James Keats

Game Programmer

Spring 2015: Production I - Max Simulator

Final Project - Team "Roommates + Tim + Robbie"

Robby Mitchell // Technical Designer

Tim Eccleston // Game Designer

Sophie Foreman // Artist

Adrian Taul // Artist

James Keats // Lead Programmer & Producer

Robbie Wakefield // Programmer & Producer

Production I was the first class where I was able to really work with artists, designers, and producers on full teams. "Max Simulator" was the result of the final project for this class. Max Sanel, a Game Production Management major at Champlain, is a good friend of many members of the team, and we decided that the best way to close out our first Production class was to make a game parodying the crazy, hectic life of a game producer. Though I hadn't worked with him yet at the time of making Max Simulator, Max was the producer for Eos in Production II as well as the producer on my Capstone project.

The title screen gives just a hint of the game production lifestyle...

One of the best parts about Max Sim was that the team who worked on it were the characters in the game. Here's me, sleeping.

The Requirements
  • Must run on a mobile device (i.e. phone, phablet, or tablet).
  • One of the core mechanics must utilize a mobile-specific technology.
  • Must have at least 10 levels employing the same core mechanics.

The requirement of using a mobile-specific technology was particularly fun for me. We ended up using a couple mechanics; these revolved around the accelerator and microphone input. The team talked about putting Max Simulator up on the Google Play store, but we decided that it would require a bit more work to get to the point where we were comfortable with that, and because summer break began immediately after the project finished, we ran into a "trying to keep the band together" type of situation and were simply unable to put in that last bit of work.

The Gameplay

The gameplay of Max Simulator revolves around a couple main states:

  1. In a work meeting during a Sprint.
  2. In the donut shop buying powerups between Sprints.
  3. At the "Google Calendar" mini-game, scheduling a meeting.
  4. Trying to wake someone up who fell asleep at a meeting.
  5. Calling and yelling at someone for missing a work meeting.

The last two of these states, trying to wake someone up and yelling at them when they missed meetings, were the original comic "hooks" that got everyone invested in the project. In the full mobile version, these are done by physically shaking the phone back and forth aggressively and genuinely shouting into the phone respectively, something that made this game a lot of fun to do QA for.

This is the first state: the Sprint work meeting.

The screen when calling to yell at someone who is absent.

My Contributions

In Production I, which was end of our second year of college, most of us hadn't really chosen specializations yet. As such, Robbie and I both did a lot of general tasks. Here's what I more-or-less focused on:

  • Gameplay programming
  • Mobile mechanic programming
  • Data management between multiple scenes/levels
  • Repository management
  • Art asset implementation

We used git for version control on Max Simulator, and this was the first time I started to use the rich set of features it offers on a real team. Exploring the possibilities of tagging and branching with a real team was a lot of fun, up until we hit our first merge conflict in a scene file. I now know about the "Force Text Serialization" option in Unity's Editor, and have enabled it on every project since.

Another challenge was losing programming time to help the artists implement their assets in-game. This was only the first or second time most of the artists had so much as opened Unity in their lives, and so it became a balancing act of trying to show them how git worked and how the engine worked versus simply implementing the assets myself to save time. In the end, we made a project that has a solid art direction with all of the produced assets implemented, including some simple animations. As far as I'm concerned, that's a feat for how much we knew at the time.

And, as a bonus, here's the trailer that we made for Max Simulator for our final presentation in Production I:

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