The story of my passion project and what I have learned from it
If you were to ask any hiring manager at any company about the one thing they would tell students to do, most likely their answer would be: have a passion project. Personally, the most important thing, that one thing that separates one developer (everyone is a developer even a designer) from another, is their passion. Everyone has class projects and homework assignments, but it is what a person takes upon themselves to create outside of everything, that can really show drive, passion, and the eagerness to learn.
Over the past semester I have had the honor of working on a side project, once temporarily named as Project: Orion. Currently named ChiaroScuro, the game is a 2-player same-screen cooperative 3D puzzle game with platforming elements. The game centers on co-dependency to ensure the player’s mutual progression through levels. This is mechanically accomplished by requiring one player to become the environment, and another to traverse. Thematically, the game revolves around complementary forces interacting to overcome challenges that they could not on their own.
Thanks to RIT and all of the resources that we have on campus, I was able to work on a development kit bringing such a game to life. It is a rare opportunity to work on a console that not every person gets to have. On this project I worked as a programmer, at first doing rapid prototypes of Gameplay in Unity, then moving my way into major tools development. My main job was to work with other engineers to establish a pipeline in which artists and designers could place all of their work into the game quickly and constructively. What was constructed was a tool in which the artists and designers would start up, all of their art would be loaded in, and they could construct levels as they saw fit. From there, they could export the level and it would be loaded into our custom engine which would render and bring the game to life.
So running track here, a series of tools, a custom engine, and a personal game, which of course requires design and art, is a large quantity of work. Honestly, the game does not greatly stand out from every other project, if placed next to a second year’s project, there might not be that much difference. However, it is what we did to create such a game that has truly set us apart. This project was scoped to be completed, if each member of the team effectively agreed to put in at least 50 hours of work a week. My team was so deadest on bringing this to life, we set up a class with an instructor so that it would count for two graduate classes, or six credit hours of classes. For this project to exist, we would have had to effectively pour every ounce of ourselves into the project, which we have.
This project has earned many of my team members as well as myself merit amongst developers, it has secured some of us upcoming co-ops and potential futures. Working day and night on this, I have never really felt as close or as honored to work with people before. To give something your everything, your soul, and to see others use it/play with it… I cannot describe the sheer accomplishment and joy in simple words.
Looking back on this project, there are lessons that I am taking to heart and want to personally share with others so that they do not make the same mistakes.
- Know your design beforehand. Make sure that every member of the team knows it at every step of the process, and try to avoid multiple volatile changes to design. Make an idea, and then make the idea, don’t make 17 ideas and then a Frankenstein project.
- Take time for yourself, like large quantities of time. Go see people, places, and things. Get out and just have fun with life. Many members of this team have lost sleep, skipped meals, and more. To give every ounce of your being into an idea can create marvelous things, but there is a cost.
- Know that the only boundaries that exist are the ones that you make yourself. There is no feat that cannot be accomplished through hard work, ingenuity, and teamwork. Countless times on this project we have hit brick walls, made radical decisions, and at times have been entirely confused. We believed in each other, we trusted each other, and the number of obstacles that this team has overcome is phenomenal.