Gabriela Aveiro-Ojeda

Storyteling // design // animation

Top 10 Takeaways From Being in a 3-year Game Development Program

For my student awards ceremony, I was lucky enough to be given the chance to represent my program by giving a short speech as to what my experiences were as a game development student. It's hard to compress 3 years of learning, stress, growth, and failure into a couple minutes.

I compromised by coming up with a list of 10 things I learned by being in this program, resulting in the following:

1. Take care of your body. Take breaks. You can't do your best if you're overworked.

2. Be kind

3. Make the most of all opportunities. Carve your own place in and it will lead to different experiences.

4. Make room for failure. There is a lot of room for making mistakes while in college, but that doesn't mean it's over yet.

5. Never stay the same.

6. Take advantage of resources.

7. Cherish your friends as something more than a connection or benefit

8. Everything can and will change (1, 2, 3 years from now, maybe even tomorrow)

9. Not all opinions are definitive to who you are

10. Whenever you feel unhappy or unsatisfied, tell yourself, "it doesn't have to be this way". You deserve better. Nothing will ever come about if you keep waiting for the right opportunity to fall into your lap. Just because the world moves around you doesn't mean you are also moving along with it.

I think the one that is most important to me, personally, is #8. So many things have changed for me within the span of a year. A year ago I was surrounded by a completely different set of people, a lot of them who caused me stress and harm, but now I am surrounded with friends who I feel loved by and who I feel I can trust.

To some degree, I don't even know what I feel about college yet. Maybe I will have a concrete answer a few months from now, or even a year from now. Or maybe when I start that MA I have always been wanting to do!

I wrote what was going to be a brief post-mortem about my experiences at GDC. It ended up being more of a post-mortem about my life as a college student than anything else. If you're interested in reading only the GDC portion, start reading past the line of asterisks! ********

 

 

For the past two or so years, I’ve really struggled with what I think about the quality of my work. After the first year of college, I was really confident about my skills as an artist and animator. I was receiving the right encouragement at the right time by my teachers. I would spend most of my day life drawing, sketching ideas, blocking out simple animations, and watching movies to study motion. I even passed my first year animation class with what was probably the highest grade of my entire year.

In my 2nd and 3rd year, I began receiving feedback that made me rethink all that. I let the negative comments get to me because they came from a teacher, so if a teacher thinks I have failed as an animator, I really must not be cut out for this kind of job. I was disappointed in myself for not having “thick skin”, for taking the negative criticism seriously, for letting it cut me so deep.

I blamed myself a lot. I was obviously too soft and sensitive. I should be able to take harsh criticism and not let it phase me. At least that’s how I thought.

I feared failure. I wanted to take care of my feelings and keep them intact, but at the same time I was afraid feeling too much would make me weak. I was trying my hardest to ground myself in my intersecting identities as a way to support myself and keep going, while at the same time having conflicting feelings and doubting the value of my self-expression as an artist and person.

“7/10 won’t get you a job” “Why are you so slow?” “You can do better than this” “How are you not getting this? Everyone else is!”

Passive aggressive comments really made quitting a very appealing idea. It really hurt me to receive nothing but vitriol every time I submitted a project. I started caring less and less and so the quality of my work began to decline. I just barely got away with passing grades in a class where I struggled to motivate myself to do good work.

Why should I even try, if it’s going to be garbage anyway?

But for some wild reason I didn’t quit. I can think of three main reasons why I didn’t:

1)      I was in too far and wanted to at least walk away with a diploma after all the debt I put myself in

2)      I felt like if I failed college I would be even more of a disappointment. I moved from the most depressing city in Canada (Winnipeg) to Toronto just to study game development. Failing meant going back to that city where I usually experienced nothing but sadness

3)      I had others tell me I was worth something and that I shouldn’t give up just yet. I felt supported by my community. While the one teacher thought my work was garbage, my peers gave me the positive feedback I needed to not give up

Toward the end of my second year, a teacher I’m closer friends with told me to keep going. He told me I was worthy, both as a person and an artist. I tried to hold on to his statement for as long as possible to try and get by.

It didn’t improve wildly by the third year. I was still having a lot of the same issues.

One improvement was that in one of my classes, I was able to get the only A grade so far in my third year. I was mildly surprised as to why I received that grade. Even into the second semester I continued receiving A’s in this class, even after the teacher gave a disclaimer that they would be grading our work according to industry standards. The class also happened to be one where we were responsible for coming up with our own original ideas for a cinematic, so I was free to do what I wanted. I began to think that maybe, my work was good. That there had to be a reason I was receiving A’s in this particular class.

