Introduction

New year, new semester and a new team! 2020 kicks off the start of my final semester as a Champlain student. This semester, the Holo Hexagon team has expanded from 5 to 15 developers! With this expansion, the team aims to create an even more compelling, immersive and fun VR experience. As promised in my prior blog posts – these development updates will be much more frequent, now being posted every two weeks.

This past week was all about getting back into the swing of classes and development after a month long break for the holidays. I’ve decided to let the team introduce themselves so you can get to know them. After all, you’ll be reading about their hard work the rest of the semester!
Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Production Staff!

@Austin_Roorda

Austin Roorda - Lead Producer

That’s me! like to play games, and manage super talented teams of developers who make them! When not making games, you can find me looking for old games to add to my collection, battling other players online for glory, or riding my electric long board when it’s nice out!

Contrary to popular belief – the documentation I write is actually important… I promise!

@LouisKlarfeld

Louis Klarfeld - Associate Producer

Hey, I’m Louis! I’m the Associate Producer and do production documents / fill in where needed. I generally enjoy marketing and figuring out why someone likes a certain game. I like to play a wide variety of games in general.

He’s also a secret memelord, but don’t tell him I told you so. He wouldn’t help me do QA if he found out I told you.

@Schwartzbretta1

Brett Schwartz - Business / Marketing Consultant

Hi I’m Brett! I’m the marketing consultant for Holo Hexagon. I have a few years experience in marketing research and development for both at home and LBE VR projects. I am a huge fan of shooters, especially when in VR!

Also, he may not look it, but Brett is actually 300 years old in life experience. Useful info to have when marketing games!

Design Staff!

Karl Lewis - Lead Systems Designer

Howdy, I’m Karl! I am a Technical Game Designer who loves designing game systems with an equal passion for engineering gameplay code. Some of my interests besides games include linguistics, music, aviation, and simulation!

Karl is the teams resident samurai, marksman and pilot. Multi-talented!

@KarlJamesLewis

Emmett Friedrichs - Lead Level Designer / Product Owner

Hey there! I’m Emmett, I’m a Game Designer who focuses on Systems and Level Design. I absolutely love everything strategy-game related, especially in real-time. Besides games some of my interests are graphic design, and sleeping.

Emmett’s hidden talents are coming up with kick ass VR game ideas like Cash Force and finding relatable Tik-Toks for any situation.

@Emmett_Fried

Joe Apicella - Systems / Combat Designer

Heyo! I’m Joe! I do systems / combat design stuff and some animation on the side. I run RPG campaigns and also with my legs in my free time.

Joe’s hidden talents are artistic skills and unrelenting positivity. His hype fuels us all!

@Joe_Yooska

Harry Goetz - Experience / Systems Designer

Whats up, I’m Harry! I’m something of a generalist game designer, skilled in systems and UX design. I like to fish and play card games in my free time.

Little known fact: Harry and I worked together in our first Production class creating the greatest game ever made – Rantan Shoten.

Lauren Ritze - UI / UX + Narrative Designer

Hello! I’m Lauren and I mainly work on UI/UX, but I also have a passion for narrative design. In my free time, I love watching anime/animated shows and movies. I have done minor animations myself and look forward to making more!

Lauren’s narrative is going to rival the works of Scorsese and Tarantino, just you watch!

Programming Staff!

@Jagman926

Josh Grazda - Lead Programmer

Hi, my name is Josh! Besides programming systems and tools, I enjoy cooking lots of pasta and taking long walks on the beach… in VR.

Much like Harry – Josh has also been there since the beginning. He started his ascent into upper echelon of programming by writing the code for Rantan Shoten & Simple Sandwich.

@Kellers176

Kelly Herstine - Gameplay / General Programmer

Hi! I’m Kelly! I am mostly a gameplay / generalist programming but I have a passion for graphics programming. I love coffee and I like to play monster hunter world in my free time.

Kelly’s secondary responsibilities include wrangling Emmett and QA for the Tik-Toks he wants to show us to ensure quality (or lack thereof). Thank you for your tireless service.

@DrabbyPage

Cameron Belcher - AI Programmer

I want to use my skills, curiosity, and enthusiasm to create games to help people relax and be happy, just as video games have done for me!

Another Simple Sandwich veteran, Cam’s ascension into the programming elite is all but complete, so long as his computer doesn’t explode again…

Michael Zheng - Systems / Tools Programmer

Just your average gamer. I just be chilling you know. Want something done? Ya got it, hit me up fam. Wanna try something out? I gotchu. What else do you need? Just ask.

Do you like dying in video games and not knowing how? It’s Michael. It’s always Michael. Don’t 1v1 this kid in Modern Warfare unless you like being sent to the shadow realm.

Art Staff!

Adam Streeter - Lead Artist

Love being creative and making art, in as many mediums as possible! Focused on prop art, but have some experience with graphic design and video as well!

Quoted as saying “I want to make the most aesthetic capstone ever made at this school” – Adam is one step closer to completing his quest with this team! Also, he grew up in the 1970’s. Groovy!

@4daAvenue

Jonah Vita - VFX Artist / Animator

Jonah didn’t send me anything about himself – what a slacker! Just kidding, it’s probably since he’s busy in our art dungeon making some sweet VFX!

Being one of the coveted animators at our school – Jonah’s spot on our team was earned through a battle-royale tournament between all Game Producers. I won… but at what cost?

