Level 2: Welcome to Dark Souls
Anyone who has ever played dark souls has to remember their first time facing off against the Asylum Demon. For the uninitiated, in the very beginning of dark souls you escape prison and waltz your way merely through mostly non-moving enemies so that the game can ease you into its mechanics. You only have a broken sword hilt but the enemies here are so weak it’s all you need to finish them off. It ALMOST gives you the sense that the game won’t be that challenging. Then it happens. You open the massive double doors in front of the first bond fire. You walk into the empty hall as the doors slam shut behind you. A massive blue demon with black and wings and big booty (and an even bigger hammer) drops himself from the sky. He towers over you and your broken sword hilt may as well be a banana peel for all the good it will do you. He lumbers towards you while the orange message on the floor only reads Run. That feeling, yeah that’s what the second week of graduate schools feels like. I went from “this will be a cake walk” to staring down my first giant blue demon.
The first week did quite a good job of introducing us to the ideas we’ll be working with and the people we’ll come to depend on over the next year. What it did not prepare me for was that giant blue asylum demon of work. This week alone saw three programming assignments, four writing exercises, and a video editing assignment. Not having touched premier since high school news class, I was feeling quite inadequate in all the relevant ways. Then of course there was the course schedule. On at least two separate occasions I found myself at school by 10:00 AM and leaving well after dark. For reference it doesn’t get dark until around 8:00 PM in Florida during the summer. To top all of that off, we got our first game dev project: a two-week prototype game built from the ground up in Unity. We were assigned into random teams of four or five, paired by specialization (art, programming, and production) and told good luck. We’ll have four more of these throughout the semester.
All of that being said, like the asylum demon in dark souls you can’t let the imposing figure intimidate you. There’s always a way to overcome the challenge. In Dark Souls, the correct course of action is to flee the room, grab your equipment in the next room over, learn a few more techniques, and then come back with a full equipment load and show that demon that you ain’t nobody’s bitch. Likewise, the correct course of action was to pair up with a few friends, throw ideas back and forth, and then stomp out that work load like it owed your money. As for the group assignment, they’re honesty the best thing that could happen to me in graduate school. Unlike undergrad where your team members are almost always the scum of the earth who will never get their assignments done, we’ve already established that everyone in game school is motivated and wants to be here. That means they all know how to carry their weight. So far, it’s worked out quite nicely. We’ve got a game design document all prettied up and some level and art design concepts that we merely need to turn into a playable demo by Thursday. No sweat. One Asylum demon down, two bell tower gargoyles to go.