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  • Student Postmortem: ETC's The Winds of Orbis

    [06.19.08]
    - Seth Sivak

  •  4. Rapid prototyping. As mentioned, we had a rule among the team that every feature could be redesigned if someone came up with a better idea. This became a large issue as our game continued to grow because it was incredibly difficult for us to build the game and design new features simultaneously. We ran into a number of headaches, especially on the programming side, where better design earlier on would have made all of our lives much easier. It's obvious that this sort of problem is common in the industry because ideas change all the time; we just felt that having more design laid out earlier would have helped.

    We got into trouble when we started changing the way we did collision detection so that the player could pick up and throw objects around the world. We did not design our collision system to handle this sort mechanic, so it was difficult to force it to work. We ran into problems with the collision system on several more occasions when we added in climbing and increased the speed of the bullrush.

    The goal of this project was to create a proof of concept, so it's reasonable to say that if we were to develop a complete game, this problem would likely become a smaller issue.

    While having the freedom to change design ideas after the groundwork has been laid is an awesome ability, it comes at a very high cost. It will be important in the future to always be thinking about the next mechanic or related mechanics that could be put in later on so that we all have a better understanding of how to build the game.

    5. Sound.
    We lacked a true sound designer on our team, and while we were lucky enough to have an excellent composer, most of his time was spent producing.

    All the sound effects and music were put into the game in the last two weeks of production, which was very challenging. We were not prepared to handle debugging all the sounds, and we truly underestimated the amount of work it would take.

    One example of this was with the footsteps of the main character. We had serious performance hits due to the way we implemented the footsteps the first time and therefore needed to remove them altogether. When we had a chance to try and put them back in with a new system, it was during the final week of work before the presentation. We ran into similar issues with the dialogue sections. They were implemented so late that we really struggled to get all the testing done to ensure they worked correctly.

    Overall, the sounds in the game came out very well, but it would have been much easier had we started earlier in the semester. Sound is a very important part of any game and it is often simply pushed aside for later. The entire team learned the importance of getting sound in early simply to give time for testing, but to also to get feedback from play testers.

    We Can Work it Out

    One of the major goals of the Active-Adventure project is to bring the idea of a new genre to the industry and inspire more studios to create active games that are not sports or dance related. We hope that this game shows just a taste of the potential for active games and pushes developers and gamers alike into thinking about being active.

    Seth Sivak is a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center and a programmer on The Winds of Orbis: An Active-Adventure. He is currently a summer intern at Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale, Calif. More information can be found at the development team's web site.

    GAME DATA

    Game: The Winds of Orbis: Active-Adventure
    Development team: Seth Sivak, programmer; Zikun Fan, animator and artist; Garth
    DeAngelis, producer and composer; Ryan Hipple, programmer; Sean Kwon,
    character modeler and texture artist; Bard McKinley, designer and
    concept artist; and Nathaniel Morgan, environmental artist

    Developer: Active-Adventure, Carnegie Mellon University Entertainment Technology Center
    Number of Designers: 7
    Length of Production: 3 months
    Final Presentation: May 9, 2008
    Platform: PC (Windows only)
    Software: Panda3d, Maya, Photoshop, 3ds Max, Garage Band, Microsoft Visual Studio
    Hardware: Dell Precision Workstations
    Machine Project Size: 80MB

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