Archive for February, 2013

Newsletter 6: SimTeam

Newsletter for Project Heidegger Week 6 in PDF format

This week

Though this week was abbreviated due to the Presidents’ Day, we made substantial progress in our triumvirate of project goals, particularly from an organizational perspective. We set into motion a team restructuring last week, following Quarters, and this week saw the realization of our plans. We decided to divide our team into three mini-teams for the remainder of the semester: Martin, Vera, and Nathan will focus on Level Design & Iteration and User Testing, Star and Shaveen (with Vera assisting) will devote their energies toward Data Collection & Sorting, and Anabelle and Emmanuel will work on designing and implementing our Origin recommendation module.

Blade and Nathan fervently discuss necromorphs.

Blade and Nathan fervently discuss necromorphs.

In Detail

On Monday, in an OCCO office darkened for holiday power- saving reasons and which resembled the desolate and abandoned interiors of a Dead Space starship, Martin, Emmanuel, and Nathan further specified and detailed a “beat-sheet,” or written description of important events, for our Dead Sspace 3 level. This effort bore fruit on Wednesday, when we met with (an unfortunately ill though thankfully patient) Blade. We guided him through the intended path of our level, along the way discussing each modification to his existing level we hoped he could implement, and offering our justification for certain changes with explanations of the metrics we wish to gather from them. Although he wasn’t certain that he could realize all of our level-revisions, he thought that implementing the bulk of what we’d requested would take roughly 10 days, which aligns well with our milestones; he also appeared relieved that we didn’t want him to build anything into the new level from scratch, as such a process would have been very time-consuming for him, and the architectural additions would have also lacked textures, marring the presentation-quality of our level for our testers. Then, on Friday, the team assembled to perform a mock-user test, wherein we set up the various recording equipment we’ll be using in the coming weeks, ran through a few play sessions, and acclimated ourselves to the testing process. This trial was restricted to our team (as well as Ben, who guided our tryout), as we didn’t want to waste the time of any potential testers with the bumbling of inexperienced practitioners. We are now, however, confident in beginning user testing in earnest next week. During this timeframe, Star, Shaveen, and Vera collaborated on research for a data management system, and Shaveen created a preliminary spreadsheet for amassing data from Dead Space 3 YouTube and playthroughs (as a supplement to our live tests). Meanwhile, Emmanuel and Anabelle busied themselves with refining our project website and researching biometric recording equipment, respectively, and made preparations to embark upon Origin module recommendation-system design discussions next week.

Next Week

We generated a tremendous amount of momentum this week, and though certain elements of the project remain beyond our control — such as when Blade can deliver his first implementation of our level —  we’ve now the agency and structure to proceed regardless of external factors. The next week will see the finalization of our testing metrics, our first true user test, and the development of several Origin recommendation concepts: it should, in fact, prove our most gainful week thus far.

Newsletter 5: Quarters

Newsletter for Project Heidegger Week 5 in PDF format

Week Overview

Our team’s energy and focus was, this week, directed wholly toward our Quarters presentation, which took place on Wednesday in the Triangle auditorium (which is denoted for identification by the shape of a triangle rather than by written word, for those curious). About 35 guests were in attendance, ranging from the clients of our various teams, to employees from other EA departments. We survived Quarters intact, and, with the remainder of the week, prepared for the submission of our Dead Space 3 level to Blade, as well as for the onset of our user tests, both of which will occur next week.

Week 5 newsletter

In Detail

Monday and Tuesday found us, with the counsel of Jiyoung and Carl, oiling our presentation into an address of fluidity, efficiency, and precision. And so, for Quarters, Shaveen, the God of PowerPoint, created a visually rich slideshow. Emmanuel covered for an ill Martin by bearing the burden of two presenters and elucidating for the audience the essence of our project. Vera delivered an enthusiastic punch to the homeward stretch of our exhibition. Star explained our milestones with his trademark coolness and confidence. Anabelle designed for our PowerPoint a custom Heidegger-themed background template and she also strongly concluded our presentation. Martin fought off an invading virus from a far-off quarantined area, sparing us from potential contagion. And I, Nathan, have written this. During our Q&A period, the audience was most interested in our playtesting process and the preliminary choices we’ve made in that regard. From their inquiries, the importance of every decision concerning that area of our project, no matter how seemingly small, was made clear. For example, what game (apart from Dead Space 3 and Army of Two) we choose to serve as a control for our experiment will significantly impact our results, as will the order in which we have our testers play these games. Our Quarters experience was, overall, was exceedingly positive, and we look forward to showcasing an abundance of hard data, as well as the concrete efforts of our conceptualization and research, for Halves.

Next Week

As we gather information about the logistics of conducting playtests and investigate affordable biometric equipment with the final hours of this week, we hope to begin initial playtests, using the release version of Dead Space 3 and Army of Two: The 30th Day (rather than our custom level and Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel), by next Friday. A few of us also plan to work over the President’s Day holiday next Monday so that we can submit a draft of our custom level to Blade next Wednesday, so as to facilitate his implementation of it.

