Monday, December 19, 2011

Code View

It's fun to post art work and game animation; however, we had a successful jam session this past weekend and this is the other side of the magic: a random error during execution caught this pretty scene of kamikaze dirigibles attacking the player's train! The postmortem from this weekend will be coming along in the next few days, but we're all a little wiped out from the weekend and we have the holiday breaks to get ready for. That being said, happy holidays!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Jam Session

Team Dirigiballers has been spent the better part of the last month working on the design document for Tumbleweed Express. Our deadline to *complete the document was last night, which we were able to do. The entire team has been contributing to fleshing out the design and it really is nice to make the deadline for the first major milestone. As many of us our students and many of us our traveling for the holiday season, we are pretty excited to be having our second major production jam session this weekend. This evening we will be outlining what we hope to accomplish this weekend on what is a fairly ambitious indie project. With a little luck we will complete all our initial goals by Sunday before we all go our separate ways for the rest of the month. We may or may not be able to post over the weekend, but definitely look forward to a postmortem of the event sometime on Monday.

*A design document, in our view, is really a "living" document. While we have finished the majority of it, there are a few sections that we have intentionally left empty and of course things are likely to get edited along the way as production moves forward. We're primarily using the document as a method of controlling scope and keeping us focused as we are a team composed of disjoint members separated by distance, scheduling conflicts, and everything else that makes life interesting.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Prototypes, Presentations, and Coffee Shops

A small crowd gathered this past Thursday, in the wonderful DC establishment that is Bravo! Bravo!, to view a prototype of Tumbleweed Express. The team conducted a brief post mortem of the recent game jam event that produced the prototype, discussed where the project was going in the future, and allowed everyone to get hands on experience playing through the first couple levels. During the Q&A section of the presentation there were a number of questions surrounding the process and the tools the team used. In short, the process was very organic and the tools used were spontaneously chosen based on collective past experience.

To develop the idea behind the Tumbleweed Express, the team was adhering to the theme of the event: “Tram Combat”. Following typical game jam format, the favored game pitch of those presented was selected. The pitch immediately underwent rapid prototyping, which consisted of: designing enemies, building trains, playing with weapons, sculpting maps, and generally fleshing out the idea in a little more detail. The last post shows a few pictures of ideas scrawled on whiteboards and conversations being held in the thick of it all, which pretty much summarizes how the first two days were conducted.

As far as the tools used, the team relied heavily on: Dropbox for file sharing, Wikispaces for remote coordination, Facebook for event management, email, and Google Docs to track issues with the prototype. For the actual prototype development, the team used: Unity, 3D Studio Max, Photoshop, Visual Studio and Vim depending on preference. Additionally, a reference library of images and theme related assests was compiled to get everyone thinking along similar lines. Organization and coordination was heavily dependent on everyone taking on a leadership or intermediary communication role from time to time. Ultimately these tools, and the processes that evolved around them, were successful at managing the development process over the weekend.

As the project continues, the tools and processes will continue to expanded. Thus far the team has: polished the prototype, moved to an SVN system, developed an active Wiki discussion, hosted some Gchat sessions, and taken over a Chinatown Starbucks to further define the scope of the project. This last step was very important for the team to do because it makes it possible to come to a consensus on where the project is going and what level of effort is going to be necessary. Additionally, it was necessary to reign in the sheer volume of ideas that were being generated and that could only be done together.

Ultimately, Tumbleweed Express is taking a short reprieve, of sorts, from production work on the prototype and is instead taking a reflective look at what the game is about. The current major push is to have a solidified design document prior to the next big team work session in mid-December. Individuals are also working on various programming issues and continuing to develop the artistic style of the game in the meantime, but production is slowing down for a time (there is also the Thanksgiving Holiday to consider). If you happen to catch us at our next Starbucks meeting, feel free to lend us your support... we're only half kidding about this: free coffee will always be accepted!

As a final note, the DC Chapter of the IGDA is a really great venue for feedback on game projects. Not only can you network with like minded individuals, but you can present your game projects in just about any state and expect to receive solid feedback. If you are interested in joining the chapter or presenting a game, you should definitely checkout the chapter’s Facebook page.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

So here's where all the magic began, the white board pitch.    

With the team mobilized around a clear common goal, they set forth on their 48 hour quest!

The whiteboard riddled with use.

The team approaching the finish line.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November DC Game Development & Gaming Events

IGDA DC November Meeting - Fall Game Jam Postmortem
November 17 (Thursday),

The Dirigiballers will be showing off the results of the 2011 DC Fall Game Jam at the next chapter meeting. The first prototype of the "Tumbleweed Express" was developed in Unity over 48 hours. This month's meeting provides an opportunity for the team to demo it to anyone interested while also explaining how the event went. The team will provide an overview of the design, the process, the lessons learned, and provide insight into game development jams in general. The event will take place at Bravo! Bravo! and there should be plenty of time for fantastic discussions and in-person demos of other projects people would like to bring in.

Being the good community citizens that we are, we would also like to mention these other events going on in the DC area this month:
November 11 (Fri)
Everyone should be aware of this exciting project by now, those who might have forgotten should be reminded that this outdoor/"street" Gameday is still on and should be a great time.  Six games will be available in two sessions, starting at 9:30am and 1:00pm.

Gamification Perspectives
November 11 (Fri),

Another part of DCWeek that might be of interest to is this Gamification panel held at a Deloitte office.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


This blog is being setup for the purposes of charting the development of the "Tumbleweed Express" project, which is a product of the 2011 Fall Game Jam that was hosted by the DC Chapter of the International Game Developers Association. The team name, "Dirigiballers", comes from the usage of dirigibles as the first antagonists to be designed and tested in the game.

Tumbleweed Express is a "Travel Defense" game in which the player controls a Steam-Engine Train that travels along the countryside utilizing mounted weaponry to fight off attacking enemies. The setting is "Western Steampunk", and the style and assets reflect that theme. Enemies include steam-powered blimps, with gear-controlled propellers, as well as burrowing Drillcars (two-wheeled vehicles with a large drills mounted on the front of them).

The Facebook page for the DC Chapter of the IGDA can be found here: