Alexander M. West
Camera Shy: Onboarding, Team Plans, Individual Goals
Fall of Senior year (last semester) we were split into small teams and we each made a vertical slice prototype of a game concept. These concepts were then cut down to the ones that had the most potential in order to make horizontal slices in the Spring Semester. The students on the teams that got cut were then put onto new teams, onboarded, and the production cycle began.
My team, that worked on Incarcerum, got cut. As a result, I joined the team that is currently making Camera Shy. Camera Shy is a VR hidden object game where the player is given a camera and a list of objects. The goal is to find the objects, take pictures of them, then add them to the wall of pictures.
The onboarding process as a programmer for Camera Shy wasn’t much of a strain. I didn’t feel that there were any concepts too complex in the project where I needed hand holding in order to understand. I’ve also previously worked with VR, therefore there wasn't an issue in transitioning from desktop applications to VR. I’ve also worked with many of Camera Shy’s team members in other capacities on various projects in the past; getting to work with them again and adjusting to the team dynamics wasn’t an issue for me. Overall the process of onboarding went very well; everyone seems to be up to speed and confident with working on things for the project moving forward.
The last two weeks have been mostly a planning period. We have been trying to define what we need to do as a team both internally and in regards to our game. The artists have started planning up asset lists, the designers have been working on new ideas and getting the level layouts in concepting, and the programmers (us) have been working on fixing debt as well as researching topics as they come up. We have, so far, done a good job of keeping communication lines up between team members and are having many discussions between disciplines which alleviates my biggest fear: siloing of disciplines and members. I think the tactics we’re using in the planning phase are working well, and people branching out of their principal disciplines. We have also had good conversations about things that need to be done by the end of the semester and what we would like to have done coming out of said semester. There have been no major hang-ups, and we are becoming proficient in proactively working to prevent problems.
As for what I’m doing on the team: my official role is Tools Programmer. This means that my main goal is to develop tools that make the Designers, Artists, and Programmers job easier. I have made sure to discuss with the team what I have ideas for and I’ve also made sure they’re aware that I’m open to any ideas that could make this process easier for them. So far, I have a few ideas that will be really good, those of which include:
A model Importing Tool: this will allow the artists to import props and environment assets with all of the necessary scripts and functionality of a game object,
A level design tool: this will allow props to be moved around using VR so that designers can get a good feel for what the level will be for players,
A prop snapping tool: which will allow props to have custom snap points so they don’t float near the players hand,
Heat maps that will show where the players are standing and looking most often, allowing designers to see where the points of interest or frustration are for a level.
I think these four tools will really help with the pipelines and the process of getting everything as polished as possible. Alongside these tools I will be joining Games Testing sessions as a tech reference when we go to test our games and be looking to solving bugs that crop up to allow the other two programmers to keep developing new content so we can reach our goals by the end of the semester.
All things considered, I think the onboarding process went great. Everyone is up to snuff and is excited to be on the project; the planning process is going great, we are making great points, and we’re making sure things are being talked about instead of being ignored or talked around. I appreciate that my role on the team is well defined and I have a good direction in which to go. I’m excited for the challenges that the semester brings along with having a solid product at the end of the semester.