Week 1: Brainstorming

So I’ve made it through my first week on working on my mobile game. I can honestly say that it’s been amazing. I left the office on Friday absolutely pumped and impatient to start working, the opposite of what most people want to do once they get to the weekend. I take that as a good sign.

I was out of the office due to health problems on Monday and Tuesday, but on Wednesday came my first test: Other people. My dad had found a couple of other teenage interns through company relations that wanted to join me on my quest. That day, my first teammate was going to come in, a 13-year-old boy who had some experience with SDKs.

I was not looking forward to this. I don’t really like working with people, especially people I don’t know. Also, I came into this project with the mindset that it was going to be all my own. I don’t like my plans being changed without my input, either. Basically, I saw this “working with other interns” thing as one of the things I hate most in school: Group Projects. Group projects, specifically ones where you DON’T get the option to choose your partners, suck for a number of reasons:

  1. Varying Levels of Work Ethic: In my experience, many of my partners just don’t care as much as I do. Whether it be due to a lack of interest in the class, problems with the project itself or the teacher, or an overall lack of interest in school in general, they just don’t want to help out like I need them to. This creates a lot of uneasiness when giving them tasks to do independently. They can’t be trusted to get things done.
  2. Different Final Product Expectations: Similarly, some people just don’t want a high-quality project. Personally, I’m  a huge perfectionist and sometimes an overachiever. This translates mostly to grades. I’m always shooting for a 100, more if extra credit is offered. However, not everyone wants that. Most people are fine with 90 or above, which is a great goal, don’t get me wrong, as long as I’m not getting that grade.
  3. Unmatched Skill Sets: Even if someone agrees to work hard, they just aren’t good at things. Their work requires extra supervision and editing, time you don’t always have.
  4. Conflicting Personalities: If you’re lucky, you’ll be put in a group who don’t have any of the above qualities. There’s a catch, though- you won’t be able to stand any of them. Either they’re too loud or too quiet or bossy or need a lot of guiding or- it doesn’t matter, they INFURIATE you. At this point, I give up and pull back into my shell, only speaking when I think my group needs to be guided onto the right track.

I didn’t have the option this time to let someone else take the lead and settle for a sub-par product. This was my commitment, my idea, and I wanted so badly for this game to be successful. I was left with one option: I had to socialize and work with other people.

Another problem: I had no idea what we were going to work on. I had procrastinated actually coming up with the game idea and had only vague hand motions to represent what I had in mind. I had nothing to present to any teammates.

Back to the 13-year-old boy. When he first came in, I explained to him what we were “planning” on doing and how things worked here at VenForma. My dad sat and listened along, butting in at times to explain part of the working process. Much to my surprise, it all went well. He picked up what I wanted to do easily and gave several ideas. As more ideas were thrown out there, the more I realized what I wanted and was able to specify what we were going to do. I got excited and started writing and drawing frantically on the whiteboard. Within 30 minutes we had our game planned.

The game we decided on is a sushi making game with the user playing as a kitten. The kitten will start off making very basic rolls, scored on how well they can execute the roll. Sort of like the Nintendo DS game Cooking Mama. Our game will be specifically focused on sushi and focus more on the crafting of the roll, rather than worrying about cooking the rice and cleaning the fish. The screen will display the typical sushi bar setup and the player will use their finger to spread the rice, place the fish and veggies, roll, cut, and plate the sushi. The player progresses through themed level sets similar to the Candy Crush Saga interface. Each theme presents a new facet of sushi making and the levels become harder and harder. This is how we’ll get players to continue playing, making them want to play and soon become addicted. We’re not sure yet just how many levels we’re going to make or if we’ll continue to add levels once initial deployment. (Also, no name yet. Just have to refer to it as “The Game”.)

An example of what a sushi bar looks like to base our design off of.

Now that we had our game planned out, my dad recommended we do the SWOT analysis in order to gauge how successful our game would be in the market. After I found out exactly what SWOT analysis was, I found that our prospects were looking good: we have time and a wide variety of skills, reliable help that we can use if we hit problems, and there are little other high-quality sushi games for competition. Our only weakness was lack of experience, but that would come in time.

On Thursday I met my other teammate, a girl my age who has experience with Adobe Photoshop and Flash. She was going to be our designer and work on the art aspects of the game. With the game planned out, I had several different tasks she could work on: fish design, knife design, background textures, character design and more. She went to work.

Meanwhile, I was busy researching everything to do with sushi. I’m a fervent sushi fan and want the game to satisfy other picky sushi connoisseurs. If the game isn’t representing the art of sushi correctly, how could I live with myself? So I searched what each sushi knife was for, the differences between fish, the different types of sushi, how sushi is made, and took down whatever else I could find.

Also, while browsing Bryan Sekine’s website, a big problem was brought to my attention: sustainability of the seafood industry. Many fishing practices, including practices for sushi fish, are bad for ocean life and are bringing many species to near extinction. Bryan had opened his website and his sushi classes to help bring awareness about something that was important to him. Loving sushi myself and not wanting to condone such terrible acts, I realized I could also help; with this game, I can bring awareness to all who play it about sustainable sushi practices and give any money generated to organizations dedicated to sustainable practices. Our game will not only give players a look into the artistry of sushi, but also allow them to help the world around them.

I left Friday brimming with excitement. I had a concept, direction, and a team. It’s all coming together, but I’m running out of time. I’ll only be able to work on this consistently until August 25th, the first day of school. I’m ready to start coding and get this game going.

Aurora Kesler

Intern working at VenForma. Starting a blog documenting my first summer as an intern and working on creating a mobile game.

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