It Takes a Village to Make a Game

David Lam, Bioware's Outsourcing Art Director, talks to University of Alberta students about the value of teamwork. Photo courtesy of Kevin Schenk and Vadim Bulitko.

David Lam, Bioware’s Outsourcing Art Director, talks to University of Alberta students about the value of teamwork. Photo courtesy of Kevin Schenk and Vadim Bulitko.

There aren’t many industries more multidisciplinary than video game creation. Musicians, artists, programmers, animators, writers, and people from pretty much every other skill set work together to develop games.

With that many different types of people and personalities in play, you’ve really got to be able to share your toys and play nice. This is why BioWare is such a big supporter of the University of Alberta’s CMPUT 250 course, which takes students from every faculty and teaches them how to work together.

Students in the CMPUT 250 course work in groups of six to develop games over four months. Photo courtesy of Kevin Schenk and Vadim Bulitko.

Students in the CMPUT 250 course work in groups of six to develop games over four months. Photo courtesy of Kevin Schenk and Vadim Bulitko.

The course on computers and games requires students to take a game from concept to release in four months. Each team includes a writer, musician, artist, and three programmers. Vadim Bulitko, who teaches the course, chooses each term’s students from a stack of applications to ensure an even distribution from the different disciplines.

“The greatest thing they learn in this course is how to work in an interdisciplinary team,” Bulitko says. “Now days, a lot of projects are interdisciplinary, and wherever you are, you’ll be working with people of different backgrounds and educations. Being able to work and be successful in that kind of environment is a great asset.”

Each year, the university hosts an award ceremony for the games the teams make, celebrating excellence in art and design, writing, audio, and technical achievements, as well as a Game of the Year.

The overall winner this year was a stealth-action game called The Day I Died, where players must use both corporeal and spiritual forms in tandem to solve puzzles and escape purgatory.

BioWare's Associate Recruiter, Shanda Wood, poses with the game of the year winners. Photo courtesy of Kevin Schenk and Vadim Bulitko.

BioWare’s Associate Recruiter, Shanda Wood, poses with the game of the year winners. Photo courtesy of Kevin Schenk and Vadim Bulitko.

“The games I’ve seen are very diverse: everything from first-person combat to stealth and logic puzzles,” Bulitko says. “Because there’s no commercial aspect, the exploration costs are very low, so they can just explore what they think is artistically and creatively interesting.”

Fan Blog: The RC Mako

Hi, everyone!

BioWare knows that we have some very creative and talented fans out there. Whether you are a cosplayer, an artist, a baker or something similar, we know that our games have helped spur your imaginations and skills.

We want to help recognize you and your creativity here on the BioWare Blog by letting you blog about your creative outlets and your enjoyment of our games. If you are interested in blogging about your art, cosplay, creations or similar, please let us know by emailing Community@BioWare.com We hope to hear from you.

Now please enjoy the first BioWare Fan Blog: The RC Mako.

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In a small farming town in northern Louisiana, I terrorize the plains, scurrying through the tall grass in search of any miniature thresher maw predecessors and waiting for the chance to survey uncharted worlds. I may lack micro-thrusters and an element zero core, but my pilot will find ways around this. I am the RC Mako. (https://www.facebook.com/RCMako)

Finished Mako 1

Hey, everyone! My name is Laura Ducros, and I made a remote-controlled version of the M-35 Mako from the original Mass Effect. I consider myself a jack of all trades, being primarily an artisan crafter and cosplayer. I’m a huge Mass Effect fan. I have cosplayed as FemShep and made a few weapons from the game—including a Nerf Recon transformed into an M-920 Cain. I’ve even carved Mass Effect designs into a few pumpkins. My creations are all on my Facebook page: Rebel Among The Stars Studios (https://www.facebook.com/RebelAmongTheStars) or on my DeviantART (http://xrebel66x.deviantart.com/).

The idea for the remote-controlled Mako started after I attended DragonCon 2012. I have been to conventions across the US, including SDCC, but nothing prepared me for DragonCon. It was my first time attending, and I expected just another run-of-the-mill convention. I quickly discovered how wrong I was. The variety of unique costumes and the dedication I saw to people’s crafts put all of my past conventions to shame. Even though I was only able to spend one day there, it left a real impression on me. All I could think about was returning next year and bringing along something that would add to its vast geeky diversity. I spent the entire eight-hour trip home brainstorming. My mind was filled with ideas, but one stood out: an RC Mako.

mass_effect_rc_mako_wip_1_6

I remember thinking, “I see at least one R2-D2 or K-9 being operated at these conventions. Maybe I can do something that is remote controlled, too.” I immediately knew I wanted something from Mass Effect, since the games are very dear to my heart. This also meant I could bring my creation along with me whenever I was dressed in my FemShep attire. The first vehicle that popped into my head was the Mako. Even though some people hated it, I absolutely adored it. I consider myself to be pretty darn good at maneuvering that monster around. Exploring uncharted worlds, shooting at thresher maws, driving over geth armatures and watching them wobble back upright…all the good memories I had with the Mako sealed the deal.

