What opportunities has Dare has afforded you and what lessons have you learned?
Dare to be digital has given us the opportunity to get hands-on experience developing for the PSP in a studio-like environment. We’ve really relished the opportunity to wrestle with the hardware and apply our C++ skills on a real development project.
It has given us the chance to work as an inter-disciplinary team and experience the full development lifecycle of a game¬—and all this will prove invaluable when it comes to searching for a job after the competition has ended.
We have also met a lot of industry professionals through the competition. Many of these have shipped games that have sold millions of copies, so it’s been invaluable to be able to pick their brains and get their advice on how they would tackle the problems we’ve come up against.
This isn’t the sort of exposure students normally get so without Dare we would never have had the opportunity to meet so many developers.
What has the development process been like so far?
We knew that developing for a real games console would be an additional challenge. Nonetheless we were keen to make sure we weren’t at too much of a disadvantage, so we spent the weeks leading up to the competition getting familiar with the hardware and developing some form of basic engine beforehand, which supported animated models, images and sounds.
We were even lucky enough to get a day of online-training from SCEE, and access to our own support tracker on the PSP Edu website. Alongside this we were continually working on developing our ideas for the game, by creating the design and technical documents as well as an art style guide it gave use the focus we needed to adapt and form a clear picture of what we wanted from the game.
Coming into week one of Dare to be Digital, we had all of our pre-competition objectives completed and a solid plan of action to get the project complete on time. By the end of the first week we had achieved everything we expected to. The programmers worked on exporting levels from Game Maker to be imported in a format that the PSP supports, loading that file into the PSP and displaying a test level, whilst ensuring that animations and sounds were also put in place.
Over the same period the artists worked on the concept art for the game. Up until the end of the second week things were going smoothly with our first level loaded with placeholders and our art pipeline continually producing new models and animations, we thought things couldn’t be going better.
Then week three happened and somehow things started to go a little downhill, with Game Makers’ coordinate system giving us issues with both the placement of objects in the world and collision detection. Finding a way to phase between our two worlds mechanic also proved troublesome, but we persevered through this week and came out of it on the Friday with the picture looking a bit brighter.
Throughout this week our artists were continually meeting their deadlines and producing some great work for us. By the end of the fourth week we were back on track with collisions in the game, models with basic representations of the assets and our reaper animations all in the game.
With things starting to look up we can finally look forward to the coming weeks of integrating more gameplay, better graphics and polishing off the game before ProtoPlay begins.
What main challenges have you faced?
As we have no natural game designer within the group we have really had to focus on what makes a game playable and look at each of the features of the game and what they will add.
The mentors coming around every couple of days have been a valuable resource, giving us advice on design, technical and art aspects of the game and helping us through issues that we have been struggling with.
What advice would you give to others wanting to get involved with Dare to be Digital?
We would advise that the team start early on with forming their game ideas, fine tuning so that when the application has to be sent off a solid game idea is put down on paper and not rushed through.
Make sure everyone knows what their role in the team is, so each person can get on with the research they need to do to accomplish their tasks. Finally keep it simple, 10 weeks isn’t a long time to complete a game and nothing ever goes according to plan