Development Blog: Week 1

Week 1 mainly consisted of high concept brainstorming and logistical planning. This semester’s game pre-production project is quite a bit different from previous ones since our team does not need to deliver a playable prototype of the game like before. What happened in previous versions was that the game concepts that were generated quickly became limited by technical viability and production halfway through the semester. The teams turned into an actual production team and ended up not spending enough time exploring cool game concepts and ideas. In addition, our team decided to use Google Drive for organizing project documents, and Discord and Zoom for Team communication. For weekly meeting with faculty advisors on Monday, we will create a slide deck to present progress from the previous week and our plans for next week.

We met with our faculty advisors and were presented with two options: 1. Have as much creative freedom as possible and come up with an original idea. 2. Have a prompt / constraint from them to start off with. Our team was quite aware of the potential danger of either option, but decided to pursue the former nevertheless, just to see if we can land on something solid ourselves. Faculty advisors also encouraged us to have a range of ideas and let those ideas evolve, rather than getting stuck on a big idea in the beginning. Having a rougher start is beneficial to the team in the long run.

We began brainstorming by first writing down a list of games we each love playing. We discovered some overlaps between the lists we wrote, which did not, however, translate into a shared vision of a game we want to make as a team. We then asked the following two questions to help the process: “What if you wipe out your memory and play a game from the beginning from the list. What draws us to these games?”, “What is the oldest game you have played from this list? How will do you remember the game? Do you think it would hold up like a good game now that you have played every other game on the list?” Nothing substantial regarding theme or core game concepts came out of the answers, but we did in the end notice that out of the 63 games we listed, the genre with the highest count was “RPG” (12 votes). “Open World” came second (6 votes).

On Thursday Josh met with Jesse Schell for advice on this chaotic process. Jesse suggested that the most effective approach is to start off thinking of a fantasy that a game could fulfill, instead of a genre. Quoting Jesse: “A genre is an already fleshed out thing, and the old games that came before, in that genre, were all very good…How do you plan to make something new that’s even better? Think of fantasy not simply as flying a dragon, or commanding an army, but as some kind of challenge people want to take up? Think of it as a challenge that people don’t get to do in their daily lives.” Jesse also suggested our team go their separate ways during brainstorming, and then reconvene with radically different ideas. In the end, we started a game concept brainstorm doc listing “fantasies” we each would love to experience.

Oh yes, one last thing. We landed on a team name: Pepperbox Productions. This name fits well with the theory of an “empty vessel”, something that means nothing. Chris pointed out all the big names in tech are essentially “empty vessels”: Amazon, Zynga and Apple… The advantage of this naming methodology is that it does not limit the kind of product the company makes. “Pepperbox Productions” is the best according to Chris. It does not connect to a particular type of game. It is beautifully neutral.