I had a general idea of how I wanted to execute it—something similar to the one an avatar on XBOX 360™ could have, but with my own flair added. I began scouting for ways to make this dream a reality. The first obstacle was the base. I contemplated building something entirely from scratch, but I lacked the funds and resources. I searched, and stumbled across a 6-wheeled truck in the toy department of my local Target™ that had a base identical to the Mako’s. It was exactly what I needed to start this journey.

AllianceMako3

As soon as I brought that base home, the Mako became my main project. Even when I wasn’t physically working on it, I was constantly thinking about it. It consumed six months of my life. There was a lot of trial and error—and countless messages sent to friends asking for advice or suggestions. I’d never tackled anything like this before, and it was a fairly challenging project, but I was determined to make it happen. It took me four attempts before finally getting the body perfect. (I nicknamed it “Bruce.”) I still keep the failed attempts as keepsakes to remind me of how I didn’t give up.

The end result was a body made entirely of craft foam, one dowel, and a few bottles of superglue. I used a papercraft model created by ThunderChildFTC (http://thunderchildftc.deviantart.com/) as a base for the final design. I enlarged the original model, made modifications to the design, cut out the new pieces in the foam, and winged it the rest of the way. Measuring 19.5″ long, 8″ tall, and 7.5″ wide, he’s no shabby little RC. The most difficult part was getting the cannon to turn on command, especially since I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. When I finally managed to get it working, my squeal was loud enough to startle my dogs. After 6 months, the finishing line was finally in sight. I couldn’t sleep during those final days.

I didn’t know what kind of reaction to expect. There are a great many professional remote controlled toys and props out there, and I was just an amateur with a big dream. My main goal was already accomplished, and that was rewarding in itself. But the positive response my Mako got makes me want to blush. I honestly never imagined it would be so well-received. Pictures appeared on Kotaku only a few hours after I posted them on DeviantART. The wonderful people at BioWare shared the video I created on Twitter and Facebook. I’ve even inspired others to make their own RC vehicles from Mass Effect, like Ammnra’s Kodiak (http://fav.me/d5vojhehttps://www.facebook.com/AmmnraCreations).

MomoCon Jennifer

People immediately recognized my Mako when he made his first public appearance at MomoCon 2013. Many came up and expressed their strong love or hate—some even joked that he handled better than the in game version (which he doesn’t). I loved driving him around and hearing people call out, “It’s the Mako!” But nothing could compare to the reactions I received from Chris Priestly, Keith Hayward, and Mark Meer when they took him for a test drive. It was truly overwhelming.

So what lies ahead for the RC Mako? I plan to take him to every convention I attend. I’m really looking forward to bringing him to SDCC and DragonCon. I’ll be driving him around during the parade while I’m marching with my fellow N7 Elite’s (https://www.facebook.com/groups/N7Elite/). I see myself continuously upgrading and improving my Mako for many years to come: I already have a very long list of things I want to add, including lights, a functioning cannon, and eventually having him jump around like he’s on thrusters. This whole process is still very new to me, so the more I learn, the more I can implement. One day, he’ll be crawling up 89-degree cliffs—and then I become an official member of the Mako Mountain Climbing Team.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story.

Laura Ducros

Rebel Among The Stars – https://www.facebook.com/RebelAmongTheStars

RC Mako – https://www.facebook.com/RCMako

BioWare goes down under to PAX Australia

PAX Aus

UPDATE: Here’s the confirmed list of panels that BioWare will be participating in during PAX Aus!

 

G’Day! I’m very pleased to announce that BioWare will be attending the very first PAX Australia in Melbourne from July 19 to July 21. BioWare has been part of both PAX Prime and PAX East for years, and we are thrilled to now be able to come to Australia and meet our fans there.

Come out to PAX Australia for your chance to meet Cameron Lee (Producer), Patrick Weekes (Senior Writer), Karin Weekes (Lead Editor), and “Evil” Chris Priestly (Community Event planner) as they hold their first-ever-in-Australia panel “BioWare Goes Down Under” Friday July 19 from 4:30-5:30 in the Dropbear Theatre.

We’re still finalizing other activities for our visit and want to hear from local Melbournians… Melburnians… Melbournites…. BioWare fans about where we should go and what we should see. We want to see the sights and meet our fans during our stay, so any suggestions for gatherings, parties or ways we can talk with you are very welcome! Email us your ideas to community@bioware.com or contact me through Twitter at @BioEvilChris and visit the BioWare Facebook Page for updates on our Australian trip.

We hope to see you mad blokes and ace sheilas for a fair dinkum chin wag when we come down under for PAX Australia! (Ok, ok – I promise no more Canadian guy trying to use Australian slang. No worries.)

