Sunday, March 1, 2015

Progress, but not without communication (S2W7)

What a weird, uncomfortable week this was.

We made a few technical improvements this week.  First, a crash screen.  Now, when the game fails outside of the Unity Editor, instead of terminating the program, users are taken to an error report screen, showing them the errors and directing them to contact us.  This helped us to catch the cause of a weird, seemingly tablet-only crash from last Monday.  We also added in a system for saving and loading player progress and profile data.  It stores its data hierarchically and is much simpler than I initially had planned it to be.  It's also a lot easier to extend in case we add more missions in some later expansion.

UI-wise, we were forced back to the drawing board due to our failure to convey exactly why we chose the layout we had decided upon last week.  We ended up choosing the same layout with minor tweaks, but we managed a few more interesting concepts before making that decision.  I really wish we could have just stuck with our first final decision from the get-go, as having a final decision essentially nullified by someone outside of our immediate dev team was pretty demotivating.  At least I was able to quickly move some of our existing elements around and get a prototype of the layout working.

From a narrative perspective, we've worked out a simple plot for the game that doesn't require a lot from an events perspective.  Instead, we've decided to focus on character interactions before and after matches for world-building.  We've got a pretty unique set of characters to use, all nicely fleshed out in their quirks and relationships to each other.  I'm glad we've decided to restrict ourselves to dialogue and scripted events outside of the matches.  While ideally we'd be able to integrate all these things into the matches, we don't have the time to implement all the necessary scripting features and then use them to craft intriguing in-match events.

All in all, we made some good progress this week and our testers appreciated our efforts.  Due to more offensive abilities through the faction upgrades, matches are now slightly shorter, which is something we've always kept in mind.  People also appreciated the AI opponent, though there was a bit of lack of coordination that resulted in undesirable behavior.  Since I added projectile angle clamping less than a day before the game was at testing, I didn't have a lot of time to inform our AI programmer, Rob, about how this could affect his AI behavior.  I resolve to do better on that front next time.

There was also some troubling conflict at the beginning of the week, which brought up the need for more constructive communication among the team.

There were some interpersonal issues that came up within the team at the beginning of the week.  One of our members was not happy with the direction of the game after our UI decision and posted a very frustrated rant on his capstone blog, in particular naming the person in my position (and by extension, myself) as the unfair gatekeeper of the game.  I was explicitly called out for, from his perspective, overvaluing my code, exerting too much control over the team's decisions, and treating the artists like tools rather than members of the team.  This was rather upsetting criticism to receive, especially since it hadn't been voiced previously.  Since the beginning of this semester I've been watching myself, trying to make sure I'm not too protective of the game as I see it.  I've tried to accommodate the artists and designers as best I can, figuring out workarounds to technical issues with some of their concepts and generally trying to stay out of their way.  I try to make sure I offer alternatives if a suggestion isn't going to be feasible given the remaining time and other prioritized tasks.  If I'm doing things wrong, if I'm mistreating members of the team, if I'm stepping on toes, I'd like to be told as such as soon as possible so I can reconsider and correct my behavior.

Everyone's allowed to get frustrated and worried about the project, so I understand where this member's coming from.  Everyone has those bad days.  I've had my fair share of concerns I've voiced on this blog, times where I've been uncertain if we were going in the right direction, but each time I've brought it up with the rest of the team and we've discussed them.  I really wish the same could be said in this situation.  We could have resolved this issue in a much smoother manner.  This has likely blown over, so this incident lives in the past now - I just hope it emphasizes the need for us to all communicate our problems openly, freely, and in a constructive manner.  If it's all blown over, why have I spent several dense paragraphs on it?  I felt the need to address this in order to properly move forward.  If I don't talk about the kinds of issues we face, I run the risk of the same lack of communication I'm criticizing now.

Anyways, this serves as an explanation of my feelings on this situation, as well as what I hope things will be like moving forward.  We should all be a little more open in our communication.

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