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  • Student Postmortem: Full Sail's Smashout

    [11.04.08]
    - Grant Shonkwiler

  •  3. Unwillingness to ask for help. One issue that would plague us every so often was when someone was really stuck on something but would just keep hammering away at it without making any progress. With a few modules, we would see someone slipping on his schedule during the stand-up meetings and we would ask why things were slipping, and instead of saying "I'm stuck" and asking for help, the person would just say, "Things are coming along," or, "I was caught on this, but I'm about to work it out."

    For the stand-up meetings to work and for each student to work well on a team, every person needs to know when to ask for help.

    4. Uncomfortable work environment is not conducive to work. Unfortunately, Full Sail does not provide a workspace at all times. The school does have open labs for a few hours every day, but the Smashout team needed to find a place where we could work for long stretches. At the beginning of the project, we tried meeting at different team members' apartments until finally settling on mine.

    Using my apartment as the workspace worked well enough but was not ideal. There were too many distractions and not enough tables. While we tried to create a more efficient environment in the space available to us, it still pales in comparison to having a real office.

    5. Pigeonholing gameplay bugs. Near the end of the project, we began getting a lot of feedback about bugs and a need to polish the game, almost all of which had something to do with the gameplay. By now, our technology lead had switched exclusively to gameplay, meaning he caught the brunt of the work in terms of bug-fixing. Because he was the only programmer trying to deal with the bulk of the workload, he got bogged down. If we had planned it better, we would have had more people helping with the gameplay and therefore would have had more people who were familiar enough with that code to help fix bugs.

    Ball Now in Play
    Working on Smashout was not only a great learning experience, but also a lot of fun. We were very proud to finish this game and glad we were able to stick so closely to our initial design, as well as get all the features in on time.

    We were told that it is rare for a game to come out of Full Sail with so much audio and visual feedback. The real payoff came when we gave a presentation and the audience was really into the game -- even watching it was exciting. Afterward, people were able to play the game on an arcade machine. We had accomplished what our teacher was always hounding us about: "Make it fun and done."

    While we didn't make a very long game or one that breaks new ground in any real way, we were able to make a project that we are proud of, looks good in our portfolios, and is fun to play. Since the completion of the project, everyone from the team has been able to show off Smashout proudly, to both friends and future employers.

    Grant Shonkwiler
    graduated from Full Sail University in June 2008 with a bachelor degree in game development. He is now employed in the game industry in Philadelphia. He was the project lead on Smashout.

    Game Data

    Title: Smashout
    Release date: June 17, 2008
    Platform: PC, Full Sail arcade machine
    Total development time: 5 months from concept to finish
    Software used: Microsoft Word (documents), Microsoft Project (scheduling), Visual Paradigm (UML), Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 (C++), Adobe Photoshop (2D art), Audacity, Maya (3d Models), AlienBrain (source control)
    Total lines of code: 45,842 without comments
    Team: Grant Shonkwiler, project lead; Naveen Nattam, technology lead; Franklin Ludgood, render lead; Scott Rodda, interface lead; Charles "CP" Wilkinson, asset lead.
    Full Sail Production Team (Teachers): Casey Coffman, art director; Phil Marunowski, 2D art; Jason Hinders, external producer.

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