Third year also brought along a lot of pain and heartbreak I had never experienced before, more in relation to my work within communities than an animator. Friends leaving, being taken advantage of by people familiar to me who I  never thought would want to hurt me. Now not only did I think my art wasn’t enough, but I fell further into the trap of believing I wasn’t enough. That I didn’t have enough love or feeling for myself or others, that I wasn’t qualified to lead community groups and projects that require someone who is empathetic and sensible.

Yet during this, I made a lot of new friends who supported me and continue to support me, whereas I might’ve outright quit if they weren’t there. It’s easy to feel alone but I am overcome with emotion when I realize that in my toughest times, there are so many wonderful people who are present and tell me the right thing so I can keep going.

                                                                           *************************

The fact that I had been selected for the IGDA scholars program was beyond me. I felt some of my hard work had paid off and materialized in the form of this award, but part of me still hung onto those negative comments. I was very anxious. I was afraid attending GDC would confirm my fears that my work is garbage and I should find a different field of work ASAP.

My assumptions are usually wrong.

When I demo’ed some of my work at an IGDA networking event at GDC (huge thanks to the IGDA for organizing this, and for MOLLY who encouraged me to go anyway when I wanted to back out because I didn’t think I had enough work to show) I received only positive feedback. I never thought that would’ve been possible. There were people who liked my work and that made me really happy.

I was also lucky enough to meet some very lovely folks from GaymerX (Matt Con & Phil Jones) who made my night go from a nerve-wracking mess to a very happy outgoing one. I was also on the verge of a panic attack that night (unrelated to the event or conference itself) and was even luckier to have friends who were there to make sure I was doing alright.

Even outside of this networking event, I still received some very nice comments from designers and people I greatly admire. They would look at my business card and with a pleased smile go “huh, that’s neat”. It seems small, but it made me incredibly happy that people who make amazing things thought my work was interesting. After years of thinking I was worthless, of being told I was worthless, I finally felt like I was so much more than that. As the week progressed and I attended events specifically meant for the scholarship I was part of, I began to realize how lucky I was to have this opportunity. Bumping into developers and artists who I've admired since I got into game development was incredibly surreal and fun.

I also made a lot of friends at GDC, some who don’t live in my same city and who I miss a lot. I felt sad leaving them, but so happy I was able to meet people from outside my community.

A collab drawing with @gothdome that we later gave to her IGDA mentor Nina Freeman (aaaaaaah)

A collab drawing with @gothdome that we later gave to her IGDA mentor Nina Freeman (aaaaaaah)

 

It’s a lot to unpack, but I think my biggest takeaway from GDC is: I am not garbage. I feel a lot more confident about my work. I’m not as afraid about approaching people whose work I admire, or who I think are better than me (and now I realize I should stop thinking that way). GDC felt like a tidal wave of emotion that swept me over so now everything after it feels less overwhelming. I am feeling so much right now, and I am more than happy to accept these feelings fully and not push them away like I may have a year or two ago.

(I feel like the combination of college and GDC has aged my mind so much but I still have to remind myself I'm still pretty young with a lot more experiences ahead of me.)

 

Global Game Jam (Theme: Ritual)

This last weekend I participated in Global Game Jam for the very first time, although it was a pretty small project. I prototyped a board game using only paper and markers that I was wanting to outline for a while now and thought GGJ would be a good time to do so. The game also happened to fit perfectly with this year's GGJ theme of ritual.

HERBOLARIA (tentative)

A 2-player tabletop game that utilizes herbology as a means of gameplay.

     

 

 

 

HOW TO START THE GAME:

The players roll the die and whoever gets the highest number can go first. The player must pick 3 illnesses (at random) from the pile. Illnesses vary from things such as thirst and hunger to blood poisoning and skin infections. The player's piece on the board must always start in a neutral spot and not on top of a playing block (currently working on this feature for the next build).

GAME OUTLINE

The game is composed of a grid of terrain blocks (forest, river, soil) and each block houses a different herb that is appropriate to the habitat. Ex. cedar trees are found in forest blocks, etc.

TURN MOVES

1. Appease (optional)

-In each game, a major animal spirit will overlook the board (such as the Yaguarete pictured above) that can help out a player if they gain their favour. I had other cards with different animals but couldn't think of what different abilities each animal could have or how they could influence play, so that may be dropped altogether or figured out in the next iteration. 

-To appease a spirit, the player rolls the die. If the die is an even number, nothing happens (I might review this and make something not nice happen) and the player must move on to the next phase of their turn. If it's an odd number, the spirit will favour the player.

