Cross Discipline Project – Post Mortem

Through this last Trimester of work I have worked alongside and networked with many other student from SAE Quantm, and throughout this blog I will discuss how I networked and worked in a team, the assets that I created for this interdisciplinary team, what went well, what didn’t go well, what I learned and what I would do differently next time around.

Networking and Working in a Team

Finding a Team

A big part of the learning at SAE Quantm is learning how to work in a team, and how to increase soft skills that relate to communication and networking. I find that I tend to be pretty easy going and I can usually communicate really well with everyone, and things tend to stay fairly casual and relaxed, however this can sometimes differ depending on circumstances. In the case of networking for an interdisciplinary team I decided I would attend games pitches and networking meet ups. I wasn’t able to attend the Studio 1 games project pitches due to overworking myself before, but this turned out for the best as I found myself at the Studio 2 games pitches instead. There were a few good games pitched however a lot of them wanted more of a 2D based game, and that wasn’t really what I was looking for. One project however really stuck out to me, and that was Feeding The Forgotten.

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All the games had to be based off the theme of home, and this game went with the idea that with a bit of care you can help the homeless feel more at home with their lifestyle. At first this game was pitched as a low poly third person game where you would be able to run and jump around in a similar fashion to the game The Simpsons: Hit and Run. It was more of an exploration game at its first pitch and I thought it had awesome potential, and as a fan of the low poly art style as a whole I knew I would enjoy working for this team. Being one of the four animators that attended this games pitch, I had a pretty free range of who I could pick, and all the games guys needed animators, so I was lucky that I could choose a project I wanted to work on rather than something I needed to work on just to check off the interdisciplinary learning outcome that is required within the course. I got in contact with Nic (the game designer and main source of communication for the game) and talked to him briefly about the game and what I could create for it. It was decided that I would be able to create a few low poly human assets and possibly even some animations.

The Team and Its Issues

The game designer recruited a few more animators, most being a few I knew from my Trimester, and this is where some miscommunication issues came about and where there were some problems with assets being produced. Almost all of the communication done for the project was done via the software app Discord, where we could all talk about the project easily. The first point of interest that caused some communication issues were sense of the art style. One of the new animators hadn’t attended the pitch, so he was unclear with the low poly that the games students wanted, and from here he quickly swayed the art style to medium poly assets. When I noticed this I let the team know that low poly was definitely the way to go with the kind of scope this project had, and as soon as we have anything that is medium poly or higher we would need to be aware of deforming meshes for animation, which I didn’t think the project would be having (pitched as primitives). The miscommunication here led to problems further down the line as when I showed the assets I had the game designer was confused as it was the original low poly style, and not the new one. This problem was quickly fixed as he realised what had happend and reassured me with the fact that the low poly/primitive art style was the one we were going for and not the medium poly which he had briefly thought was the new plan.

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Brett and Basic Male

The next big problem within the project was unclear ideas on expectations and again the miscommunication issues with the other animator. The asset list was made and I was ready to begin making the few human models that I had signed up for. The other animator and I were asked when the first human was going to be completed by so they could see an example of what was going to be the final product. At this point my teammate claimed I had said I would take over all the human assets and animations, which was false as while it was possible it was a bigger workload than I was willing to take on. I let the game designer know this was the case and it would be pretty ridiculous to expect me to make a total of nine unique, completely rigged, human assets in the span of two weeks, especially with other assignments on top of me at the same time. Even after refusing the work however it seemed like they didn’t really listen as a few days later I was prompted for when all nine would be done. I repeated what I had said before, and also discussed the art style problem that had come up (talked about above). Both problems were resolved and it went back to the original plan of me modelling a few humans, and my teammate making a few.

The last of the problems, while small, still bothered me quite a bit. Obviously at this point, with two weeks left and me being the only one who had worked on human assets, it was cutting it close. With the other animator having not touched human models because of his claim I was doing them by myself, this meant he had barely any work done (his previous work had to be entirely fixed by a new teammate that I’ll discuss soon) and left the game designer with only five models which were guaranteed going to be made by me. At this point the game designer approached me as he was worried he wasn’t going to get the assets he needed on time before the project was due. He asked me if the other animator could use my models to create his versions, which I wasn’t comfortable with as this teammate is well known for downloading/copying models directly and claiming them as his own. I didn’t want him to copy my model directly with very minor changes added, and then claim that he made it, much like he has done on previous occasions (not my models, but models on the internet available for download). The game designer then gave me an ultimatum of either providing these models for my teammate to use, or leave the team. This kind of approach is pretty damaging in my opinion, as ultimatums as a whole are a pretty unorthodox way of solving problems. I let him know that my teammate can use my models as reference for the art style, and that he can create the female variants. At this point in the project I wasn’t confident I could find another team to work for, and I had also spent a considerable amount of time already on assets. In the end my teammate didn’t use my models as reference, and rather just beveled the chest to define the female form, and detached the wrist to try and make it different. At this point I couldn’t do anything about it and there wasn’t any point in making a big deal out of it, so I just rolled with it while still being fairly annoyed about the fact.

