CS377G Final Reflection Essay

Coming into this class I felt like I had a fairly strong foundation for game design / development from 247G, and was excited to build upon that experience. Over the course of this class I think my largest areas of growth were in the design of the outcomes of the games that I make, whether that be a learning goal or eliciting an emotion, and in creating games with purposes beyond just having fun.
My biggest takeaway from P1 was learning how to design for a learning goal but also designing to support learning the game itself. Once people understood our game I think most of them found it to be quite enjoyable and challenging, but we ran into a lot of issues with players actually being able to understand all the moving pieces of our game. We had to iterate a lot on the rulebook and the wording / organization of it so that players could get onboarded as quickly as possible, and so I learned to do focused playtesting that centered around a single element, in this case playtesting just the introduction / setup to see if new players could pick up the game quickly. It’s definitely something that I knew about before from 247G in terms of guiding and giving hints from the player, but playtesting smaller individual sections of a game wasn’t something I did before (I would mostly just plop the game down in front of them and let them do whatever) and it’s something I will definitely be doing in the future.

For me, P2 was by far the most challenging assignment – I don’t think I’m very good at writing or detailed world-building / storytelling, so it was very difficult for me to come up with a story that I was happy with. I struggled a lot with defining what exactly I wanted the overarching story to be – I came into the assignment with a general idea of what ideas I wanted to communicate, but didn’t know the best way to get those ideas across. I initially made a story that took place over the course of an entire day, but found that it was endlessly complicated to try and create branching pathways for decisions one would make over the course of an entire day. More importantly, having the story take place over a longer period of time with constant decisions made it so that the decisions had no immediate apparent impact and also didn’t relate at all to the core themes of the game. A choice like “going to the library” might have been very impactful later on down the line, but because the player had no frame of reference for what not going to the library might entail and whether or not it would be good or bad, the choice feels inconsequential and random. The solution to both of these problems ended up being to reduce the scope of the game to center around a singular task and moment to make the consequences of an action more clear as well as make it easier on me to write. I think for future games, I want to start with a smaller scope and then branch outwards based on what works rather than trying to brute force something huge – scoping issues also occurred in P3 where we had far too many ideas that we wanted to implement simultaneously and it created a huge time crunch.

I also think that over the course of this quarter I learned a lot about how to more effectively work with teams from P1 and P3, especially from P3. There were issues that resulted from a breakdown in communication / expectations that were compounded by working asynchronously and offline. Moving forward for any group project I want to set stronger norms about consistent and clear communication, and planning tasks, as I think once it moved to online our group as a whole got less consistent about providing updates to each other. I also want to push myself out of my comfort zone a bit more and make a bigger effort to reach out to people and see what I can do for them if it seems like they aren’t on the same page – I generally tend to keep to myself, but I think in these cases doing so can be detrimental to the group as a whole. In general though I found working with others to be the most rewarding parts of this class.

Also, I think in the future for my digital games I want to maintain far cleaner code. To implement the timer feature in my interactive fiction game I had to manually write the same chunk of code for like 40 different scenes, with slight tweaks to each one to fit random corner cases and to set certain flags on and off. Twine also doesn’t let you format code in the block itself without adding that formatting to the page, so all my code ended up being in one line which was an absolute nightmare to edit and debug. My code for P3 wasn’t structured particularly well and it being hard to comprehend by my teammates definitely slowed down progress at points.

Overall I found this class to be an incredibly unique experience and honestly the one fun thing of what has been an overall somewhat crummy quarter. I’m going to keep making games and continue to build off of what I’ve learned!

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