(cancelled game for XboxLive Arcade that would become Old Time Hockey for PS4)
work at V7 Entertainment, Inc.
- UI/UX Designer & Lead
- Front End & Cinematic Designer & Art Lead
- 2D Artist / Animator
- Concept Artist
UI / UX Lead, Artist, and Problem Solver on an Extremely Large Scoped Game, a Massive Learning Experience
My primary role while at V7 was UI/UX lead, and the company's main project was an arcade style hockey game under the NBC/Universal Slap Shot license they had acquired. I created all menus and UI, 2D background presentation animations and loading screens, as well as supplemental 2D animated cutscenes for the story mode of the game. Using our homebrew production pipeline that I was able to help augment myself and innovate on, I created lightweight yet artistically pleasing and consistent UI solutions across the entire front end and gameplay, as well as a storymode system with a nearly complete series of hand-rotoscoped 2D cutscenes. Further to this I created information architecture, wireframes, conducting user testing, created concept art, presentations, layouts, style iterations, as well as menu trees for iterative design decisions throughout the production process. Though the capabilities of our proprietary game engine and pipeline varied wildly from in-menus (flash 3-based with limitations), gameplay (simple pixel-font printing), to cinematics (movie files), I worked hard with engineers in each area to achieve a consistent look across all boards.
Main Role: UI Direction
My initial responsibility on this project was simply the design of all UI, menu, and graphic design elements. The sports themed game took place in the 70's era, so I designed and iterated, and we eventually agreed upon a look based on 70's style broadcasts and print. I used bright colors, big presentation text, and strong, big shapes to convey the style of the era, as well as the fast, arcadey slant of the gameplay.
Responsibilities Growing: Cutscenes and 2D Animation
As is with small studios, my responsibilities soon grew to include 2D illustration/graphic art animations for story-mode cinematics, title sequences, and animated backgrounds for the menu flow. I drew on my visual arts background and eventually created a highly stylized cinematic style appropriate to the game's story and setting.
Many Challenges, Many Problems Creatively Solved on All Fronts
The experience was very challenging on all fronts. On the technology side, only a very limited number of Flash 6 functions could support the 'Flash in XNA' tools in our pipeline. From hacking fonts, to precise bitmap ratios, to learning the capabilities of every minute nook and cranny of our programming pipeline, I did everything I could to squeeze every last drop of graphical capability out of our toolset by working closely with each programmer and problem solving together in their own sector of the game engine.
Lessons Learned: Iterate On an Entire UI System First, and if it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It!
The NBC/Universal executive reviews consistently came back positive regarding UI updates I had implemented, particularly in the early phases of the game development when I was going for a more modernized-retro aesthetic, inspired in part by the UI's of current NHL competitors and other games. However, as development went on (and on), mandates came down from higher-ranking team members to create revision upon revision of the UI direction, before a fully iterated version was ever completed. In the end, the one main screen flow, of about three screens, ended up taking a huge amount of the production time, and a lot less time was left for the many supplementary screens, story-mode screens, and story-mode cutscenes. Furthermore some of the original inspiration from much earlier screens was lost. It would have been wiser to iterate one entire UI system, only then going back to polish individual pieces, and leaving more time for additional features. As the UX Lead, I should have been much more adamant about this, but in the end, it left me with an extremely strong lesson.
Lessons Learned: Compromise it Key, but Sometimes You Should Work Harder to Champion Your Convictions
From early on the company mandate had been to create fully 3D, animated cutscenes for the story-mode based on the IP’s story from the film. However, are team only ever consisted of 5-15 people! Based on my assessment of the team’s size and capability, I personally knew this was impossible. Early into my time there, I pitched creating more stylized, cartooned aesthetic in the form to 2D flash-animated cutscenes. I would use my own hand-drawn pictures, which given the current production timeline of at least another year, I was confident I could execute in time. However, the team remained unconvinced, and due to not a lot of support for the idea, I never went ahead to create a fully convincing prototype of what I had in mind. About a year and half later into production, I was asked to create a 2D animated solution for the cutscenes, only now with much less time to do it in! I opted for an Andy-Warhol-esque, painstaking (but faster than drawing) rotoscope of the original film’s frames. In retrospect, if I had stuck to my convictions and championed the idea I was sure was necessary with a stronger pitch or prototype, I may have been able to help the overall production, and ended up with work I was more pleased with myself.
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