aabicus at College: A Conclusion

About a year ago, I wrote an article discussing my first quarter of my Master’s Program. I’d ended that article saying that first quarter was expected to be the busiest, but honestly each one had more work than the last. Not a complaint, mind you, but it turns out it’s not easy cramming two years of work into a single year.

That article ended with me becoming Creative Director for a healing-based puzzle shooter called Medical Necessity, and that project took up the lion’s share of the following (winter) quarter. You can read about the progress we made by checking out the weekly dev diaries we published, but you will notice the game doesn’t get a happy ending. Our second quarter ended, much like the first, with a big presentation to a panel of industry professionals where we showed them our progress and tried to convince them to let us continue our development.

While our presentation went well, they weren’t impressed with the actual game and the college disbanded our team to join other projects. If you want to read more about why I think Medical Necessity failed and what my team–especially myself–could have done better, I have a post-mortem on my personal blog you can check out.

I was quickly approached by the Major League Magic team to become their marketer, as they desperately needed one since their game was multiplayer and requires a real audience. Major League Magic is a spell-based arena shooter where the players are two teams of wizards assaulting each other with spells that manipulate the environment in various ways, and that became my primary focus for the third (spring) quarter. I talked about MLM on The Daily SPUF almost as much as I’d discussed Medical Necessity! Marketing turned out to be a lot less stressful than creative directing, and I got to stretch my content-creation skills and orchestrate a lot more exciting community events because of the multiplayer aspect. We held an awesome tournament that a lot of people joined to watch on Twitch, and even got to attend several conventions where I dressed as a wizard!

Fear my arcane power!

Major League Magic wasn’t the only game I worked on during the third quarter; we also had another C++ class, which was equally as difficult as the one from fall. Despite the fact that one of my major goals for the entire master’s program was to learn how to code competently, it never really stuck and I ended up being the worst programmer in the graduating class by a mile. The particle system I created for this class, which I only completed thanks to the MLM programmers helping me every step of the way, was added to my C++ games compilation hosted on itch.io.

I have no clue why these C++ games are my most-downloaded items on itch. A friend guessed that they’re being stolen by other students to turn in for similar coding assignments, and if that’s really the reason, that’s hilarious.

And finally, there was one last new game I made, for a level design class! Road Rage is a 3-player top-down racing game playable in-browser. I only had a week to make it, so I broke one of my longstanding rules and used downloadable assets instead of my own spritework, but I’m still pleased by the variety of levels the library let me make. The assignment required that our game had at least two levels, so I decided to impress the professor and make 5, and only then learned you could get extra credit if your levels were playable in PvP or PvE. I would not have made extra levels if I’d known I was going to tackle that challenge, but I still got it done!

I tried to make each map play differently from the others. The cityscape is really cluttered, the island is more open. The bridges map is mostly corridors and long-range combat, the Crossfire map is claustrophobic and bullets will (unlike every other map) rebound off walls and remain in the playable space until colliding with another bullet. And the circus map has bouncy walls, meaning players will rebound if they crash into obstacles.

And with that, we transitioned into summer, our final quarter in the program. Most of the student projects were completed or retired (Major League Magic did neither, and I continued marketing for them this whole time) since everybody was required to pick up an internship or one of two college-sponsored projects.  I joined the college project that a collaboration with Microsoft; a Mixer representative was looking for a group to make a game that utilized Mixer’s HTML-integration capability to create a “streamer game” that could be played by the viewers ala Twitch Plays Pokemon. As one of only two students with streaming experience (the other, AngelOfWeir, was busy enough as the only sound design specialist for the entire class), my job was to host the weekly livestreams, but during the development phase I found a different niche to fill as an organizer. I wrote and maintained our design document, scheduled meetings, and kept track of purchased and needed assets. I also handled marketing, making the social medias and whatnot. I’m not sure I’m actually a fan of marketing, but somebody’s always gotta do it!

I did have one other project I jumped into near the end; a game jam! TinyJam was a small contest hosted by a coffee shop called Backyard Brew, where randomly-drawn teams had a mere four days to complete a game using the prompt of “growing or shrinking”. Our team decided to make a game where the player’s ship grows larger by collecting matter from the environment, and this eventually turned into Meteor Magnet Miner, which ended up winning first place!

My team’s artist was Miguel Mercado, an insanely talented dude who was also Creative Director for a vehicle brawler called Forzebreak. It just came out on Steam, and you can hear my voice from my tournament shoutcast in the official promotional trailer!

Our one-year Master’s program ended with a bang in early September, when we all attended a graduation ceremony dressed up as various characters from gaming history. I couldn’t resist going as TF2 Medic, and bringing everyone’s favorite dove Archimedes! I got voted by classmates to give the graduation speech, and afterward when I sat back down my costume pants tore wide open right down the crotch. Luckily everybody thought it was hilarious and I have very high self-esteem.

Anyvay, zat’s how I earned my game design license! (more photos from graduation here!)

These months after graduation have mostly been filled applying for jobs, but are honestly a much-appreciated recovery period after the deadline-filled whirlwind of the master’s program itself. Major League Magic has secured funding and all my old teammates are now their own startup studio, but they don’t need a marketer this early in development so I’m on my own. The next generation of game design students have started their fall quarter, and I’ve visited the campus a couple of times to keep in touch with what they’re doing and give advice on their projects. (As per my year’s recommendations, the college has expanded the Master’s to 2 years so they can space out all the material, and it blows my mind how much time the next generation gets to catch themselves up with programming and all the concepts covered. Though on the other hand, I saved a bunch of money only having to attend for one year!)

I owe a really big thanks to all of you here on The Daily SPUF, from Medic to our content submitters to our readers. I didn’t have a Computer science degree or a pre-existing game design job, so I got into this Master’s program entirely through my portfolio, and SPUF was a huge part of it. Back in the early days when SPUF was a forum, your threads and discussions were the inspiration for many of my earliest articles, and your readership kept those articles coming for over five years and encouraged me to branch out to create tie-in videos, games, and GIFs. I’m not sure what the future holds for me, whether I’ll be able to break into game design professionally or if it will forever remain a passionate hobby, but I have all of you to thank for even giving me the opportunities I now have. Hope everybody has a great Smissmas tomorrow, and happy holidays!

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