Creative students converge to build a video game
A team of degree students from TAFE Queensland’s Creative Arts and Digital Design faculty came together to work as a game studio would to build a simulated game, in association with the University of Canberra.
Delivered in partnership with the University of Canberra, the Creative Arts and Digital Design students developed the interactive virtual reality game, named Bloc-K, to be played on Oculus and HTC Vive headsets.
Set in a Soviet styled bunker, the player assumes the role of Agent K, who has been captured and held prisoner. Upon coming to, the player needs to solve a series of puzzles to escape the room and stop global nuclear annihilation in an action-packed and thrilling escape room experience.
To create the game students from across web, graphic design, media arts production, contemporary music and games design degrees selected a project manager from each area of study. Project managers were responsible for work streams, ideation, art, coding, soundtrack and marketing of the game.
“With the students learning in a work-simulated learning environment, and responsible for different areas to complete each asset for the game, they learn a lot about managing teams, timelines and communicating with each other,” said Ola Pak, Lecturer Visual Communication Design, Higher Education.
“While the students are the project managers for their areas, their lecturers act as the creative directors and studio producers who guided them, simulating the convergent nature of the games industry.
“Each area’s project manager organises brainstorming, mood boards, setting timelines, tracking working hours and invoicing their lecturer ‘client’ while collaborating with other teams to ensure they deliver the game on time and within budget,” said Ola.
After dividing tasks within each work stream, teams meet to talk about the different aspects of the game – everything from game art to coding, to sound design and its overall progress to ensure each stream is cohesively developing the game to meet their brief.
While the graphic design team worked on the typography, graphics and other digital assets, the game designers and coders built, programmed, and tested its required features.
The media team then built the marketing and advertising plan that included all the assets required to promote and launch it.
Along the way the students learnt to complete their area while ensuring the game had a sense of suspense for the player. Every aspect had to engage and challenge players without taking away their ability to make the right decisions to finish it.
“There’s a certain magic to the development of the game, with all the different teams feeding into it,” said Chrissy Raddatz, Project Manager for the Graphic Design team responsible for the game’s visual assets.
“We make sure the look and feel of the art meets the brief, and then the coders and media teams bring it to life. It’s been a fun culmination of all of our skills and talents,” she said.
The biggest challenge each team faced was the communication between teams who each had different mindsets. Coming from different disciplines, different teams could sometimes interpret things differently, slowing down the project.
“Working with a diverse group of over 20 people from all over the faculty did cause confusion - as we often didn’t understand each other’s technical jargon and it was almost like speaking a different language!” said Chrissy.
To ensure the members from the various teams were collaborating effectively, they used online channels including Facebook, Pinterest, Trello, TeamGantt, Discord (a communication platform specifically for the gaming community) and Skype.
The channels were vital to ensure everyone had clarity on what their tasks were, as they were not often in the same room for weeks at a time.
“Most of us have never worked in any area of the industry before this,” said Maxine Hooper, a web design student who assumed the role of Project Manager for Media Team.
“It was a challenge to ensure everyone knew what was needed every step of the way to get the project completed. But there’s no other way to get the experience of working in a large cross-functional team like we will in the industry.
“It was also cool that what we created and how we did it was similar to how the big design houses run their game development projects,” she said.
Bloc-K debuted at a student showcase where industry professionals tried their hands at completing the game, offering feedback on its creativity and high quality of their finished products.
Dr Ross McLennan, Senior Lecturer, Contemporary Music Practice who played the role of Studio Producer, says that considering the important role that games play in society, it was important that students could learn what was required in a ‘work-simulated learning environment’.
“Games are an important part of modern culture, with games affecting art, literature and movies and vice versa,” says Dr McLennan.
“But more importantly, the games industry offers employment opportunities to our creative students from all disciplines.
“Game designers and programmers are the tip of a massive and lucrative iceberg, there is real work for artists, animators, composers, sound designers and media creators of all types. The key though is learning to work effectively in teams,” he says.
During the design and development of their game, students were also visited by professionals from the video games, multimedia, design, music, sound and marketing industry.
The speakers offered their expertise, advice and guidance on topics such as lighting, sound, storytelling and art helping the students built their game.