After The Network made it through the five minute pitches, the game needed a team to be further developed. In previous years at FIEA, it would mainly be the producers who would team up and work on the remaining Capstone games, but this year, the teachers wanted to include artists on the teams in order to create some preliminary art for the projects. The teachers told us that the game creators and the artists would soon pick which game they were on. Artists’ names would be put in one hat and the game creator’s names would be put in another hat. We would go back and forth between the artists and the creators choosing names from the hats. A creator would pick an artist’s name, and that artist would choose the game he or she would like to work on. That artist would then pick a creator’s name, and that person would choose an artist he or she would like to work on his/her game. He/she would pick another artist’s name, and so on and so forth. Since I was an artist, but my game also made it through, I needed to find a producer willing to take over the helm. It was possible that I would be chosen to work on a different game than The Network! I could also choose to work on another game, but that, of course, was not going to happen :P.
Thankfully, both Evan DeBack and Nathan Strickland were kind enough to volunteer to be the producers for The Network. When it came time to team artists with the games, I choose to stick with The Network (duh), and Veronica Jenkins also decided to join the team! We were now four strong and had a lot of work to do to prepare for the final pitch.
Over the next several weeks, we held multiple open meetings that any interested students could join to discuss ideas for the game. After all, this game was going to be voted in or out by our fellow students, so we wanted to see what they wanted this game to become. Meanwhile, Veronica and I worked on creating preliminary artwork for the game. Veronica’s specialty was character art, so she took over designing the look for our potential main characters and enemies. We wanted realistic characters with an aesthetic that took influences from Mirror’s Edge, Tron, and a few other sources. We wanted the characters to look sleek and almost aerodynamic (since they would be running a lot) with the use of bright, neon colors accenting their otherwise dark design. Also, since there would be human/machine hybrids, Veronica created a few characters with robotic body parts.
Meanwhile, I worked on ideas for the environment and the logo, as well as helping Evan and Nathan with design ideas. For the environment, I created a MEL script for Maya that allowed me to immediately create an area of differently shaped boxes. The result looked like a bustling city full of tall buildings and skyscrapers. With the script I was able to specify the size of the area to populate, how densely packed I wanted the area to be, the ranges in size of the buildings, and the size and location of where I wanted taller buildings (skyscrapers) to appear. It was an incredibly effective way to quickly create and iterate through different looking cityscapes in the basic style I was envisioning. At the same time, I kept sketching out different ideas for the game’s logo. I knew I wanted it to be animated in some way, but I first had to design the thing! After I came up with a design I liked, I started to mock it up in Maya so that I could give it some animation. I knew the general look I wanted to achieve, but it took me a while to really nail it.
A few days before the presentations, I set up something special. In FIEA, there’s an area called the Nexus. It’s a nice open area where hallways converge that has three projectors acting as one long projection on the wall. It’s used to showcase previous student games as well as display RSS feeds with news from the gaming industry. The teachers allowed me to create and display a special The Network themed background in the Nexus as well as include a custom RSS feed that we created with fictional “news” reports from the world of The Network. Since the game had to do with a giant, “evil” corporation controlling the views of the public in a non-threatening manner, it seemed appropriate 😛
On top of everything else, we had to prepare our presentation. Thankfully, Evan and Nathan took over most of the work putting the presentation together as well as writing up a script that would highlight the major points we wanted to talk about. In order to convey the mood of the game (a dystopic society unknowingly controlled by a big, “evil” corporation), we decided to put together a few videos for the presentation. The first half of the presentation would be trying to get that point across. I would present myself as a rebellious citizen from this society who has realized the terrible impact this large corporation has had on both the world and its populace. I would try to convince the people (the audience in the room) of this message but would quickly be detected and chased out of the room by agents of the corporation. The rest of the presentation would talk about the game’s ideas, its aesthetic, and its gameplay.
Unfortunately, the game did not make it through this round. That said, we had fun working on it :D. 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 reasons were that people wanted to see a demo (something the four of us on the team really wanted ourselves but didn’t have time to make) and that the scope of the game seemed too big for an eight month development period (something we were worried about too). So in the end, it was reassuring to know that the game was voted in the top 10 of over 20 games pitched and that people still really liked the idea, it was just too big to create in eight months.