On August 12th, I checked out University of Advancing Technology (UAT) Game Studios’ Summer Celebration to see what exactly Axosoft—the Scrum project management tool—is helping create.
If you’re not already aware, the University of Advancing Technology located in Tempe, Ariz., has a number of majors that ultimately help students attain coveted jobs at real-life, revenue-generating game dev studios.
I had the enjoyable experience of getting a brief overview of the games that have been developed, and then some hands-on experience with a few of the games.
Anyway, I wanted to know how exactly these games were being developed and how project management plays a part.
Check out these three different games made by very diverse teams. The one thing they have in common is that they were all developed using Axosoft’s Scrum project management software.
1. Couch Game
Jesse Rogers, student at UAT, misses the days when you went over to your friend’s house, met up with a bunch of other friends, sat on the couch and played video games. So, he decided to try to recreate a little of that magic. “Lots of games are now online, so it’s a different type of experience,” he explains.
The 2-4 player battle game allows you to pick a character (whether it’s a rhino or a penguin or even a beetle) then get into an arena and try to be the last one standing. It’s simple, yet animated fun. And, it’s designed that way on purpose—to be a simple party game where all players are in the same space trying to win.
“When we first started working on this game, I had heard of Scrum, but never worked within it,” says Rogers, referring to the iterative agile framework used for managing product development.
This is where Axosoft comes in.
Rogers’ team also found success in using GitKraken, a cross-platform Git client that helps users visually understand branching, merging and committing.
“The layout is beautiful. You just drag and drop. It’s so easy. We used SourceTree on a project before this and it wasn’t as easy,” says Rogers. “It just wasn’t a good way to start out not knowing anything. And, we didn’t have anyone to sit there and teach us.”
So what’s next for Jesse, his team and the Couch Game characters? After 30 weeks, working 7-10 hours a week on the game, what do they hope for? “I’d really like to start looking into who these characters are and what they’re capable of,” says Rogers.
Oddity isn’t your typical game. It’s layered and has a personality that is not unlike a stranger you want to get to know.
Harlan Whitfield, a UAT alum, began work on Oddity as his student innovation project, which is a requirement for graduation. “It began as a personal project, but I pitched it. It was just an idea, a document and some art,” he explains.
Now, Oddity is intricate and extremely visual. You enter a town and meet some of the inhabitants. Who are they? What are their motives? You can only know by going from person to person and listening to what they have to say to you. Plus, you don’t even know if you can trust them!
“The biggest challenge was the scope,” says Whitfield. “The game is very broad. I had a general idea of the storyline and it’s major elements,” he explains. “But because I was expected to work with students who were working on this for a grade, I wanted to let them have input.”
Whitfield explains that they put in a total of 39 weeks, working 10 hours max, every Friday.
“The goal was to get it up and running,” he says. “At first, we just drew stand-in characters and developed it from there. We got it to a place where you could play it through in a linear fashion, but that is not what the concept is about,” he describes.
Indeed it is not linear at all. Just like real life, the game’s characters get to know you and the game itself will alter its course depending upon the choices you make. Call it a kind of karma or deja vu retribution. If you’ve made negative choices throughout the game and you die, you’ll come back reaping what you sowed… So to speak (insert evil laugh here).
“Right now, the demo is exploratory,” says Whitfield. “It has a lot of different endings if you play and come back. Every action changes the outcome.”
3. Happy Skies
Imagine a tiny panda cruising the skies in a basket attached to balloons. Now, imagine learning a little bit about the world as you encounter famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower or Victoria Falls.
Now, guess what?! You don’t have to imagine it. Happy Skies is a mobile game developed by Donald Schepis and his team, where the player swipes right, up, or down to fly. You choose your creature and start off on your high-flying adventure.
The idea to add an educational level was developed as a student innovation project. “We just thought, ‘why don’t we add the descriptions of the landmarks, and then you can only get a new character after you read the description?’” Schepis describes.
“The game simply presents the information and tries to get children interested in something they saw,” he concludes. “The goal is for them to seek out more from a teacher or a parent.”
Project management was key in getting Happy Skies to where it is now. It’s currently available in beta on iOS and Android. “When we first started, I put all the things we needed to get done in the system and just created all the tickets. From there it was just a matter of assigning tasks to people,” describes Schepis.
Schepis says he is now especially excited to use the billable hours section in Axosoft since he will have a paying client soon.
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