Building Virtual Worlds (BVW)
Producer / Game Designer / Sound Designer
Building Virtual Worlds is the course that requires 2 programmers, 2 artists, and a sound designer to create a virtual world in 2 weeks and this iterates 5 rounds with different teammates in a semester. Through this project-based course, students have to actually cope with problems as a team, which is happening in the real world all the time. Not only do we learn the technical skills but also we have experienced and get to know the importance of teamwork and project production.
What I have learned
In the course “Building the Virtual Worlds”, it helps a lot for future projects by having us learn how to prototype, teamwork, and do the production.
Prototyping is so critical in a project because it takes very little time to give you a very basic view to see if the idea works or not. For example, in round 3 as known as the lightning round, my team wanted to make a world that two trucks fight each other and try to push the other off the stage. The programmer then implemented the game mechanic in one night. Since the prototype should be simple, he used two cubes indicating the trucks and saw how their interactions went. The result was that it worked so that we started to work on this idea. The artists started to make 8-bit stylish trucks and environment and the sound designer started to compose a piece of arcade music. As a result, we had a smooth developing process and the world was completed on time. Without the prototyping, we might just start designing art and music. However, the mechanic might fail in the middle of the developing process. There would be no time for us to complete a well-polished virtual world and it would be a disaster. Therefore, through the BVW, we knew that prototyping is essential for a project.
Teamwork is another critical skill that I got to take a serious look at in BVW. I would define the teamwork skill is that how people treat and communicate with their teammates. It is all about empathy and respect. If teammates all have good teamwork skills, it will be a relaxing team and everyone will then puts all their efforts into the project. However, if there are some teammates with poor teamwork skills, it will be painful for the whole team. The team has to spend precious time to deal with conflicts that might not be related to the project. For example, in one of the 5 rounds, there was a person who had always no time and refused to contribute to the project. This person spent all its time on its personal things and let its teammates work hard on the project. It is unfair and unacceptable to others. As a producer, I then had a huge fight with this person but this person thought there was nothing wrong with those behaviors. As a result, the atmosphere in the team went so tense that everyone felt uncomfortable and this impacted the productivity of the project. In BVW, it is only a 2-week session. It will be so important for the people in the project semester, a 15-week session, to have good teamwork skills. Teamwork skills are not about professional skills or technical skills, they are about the attitude and heart. Respect everyone in the team so that everyone can be on the same page and focus on solving the problem together.
Production might seem redundant sometimes when people know what to do and the scope of the project is small. Nonetheless, a good producer does make the process conduct well and be finished on time. I did learn a lot of details in production during BVW. I have been a producer for 1 round, but I have also done plenty of producer work in other rounds. The producer is usually the one to host a meeting and it is hard. To host a meeting, the producer has to control the time and the topic. Sometimes people will just have too many thoughts and cannot reach a conclusion, making the meeting endless. What a producer has to do is pull them back. Control the time precisely and make a breakpoint, maybe a temporary conclusion, to have people start to work. Moreover, I found out that the producer is not just a person who schedules and hosts the meetings. A producer has to know to some degree of the ability of his or her teammates so that the producer can assign the tasks properly to avoid the productivity leak. For example, I was a sound designer but also a producer in the lightning round. What I did just define the tasks and let two programmers and two artists assign tasks by themselves. In the end, it turned out that there were so many conflicts due to the bad assignments and they were found out because I communicated with each of them trying to understand the whole project. These conflicts could be avoided if I had meetings with each group and got to know more about their abilities to assign the tasks. Therefore, a good producer has to communicate with each teammate and get a whole image of the team’s expertise to make the developing process smoother.