The following post was written on June 28, 2008. The next day my computer crashed (yes, Mac's can crash too!) and I had to leave on a trip before I could get it back. So this post remained buried in an encrypted hard drive until now that I was finally able to spend some time to rescue my files from the old drive and restore them on my now newly formatted an updated Mac. Important lessons learned: (1) Macs are cool and extremely reliable for the average user, but they do not withstand well 96 hours of continuous non-stop heavy processing use without a break to let them cool off. (2) When facing deadlines and working harder than usual, backup more frequently than you normally would and do so on an external device. (3) My brain still has better endurance than a Mac hard drive. :)
We will be offering again the program described below, developing a brand new game. Starting with COMM350 Game Design Summer 2009, CMPT385 Software Engineering Fall 2009, and the Game Development courses in Spring and Summer 2010.
Congratulations! It's a .... Computer Game!
On June 26 2008, the most anticipated event of the year (at least for me and 23 others) finally came. After almost 4 years of planning and one year of hard labour, the official release ceremony of the computer game Label: Rise of Band took place in Block Hall, at TWU.
Over the years, in my professional career, I have participated in the development of many software systems that vary from small individual projects to large scale projects involving hundreds of individuals in several countries. However, except for one or two, none other has had the type of emotional and personal impact that the development of Label: Rise of Band has had on me. I could almost think of it as childbirth.
Like having a child, it all started with a romantic idea: wouldn't it be cool to have a course where the best and brightest students from multiple disciplines come together to develop a computer game from scratch and market it? Almost 5 years ago, Dr. Kevin Schut, from Communications, and I asked each other that question during our first Faculty Retreat when we joined TWU. A year later, also at a Faculty Retreat, we had the opportunity of further exploring that idea with a group of professors from multiple disciplines. In that group was Dr. Todd Erickson, from Business, who ran with the idea along with Kevin and I.
So, we decided to make it happen. After all, how hard could it be?
When a professor decides to teach a new course, the assumption could be that there should be a simple and straight forward way to make it happen, right? But many times that is not the case. Having taken me almost 4 years to be able to conceive my first child, my personal parenting experience allows me to stay with the baby analogy. In the case of our course, we were not so naive as to think that it would be simple to design, get approval for, and teach a course that would extend for two semesters, cross-listed over 3 faculties, and with 3 co-instructors. However, we really didn't expect that amount of work and occasional frustration it would entail. It took almost a year to develop a proposal that made sense academically and logistically. In the meanwhile, Dr. Erickson became Assistant Provost and could no longer fit teaching the project to this already very busy schedule. However, he remained as business advisor, guest lecturer, and champion for the project at the administrative level.
Finally, the long awaited approval came. We decided that the series of courses would run like an independent game development studio where Dr. Schut and I would play the role of executive producers, and the students would fill the many different production roles required to develop the game. In the Summer of 2007, we selected 3 students from Dr. Schut's COMM350 Game Design course to come up the initial design concept for a game, fitting some limitations that he and I stipulated to bound the scope, but with total freedom with regards to topic and style. Over the Fall of 2007, my CMPT385 Software Engineering class, took the game specifications developed by the design team and started the system specifications and design of how the software would look like from the system's perspective. In the meanwhile, Dr. Schut and I interviewed several students to fit in the roles of artists, musicians, writers, marketers, etc. to have a production team ready before the Spring of 2008. By November 2007 we finalized a team of 23 upper level students from disciplines ranging from Computing Sc., Communications, Music, Business, Art, and Psychology that would become our first game production team.
From January to June 2008, these students worked extremely hard developing a brand new game with original art, code, and music. They developed a business plan and a corporate image, and became Bonus Marks Entertainment. The product of their and our labour is Label: Rise of Band
It was a long labour (although not nearly as painful as giving birth to twins), but it was a fulfulling experience for all.
Go check it out. You can download it for free. It's our baby. Not as cute as human ones, but it's fun, has cool art, great music.... and it doesn't spit on you. :)