BLOG: Owen Borstad, Qunari Crafts Specialist

During our recent Dragon Age Week celebration, we shared an awesome looking Qunari symbol wall hanging that was created by a member of the Dragon Age team. Since then, we have received many requests from the community asking how to make one of their own.

We went straight to the source and asked Owen Borstad if he could provide detailed instructions on how he did it. Here is what he had to say:

Qunari Wall Hanging

Hi all!

I’m Owen Borstad, and I made the large paper Qunari symbol shown off by the community team as part of Dragon Age Week.  I’m a programmer at BioWare and have been here for almost 12 years now, and I’ve been doing paper-crafty-type stuff since long before working here. Apparently some folks are interested in how I made the Qunari artwork that now decorates one of the walls at BioWare, so here’s a rundown of what I did and how I made it, and some files to help you make your own if you wish.

For a while now I had been wanting to make a giant paper sculpture to decorate the walls/trophy cases/etc. of BioWare, similar to the works of Kota Hiratsuka, Matthew Shlian and Joel Cooper (I have no affiliation with these artists, just a love of their work) but hadn’t really found the time/right thing to make/source material for the project.  One day I stumbled upon the source Illustrator files for the various symbols in our game, found the Qunari symbol, and thought, “Hey, this would make an awesome wall hanging just like the Lion’s head!”, so I started thinking about how to make this happen.

I took our symbol (figure 1), and found the edges (figure 2):

QunariBlog

Next I found the centerline (or just extracted it, figure 3), then subdivided it (by eye, no math, really; I should have done some math, figure 4):

QunariBlog2

I then put in the “facets” (figure 5), and thought “Ok, now how to make it 3D?”

QunariBlog3

I wasn’t familiar enough with the 3D programs we have here, but have played around with Google Sketchup before, so I loaded that up.  Unfortunately, there’s no easy way (short of paying the upgraded price) to import Illustrator files, so I went looking.  I stumbled upon exporting to svg, and importing via a plugin (which took some fiddling to work).  Eventually I got it into Sketchup, and then made it 3D by pulling the middle line up.  After doing a whole bunch of clean up on it to make endpoints meet, removing duplicate facets, etc., I had a model I could then play with.

Once I was happy with it in Sketchup, I exported to DFX and loaded up Pepakura Designer, which allows people to make templates for paper craft models from 3D data files.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time playing with sizes, trying to figure out how big I wanted it, at what size to print it out, etc.  I made a smaller version as a prototype, which looked decent even if I didn’t finish it (I don’t have a picture of this; it was destroyed in one of my trips to and from work).  After making the prototype, I discovered I had it backwards (inside out), as I didn’t want my numbers to show when I finished making it, so I fixed that up, then re-exported and re-imported.

I finally decided how big to make it so as to fit on the wall, and saved out a PDF of the exploded structure (see PDF).  I printed it on 11×17 Cardstock Ledger paper, and started cutting it out.  I had to score the thing backwards to what the PDF said to do to keep the lines and numbers on the “inside” of the structure.

After gluing the back all together with thinly spread white glue and cutting/scoring every piece, I finally started assembling it.  It turned out that gluing the “boxes” and then gluing to the back was the easiest way to put it together, and so I eventually finished gluing to the back, then worked on “zipping” the model together.

After a total of about 30 hours, I finally finished it, and cut a circular hole in the back by which to hang it, re-enforced the hole, and stuck it on the wall with a pushpin. And that’s how I came to be the prince of… oh, wrong story, anyway, that’s how I made the giant logo!  I might do another one if I feel like it, or go do something completely different for my next project.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the tale; if you have questions, send them to community@bioware.com and I can try to answer them, but no questions about what glue to use!

Owen.

Dragon Age Week Community Message

Thedas

Welcome to Dragon Age Week!

Dragon Age Week is an exercise the Dragon Age team does to spur their creativity while they work to complete Dragon Age 3. While Dragon Age 3 is well underway with lots happening in its development, we believe in having our developers think outside the box every now and then.

Last week, the team was encouraged to think outside their normal roles and come up with new ideas for the Dragon Age universe overall. The only boundaries they were given was that the idea must be something related to Dragon Age, and it must be something cool.

This week we want to open Dragon Age Week to our Dragon Age community. We know you all have creative ideas for Dragon Age and we want to know how Dragon Age inspires you. Do you replay Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age II making different choices? Do you create fan art of horrible fade demons? Do you read the Dragon Age comics and wish Morrigan or Fenris would appear? Are you baking Dragon Age cookies for the Arishok?

Let us know what you are doing for Dragon Age Week by Tweeting to @dragonage on Twitter with the hashtag #DAWeek. At the end of the week, we’ll share some of what the Dragon Age team came up with as part of their Dragon Age Week.

Let Dragon Age Week begin!