Ricardo Yanofsky PPJ Personal Postmortem

Things that went right:

Going into the project, I was reasonably experienced with motion capture, but I had not worked on any game projects that used it. So despite my experience working in Blade and MotionBuilder, I really did not know how to work with it for the purpose of game character animation. By the end of the project, I can say that I am proficient at it, and it is what I want to pursue professionally.

A reason for this was the amount of abilities we gave our rider. This allowed us to create a wide range of animations. I though the melee system would be too much as a late addition to the game, but it ended up being my favorite animation to work on. It total, we have around 30 animations for our rider, depends on how you count the clips that are split up (although splitting clips up is work too).

Working with Unreal Engine 4 was also new to me, and I picked up the animation blueprint system pretty well in the end. I did not do all of it by myself, I had to coordinate with the programmers quite a bit. But by the end, I managed to do more with it than I thought I would be able to.

In my first game project at Drexel, I was frustrated with the implementation of my art assets. It’s very disheartening to make something I’m proud of and have it end up looking bad, or not in the game at all. For this reason, I decided to learn to work in game engines as much as I could, even though I am not a programmer. Animation is one of the more difficult things to implement well into a game, and it was practically all I did for this project. Overall, I am very happy with how my animations look in game, not just due to my own efforts, but with collaboration as well.

Due to the huge undertaking that our mocap process was, I liked being organized. We kept a spreadsheet of all the takes and their status. We ended up with a 279 line spreadsheet, and looking through it reminds me of how much work this all was.

Things that went wrong:

While it was what I wanted to focus on, motion capture ended up being virtually my only contribution to the project. We did have a very large team, but I feel like I am good enough at a few other skills to have contributed to a few more aspects of the game. Seeing the programmers struggling and not being able to help is also very frustrating.

Our team communication was very poor, and I did not do enough to correct this. We share the blame as a group, and the size of it does not help. Personally, I am not confident enough as a leader, or outspoken enough to be one, but I wish I could have taken stronger action to bring the team together.

Fall quarter for me was a total mess. It was one of the heaviest course loads I have taken, and my work suffered for it. Just the fact all of the work I did for the game was thrown out at the start of winter quarter shows how awful it was. I was not happy with the game idea and theme we chose for it, and was outspoken about it, which created some tension between myself and most of the team. At the start of the game, I wanted to work on more than just mocap, so I volunteered to rig the dragon. I thought I was decent at rigging, but what I learned in Character I in the first part of the quarter destroyed my confidence. That and being busy with my 3 other production classes led me to make a very messy rig. Miscommunication with team members made it even worse, and by the end I can admit that I really messed up. Luckily, this was for the first dragon model, which was thrown out completely at the end of the quarter. I did not even touch the rigs for the following iterations, and I feel like I let both the team and myself down on that one.

Lessons Learned

The importance of organization in team projects. I have been very disorganized with my files in my past, even towards team projects. Working closely with another person on the same task was not something I had really done before. Even if it was too much for two of us to work on mocap, this pushed me to be more organized, and I am glad for that.

I now realize the importance of a creative leader in a team. Our team meetings were extremely democratic, and I feel like our game was less interesting because of it. Deciding everything by popular vote is frustrating, especially when it’s speculative. Many members of the team would argue on speculation, and we made far too many bad decisions in terms of scope that hurt the project as a whole. The idea of a “creative director” became a running joke in our team, but nobody had a strong creative vision for our game (because we came up with it together) to push it in a certain direction. Looking back on all the game projects I have done, the most successful ones are the games that have stemmed from a single person’s idea, and has been carried out through them. I have filled this role on smaller projects in the past, but I was not confident enough to do it for something as daunting as SPROJ, and did not come up with any good game ideas that fit the scope of the project.

Early on in the project, I felt a disconnect creatively between myself and the team. I was very upfront about my dislike of the direction we were going, and in the end, not much changed. I really have no interest in dragons and “high fantasy” or whatever out game is. I was discontent for a while and even considered switching teams at the start of Fall quarter, but I learned to accept it and contribute what I could. This somewhat numbed me creatively, but I was still motivated to work. I had less motivation to take incentive on things, and my contribution to the project was smaller in scope. In previous projects I have enjoyed working on multiple aspects of games, such as character design, modeling and level design, but for this project was not able to find an interest in anything other than character animation. I can’t fully say this was a “thing that went wrong” (at least for me personally), because I do not expect to always connect creatively with projects, especially if I will be doing this professionally. After my co-op I was worried that I would have trouble working on projects that I am not enthusiastic about, but senior project helped me find ways around that and dispel that feeling.

Lastly, I am more comfortable on focusing on a more specific aspect of the game. In smaller teams, I have had to work on a wide variety of assets, which I enjoy, but I if I am to work professionally for a large studio, I will probably focus on one thing. I am thankful that it was something I want to pursue as a career, and I feel like this has prepared me for the future.

Finally, here are my favorite 10 movies that I watched over the duration of this project (in no particular order):

Hovering Over the Water ‘À Flor do Mar’ (João César Monteiro, 1986)

13 Lakes (James Benning, 2004)

The Aviator’s Wife ‘La femme de l’aviateur’ (Éric Rohmer, 1981)

City of Pirates ‘La Ville des pirates’ (Raúl Ruiz, 1984)

Under the Bridges ‘Unter den Brücken’ (Helmut Käutner, 1946)

The Man Who Stole The Sun ‘太陽を盗んだ男’ (Kazuhiko Hasegawa, 1979)

Necrology (Standish Lawder, 1971)

Novia Que Te Vea (Guita Schyfter, 1994)

The Red Thread (Carl E. Brown, 1993)

Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)

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