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  • Overcoming Fear With USC's Nevermind

    - staff

  • What would you say has been the biggest challenge you've faced making the game?

    We went into development expecting the sensor integration to be the biggest challenge (and it certainly did its best to live up to that billing). However, the Nevermind team included some pretty savvy engineers and, with the generous support of a few industry experts, we were actually able to get the biofeedback component up and running with only moderate tears and one goat sacrifice.

    The biggest challenge for us actually existed on a more abstract level in that much of what we were doing was fairly unorthodox compared to "standard" game conventions. As a result, we had to be very smart about how we approached the design and implementation as well as playtest it as frequently as possible to ensure that the experience was evolving as intended. This applied not only to the biofeedback-based gameplay, but also to the notion of a "slippery slope" difficulty curve (punishing frustrated players with making the game harder), and creating a "serious game" that was an entertaining experience first and a "healthy" game second.

    This is not to say that we're the first or only game to have sought out to achieve these goalsbut, nonetheless, we were building upon a riskier foundation than we would normally feel comfortable with. This is a big part of the reason why I can't stress enough how crucial it was for us to have a development team with a diversity of backgrounds and areas of expertise as well as a number of advisors helping us at each step of the way. The open mindedness and network of knowledge amongst those involved was one of the reasons we were able to take on all those challenges head-on and ultimately achieve success.

    Looking back on the project so far, is there anything you would have liked to do differently? (In terms of your approach to development, team management, design, etc)

    It's hard to say. Overall, I think we were all pretty happy with how everything went and there isn't too much that we'd change. That said, I think perhaps we were so focused on the "end of the academic year" goal that we ended up being somewhat nearsighted in planning for Nevermind's long-term future. If I could go back in time, I think I would have tried to have found a way to map a post-graduation development plan and timeline for "what's next" if we were to continue to develop the game further.Although we did account for scalability in the game's design, I think the problem of not necessarily consideringour long-term planand how best to fund and/or achieve it is common to many student projects -- especially in this golden era of game development in which anything is possible.

    How far along is the game at this point, and when do you think the final product will be available?

    The game is currently at a state that we're calling a "polished proof of concept." Basically, we have one full level and the interstitial hub that can supporta variety of other levels. Since this was a student project, many of us have since graduated and are no longer at school -- making further development within an academic setting pretty much impossible. As such, we're using this year to get as much feedback as possible on the game and assess all potential opportunities for its future. At the end of the day, Nevermind was made to benefit and be enjoyed by people. Ideally, we'd love to have the chance to build out the remaining levels, finish the game in its entirety, and officially distribute it. However, if we don't find an ideal path to make that happen, at the very least we will happily make what we have now freely available to the public.


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