – Video Game Development program is often considered a capstone program at Every1Games. Spec Ops offers creative neurodivergent students a place where they can come and learn to create one of the leading forms of art and entertainment in contemporary society – video games.

When taken as a whole, video game development may seem daunting. The idea of making a video game conjures up a highly stressful environment where some mythical renaissance character does everything from art to programming to make their game. In reality, whole teams come together to contribute to one major project at a time.

This means that the video game industry is one in which all sorts of talents can be nurtured and developed. There are 3D artists, who can work on modelling (creating 3D representations of objects for games), rigging (giving a skeletal structure to the models), and animating (making those same representations come to life). 2D artists may work in creating user interface, textures, and concept art, all of which contribute to the user’s in-game experience. There are programmers, who communicate directly with computers to turn the video game into… well, a game. Games aren’t fun when the opponent doesn’t play back, after all. Designers work to develop the premise, balance, and feel of a game, and sound engineers enrich the world with audio feedback and cues.

All of these roles, and many more, work together to create a game.

That was what we did in Spec Ops 4.

The End-Game (Goals)

Since our program development is an iterative process, the facilitators of Spec Ops once more made it a goal to learn from the past. We kept the most fun, most engaging, most skill-developing parts of previous Spec Ops sessions. Everything else was re-examined and re-evaluated before either being approached from a different angle or being dropped from the curriculum entirely.

To ensure this instance of the program ran smoothly, we had two facilitators at any given point: one artist and one programmer (me!). We also had a variety of support staff on hand, including organizational leads and audio engineers, to help cultivate an interest in other skills related to video game production.

We spent a good deal of time considering what was important for participants to get out of the program. With the range of video game development experiences our participants would have in mind, we came up with the following goals:

  • Introduce participants to a variety of different roles in the video game industry, including art, programming, audio, and design.
  • Create a low-stress environment that encourages participants to develop higher-level social skills by encouraging self-advocacy and positive interaction.
  • Make a video game with maximal contribution from participants and minimal contribution from staff.

We decided the best way to do this was to start off with a relatively heavy ‘class’ load at the beginning, with a shift to emphasize game development in later days.

The idea behind this was to equip participants with rudimentary skills they’d need to contribute to the game in the manner of their choosing. It would also help them identify their strengths and weaknesses while sampling the many roles the video game industry has to offer. Essentially, this structure let them decide what they liked and enjoyed while eliminating roles that were just not for them. As staff, it allowed us to shift and change the curriculum to suit the interests of our participants.

Pre-Production (Early Game Design)

The first two days of Spec Ops were spent getting to know each other and determining the type of game we wanted to make.

We started by naming elements and features that make a game appealing to us. Suggestions ranged from first-person shooters to MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) games, with everything in between considered as well. By the end of this exercise, we had a massive list of potential options. Obviously we couldn’t do everything suggested, so we started paring down the list, finding common elements and eliminating unrealistic goals.

After a few hours of back and forth discussion, voting, and bringing new ideas to the table, we had a loose concept of what we wanted to develop.  We went with an endless, arena-style space shooter with a sort of gritty, hopeless feel. We also ideally wanted to heavily emphasize narrative.

By the end of the second day, we even had a name: The Final Marine.

Main Production (The Classroom Experience)

After we had the game concept settled, we spent the next couple of days doing crash-courses in a number of different tools used by industry game developers to make games. We dabbled in Photoshop, Illustrator, 3dsmax, Maya, HTML/CSS, Unity Engine Editor, TFM Music Maker, C#, and other programs.

This let all participants start learning concepts that were totally new to them without pressuring them to immediately make a game.  As we hoped, participants began to explore the fields and roles they were interested in.

The added benefit for facilitators was being able to cater courses more specifically to participant interest. It wasn’t long before modelling was front and center stage, a crowd favourite among our participants. Around the same time, programming was more or less dropped from the curriculum entirely.

We worked in groups at various points, fostering discussions and developing our game further. While participants were happy to keep working on their pet projects, they also began to get excited about working on The Final Marine. Some of them were improving the design, while others had already started to model assets they thought might be useful in our game.

Alpha Production (From the Classroom to the Studio)

Work on The Final Marine began in earnest late into our second week.

Participants were given a list of assets that the game would need and decided for themselves what to work on. At this point, it already became apparent who favoured which role; we had about three or four modellers (one of whom is a budding rigger/animator, the others who are content to remain modelling specialists), two 2D art specialists, two game designers, and one lonely programmer.

Most participants were also eager to experiment with two or three roles. Our modellers also showed interest in 2D art, for example. Everyone also enjoyed the design aspect of a game and was willing to discuss and compromise in various ways. The Final Marine began to take shape, with some place-holder assets and concepts to flesh out in the future.

