We were asked by the client to create an alpha level for a top down mutliplayer for two to four players with functioning UI. Along with this we needed to collaborate across the pathways and work amiably and efficiently within our teams.
As a team we developed Scrapyard Scramble as a couch co-op game about gathering resources and avoiding hazards in order to craft pieces of art in a lonely solar system with a complicated past. The game had minimal controls in order to have a low skill threshold, had very little punishment for failure and was reliant on a fair amount of luck, to make it easier for young players to feel empowered while playing. There were some obstacles that players had to work together to overcome, but the player roles were flexible in order to minimise frustration between players. In addition we adopted a friendly, rounded art style in addition to referencing real life artworks with the craftable sculptures so that younger players wouldn't be intimidated, but it could still hold the interest of older players.
At first I interviewed for a producer role, however I when I wasn't chosen as one of the producers I interviewed to work as the Design Lead, which I was successful in. Personally, I already knew that I wasn't aiming for managerial roles in my career, however my life experience and knowledge of managing nurodivergent creatives made me feel as though I could adequately support the group. I made sure to run bi-weekly meetings, one on Monday to catch people up and assign tasks, and one on Wednesday, as a space to work creatively or bring up questions or complaints.
I lead the design team in an initial period of mechanical and conceptual ideation and we landed on the "space scrapyard" theme, which was approved by the group. After I set tasks to refine the mechanics and start creating pseudo-code, then level designs and prototypes. Once this initial ideation was completed the design team pivoted to narrative and with the direction of myself and Wilson, almost all members contributed something to a lore document. The bulk of my work was administrating and delegating work throughout the team, though I did attempt to contribute where I could and make sure that I was assigning tasks that
Throughout I worked on the Game Design Document, first using an outline to draft, and then filling in more as the mechanics were confirmed. Charlie consistently helped with this by providing diagrams and as did Taylor, in addition to creating the UI section himself.
Problems & Solutions
At first people in the team found my communication style overwhelming and inefficient, so I reduced the amount of messages I sent, simplified the information I did want to be noticed and made sure I was available to answer questions because I found that was the most reliable way to make sure everyone was on the same page. To promote inter-team communication I had weekly meetings with the other leaders and the producers to see what our non-negotiable deliverables were.
While I'm proud of the positive environment I created within the team, I did not always make good managerial decisions, for example, I proposed Humphrey join the tech team to help with pseduo-coding, however this caused him anxiety because he didn't fully understand what was expected of him and meant that he asked to re-join the design team so that he could feel like he was making an impact on the project.
In addition to this the level design that I approved was found to be insufficient when the first playable prototype was released and both my team and production lamented that I hadn't pushed the design further. I did however help production chose members for a level design strike team and I helped to oversee their work which improved the project massively.
On a lighter note, when I realised there was a lot of resistance to coming in for the whole cohort meeting during formative week I offered to sponsor ordering some pizzas as an motivator to attend and a reward for the hard work put in so far. I'm grateful the idea was approved and furthered by production as I think that afternoon helped improve the team's morale a lot.
Review & Reflection
This project was both incredibly draining and incredibly rewarding. While I know that I would not be able to maintain the social availability needed to act as a team lead, I am really grateful that I got the chance to connect with my peers and hopefully helped some of them gain confidence in their abilities as games designers.
In my personal practice I have continued to use the skills I developed creating documentation and communicating professionally.
If I were to attempt this project again I would absolutely advocate for scrum practices and smaller interdisciplinary teams, because I feel this would help avoid a lot of the miscommunication that occurred during the project.