-When the spirit favours the player, it varies on which language version of the game they are playing. I made two versions of each card: one with its Guarani name and no description, and ones with its scientific or English equivalent and a brief description of what the herb does.

                                             -If playing in English: when the spirit favours the player, the player can detach an entire terrain block and move it elsewhere on the board. I plan to refine this in the next version by adding more blocks to the playing board and making an actual physical playing board. Player cannot move the block they are currently on.

                                            -If the player is playing in Guarani: when the spirit favours the player, the player can choose one herb card and flip it over to see its non-Guarani name as well as its description. The card must then be flipped back into its original state.

                                           -If the spirit successfully reveals the herb the player needs, the player cannot take it in the same turn. Ex. you flip over a card and see it's the wormseed that you need. You must put it back to its original state and move blocks without taking it.

2. Move blocks

-Moving is mandatory in every turn, whether or not the player has successfully appeased the game spirit.

-Can only move diagonally one block at a time

-Cannot occupy same block as other player

-Cannot take herbs that does not apply to illness, but can move it to a different corresponding block (ex. "I found yerba mate in the soil block but I don't need it, so I'll move it to a different soil block to mess up my opponent's movement scheme")

HOW TO WIN

-Once all corresponding herbs have been found, the player must appease the spirit one last time. If successful, the player wins and the game is over. If not successful, the player loses all their herbs and must start over from zero (I realize this is a very troll mechanic to have so I may change it completely in the next version).

Might create some kind of manual/herb guide implementation that players can refer to somehow outside gameplay and during gameplay.

Hopefully I can get the next version onto cardboard (or assorted board game pieces) to have ready by GDC!

I'm finally at the stage where I've nailed down the art style for this game. The nice thing about it is that it saves me some time as a lot of it is cutting/pasting textures and changing their brightness and contrast.

I've also decided to take out the day counter I implemented previously into the game and just stick to specific dates. I cut out a bunch of content that was really just extra narrative (that way I can get most of this game done by the deadline I've set for myself).

Hopefully I can meet the deadline!! (Which is ~1 month from now)

Since my last update last week, I've made some more progress in laying out my game within Unity. So far the text assets are final but the actual character placeholder assets are, of course, temporary.

I've delved deep enough into it that the next step for me to take is to begin making the visuals. Since this will read a lot like a comic, I'll be taking a break from Unity to create all the images before transferring them over.

Ideally I want this game done by February. But we'll see!

With 2015 wrapping up, I thought I'd share the newest game I'm working on. I've finished the first draft in Twine and I'm currently doing a second run in Word to polish the language. Currently going to make the final version within Twine, although there is the possibility of moving it to Unity as a point-and-click.

It's just a short game I really wanna finish eventually for myself more than anything else, mainly because it deals with a lot of sudden and strong emotions.

Yes I am still making that game, to my own surprise. I'm usually not the best with long-term projects that are purely done for personal purposes, which this game very much falls into.

Between school and work though, I've made some decent progress on the actual game structure. I probably won't get to add images and animations in but hey, that's what post-jam fine tuning is for.

I've basically written in the first "level" of the game. Since this is an escape room-type esque game, I divided objects into three different tiers of importance and in what order the player accesses the items.

Es tarde, y ya que es Thanksgiving, voy a usar ese tiempo extra para terminar esto antes del 15 (WOW ES ESTE JUEVES QUEEE).

HHM Jam Day 3, 4, 5, and 6

Yeah ok I'm not the best at keeping up with blogs (but it's because I've been socializing more in real life so yeah!)

Right now I'm laying out the basic objects in Twine:

As you can see the title I've chosen so far for this project is Che rogape, which simply means My house in guarani. 

As for paper protoyping, I'm figuring out what containers (closet, dresser, desk, etc) will be in the room and which objects will be found where:

*************Spanish time***************

No estuve posteando muy de seguido, principalmente porque estuve socializando y todo eso.

El progreso que hice hasta ahora es:

a) colocar objetos claves en Twine con descripciones

b) dibujando los diferentes compartimientos donde estos objetos van a estar

OK eso es todo por hoy!

HHM Jam Day 2 or "I told you I WAS IN THIS FORREAL"

Keeping track of each day helps me pace myself because I really do want to finish making this tiny little Twine game.

Today I spent the day thinking about storytelling mechanics in a text-based game. I want to achieve a meaningful sequence and maintain a relatively clever order so whoever's playing the story can enjoy it as a game (I guess) but also so it remains culturally relevant to the narrative I'm trying to achieve.

