Joseph Brown, PPJ, Spring Week 9 Post Mortem

When I first was considering my senior project this year, I was almost entirely at a loss. Being a transfer student, I had a rather disjointed group of student contacts, and the seniors I knew were mostly those that had graduated last year. Erin approached me and asked if I was interested on joining a VR project, and I ecstatically agreed. I knew it was a risk, and I knew I might come to regret it, but There’s Been A Murder was a chance for me to take a risk without needing to worry about financially ruining myself. I’m a student, and if I was going to trust anyone to make a VR game actually work, it was Erin and Sydney. I wish, looking back, that I could have told myself what to prioritize, and what to let go.

I was asked to be a UI designer, and I personally asked to also be puzzle designer. Admittedly, I guess I knew less about game and puzzle design than I thought. Game Design itself is often esoteric at best, with very few formalized guidelines. In the context of VR, it became painfully obvious that “best practice” goes out the window. I wanted to translate escape room gameplay into a solo, virtual reality environment, and tie that gameplay with an interesting, somewhat unique story about society and feminism, set to the backdrop of a modern murder mystery drama.

We wanted to do too much, in too little time.

Would three more months would have helped? Absolutely. I have no doubt in my mind that we would have been able to actually have three months of polish if this project lasted a year, and that our ideas as a whole would have been far more fleshed out. Would I have done better if this project was my only project? Yes. Balancing what could have easily been a part time or even full time job with swimming, EGS, and several other required courses was an absolute nightmare, and my work definitely suffered because of that. Would I have done it again? That’s where things become hazy. I think I would, and I think I learned more about myself and my limits in this project than any other. That said, I am not happy with the quality of my work. I was overwhelmed by this whole project, and if I actually realized that our capstone was only as useful to graduation as our other classes…

If I wanted to be proud of a product after nine months, I should have made a simple, mechanically interesting game that could have been made from start to finish in three months. Instead, we brainstormed this game thinking that we had nine, and still overscoped. My goal at the beginning of this project was to take risks, however. I wanted to challenge myself as a designer, and as a team member. I learned more through my personal failings than if I had performed perfectly, and I think that, from all my disappointment and hair-pulling stress, I will take those lessons to heart. I learned that I need to set reasonable limits on myself, and temper my own expectations for my work. I learned what I excel in as a worker, and what tasks I struggle with and need more time on. I had already learned, and heard countless times that communication is key in design, but now I actually know what that means, and what tools are most effective in uniting a team’s vision.

I hope that our original idea can be made someday, by a team that’s as passionate as we were in the first few weeks of this project. I hope it can be made by a team that has that spark, and has the time to do that game justice. And I hope that I can look back on these nine months and feel some sense of pride at what I tried here, knowing that it might have contributed some small part to that game.

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