@JonahVita

Kaylee Sharp - Character Artist

Kaylee’s my name and I make characters for games! I can make your characters too, and hope someday that character will inspire some young 12 year old like it did for me!

Another Simple Sandwich Veteran – Kaylee’s characters won’t be edible this time! At least, I hope not!

@kayleeosharp

Sprint 14 Recap! (1/16/20 to 1/23/20)

This was the first week back since the winter break – there was a lot of work to be done to get everyone back up to speed and into the swing of development. The team is now triple its size, with the original team (now all Lead Developers in their respective disciplines) and I must be extremely organized and set clear expectations for the team.

The first week of development had the team mostly getting back up to speed with where the project was left off – as well as getting the new members acquainted with our process of development. Since we have our Senior Production Class on Thursday, we start our Sprints on that day. Starting late in the week for the 1st week was a little difficult to manage, but Louis and I were able to take care of it.

Here’s a breakdown of what a given week will look like! Bulleted items are weekly occurrences, with the text below being my description of what I was up to on those days! Here’s the sprint as it unfolded, as starting on Thursday:

Thursday (1/16/20): Sprint Start!

  • Attended Senior Production Class

  • Sprint Planning / Assigning Tasks to Task Board

  • Independent Developer Work Sessions

For this first Sprint, the first day had the team working on scheduling and ensuring that the Sprint was planned and that all members of the team had tasks and was on the same page. Leads met with their Sub-Teams to discuss their first tasks, and I worked with Louis to discuss the administrative work that we both wanted to take care of.

Friday (1/17/20): Meeting Scheduling + Tasks

  • Programmer Meeting

  • Designer Meeting

  • Independent Developer Work Sessions

This was the day I decided to take a crack at creating a set of Documentation Standards for the team to adhere to when creating documents. I also made sure to create the Sprint 14 Plan and Roadmap, which is documentation required by the faculty to track the progress on our project.

I also merged the old Google Drive folder(s) with the new folder that was made for our class section with the help of Louis. This was done to streamline access and make it so it was easier to navigate.

Saturday and Sunday (1/18/20 & 1/19/20): Weekend Work

  • Independent Developer Work Sessions

Due to the timing of the weekends during our sprints, weekends are free-form time for developers to work on their tasks independently or together if applicable. The team is required to update their respective Mattermost chat with progress completed each day making the team accountable for their work time on the weekends. The weekends are to be used by developers on the team as they see fit – so long as they aren’t holding back to work of other developers or sandbagging.

As for myself, I personally created the Oculus Start application (and template) for the team to use when applying to the program in order to gain development support from the intended deployment platform. We should ideally hear back in around a month’s time whether or not we were accepted into the program.

Monday (1/20/20): Artist Meeting

  • Artist Meeting

  • Independent Development Work Sessions

I spent this time developing a QA Plan and establishing a basic Project Plan with Louis. I also met up with Adam to hand off the IP Agreement so the Artists could review and sign it.

Tuesday (1/21/20): 2nd Programmer Meeting

  • Programmer Check-In meeting

  • Independent Development Work Sessions

This second Programmer meeting this week was functioning more or less as a check-in just to see how the team was doing on their tasks and adjusting to development. I attended this meeting just to check in with the programmers, as they are currently the only ones of the Sub-Teams to have bi-weekly meetings, and this one overlapped with my schedule.

Next week and for the rest of the semester, these meetings will be used as a final check-in for the QA Build before Wednesday’s testing session. Either Louis or myself will be attending at least part of these meetings to stay up to date on what we’re testing at the lab.

Wednesday (1/22/20): Team Lead Meeting / Sprint Retrospective

  • QA Testing

  • Team Lead Meeting

  • Sprint Retrospective (Leads Perspective)

  • Sprint Pre-Planning

  • Independent Development Work Sessions

Being the last full day of the sprint, the Leads use this time to conduct our Team Lead meeting. This week, we didn’t QA test since we were using this sprint to get all the new team members up to speed and integrated fully into the team. Next week will have QA Testing occur right before our meeting, and we’ll use that time to discuss our testing results.

We did have our Sprint Retrospective and Lead Review however, where the Leads came together and discussed how they believed the sprint went. Overall, the sprint went pretty well with only minor scheduling adjustments needing to be made for meetings and work sessions, and all members of the team seeming to be happy with the work they are starting to get into.

Final Thoughts!

Overall, I think that this first Sprint went really well considering how large the team is, and the challenges presented by that fact. Having a second producer and a group of competent Leads are awesome resources to have on a team! I know that as classes ramp up and developers get less and less free time that we’ll have to make adjustments to the scheduling, but I’m not too worried since right now there’s still plenty of flex time in everyone’s schedules.

I know a goal that we discussed during our Lead meeting was to integrate the development sub-teams more for meetings and work sessions so that we don’t silo each team into their own separate ecosystems. Scheduling should fix this, we just need to make sure we’re not spending all our development time in meetings and make the best possible use of that time. It’ll be a challenge dealing with these logistical challenges, but I’m excited to take them head on with the rest of the team.

For my closing thoughts, I’m just really happy with our team composition. I find myself really liking the vibe, with everyone involved in the project really bringing their A game and flexing their skills in their disciplines. I’m very excited to see what we make together – I’m really proud to call everyone I’m working with a member of the team!

Talk to you next time!

~Austin

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