Posted on August 14th, 2009 1 comment
A student team from USC talks about the challenges of developing a game for the Nintendo DS
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Ian talks about student game development and making Unfinished Swan…
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Two students at GDC talk about how to develop a game outside of class…while still in school…
Interviewer: I’m here at the Game Developers Conference and with me today are some special guests. How about you introduce yourselves?
Apollo: My name is Apollo Keno[?].
Craig: I’m Craig Cashin [?].
Interviewer: You guys developed a game while in school, like student developers.
Craig: It is a side project as opposed to our other school projects.
Interviewer: Well, walk me through this side project.
Craig: Basically, it’s just a pretty simple third person run around and shoot stuff.
Interviewer: So, your goal was to do like a 3D shooter.
Craig: Yeah, with some magic.
Apollo: We were pretty tired with first person games, so we just made it third person. Basically, just run around.
Interviewer: And the graphics – How did you guys – They look pretty nice. How did you guys do it?
Craig: We kind of faked associating just using the art style Photoshop. The characters and the enemies have an outlining, kind of a cartoon outline to them. It’s not real associating but it simulates it without giving the engine performance hits.
Craig: There’s too many of them.
Interviewer: How many levels are there right now in the game?
Apollo: Right now, it’s just this one demo level. You probably if we wanted to go back and add more levels, that wouldn’t be so bad now that we have every single game mechanic working.
Interviewer: Yeah. What are the core game mechanics then?
Apollo: Basically, the game actually started with the camera itself and the way the player moves. That was the base, the spine I guess, that everything had to be done, but the whole look where you’re pointing, where the cursor’s at, wasn’t really built into the engine. Since we decided to take basically a first person engine, we made it a third person. Once that was done, stuff just started laying down as we needed it.
Interviewer: Can you talk about then the development of what you actually had to do to make this game and some of the challenges because you guys did this outside of class, right?
Craig: Yeah, well, oh Jesus, there’s so much to it. Where to begin?
Craig: First of all, the camera angle was a big issue because it was hard to see the enemies at some point, so we had to play with the camera over and over to get the feel right. We spent weeks modifying the engine to get the character to look wherever the mouse was.
Interviewer: Oh, go ahead.
Apollo: No, I was just going to say basically it started with an idea and eventually it just steam rolled. We just started doing stuff and we got together.
Interviewer: How long did it take to get a prototype up?
Apollo I’d say it probably took us from the initial camera and starting to drop assets in, I think it only took about a month and a half and then we had basically the game. At that point things started changing real fast.
Interviewer: A lot of student developers talk about making a game. How did you keep the motivation for the first month or month and a half before you didn’t have anything going?
Craig: We’d keep motivating each other back and forth. We worked outside of class with each other on this. We called each other up like, hey can you get this done? Yeah, maybe, I’ll try it.
Apollo: Some days you’d just run into a problem or something like that and you’ve got school work to do. A couple days off and all of a sudden something clicks and you find a fix for something and then you’re kind of like, you get the sparks back into and let’s get this done now.
Interviewer: How did you balance school with this project because this project wasn’t for any class credit, right? It was a side project.
Apollo: Just separate basically. It was a slow process at the start, and at the end we ended up meeting and we stayed up late nights and stuff like that, any time we weren’t working or in school.
Craig: At the end of the process our lives pretty much consisted of school and then working on that and catching five hours of sleep, back to school.
Interviewer: Can you talk about how you actually learned this technology? What technology did you guys use to actually make this game, and did you learn it in class? How did you teach yourself?
Craig: We originally learned it to work in class, but they only teach you so much. We had to search resources online relentlessly, too.
Interviewer: So, it was pretty much teaching yourself.
Craig: Yeah. As far as 3D aspects and Photoshop, that’s a whole other story.
Apollo: We just thought the best and fastest way was to do it yourself. Online there’s great creative assets. There’s tons of people on there. There’s tons of people that have questions. Tons of people in online forums that help you.
Craig: If you like modeling, if you like texturing, like focus on that. Focus on that as much as you can along with the actual game design.
Interviewer: Sure. Did you guys have to recruit other people? Did you have more students… Did you have other issues with people not doing work? Have did you guys handle that issue?
Craig: On previous projects for school, we did have a bunch of issues with people not doing work, so that’s why we decided to go on alone on this.
Interviewer: Because you could trust each other to do the work.
Craig: Right, right. No one else showed much interest in helping us.
Interviewer: Did you guys show them a prototype?
Apollo: No, we just knew the students that we worked on previous projects, and really what it boiled down to was a lot of people say they wanted to make games but not everyone was willing to put in the hours at night to get it done and throw some finished product out.
Interviewer: Can you talk about winter break and exactly useful that was and if that was important for getting things done?
Craig: Our break was, besides Christmas, winter break was not winter break. It was working.
Interviewer: OK, good.
Apollo: That pretty much kicked off basically the point in the game where we really started spending tons of hours. At that point we had an idea and some cool mechanics that we wanted to eventually get together on a game. Come winter break, we had more time during the day, and we just started really putting stuff together.
Interviewer: Did you guys do any kind of… Were you in close personal proximity during winter break, or was it over IM or how did that work?
Apollo: We did some IMs.
Craig: I was out of town, not too far away but far enough where I can’t just go over to his house and so, yeah, IM was good.
Interviewer: Do you guys then have any last words for student game developers out there if they want to get started and actually finish a game?
Apollo: It’s all about just putting in your own time. I mean, learning everything you need to on your own and just as much as you want to. You can pretty much do what you want. You just have to find what it is.
Interviewer: What about working with a partner versus working alone?
Apollo: It’s definitely a lot nicer. There’s just so much involved. If you sit there and you have to do everything, you can easily lose yourself in small problems and spend days, weeks trying to do little things. With someone doing something else, you can come back together and you can both collaborate or have fixes for things.
Craig: Or bounce ideas back and forth. You’ve got to do that. Have a passion. Have a passion for making your game.
Interviewer: Thank you very much.