Newsletter 4: Army of Two (Plus Five)

Newsletter for Project Heidegger Week 4 in PDF format

Week Overview

Level design precepts were our foremost concern this week, as Wednesday brought with it another visceral (and viscerally instructive) meeting with Blade. As the week drew to a close, we divided into two equally potent splinter groups to best address the charges of the coming week: one team is focusing on level design, and the other on the creation of our Quarters presentation.

Newsletter Week 4 Photo

Martin, overwhelmed by birthday cupcakes.

In Detail

On Monday we held a meeting in which we each shared five pre-prepared design goals for our custom Dead Space 3 level, as Blade had, last week, requested the creation of such a list for him to appraise and pare based on what’s possible and not possible for him to (most generously) implement on our behalf. Our design list was based on our team co-op experiences with Dead Space 3 and Army of Two: The 30th Day (as we don’t yet have access to The Devil’s Cartel); analysis from outlets of video game analysis and criticism such as Gamasutra and Kill Screen; and assumptions based on player psychology information synthesized from The Bartle Test, as well as key emotions and the Four Keys to Fun defined in the research of Nicole Lazzaro. Martin thoughtfully condensed these Heidegger-guiding principles into a preliminary metrics-gathering spreadsheet within which the gameplay particulars of the Dead Space and Army of Two could be measured against the desires of specific player types to aid in our hypothesizing about the potential connections between the games: this document, and future revisions of it, will prove instrumental in our iteration process, as with it we can better refine our level to collect the precise player data we seek. During our meeting, Blade further sharpened our expectations of what manner of level we’ll have agency to design (one very closely based on an existing segment of Dead Space 3) and what mechanics and assets we can modulate and modify to assist in our data-hunt. As a testament to Blade’s charity, after our substantial meeting at the end of a doubtlessly hectic day for him, he drew on the room’s whiteboard, from memory, detailed user-interface schematics of the level design toolsets he’s used in response to an off-topic question about his job posed by Vera. We’re all greatly appreciative of his time and vital contribution to our project.

Next Week

The first half of the week will be almost-exclusively devoted to preparation for our Quarters presentation on Wednesday, but we plan to have a draft of our level ready to share with Blade by next Friday.

Newsletter 3: No Dead Space

Newsletter for Project Heidegger Week 3 in PDF format


The foundation of this week was a critical meeting with Rich, Ben, and Blade, a level designer from Visceral Games. The first half of the week was, once again, meeting-suffuse, and we spent the majority of our project-devoted time solidifying and finalizing our preliminary approach to the type of data we hope to collect from our custom Dead Space level (such as gamer types, behavioral analysis, and general telemetry) and the methods by which we intend to collect this data (extensive player testing, primarily, through which we’ll gather gameplay data, ask our testers to complete surveys, and record the demeanor of our testers as they play). We also formulated a list of tentative project milestones divided into two-week intervals, including estimates for when we should have formed a solid hypothesis, completed our level design, constructed our Origin module-facsimile, and begun playtesting.

Promotional picture of Dead Space 3 featuring the main character, Isaac Clarke

Isaac Clarke, left, unofficial eight member of team Heidegger.

Day of Meeting

We received, during our meeting, confirmation from Rich that we should proceed in our delineated direction, and we also received a good amount of useful feedback. Blade suggested, for example, that we push level design concerns up in our schedule, as he currently has a lull in his own and will be able to confer with us with greater frequency over the next week; in a subsequent sub-meeting, Blade also informed us of what is and what isn’t possible regarding our Dead Space level, and stressed that we should modify an existing slice of Dead Space 3 rather than requesting all-new puzzles, assets, and environments, as they’d be fundamentally impossible for him to execute in the time that we’re here (or within his professional constraints). Rich’s commentary was focused almost exclusively on playtesting and data collection issues, and emphasized that we should (and that it’s feasible to) target specific gamers for our purposes. Ben urged that we define the player-type spectrums that we wish to incorporate in our study as quickly as possible, and that we should begin reaching out to potential playtesters within a week or two. Again, the responses we received were fantastically helpful, and we’re now all the more enthusiastic about our tasks.

Promotional picture for Army of Two: the Devil's Cartel, featuring the two main characters, Alpha and Bravo.

Alpha and Bravo, our spiritual advisors.

Post-meeting and plans

We’ve since been gradually co-oping through Dead Space 3 and Army of Two: The 30th Day in pairs (which has been an amusing challenge due to the limited amount of hardware at our disposal), comparing and contrasting the multiplayer experiences in each game, and forensically attempting to determine their design philosophies: we’ve a follow-up meeting with Blade on Wednesday, in which we’ll detail our custom-level design wants and data assumptions, and in which he’ll, by his own admission, shatter our dreams by instructing us what’s humanly possible for him to implement and for us to acquire. Sanctioned project construction will at last commence next week, and we look forward to the impending routine of mercurial investigation and iteration!