Beta Production (Studio Environment)

By the end of the third week, we moved almost exclusively into game development. We spent very little time doing crash-courses, instead opting to help participants work on their assets on a one-to-one level.

If a participant did not need any guidance, they continued to develop their assets at their own pace. They submitted assets for addition into the game when they were satisfied with their work. During this time, we received many polished assets for integration, including a sky box, environment assets, and a number of different particle effects for use in the game.

This marked a very industrious but quiet time for Spec Ops. Lunch was no longer a welcome break and refreshing chance to socialize, but rather an interruption into their technical skill and asset development.

Did I mention that The Final Marine was starting to look really good?

Gold Production/Release (The Grand Finale)

In major studios, a game getting released is cause for much excitement. The Final Marine was finished one early afternoon in our fourth week. All assets were integrated, the level had been designed and implemented, and the game worked.

Participants were given the rest of the day to reflect and socialize with the team, before a grand unveiling demonstration in the final few hours.

I will close this section with the words of one of our participants:

“I almost don’t believe it. We made a game. We actually made one. We’re game developers now.

Conclusion

Spec Ops was a huge success.

The participants were both creative and driven, balancing personal needs and desires with the team’s goals throughout. Students learned that there is room for everybody in game development, regardless of their interests or original skill level.

Skill-wise, they universally improved across the board. Participants went from not necessarily knowing what a model was to modelling full characters, and from knowing a lot about video games to knowing about video game production. They worked with industry standard software to make a game in a small studio environment.

With the help of George Brown College’s facilities and facilitators, who were able to help nurture participant interests, we expect a number of the participants will continue to develop the foundation Spec Ops set out for them. Spec Ops has a proven history of growing with its participants.

It might have been The Final Marine, but it won’t be the final step for the participants. It sure won’t be the final Spec Ops.

Game link: coming soon to a postmortem near you!

Kayla Wright

Note: That last line was fairly melodramatic, but it wasn’t dishonest. It won’t be the final Spec Ops. The next installment of Spec Ops has tentative start dates in late September/early October. Mosey on over to the Programs page for more information! specOpsIcon-3-300x270

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Spec Ops 3 – Post Mortem

Written by Rocco Briganti

The Spec Ops 3 – Video Game Development program is the capstone program at Every1Games. Creative neurodivergent students from different walks of life finally have a place where they can come and learn about and how to create, one of the leading forms of art and entertainment – video games.

Spec Ops Team

Some of the SpecOps Team: Daniel, Devonttaie, John Yau, Crystal Fernandez, Rocco Briganti and Joshua

An Upgraded Direction

Spec Ops 3 took the best of the previous programs and learned from past programs. During this program we continued along the path of keeping the class operating as a team would in a studio. We had a clear idea and focus about how the program would run. The Spec Ops 3 team was better equipped now with four facilitators ranging in talents including, but not limited to: animation, programming, modelling and game design. We also had two goals…

  1. Developing a game and if not, at the very least a portfolio piece for every student.
  2. Expanding and advancing student’s social skills.

We continued along the familiar path of brainstorming a game first with the class and then dividing everyone up into roles that each student wanted to work on. This time we had some new students with fresh talent. Roles ranged from sound engineers to modellers and animators.

Early Game Design

In our first week we brainstormed with the class on what some of their favourite genres were for video games. After a lot of talking and some back and forth debates we ended up with a Steampunk Robot Escape style game. One of our facilitators, Daniel Mozarowski took the class through Game Design principals and theory as we brainstormed how the game would be played. It was wonderful to watch students who normally appeared to be shy, open up in passionate discussion, conversation and the odd friendly debate about mechanics, story and what makes a game fun.

Once we had everything laid out another one of our Facilitators, John Yau, took the stage creating some concept art for our game. This concept art was created by tasking students with finding images and references that they pictured for the game we had brainstormed and its genre. Throughout the course of the 8 weeks the students used the created piece for inspiration and reference when creating content for the game.

Production Phase

At the very beginning of the program, myself and the rest of the facilitators had made a decision that if creating a market ready game was not achievable during the programs length then we would work on helping students achieve a portfolio piece. During our fourth week we had a discussion about this. Myself and the rest of the team decided that given the varying range of talent and experience, it was best to change our focus. From this point on, we continued the course by focusing on helping each student grow both socially and technically.

Spec Ops Support Package

Spec Ops 3 was not only host to a pool of creative and talented neurodiverse individuals but for this first time ever, host to the parents, friends and family who continuously help drive our students forward beyond the classroom. This was our first time having a parent’s open house style gathering where parents, friends and family could come in and see what everyone had been working on. For the facilitators, this provided the perfect opportunity for some one on one time with student’s family members which might have not otherwise happened.