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Aerial shot of the game, trying to split up the giant walls of text

The Positives and Networking

While there were three fairly big problems that I addressed above, that doesn’t mean the project was negative the whole time. In fact, overall I would say the project went really well and was a success, and even with the problems that pertained I would do it all again. This project had quite a few positives and while the biggest problem was miscommunication, one of the biggest positives was that there was constant communication. The game designer constantly let you know if he needed something, and always kept you updated, and apart from a few muck ups which I mentioned before, he was always on top of it and had a good attitude about it all. As the project went on I had quite a few animators come to me and ask if there were assets to contribute, which involved in me having the opportunity to talk to games students a bit more and assist these animators in getting assets they could make. About halfway through we had a really good animator join the team which was able to fix a lot of the mistakes another teammate had made, and also add some really cool unique features such as a low poly bird with flight animations and peck animations. This animator also helped me out of a bind by creating the animations for the human assets that I produced, and saved me having to make them.

Near the end of the project I had a few animators approach me desperate for something to do so they could tick off their learning outcome, and thanks to some of the networking I had done among the game students I was able to hook them up with the details they needed for things they could create, which overall was a win/win as they got assets to make and the game designer got his assets. One last part of the networking I did for the interdisciplinary group was attending the event Brass Razoo! which showcases the students games in an art gallery in Fortitude Valley. Here I was able to test everyone’s games and see how the Studio 2, 3 and final project students were doing, as well as talk to and make new friends for possible later interdisciplinary projects. The atmosphere was awesome and it was a really fun night.

As a whole the team worked fairly well together with only a few miscommunication’s among us, with them being resolved relatively quickly. Overall I was happy with how the team worked together and communicated consistently. The networking that came along with it was also good experience and will help me as I do more interdisciplinary projects, and possibly even future employment.

 The Assets That I Created

The blog post up to this point has been fairly extensive and a big read, I know it can be boring, but from here on out it will be fairly summarized as I covered the basic timeline of what happend throughout the project above. Also instead of posting renders of the assets I created all at once, I have added them throughout the blog so I can showcase them consistently and keep it visually interesting, rather than in a slideshow in this section with a wall of text as follow up.

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Reference for the art style

 

The first two models that I created for this project were the Basic Male and Brett. I created the Basic Male first and used a lot of reference from low poly games such as Minecraft, Simpsons Hit and Run, and the biggest reference I used is a mobile app game called Faily Brakes. The game designer used Faily Brakes as an example for the art style he was going for, so I knew that if I used it as inspiration and reference I would be able to create something similar. The model was made out of mostly primitives, with them all being chamfered and vertices being merged so that they retained the rectangular primitive shape, but smoothed out on the ends of the limb. I also kept in mind where the cat rig proportions would go so it would be easier to rig later on, and then pose for implementation into the game. Building the Basic Male helped immensely as I was able to use him as a master file for the rest and build from there. Luckily thanks to the art style skinning and rigging was a fairly quick and easy process, and by the last few models I was tearing through it in a matter of minutes. Brett was my first unique model, and didn’t serve much of a challenge to his fairly simple clothing style and features such as the big red hat and vest. Detaching the mesh, editing it a bit and added a shell modifier did just the job to create the model I needed. After some quick posing and an export later my Basic Male and Brett were done and I was moving onto to the more complex models.

The other three models that the game designer needed me to create were Rex, George and Curt. Rex fell under the fairly simple category alongside Brett above, however George and Curt were a little more difficult than I had first anticipated. My first attempt at modelling hair was a few months ago for a character project where I did my best to recreate Mercy from Overwatch. While her hair turned out fairly well in the end, it was still a bit of a challenge to learn how to do it, and while it is a bit of a simple process the concept of it was a bit hard for me to grasp. In its simplest form its just extruding out and pull the hair to match the form of the model, however when looking at a blank canvas it is pretty hard to find how to start, especially when new to the process. This was much like the case with Curt and George, who both needed hair. Curt rocked a fairly modern haircut, with an undercut and a clean beard while George was covered in greasy messy hair and needed to show that he had been without a good cleanup for quite a while. Using the same methods I did for Mercy, I made separate objects and jimmied them into place, until it all fell into the right spot and looked pretty good. With a beanie added to George to top it all off, he had the rugged look down pat, in the facial department at least. Thanks to the master file it was easy to create easy reusable clothes for Rex and Curt, but for George I used a similar process to how I created Brett. This time I layered it to show the rugged look that the game designer wanted George to have.

