Production

I wanted to be able to express my experience and skills in production, but production can sometimes be tricky to show. Here I have written down my accomplishments relating to production, first as a brief overview in list form, and then down below in more detail with a description of the situation and my input.

The Overview
 

  • Created production schedules for recording famous hip hop artists that optimized money, time, and quality with coordination between multiple projects and simultaneous sessions.
     

  • Grew a positive and productive culture within the team by creating a design process that minimized documentation, optimized transparency, and focused on including developers of all disciplines in design.
     

  • Utilized my audio experience to grow a designer with no audio background into an audio engineer who now works at Sony, through hands-on learning and teaching of recording, mixing, mastering and audio pipelines.
     

  • Adapted level production processes from scrum to spiral to unblock dependencies on art assets and create a schedule of sustainable delivery for level production.
     

  • Addressed feedback from stakeholders and outside investors with the team to alleviate stress and worry while refocusing the team on our development and product goals.
     

  • Restructured animation pipelines and feedback process by changing the method of communication between animators, designers, programmers, and artists, then redefining the product vision and how animations fit into that vision.
     

  • Revised the playtesting procedures to obtain more accurate and reliable information from the player base by adjusting the procedure to include design goals for every playtest and collection of demographic and objective/numerical data that would inform iteration towards these design goals.

     

The Details
 

  • Created a production schedule for recording famous hip hop artists that optimized money, time, and quality with coordination between multiple projects and simultaneous sessions.

    • While working at one of the top audio recording studios in France, Cybelart, I worked as an audio producer. I had to develop a pipeline/process for recording that was inclusive of all the steps involved in music recording (including: setup, pre-recording, recording/iteration, premix, mixing, second mix, mastering, etc.). This process had to be carefully coordinated and scheduled as each step needed to flow smoothly and succinctly without any holdups between steps. This optimization was needed as Engineers were paid based on their time committed, so hiccups in the pipeline could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. The integrity and high standards set by the studio had to be maintained, so the pipeline needed to balance time/money with quality. To add additional complexity, the pipeline I designed had to be flexible enough to accommodate multiple projects using the same space and equipment, sometimes with simultaneous sessions.

       

  • Grew a positive and productive culture within the team by creating a design process that minimized documentation, optimized transparency, and focused on including developers of all disciplines in design.

    • My goal as a lead designer was to foster a culture that would be inclusive and productive when it came to design. The ability to express ideas and have creative input is what draws many people to the video game industry. Many designers believe it is their responsibility to come up with the ideas and my intention was to discourage this thinking on my team. Furthermore, many design processes involve designers hiding away for days writing documentation, and only sharing that documentation with artists and programmers when it is complete. The process tends to mean there are time syncs in programmers and artists ramping up on these ideas, and then frequently the ideas must be changed because the design does not consider technical limitations. To combat this issue, I structured the designers so that their role on the team was to help facilitate idea sharing throughout the team, then they would organize and refine these ideas to create a cohesive design with the input of artists and programmers. This was done by including artists and programmers in design meeting with full transparency in design decisions being addressed to the entire team and cutting back on design documentation opting instead for in person communication of ideas. I believe some of the best game features derived from this process such as the programmer’s idea of “lookables” where the level designers could place an unseen object that the main character's head would programmatically turn towards which helped level designers point out clues to puzzles and subtle direct the players on where to go.

       

  • Utilized my audio experience to help a designer with no audio background grow into an audio engineer who now works at Sony, through hands on learning and teaching of recording, mixing, mastering, and audio principals.

    • During my time as a Lead Designer, I met an amazing individual named Jerrick who I had the pleasure of leading. Jerrick loved audio and the way it provided that additional layer of polish to a project. He joined the team without any prior experience or training in audio, with only a background in computer science. Over the course of several months I helped him develop his technical knowledge and experience in audio. Jerrick now works as an Audio Engineer at Sony on God of War. Contact Information: Jerrick Flores (516) 699-1129

       

  • Adapted level production processes from scrum to spiral to unblock dependencies on art assets and create a schedule of sustainable delivery for level production.