Overall, this was an overwhelming success. Facilitators got to witness our student’s showing off their creativity to their family members and in turn family members saw what their children were capable of producing. Parents were ecstatic to hear the progress their children have made and taken aback by the work that they had created. Some family members were seeing for the first time all the work that gets put into creating even the most basic of games.

Conclusion

This has been our best Spec Ops program yet at Every1Games with the help of George Brown College facilities. We’ve pushed students farther in honing their skills and prepping for the game development world with the latest industry standard software. Students have shown growth in not only technical skills but social skills as well. Our students continue to inspire and teach us as well with every Spec Ops program outdoing the last. With this mind, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Spec Ops in the fall.

 

Registration for the next Spec Ops: Video Game Development program opens soon. Make an account to register!

Rocco Briganti

 

 

Can you Spot Luigi?

Spec Ops 2 – Post Mortem

Spec Ops 2 Video Game Development Program was launched after the success of the first Spec Ops where creative neurodivergent students who are interested in a career ing games, developed a Breakout clone game where each person incorporated a unique level design (will be available here soon!). But Spec Ops 2 took a new approach to the program, switching from a  directed classroom environment to a studio environment where every student had a specific role working together on the project.

In our first week of class we all brainstormed a bunch of game ideas, story tropes and characters until finally agreeing on one thing that we all wanted to do.

As a class we chose to create a shooter in a modern day post-war setting.

Work was divided into modeling, level design and texturing. Given the core interests of the students, we decided to leave out programming and focus on those skills.

Level Design

Devonttaie was our main level designer using a mix of free Unity store assets as well as student created content in 3DS Max. Using Unity, Devonttaie created three amazing level designs, two of them following the theme of post-war with a small quirky twist! You can tell he’s a fan of Luigi. Can you spot him?

Modeling and Texturing

Matthew and Stephen were our dedicated modellers for the project. With their input and ideas we decided to create a few assets for the level that Devonttaie could use. Stephen created several weapons in 3DS Max including a Bolter, M16 and a sword with a pretty sweet hand guard. Matthew created a tank, a fighter jet, a mini-gun and a billboard for the level.

Additional Work

By Week 6 of the program, some students want to try their hand on other designs while Devonttaie was putting the assets they created into the level he designed. He also created several videos which we hope to share on our YouTube channel (coming soon).

The students decided to take on some extra work trying to use their experience and skills to create new things.

Joshua finished off an amazing Illustrator tracing of his favourite Pokemon Lucario. Matthew decided to tackle modelling his first humanoid character and created an awesome looking robot!

Conclusion

The overall experience was amazing for the students to be able to experience parts of what it’s like to work on a team with other people while creating a game. Students depended on one another to finish their tasks so that the project could always progress forward.

Additionally it was amazing to watch all the students step out of their comfort zones and adapt to all the unique challenges they faced. As our classes progressed the students gained more and more confidence with their tasks created bigger and better things and even creating additional content beyond the scope of the project!

Spec Ops 2 was a huge success and a huge thank you to all the students and their hard work! A studio environment is going to continue to help structure future Spec Ops programs.

Registration for Spec Ops 3 will be opening end of April and starts May 30th so check back to register and be a part of the team.

Written by Rocco Briganti

E1G’s Low Anxiety UX Beta Testing; Cinema Suite Inc.’s New Unity3D Development Tool

TestingThis past Saturday June 29, 2013 E1G had an amazing day with Cinema Suite Inc., sister company of Javelin Technologies, in Oakville, Ontario! People left the studio with new ideas and new friends. We’d like to thank everyone who came out to participate in the event on their long weekend to offer their opinions and we hope you enjoy your swag! It was a great surprise to hear that each participant is also going to be receiving a free copy of the new Unity 3D tool. Though we can’t say much about the tool we can say that this will be a must have for developers who want to save time and money creating amazing stories in their games.

Cinema Suite Inc. partnered with Every1Games to provide a low anxiety UX Beta testing event for their newest development tool designed to create videogame cut-scene cinematics and run-time sequences with no complex scripting or programming in Unity 3D.

Working TogetherThank you Cinema Suite Inc. team Ben Sainsbury, Adrian Harrington and Dan Gamsby for having us be a part of videogame development history giving  more people an opportunity to participant in your event by supporting a low-anxiety event with alternate feedback options for increased accessibility and clearer results. The first of its kind, this event mixed traditional methods of feedback for UX beta testing with a social promise of low-anxiety. What is a low anxiety environment? It is where we offer a personable and friendly staff, a variety of communication aids and a fun social experience while working hard on serious projects.

LukeIf you missed out on this opportunity, do not fret!

You can sign up for our newsletter featuring more opportunities, follow us on twitter and like us on facebook.

JonathonThank Javelin Technologies for sponsoring the event and providing a delicious social lunch that gave everyone the opportunity to connect.

For more pics check out the event album on facebook!