Incomplete teams: Managing student projects with incomplete skillsets


It happens: sometimes you get a student team that doesn’t have a major skillset usually needed to make a game. Not that it’s impossible, but it means the team mentor has to consider what to do to make sure they are able to get a game out.

Now that’s actually not impossible: there are one-person games out there, and my previous research did focus on ensuring designers could survive a worst-case scenario of having no one to work with. With regard to student projects though, there’s a specific goal: the game has to showcase the students ability to conceive, plan, develop and finish a project.

Here are two student teams that had this problem that asked me for mentoring. Continue reading

Three Minute Answers: Az Samad on Becoming a Game Music Performer

Az Samad of www.azsamad.com has quite a background as a guitarist, composer and music teacher. He performed in Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy in KL, Comic Fiesta and Game Start.

This interview was part of a set of interviews captured for a KDU event called Interplay to talk on the benefits of gaming for young people. Here, Az talks about how his experience with gaming led him to one of his career highlights: playing Final Fantasy music in the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra.

Three Minute Answers: Gwen and Sharon on Dealing with the Impostor Syndrome

The “Impostor Syndrome” is something commonly cited as a reason new developers feel uneasy about saying they do game development, or to even engage with those who do. I do feel the need to ask about it since as a lecturer, I noticed that lack of confidence in one’s ability to develop does impede a student’s ability to expand their abilities and network.

Here, Gwen and Sharon gave IMHO a pretty good answer on how does one deal with the feeling of having an Impostor Syndrome.

Three Minute Answers: Sharon and Gwen, audio designers of IMBA Interactive

Sharon Kho and Gwen Guo are two audio designers from IMBA Interactive, a company in Singapore specializing in creating sounds for games. Being GAMBIT graduates – a collaboration between the Singapore govt and MIT to create future game dev professionals – they talk on their journey from their personal interests up till becoming co-workers in this unique setup.

Here they talk about the development of their company IMBA: on how it was conceived, their progress from starting with very little capital, to a view of the foley setup they have in their studio.

Three Minute Answers: Kris Antoni of Toge Productions

Dear Canon G7X. You’re an awesome camera. Your tendency to auto-focus based on your whim instead of what’s right in front of you is a tad annoying though. The blurred interview subject is unfortunate and is something I won’t let happen again.

The interview subject is solid though, and the audio is clear. Kris Antoni of Toge Productions (Indonesia) talks about his journey being a game developer and also becoming a publisher to serve a need he noticed in Indonesia.

Kris was also instrumental in creating physical gamedev gatherings in Indonesia and pushed to make them bigger and bigger…. until it became the Game Prime event in Jakarta. That event was one I was invited to attend and met people like Kris.

Three Minute Answers: Jin Kai

In Melbourne, while attending Unite, I bumped into an ex-student of mine. Found out how he went from developing apps in Malaysia to doing game development in China to currently being in Melbourne.

Here he details his progress from being a programmer, to an Associate Producer to considering into delving into design.

Jin Kai describes his process of discovering his strengths in game development and the importance of making time to find those strengths.

Three Minute Answers: Sam

I did this interview for KDU’s Interplay Symposium early this year. The Symposium was trying to tackle the negative perspectives the public has on gaming activity, so I went out and compiled video interviews of people whom gaming has been very positive for them. A good change from doom-and-gaming-addiction-gloom.

Sam here talked about what players knew regarding the storytelling app Episode. In the video she details how a fan can evolve herself or himself into a superstar by recognition from their peers – and eventually earn an income – due to how Episode is designed.

Bert Monroy, Photoshop guy since the ages

Bert Monroy at SEA Connect 2017

Bert Monroy at SEA Connect 2017

Lecture from SEA Connect 2017. As he puts it, he was the guy that learned Photoshop before it’s called that, and has been guiding its development since. He was quite proud to point out the Grass and Maple brushes in the Brushes set: “That’s my brush.”


The history talk was fascinating as he was telling it as he lived it. Here, upon discovering the Mac, he created a Clip-Art like package of human parts. Continue reading

Training Design Students to Tackle Art Issues with Prototypes

2015-01-GGS2-Andrew
By 2015, using the Cerny Method the design students were able to create evolved prototypes of their game design. For example, the student above was able to create a Beat-Em-Up/RPG game within 10 weeks, and was able to showcase the game as a portfolio item along with other deliverables. Another problem then appeared: art. Or rather, designers forced to consider art issues. So this was the problem I tackled from 2015 till now.

This is MAMJ reviewing Light Up, a game by an all-designer team for their FYP. Having no programmers or artists on their team – which was the worst case scenario I was concerned would happen –  they had to figure out how to deliver a fun, playable game. They settled on using RPGMaker and was able to deliver a horror game hacked into the engine.

The game was playable, created memorable responses among testers  and MAMJ seemed to truly enjoy trying it out. As a proof of design, the game worked. We did however get a comment from the industry that the art is not impressive. This was settled by explaining the designers had no ability to work on the art, but it did made me realize that in the end, games are still judged by their art. Design, unfortunately, is obfuscated; you won’t get it until you play it.

Now, if art blocks people from playing a game, is it possible for a designer to do something with art? Especially if they’re stuck in a situation where they have no access to artists?

Should designers even consider dealing with art?

Design student prototypes circa 2014.

The fact is, design students do come with varying abilities in art. Sometimes we do get ‘purple unicorns’: design students who can do art and programming thus are able to create a very tight integration of all three aspects in their prototype. Andrew Sin’s Geminate (Image:right) is an example of this. However, we can’t rely on students coming in as all-rounders and an educational program should be catered to an average expectation of what students can do. Expecting design students to be able to do art on their own is unrealistic. Furthermore, game design is best proven with prototype art. If a game is proven fun with ugly art, then good art can only make the game better. Benny Chan’s Rect-y 2 (Image: center) and Tyle Ooi’s Ponch (Image:left) are good examples: they both have serviceable art that allow players to test the game to see what the game can offer.

If there is one good reason to get designers to do art, it is because it will allow them to not wait for artists in order to prove their designs. The design students cited above were able to convey the experience they wanted by generating their own assets. This ability has two advantages:

  1. Artists can be freed to work on other art assets needed.
  2. Designers can confirm their designs without needing an artist to be available.

So if it’s good for designers to have some art ability – but not be able to learn to do art by themselves  – what should they learn in order to do a good game design?

Continue reading