Trade Secrets

I am, by no means, an expert on creating video games. After all, I’m just a student. But I, along with the rest of my team, have spent a lot of time planning this project and making sure everything is in order for the production phase. Organization is a key aspect of any project, but especially so for one of this scale. So let’s talk about that.

Before working on this project most of the Parallax team, myself included, worked on another game project for RIT’s MAGIC Center. The project unfortunately failed to come together. But through that experience we learned a lot about how not to create a game. As they say, you learn from your mistakes. Bonus fact: that project is what sparked the conception of Parallax as a sort of we-can-totally-do-this-the-right-way idea. Plus we had all gotten excited about making a game and didn’t ultimately see those ambitions pan out, so we took matters into our hands.

The most crucial part of any team-based project is communication. If members of your team are not constantly talking and sharing information then something will go wrong. There is simply no way to complete a project of any sort of scale if there is no communication within your group. Luckily for me, I’m working on this project with friends. That definitely makes a difference as our mutual enthusiasm and chemistry naturally leads to added communication.

Organizing your materials is also important. But organization has two faces when dealing with a group project. You have to be organized on a personal level and on a group level. For group-level organization we use a tool called Trello which allows us to have all of our notes, inspiration, concept art, and documents in one place. It’s perfect for both individual and group projects because of its simple board/list/card system. Essentially, every project you have is given its own board. Within that board are lists which categorize information, and within each list are cards that hold that information. This system allows us to break down our Parallax documents into lists such as “Environment Inspiration” and “Concept Art” and then allows us to further refine each of those lists into cards containing certain information, such a specific game or weapon.

trello
The Trello board for Parallax as it stands at the time of this writing.

Organization on a personal level is important as well. Every file must be easily accessible, and properly named. Since most of our assets are built in Maya, we can use it’s built-in file numbering system for iteration. Eventually the whole project will be moved to UDK to start the development phase. For that we have a specific naming and folder structure convention to ensure everything is easy to find. When it comes to file naming conventions, the general rule of thumb is to start with the abstract and get more specific as the name goes on. For instance, if I was to create a small rock, that would fall under the environment category as a rock asset with the type of “small” so I might name it like so:

E_rock_small_01

As you can see, we use one-letter codes to determine category (E for environment, W for weapon, V for vehicle, etc.). I also added “_01” to the end of the file because there are more than one rock_small assets in the game. Textures follor the same convention with their specific use added to the end. Our folder structure also follows the same convention, with all assets of a similar category being put in the same folder. So the final path for the E_rock_small_01 asset and its resources might be:

environment/E_rock_small_01.fbx

environment/E_rock_small_01_DIFF.png

environment/E_rock_small_01_SPEC.png

environment/E_rock_small_01_NORM.png

This system ensures that every asset is easy to find and implement, no matter who is doing so or what program  is being used. It may sound tedious, but it will be incredibly useful when we have 5 people working on hundreds of different assets on different computers attempting to create a single project. Even on a personal level it will be extremely useful as I will have quick access to everything I create over the course of this year.

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Trade Secrets

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