With that I had created the five human assets that the game designer needed me to create, and I was ready for the final deliverable so I could have a look at them in engine and see how they did in the low poly environment.

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George and Rex

 

What Went Well

The project ran fairly smoothly, and with constant feedback and communication there weren’t too many problems and mostly positives. While the modelling process got a bit hectic at times as I have a general issue with time management, overall I am really happy with the assets that I made and feel that it went really well. It provided me with something that I could proudly show in my show reel and that I did enjoy making. I learnt quite a bit about modelling hair and got a good insight into the low poly art style that I thoroughly enjoy. The rigging, skinning and posing was a fairly effective workflow once I had it down pat, and thanks to the art bible that the game designer had created, it was easy to create models and know exactly how they should look and what vibe they should be giving off. A lot of the technical stuff that he needed went down fine, such as the head being detached so it could be programmed properly, and this was mostly due to the great communication the team had as a whole.

Another thing that went really well was the animator that joined the team near the end, as he came in and picked up the pieces that other teammates had not done properly. Not only helping me but also helping the game designer a lot, which overall saved the team a lot of time in fixing a lot of stuff, but also added birds which really helped fill the environment and make it feel more lively. His take on the project can be read here, and helps give insight from his point of view on the project and what he created and did. As an overall consensus planning (art bible, asset list, etc) and communication was consistent and a big factor in the success of this project, mostly thanks to the constant feedback.

What Didn’t Go Well

I think it was fairly obvious what didn’t go well, and this was some of the aspects that come with working in a team. There were often miscommunication issues between team members, and quite a lot of assumptions that were made without any confirmation behind them. In quite a lot of cases others weren’t aware of what it took to get something done, and so they were left with no time to do it themselves or an overall bad job of it. In a few cases the game designer wasn’t aware of how long some things would take, and while that isn’t his fault by any means, combined with the fact the that one animator kind of misguided him, it ended up being a bad combination. This isn’t to say I am innocent though, and this is something I haven’t really touch on much this blog post when I really should have.

By no means did I do amazing on these aspects, sometimes I wouldn’t push something more and wouldn’t make it as clear as I could have. Also in regards to timing, I did a pretty poor job sometimes. It took me too long to provide an example that the game designer needed, and if I had done it sooner then a lot of the problems we face with the art style could have been solved a lot sooner. While the models were done on time, they could have definitely been provided much earlier and it would have been better for everyone if I did so. I could have also done all the assets myself if I really pushed myself, and while it isn’t really where I went wrong, I feel like the fact that I didn’t perform so well in other projects should have been backed up by me performing outstandingly in this one, which is not the case. The models I did I am proud of, but to say it is an outstanding amount of effort would be a flat out lie and an ignorant way to view it.

What Have I learned and What Would I Do Differently Next Time?

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Curt just chilling

I have learned quite a lot through this interdisciplinary project, and gained a lot of valuable experience working in a team that I didn’t really get from a previous team project (due to no teamwork). It was an eye opener into what will be future studio units and possibly even jobs working in a studio. I’ve learnt that I need to act better within a team, and that a lot of the time shit happens and I need to stop letting it bother me. Things I don’t want to happen, will happen, and that’s just the nature of working with people other than yourself. This experience has helped me realise that I should push harder to produce work I can actually be proud of, and that I need to step down from my high horse (which is half banter half real) and start being a lot more modest/humble about my work. A lot of this insight is thanks to other animators that have a far better attitude to everything than I do and they help me understand that I should be a bit more professional as its much better being modest and getting recognized rather than ranking myself and falling short. Next time around I plan to improve my attitude, communication skills, workload, and over all approach to things.

Once again, check out Feeding the Forgotten at the link below. The game is free if you don’t want to pay anything for it, although any money you choose to pay for the game goes to  Rosies, Friends on the Street, with the first three hundred dollars being matched by the game designer.

https://nic-lyness.itch.io/feeding-the-forgotten

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