Comrade Quest History Part 2

continued from previous post

Immediately I chose to go with the Soviet theme. I decided on the name Comrade Quest, to evoke nostalgia for old analog games and to give it that goofy, campy feel. I immediately went to work fixing up my pitch document and adapting the character sketches I had made in my notebooks into viable concept art.  I had friends and classmates proofread the pitch document once it was done, and went to practice pitch sessions held by the Student Game Development Alliance. My heart sunk a little when I was told at the practice pitches that Comrade Quest didn’t have unique enough mechanics to make it into GPL. However, I was not defeated.

As it was, Comrade Quest was just a standard brawler with puzzle elements. It didn’t yet have the special mechanics to make it shine. When working in the labs one night, I was looking through my notes and I noticed an idea I had wrote down in class about Faberge eggs. It was an idea for a mechanic that casted random effects on the players when activated, similar to the party ball item in Super Smash Brothers. The eggs would be scattered throughout levels, and could be picked up and activated when needed.

Olaf the Beard Bender
Colored concept art for Olaf the Beard Bender

I decided to include the idea of Faberge eggs in my initial pitch document, however I wasn’t completely sold on the concept. The idea of using magical eggs just seemed too childish- like an Easter egg hunt. I played around with the concept in my head for a while, but suddenly had a revelation. Instead of featuring the random, grab-bag power eggs as items found throughout the level, what if players had the ability to activate the random power whenever they had enough of a certain resource? And thus the Communist Summon mechanic was born.

With Communist Summon, all players would have a communal “Communist Bar”, which they would build up as they fought enemies. Once the players built up the bar completely, they would be able to activate a Communist Summon. A Communist Summon would summon a random Communist or Capitalist leader. Each leader would have different effects, with Communist leaders providing beneficial effects for the party, and deleterious ones if a Capitalist leader was summoned. With this mechanic, I wanted to give players the opportunity to turn the tide of battle if a fight was getting too difficult for them, or to fail horribly and hilariously. Some may regard including random negative effects as pointless or even contradictory to giving the player a good experience, but from watching others play games and playing them myself, sometimes a good laugh can be had from a bizarre or uncanny death.

yuri the bearserker colored
Colored concept for Yuri the Bearserker

As I continued to revise my pitch document for submission, the weekend approached and with it an unexpected rough patch. The entire weekend was awful, but I knew that I had to keep polishing the pitch document. I also had to polish promotional art for Comrade Quest’s playable characters, which I knew would be quintessential to a live pitch. By Monday I was feeling better, and turned in the finalized pitch document. On Wednesday that same week I would find out what games made it to the live pitch sessions.

Now when I submitted Comrade Quest for GPL that semester, the selection process was in tiers. Any student could submit their idea to be reviewed for GPL, and they could submit as many different original game pitches as they wanted. However, of all the game pitch submissions submitted, only twelve game pitches would go on to the live pitch sessions. A panel of judges, comprised of UTD professors and industry professionals, would secretly decide which twelve pitches would go on to the live pitch sessions.

zhanna the kosmonaut
Colored concept for Zhanna the Kosmonaut

In the live pitch sessions, the creators of the twelve selected pitches present their idea to a live audience and another panel of judges, also made of UTD professors, industry professionals, and alumni. Presenters are given five minutes to present their idea for a game to the room, and are asked questions about their game by the panel. For the live pitches, it is best to have visuals for the game, or even better, a functional prototype of the game. Even if a game idea makes it to the live pitch sessions however, it does not guarantee its acceptance into GPL. Of twelve game pitches accepted to live pitch sessions, only five are accepted into GPL per semester. This process of elimination makes getting into GPL extremely competitive.

After I submitted my pitch for Comrade Quest on Monday, the GPL professors announced they would let students know which 12 pitches would go on to live pitches. Not wanting to be unprepared, I continued to work on visuals for my presentation, and started practicing how I would present the pitch for Comrade Quest in under five minutes. To get myself in the right frame of mind, I listened to traditional Russian folk music and the Hunt for Red October soundtrack as I worked. To this day I still attribute the song Hymn to the Red October to giving me the extra boost needed for presenting.

Wednesday quickly rolled around and with it, live pitch announcements. I was elated when I read the email announcing Comrade Quest’s acceptance, but I knew that meant I would have to get in front of a live audience and present. I had presented a different game, Red Shift, at live pitches the semester before. However, it was unsuccessful at getting picked for GPL, and I remained unsure of my public speaking ability. On top of my insecurities, live pitches were in two days- on Friday. I had to buckle down and practice my speaking abilities if I wanted to succeed this time.

Part three continued in next post!

post commandeered by the US Claire Force

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