I like being challenged. Even more than being challenged I like being impossibly challenged. It’s something about looking at a truly daunting task and taking apart piece by piece that gets my blood pumping in a way that nothing else can compare. I walked into this semester truly believing that I was on a suicide mission. For my culmination presentation, I was making a virtual reality shooter from scratch as a solo developer. For technical production, I was picking back up a program I hadn’t touched in well over a year and using a library I’ve never even heard of. For Interdisciplinary Team Project, I was making a web-based game having never made one before. In the process of making that game I would be porting over an existing game to a language I had close to no experience with while simultaneously changing it from a local multiplayer strategy game to a single player puzzle. I managed to squeeze my way into 3D modelling and animation, knowing that the time commitment for it was no less than any of the aforementioned courses. Outside of school, I had enrolled in the intermediate level android course at CodePath, requiring me to learn a new programming language (Kotlin) in a new environment (Android) and release apps for it every week for 10 weeks. In addition to all of that, my GPA in the previous semester was abysmal so I also told myself to aim for an A in every class. It was awful- pronounced great.

The semester taught me an important lesson in work life balance and let me understand the way that I work in a way no other semester had. With so many classes that required hours of commitment in a week, the first thing to be sacrificed was my free time. Every game on my laptop and phone were uninstalled. I allotted an hour a day to wind down. Twenty-four minutes were spent watching an episode of One Piece, a popular anime that I decided to finally start. Twenty minutes were spent reading a web novel that released two chapters a day. The remaining time was spent playing ten-minute blitz game of chess. I found myself disregarding the wind down time simply because the extra hour of work would be used to barely keep myself afloat. Not even a month in I realized that although the challenge of the semester was exactly what I expected and enjoyed, I would avoid similar environments professionally.

My culmination project, Project Epsilon, was a great experience. Through it, I wanted to see what every single aspect of game design was like. From a single plane floating somewhere in the unity default skybox, I built the game up one mechanic at time. The systems that I built for Epsilon, namely the Target Spawning and Controlling systems, were some of the best code that I’ve written up to this point. With these two systems working together, I was able to take what was originally only three targets and turn it into a unique experience every single time the game was loaded. Epsilon also forced me to design in such a way that my work could be built upon more easily. As I inevitably began to scope my project down to a manageable level, many features that I thought I would get in were removed. When building the parts that I could, I kept in mind what I would need to build beyond the scope of the semester. The bullet system, which was in no way lacking to the target system, was designed so that it was aware of the player as they sent out bullets each time. Though in the version of the game made for the semester the player was the only one who shot bullets, I already knew that enemies would eventually also fire bullets.  The bullets keeping a reference to the player who shot it would become important much later. The targets as well were designed in such a way that I could easily create new targets with unique behaviors without having to make the system again from scratch. Making this game has helped me tremendously in my knowledge of game design and development tremendously. The positive reviews from my peers about the game also makes the fifteen-week journey of making it more than worth and provided me with more resolve to continue building it.

My presentation was unfortunately my weakest part of the semester. Its creation was done very late in the semester and wasn’t structured as well as it could have. It makes me feel extremely awkward given that I was one of the selected presentations.  Though I was ecstatic to be selected, my mind wasn’t ready to present the first time around and the second time was done under even more dire straits. The main suggestion I received in my first run was to speak more about what I was able to make instead of what I couldn’t. Even in this reflection there are things that I completely forgot to mention in the presentation. The bullet system is just one. Things like learning shader graph for the sonar game mode then later incorporating it into the main menu of the game slipped through the cracks of my presentation despite being one of the bigger decisions. A full explanation of the target spawning/controlling system and why it was so vital to the project is another.

The poster session was an amazing experience that almost completely overshadows the presentation part of the term. Watching all my friends present their projects was truly heartwarming. Some of my friends mentioned what they were working on before the poster session but since we were busy making our projects reality, the specifics weren’t always there. I’m extremely proud of my choice of bringing the build of my game and hanging it in front of my poster. The poster spoke of my process, but VR is something that I believe must be experienced to be fully appreciated. The quest hanging off from the poster let me walk around and speak to other students. I’m not sure if the plan for the poster session included bringing the projects themselves but I loved watching everyone slowly bring out recordings of their work while explaining their posters.

All in all, I really enjoyed this semester. Every single professor I had was phenomenal and let me bring out more than I thought I could. The process, though not easy in any regard, was completed and had its fun moments even amidst the struggle. The pure bliss I felt when I finally remade the teleportation system was great and will likely stick with me for a long time. And now, just like this semester, this reflection must also come to an end. I stand- I mean sit here, at well past 2am, three all-nighters, four cups of coffee and one VR game greater than I was four months ago, thanking everyone who made this possible.