The Internship Chronicles: Part I

Scott Barter (GDES ’18), James Keats (EGPR ’18), Matt Rhine (GDES ’18) and Alex Frey (GDES ’18) tell us about their internships experiences in Montreal during the spring semester.

 

Scott Barter (GDES ’18) – Edoki Academy

This semester I got the opportunity to work with the fantastic team at Edoki Academy for my study abroad internship. Edoki is an educational game company that specializes in Montessori style teaching. They create apps with applications both at home and in the classroom, all with the focus of encouraging young children to take hold of their own education and to allow their curiosity to push them forward.

Working towards such a wholesome and worthwhile goal was a new experience for me. While I have worked on an educational game before, I’ve never created one that would actually reach the target audience I was building for. In the process of working for Edoki, I’ve had to change how I think as a designer. It’s one thing to understand that the product I create will be consumed by an audience, but it’s a completely different revelation to understand that children will be learning crucial life skills from the games that I work on. I’ve never considered my target audience more than I have while working at Edoki. I’ve gained a vital skill from this experience.

I’ve been abroad for two semesters now, and I’m still amazed by Montreal. The workload is intense, and the skills I’m gaining are immeasurably valuable. I’ve been pushed harder than I have ever been at Champlain College, and I’m becoming a better designer, and a better person, for it. I can not recommend study abroad enough.

James Keats (EGPR ’18) – Moment Factory

We Do It In Public.

That’s the motto of Moment Factory, and the spirit of that phrase works its way into all of the projects and tasks that we do there. As a Game Programming major, I knew it was going to be a new and different challenge to work at a more media-focused company rather than a game one. The focus of the projects would be different, and while some of the challenges would be similar, there would be many new and unexpected ones.

From day one, when we did our first brainstorming session about our project, the goal that we were focusing on was clear: get people out of screen-space, looking up instead of down at their phones, and get people moving. We’ve been using all sorts of cool technology to do this, including a LiDAR puck that does motion tracking of people over huge areas. Whenever we do feedback sessions after a test of the project, we don’t just ask about what changes would make the game more fun and engaging going forward; there’s also always a question of how we can further push the idea of making this a shared, physical experience.

The day-to-day work at Moment Factory is roughly what you would expect, at least for a programmer—but there’s a lot more dogs than I’ve seen anywhere else! One of my favorite things to do is write tools for game development, and I’ve had several chances for a couple different projects to do just that. For one, I set up a system for our designer to quickly iterate on the “waves” of enemies that appeared in the game. For another, I worked with my fellow Champlain intern, Tyler Chermely, on a VR visualizer for a projection project that the content team was working on.

I’m very glad I got the opportunity to intern for Moment Factory’s interactive team. I love how it requires a different mindset compared to traditional game studio environments. I love the way the projects focus on social and intuitive physical interactions rather than just pressing buttons and staring at screens. Moment Factory’s portfolio is full of unique and interesting projects that are totally unlike anything anyone else is doing. The “Lab” section on their website has examples of all sorts of bizarre and cool experiments they’ve done. I’m very excited that I get to contribute to this, and that something that I got to work on will eventually be up in that collection!

Matt Rhine (GDES ’18) – Back to the Game

Nobody likes Monday mornings.  You wake up to a 6:30 alarm, make yourself presentable, run out the door with a coffee in hand, and just barely catch your bus. You wait on that bus for an hour to get to your internship where all you do is get coffee and donuts for everyone else.  Well, that’s your Monday morning.  Mine consists of, waking up to my 8:30 alarm, keeping my pajamas on, walking two feet, and sitting down at my desk to work on my project.

Richard Rispoli has given fellow game designer Alex Frey and I an amazing opportunity at Back to the Game a new indie mobile developer.  “REACH,” (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.indigo.Reach&hl=en) the perfect hybrid between Tetris and Match 3, was the game that got Back to the Game off the ground.  Alex and I are using that momentum to start designing and prototyping the next wave of mobile games for Back to the Game.  We can pick from Back to the Game’s subsequent projects and the various tasks that come with the beginning of the production cycle.

The ability to choose between different projects is so valuable as a student.  Right away I knew which project I wanted to take.  I can’t blab too much, but I can talk about how much I’ve learned from this project.  First off, I got to focus on the more technical side of design by prototyping complex systems for a touch screen.  This was a slow tedious process, but now I have so much more competency in my technical abilities.  With the prototyping came dedication to user experience design.  We don’t have the proper time for this in the classroom because of deadlines, but at Back to the Game, I could experiment and test to my heart’s content.  Lastly, I’m currently researching an area of level design that I am very interested in which hasn’t squeezed its way into Champlain College’s curriculum yet.  That sort of self-study has been invaluable.

To all my underclassmen game majors, if you’re like me, and you don’t get much from the classroom, do yourself a favor and find an internship.  It’s not easy, in fact it’s harder than most of your game classes which is saying a lot.   But you won’t be sitting in a classroom staring at the clock until class ends.  You will truly learn, and refine your skills.  For that I am truly grateful.

Alex Frey (GDES ’18) – Back to the Game

I was hired by a man named Richard Rispoli who was in the very beginning stages of forming his own video game development company, focused mainly on producing games of mobile devices to sell on app stores. The first project I worked on was to critique and recommend mechanics for Richard’s first solo release “Reach”, a Tetris-style match three game. This consisted of playtesting followed by lots of research and documentation regarding similar games in potential competition with our own. For my next project, Richard asked me to prototype a concept all on my own in Unity for release.

In keeping with my previous internship, my experience this year with my mentor was just as unique an experience. While most other internships will feature an office setting with schedules and release dates, I happened to find myself in the employ of a brand new startup company, funded entirely out of pocket by my mentor, who decided to quit the corporate life and throw his hat into the indie ring. Richard was open to my partner and I about his ideas and view for the future, as well as a great deal of freedom over the projects we pursued. The independence taught me many lessons about time management along with how to structure my schedule around routine deliverables. Richard would give me tasks that slowly evolved into challenges as the complexity of the system grew over the course of my work. Having the bar constantly raised as I worked really kept me in the mood to research and apply the skills necessary to completing the project at hand, as many of the assignments stood well outside my comfort zone within Unity, the primary game engine I developed for. I enjoyed the opportunity to complete projects on my own time that were not confined to the normal restraints one might encounter in a typical game class.