Thursday, March 25, 2010

Game Design Workshop with Ernest Adams

The first ever in India! 

Also seems as if God was extra happy with my prayers (read irritated with my constant whining) and I got the opportunity to take part in the workshop twice. Details below!

Part 1 - 18th March 2010, Hotel Renaissance, Powai, 

FICCI Frames 2010 had organized the first ever 'Game Design Workshop with Ernest Adams' in India. The event started at around10A.M and ended at 05.30 P.M. 

After enquiring, my friend and colleague, Manish and I headed to the Velvette Lounge at about 9.45 A.M. Ernest Adams, who was already there greeted us with a pleasant smile and after the exchange of greetings, we took our seats. It was great to see him again. I had met rather seen him before at the NASSCOM Gaming Summit (Hyderabad, India) conference, but then there were too many people around him that I didn't get my chance :) However, thanks to Facebook, we were connected. And this time, I knew it was a smaller group and it would be easy to talk and listen to him more clearly.

About a good 10 to15 guys were already present. While we waited for the rest of the guys to join, Ernest showed us the games he worked on and briefed us about it. He also teaches at various universities around the globe. One should take a look at that list... It's humongous! You can see the list here.

Soon enough the rest of the guys, and finally another girl (yay!), walked in and the workshop on Fundamental Principles of Game Design began. For those curious minds, visit this link

The 1 hour long presentation was thoroughly enjoyable. Ernest can teach you in the easiest form and you can't help but enjoy. I'm pretty sure he can make rocket science look like child's play. And he looks so adorable!! Oh and you should also read his top hat story ;)

Soon after the presentation got over, we had a 15 min break. I sipped on the vanilla milkshake grabbed a choco-chip muffin and had a small chat with Ernest. I was telling him that this is the first time I was a part of a design session and also the first time I'm seeing so many game designers gathered at a place. (The conference was too crowded, so not counting that). Ernest agreed and commented that saving few exceptional game design ideas, the rest get better when shared. More than the ideas, it's the process that is shared and helps everyone.

So true! And without taking too much of his time, I returned to my seat munching on the muffin.. It really was yummy!

Once, everyone got back to their seats, Ernest took a head count and said there were gonna be 7 teams and asked us to count from 1-7, repeat and remember our numbers. And soon enough we were sitting with our 'team members'.

Besides me, my team had Jitesh (Lead Game Designer, Ubisoft), Bhavin (Game Designer, Ubisoft), Niroop (Requirement Analyst, 99games) and Arpita (a second year IIITM student).

See image (LtoR: Bhavin, Niroop, Jitesh, Me, Arpita)

At this point, Ernest asked us to decide our roles. But, we actually waited for the game idea to be given before we decided the roles.

And then the "dream" was given to us: '... to be a TV reporter in a war.'

While handing out the sealed ideas,  Ernest emphasized on the fact that we were there that day to fulfil the dream of one player and we just had to satisfy one such player's needs!

Since Jitesh and I were both lead designers by profession, we both shared the responsibilities of being the lead as well as the user interface designer for the team. Bhavin was our level designer, Niroop, our mechanics designer and Arpita, the youngest of the lot, and probably the only one who could draw decently was our art director.

And I must say, it was one creative bunch. Everyone was rich on inputs and were gracefully taking any rejection of ideas, which ofcourse was justified. I was amazed at our team work, for this was the first time we were actually interacting with each other! It sure was fun!

While few others were running out of time, we were surprised to have finished the whole thing much earlier... In fact I was worried that we definitely missed out something! But that wasn't the case. The rest of the time we invested in cross-checking and collaborating things together.

We took our time for lunch and I manged to skip enough of the actual food so as to load myself with a lot of blackcurrant ice cream!

Post lunch, we started with our individual work and then the collaboration.
Ernest did a lot of check-ins with all the teams to make sure they are doing things correctly. And our team had two girls, which he said was unfair for the rest as women tend to strike a balance! :D
He is one of those men who encourages women to set foot into the gaming industry! :) :) :)

Finally, it was time for the presentations to roll and Jitesh, representing our team was the first to go. And must say, he did a good job! We ran out of time before he could tell our rather peculiar and controversial storyline, and I'm NOT gonna reveal it here! ;)

Ernest Adams commented that we did complete justice to the dream and that he was able to visualize our gameplay! He also said that it was one of the most well thought-out game! Yay!!

And then the remaining presentations followed. Interesting HUD designs and ideas came out. It was amazing to listen to so many ideas in a day!

Also there was a killer USP in one of the games!

"You can also talk to women!" hehe!

I really owe it to Ernest Adams and FICCI!
Three cheers to them!!

I guess everyone went home happy that day, I'm sure I did! Also I had a reason to be double happy! Read Part 2! :D

Part 2 - 19th March 2010, Trinity House, Kurla

So, well... apparently our (Indiagames') CEO, Vishal Gondal and Ernest Adams who met at the FICCI panel on 17th march, struck a deal of conducting the game design workshop exclusively for Indiagames employees. And yours truly gets her second chance! Yippeee!

So the next day my husband, Arjun Nair (Producer @ Indiagames) and I left early for the workshop along with my collegaues/friends Somesh and Vishwanathan, both QA leads. And after losing our way a lot of times, we reached the venue... 

Ernest was already there (love his punctuality), following mutual greetings, I went to the room and soon enough the presentation started. It was fun to listen to him again. It was like a revision :D

The entire schedule was similar to that of the FICCI workshop, and this time the difference was the team (once again decided randomly, however Ernest tried to sort the designers and artists separately so that a team doesn't have more than one) consisted of familiar faces. 

Our team had to fulfill the player's "dream" of designing gardens. During lunch break, while we were discussing the "dream" topics with other teams, almost everyone commented that our team got one of the easiest as we could rip off "Farmville". Well, I wasn't there for that! And instead of  trying to explain, I just nodded my head and moved on. 

The presentation started. We were the second to go (that's coz I had trouble getting to move the table and get out; by then, the first presentation had started!)

And I gave the presentation (could've have presented better, but it wasn't that bad) and yes, my game was not 'Farmville'! :D
After my presentation, and after a clarification on one of the features, Ernest said that the game was properly fleshed out, had a great upgrade path and... and... yes....well thought-out! (Two in a row! Yay!!) 
I love details :D

After an assortment of ideas sprouting out from bosses and other colleagues, the enjoyable day came to an end after a brief note from Ernest. A bad headache didn't give me much time to hang around, and we (Arjun and I)  left after a hurried good-bye.

All I can say is we should have more such sessions, especially the ones like the FICCI where people of similar interest from different companies come together, know each other and work together on a single goal which helps to create a better tomorrow for the gaming industry here.