About FIEA’s Capstone Games
One of the main draws of FIEA (at least in my opinion) is the students’ work on the Capstone games. The Capstone games are complete video games that the students work on for a little over two semesters (eight months), all the while balancing the work of their other classes (and life in general) with the development of the games. Their purpose is not only to allow the students to produce a full game for their portfolios, but also to prepare the students for working in the video game industry by experiencing intense work schedules, learning and developing their skills in their respective focuses, and working on a team with many different people and personalities. By the end of the third semester, the students will have a complete, fully playable 10-20 minute (sometimes more) video game experience.
Before all of that though, students must pitch their game ideas! Late in the first semester, production students (as well as artists or programmers who attended the production classes) are allowed to pitch ideas for games they have. While I was an art student, I had attended all of the production classes, so I decided to develop an idea I had had for a while, pitch it, and see what the teachers and other students thought of it. Maybe it would even make it through the pitch and go on to be developed! The game I pitched is called The Network. In short, it’s a cyberpunk, first-person, free running platformer. The original idea came from me wondering what you would get if you combined Mirror’s Edge and Ghost in the Shell, so for those familiar with those, it should give you a very general idea about what I was trying to accomplish.
Original Game Design Document
Many of the production class homework assignments were to write game design documents (GDD), so even before students pitched their game ideas, many students, including myself, used the final GDD to develop ideas they had for Capstone games. For several weeks, I jotted down notes about this idea I’d had for a game. So many notes… After I had everything I could think of down on paper, I began converting my notes into a formal GDD.
Five Minute Pitches
After the students come up with the ideas, the school holds the first round of Capstone pitches. All of the students who pitch have five minutes to present their ideas to the teachers and fellow students. After that, the students and teachers vote for their favorite games, and usually about 10 games are voted to go to the next round of pitches. The Network was one of those games!
Over the next couple of weeks, the remaining games were developed even more. For our Cohort, the teachers tried something a little different. Instead of just having producers work on the games, they also had the artists help to create preliminary art for the games, so each game’s team consisted of 2-3 producers and 1-2 artists. In addition to myself, Evan DeBack (producer), Nathan Strickland (producer), and Veronica Jenkins (artist) joined team Network. For the next two weeks, we worked tirelessly on developing ideas, art, and the presentation for The Network.
There were many sleepless nights in preparation for the next round of pitches. We took the pages and pages of ideas I originally had, whittled them down to be more in scope, fine-tuned them, and came up with a few new ideas along the way. Unfortunately, we spent so much time working on ideas for the game that we didn’t leave ourselves quite enough time to prepare for the presentation. While the presentation wasn’t terrible, more time to refine it would have doubtlessly helped.
So along came the day before the presentation… We were still working vehemently to finish everything we needed for the presentation, and we ended up working all night and not getting any sleep. When presentation time came around, I was sleep deprived, nervous, and had barely gotten to prepare. The perfect storm for a presentation… I’ve been told by others that I didn’t exhibit those traits quite as visibly as I thought, but you can be the judge when you watch the video :P. Regardless of how I thought I presented, The Network did not make it through this round.
Afterwards, I asked students and teachers if they could provide some feedback on what they thought of the presentation as well as provide some reasons as to why they didn’t vote The Network as highly as other games. The main responses I received said that the presentation was fine, but many wished that we had had some sort of demo (something the four of us on the team really, really wanted but didn’t have time to create) and that the main reason they didn’t favor the game was because of scope. There was just too much to the game, and many didn’t think that everything could be accomplished in the two semester period (something I was a little unsure of myself). So while my game idea didn’t continue development, it was reassuring to know that it was voted in the top 10 out of more than 20 games, and that people still really liked the idea, it was just too big for an eight-month development cycle. I do still have ideas for the game floating around in my head, so maybe one day I’ll develop those into something a little more tangible 🙂