Summer, Scrums, and Critiques

By Giuseppe Liquori

Summer ‘16 is here! For the Emergent Media Center (EMC), summer is the busiest time of year – we’re working on a myriad of projects and the absence of classes gives the student employees the ability to produce great work at top speed. The extra time also allows for the studio to add an extra layer to the development process via cross-team critiques and SCRUM. Critiques are a time dedicated to presenting a project’s progress to the entire studio to receive feedback – what’s good, what needs improvement, potential solutions to obstacles, etc. There’s usually food involved too!

The teams are working on:

      • Sandbox – Flight BTV: One of the projects the sandbox team is making for the Burlington Airport is a virtual flight experience. A Kinect, an Xbox peripheral used for motion controlled games, is used to track a player’s outstretched arms to control their flying avatar. Imagine a child running around, arms out, pretending they’re an airplane. Or a zeppelin. Or UFO. Or a flying pig!

Fly like a G6 #kinect #btv

A video posted by ChamplainCollegeEmergentMedia (@ccemergentmedia) on May 27, 2016 at 9:03am PDT

    • Sandbox – Graffiniti BTV: A project created by the sandbox team and was featured at several events last year, will now have a new home at the BTV airport. The team is updating it to streamline its mechanics and update programming code.
  • ANR Recycling Video: In collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, our team of filmmakers are producing a series of videos to help Vermonters understand the process of recycling in the state, new rules and regulations, and a history of recycling in America. Here’s an interesting tidbit we learned during their cross-team critique presentation: Recycling is a term coined in the latter half of the 20th century. Before then, including during the scrap drives of WW2, the process was referred to as “material management.”
  • Champbot- Last year, our Champbot team and their creation came in second place. This year, winning is the only option. A project in development by the MakerLab (hyperlink Facebook page), they are using lessons learned from last years work to make a winning bot that will create quite the spectacle! It should be fun to see in action later in the Fall.
  • B2CvCJlIYAAfhP_Sandbox: Alternative Controllers- Before last Friday’s critique, , there have been a lot of people sitting in boxes around the studio and now we know why! The team is creating alternate controllers to display at Art Hop later in the year, one of them being a cardboard box. I imagine the final product will be reminiscent of that one episode of Spongebob. Their work is being inspired by GDC’s Alt. CTRL. Showcase.
  • BREAKAWAY Mobile- To further the cause to eliminate violence against women and girls, the EMC is redeveloping BREAKAWAY as a mobile game. The goal this summer is to create a playable demo and redesign the minigames for a handheld experience.

 

Each project has a goal and a series of tasks that breaks down the process and creates a manageable timeline. The EMC uses a specific process known as SCRUM Methodology in its project development. Each project team has a manager, referred to as the Sprint Master, whose job is not to manage the team but help remove any obstacles in their way and is the primary communication with the project client; for game related projects, the sprint master is often the designer. Sprint refer0519161255s to a segment of the development process dedicated to specific goals and tasks. The team convenes daily for a “SCRUM Meeting,” where progress is discussed, what are the next steps, and what team members need from others – along with anything else that comes up. I’ve personally been part of multiple scrum meetings that became mini-brainstorming sessions and collaborate to solve issues that may not fit into the schedule a regular meeting. The entire process is essential to the project workflow at the EMC and gives teams a clear opportunity to reflect on the work they’ve done, contributing to the learning experience that is working at the EMC.

SCRUM is primarily associated with software development, such as the Sandbox projects and BREAKAWAY Mobile. These discussions typically involve bugs the programmers have encountered, what art resources other teammates need, design questions that need to be addressed in the next Quality Assurance session, and anything that may come up. But it’s also utilized for the video production process for the ANR Recycling project and even for the Communications/Operations team.  The difference between a software team scrum, and say a video team scrum is in the content of the discussions, but yield just as beneficial results. Instead of a programmer giving feedback on an art asset, the videographer is receiving a shot list from the script writer. Or the director critiques the script as a QA Manager critiques the implementation of game mechanics based on recent feedback. The daily check-in that SCRUM provides gives any team a direction to move forward with, understand short term goals and expedite content production so that no work is stalled because of a lack of communication. In a marketing team, art and audio is replaced with social media content and campaigns, but again, the process and benefits remain the same.