    • While working on Hollowed, an indie puzzle platformer game, I realized that scrum is not always the best methodology for development. Due to the small environment art team, level assets were not coming in fast enough for level designers to complete their work, often causing missed delivery and a loss of capacity. To provide a more sustainable development schedule I applied a spiral methodology to level construction in order to prevent art assets from holding up level delivery. This process meant that level designers would develop the entire games levels at a consistent basis. So instead of taking one section of the game from greybox to polished and only moving on when they had finished that section completely, they would develop the entire game to the same level of completion. Not only did this create sustainable delivery for the level designers, it also provided ample opportunity to playtest and iterate our entire gameflow from an early stage of development.

       

  • Addressed feedback from stakeholders and outside investors with the team to alleviate stress and worry while refocusing the team on our development and product goals.

    • Regular status updates were held every two weeks to present our progress to stakeholders and other outside influencers. At the end of these presentations, the stakeholders would give feedback and advise on what was good, what was bad, and changes they wanted to see. Frequently this would directly impact the emotional state of the team, with bad feedback causing a loss of confidence or panic, or good feedback exciting the team and creating a cocky atmosphere. Direclty after these presentations, I would meet with the team to go over the feedback in order to 1) read the feelings and atmosphere of the team and 2) reassure the team of our goals and objective. Frequently feedback would need to be interpreted and analyzed in order to prioritize feedback that would have the greatest impact. This helped keep the team motivated and focused on our goals, without allowing feedback sessions to impact the productivity/atmosphere of the team.

       

  • Restructured animation construction and feedback process through changing the method of communication between animators and designers, programmers, and artists then redefining the product vision and how animation fit into that vision.

    • What we found during our production of Hollowed was that nearly every animation had to be revised multiple times before actually being usable in game. I investigated this issue and what I found was a disjointed understanding of our game vision from the animators as well as a lack of formal feedback and communication between the programmers and designers to the animators. To rectify this, I first changed the way the animators interacted with the game. Instead of just viewing their animations in engine, they were asked to play the game for 15mins every day. This was essential because one of the major disconnects was the understanding that animation could not only be visually polished, but also had to provide a polished UX experience for the player. Asking the animators to play the game let them not only see, but also feel their animations in game, while finding the areas where the animation was hindering UX. Second, animators and programmers had different understanding of how the animations would flow between each other. To remedy this, I included a step in the animation process where the animators would sit down with the programmers and they would show them the state machines and where each animation they believed should fit. They then together would revise this to optimize visual acuity, game feel, and time. Lastly, I found that the feedback designers were providing to the animators was causing more rework. Designers were providing video clips of real life people when asking for an animation. The issue with this was our character did not have proportions like normal human anatomy. Instead of providing reference videos, designers would now provide tonal descriptions of how they wanted an animation to feel, allowing the animators to image and create something that would embody our character rather than reflect real life.

       

  • Revised the playtesting procedures to obtain more accurate and reliable information from the player base by adjusting the procedure to include design goals for every playtest and collection of demographic and objective/numerical data that would inform iteration towards these design goals.

    • At Iron Galaxy, I worked on a game called Extinction. I came in part way through the process and the first thing I realized is that their player feedback was lacking. Playtesting involved having anyone (even team members) play the game, then asking the testers subjective questions afterwards (which was then being used to inform major design iteration). I quickly took over playtesting and revised the process to parallel the scientific method. Each playtest required a set of targeted design questions that were testable. A relevant player base to the questions would then be collected and organized. During the playtest objective measurements would be taken that could provide answers to the design questions. The numerical data would then be analyzed and compared with recordings of the playtest and player testimonials, overall providing answers to the initial design questions. This way provided more accurate information to help inform design iteration on how to make the game better for our player base