After many months of hard work, I have finally finished the capstone process at the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, bringing me so much closer to finishing my Master’s degree!
For capstone, I worked on the game Sketch Artist as the Art Lead and sole 2D Artist. We were a team of 11 people, and together we learned a lot of tough lessons and went through a game development process meant to mimic the industry’s working environment. It was very tough, but I built strong bonds with my teammates and learned incredible lessons that I will take with me throughout my entire career.
We learned that scheduling, organization, and communication can make or break a project. Since we only had one 2D artist on a game that was almost solely 2D, and I was also covering the responsibilities of being the Art Lead at the same time, it was sometimes rough to get asset production to match the scope of the game. We now know, looking back, how we could have structured the schedule to better accommodate this. We also made the mistake of trying to work on many assets at once with the idea of building the foundation of the game up. This was one of the worst mistakes we could have made: not only did it hurt morale to constantly not see at least a couple successfully FINISHED assets in the game engine (since everything was getting a little progress at once), we also never had finished examples to set legitimate, realistic time frames off of for other assets. Now we know that we should have taken one whole gameplay loop of the game to full asset completion and scope the game based on how long it took.
For communication, we know now that we should have stuck with a single means of communication for chat, should have utilized phone calls more often when things needed to be communicated quickly, and we should have enforced using JIRA to list clearly the tasks each team member had. JIRA would have also helped with issues of accountability, where people could clearly own a task, and if something happened regarding that task they would be the person to go to for fixing it.
We also discussed the importance of sharing knowledge. Many of us had to research long and hard to solve issues within the game, and this is knowledge we should have shared with everyone on the team. Not only could we have helped teammates learn more, but it would have made sure that more than one person could fix the problem in the future. We had an issue once where something broke but the person who knew how to fix it had food poisoning.. and we had a due date the next morning! It was more stressful than it needed to be. Giving small workshops or presentations to share knowledge could help prevent this, and also provide great opportunities for bonding as a team.
There were many things we learned as a team, and many more lessons that I learned individually. After holding a leadership position in a highly stressful environment, I feel I have grown a lot as a person and matured in terms of how I hold myself in front of others. When things were tough, I had to stay calm and collected and help my art team resolve many problems. It often meant shoving my own stresses away to handle those of others. It was a very humbling and enlightening experience, and I am both extremely happy and honored that I was permitted to lead such a great team of artists at FIEA. I know I have a lot more to learn, but the experiences I have now are a great foundation and starting place.
If you would like to watch our capstone presentation, the video below starts at the time stamp where our game presents. If you have the time, be sure to check out the rest of the video where the other three FIEA capstone games present their beautiful projects!