That being said: permanence of the material world. In some Guarani Paraguayan storytelling, the world is sometimes divided into different planes (such as yvy mara he'y) and between physical beings and immaterial beings. The immaterial beings are neutral and can sometimes be benevolent towards us if the right person appeases them.

The story takes place in a room. A room has area and volume. In the room, there will be compartments (ex: a dresser, a desk, a box). If every object were available to the player, meaning they can access them in whatever order they desire, it may undermine the importance of some objects versus another. For example, to me a guampa is more important than a bag. So the player will have to go through some options before coming to the guampa. The guampa is integral to Paraguayan culture, therefore, there will be more meaning and thought to attaining it.

This also made me think about reward systems. I'm thinking about why I'm rewarding readers and what I'm rewarding them for. Maybe the proper sequence of objects that ends the game will be a sequence that can only be achieved once the player is fully aware of the cultural significance of each item and how they are utilized and how they can utilize those objects to escape the space they're trapped in.

I'm too tired to re-type all this in Spanish, Imma try to make the next one shorter

HHM Jam Day 1

"I want to make a game!" -me, like, 3 months ago

I never knew Hispanic Heritage Month existed until a Hispanic Heritage Month Game Jam (http://itch.io/jam/hhmjam15) was announced. Nevertheless, I thought it to be a really cool opportunity to make That Game that I've been wanting to make but never got to it because I wasn't too motivated.

Here are my findings of the first day concepting this game:

Platform: Twine (I'm using Unity/Unreal at school so hey why not learn a third game making program)

Genre: Puzzle/Room escape

Objective: Find a way out of the room.

REAL Objective: Secret

Plot: You wake up in your room as you always do but find that the door and windows have disappeared. Maybe utilizing some of the objects within your reach will facilitate your exit.

-Where are you going?

-Why do you want to leave?

-Why are you alone/Are you alone?

-Where were you before this?

(Tentative) Assets:

-Guampa/Terere

-Mask(s)

-Paper map

-Diary + individual pages

-Newspaper

-Poncho

-Hat(s)

-Parrot feathers/tail

-Ñanduti

-Portrait(s)

-Cocido

-Elements for a paye

-Bags

-Herbs

-Books

-Musical instruments

-Dance attire

-Ceramics

Yikes. I haven't ironed out the narrative too well yet but I know one main thing: since the theme of the jam is hispanic/latinx identity, I want to make a game that is reflective of how I see my identity within the context of making games and playing games. It would definitely relate to the fact that at times I feel incredibly isolated whenever I think that I'm the only Paraguayan in all of Canada (and probably North America?) that is in game development.

I'll try my best to update daily logs on my progress, so stay tuned!

****************************Y ahora, en español*********************************************

"¡Quiero crear un juego!" -yo hace 3 meses

Nunca supe que existia un mes para hispanos/latin@s hasta que vi un anuncio para un game jam (http://itch.io/jam/hhmjam15). Pense que esto seria una buena oportunidad para crear un juego, ya que estuve pensando en hacer uno pero estaba muy kaigue para comenzar.

Aqui esta lo que planeé en este primer dia:

Programa: Twine (Estoy aprendiendo ya Unity y Unreal en clase entonces queria usar algo que nunca use)

Clase: Room escape

Objetivo: Salir de una pieza

Objetivo verdadero: Secreto

Trama: Te despertas en tu dormitorio y descubris que la puerta y ventanas han desaparecido. Capaz podes usar los objetos que estan a tu alcanze para escapar.

-¿A donde vas?

-¿Porque queres salir?

-¿Porque estas sol@?/¿Estas sol@?

-¿Por donde andabas anteriormente?

Objetos:

-Guampa/Tereré

-Mascaras

-Un mapa

-Agenda + páginas

-Diario

-Poncho

-Sombrero(s)

-Plumas de loro/Cola de loro

-Ñanduti

-Portraretrato(s)

-Cocido

-Objetos para hacer payé

-Bolsones

-Yerbas

-Libros

-Guitarra/Arpa

-Ropa para danza paraguaya

-Cantaros

Hijole. Todavia no se todos los detalles sobre la historia pero si se una cosa: ya que el tema para este jam es identidad hispan@/latin@, queria pensar como yo pienso sobre mi identidad en relacion a los video juegos. Definitivamente voy a pensar mucho de lo sola que me siento de vez en cuando, como yo soy la unica paraguaya estudiando desarrollo de videojuego en Canada (y probablemente todo norteamerica?).

¡Voy a tratar de escribir un post por dia!