Hi, my name is David, I’m 17 years old and am a total tech geek, so even though I’m a bit younger, I fitted in perfectly with the team. My school requires me to do a 3 week internship in 11th grade, so I hit up Gbanga and of course was totally stoked when they said yes. When I applied, I was still in America, doing an exchange year, and only a week after I arrived back in Switzerland, I had my first day, where of course was a little bit nervous, as I had never done anything like it before. When I got to the office in Zurich though, I was pleasantly surprised, that game designers in fact aren’t aliens, and everybody was super nice and welcomed me with open arms.
My assignment for the 3 weeks was to take a prototype game they had made and make it better by adding functionality and improving various things. The basic premise of the game is, that it is an augmented reality (AR) version of the game “Lemmings” form 1991, where the goal is to get a herd of lemmings safely from one point to another by assigning them different behaviors. The main difference in the AR version is that you create your own level by scanning your surroundings, instead of playing premade levels, and that because you scan the real world, it is 3D instead of 2D like the original.
The current state of the game was, that the core principles of the game worked, provided you pushed just the right buttons and had a bit of luck. In my 3 weeks here at Gbanga, I was able to not only make it work a lot better, but also add lots of functionality that transformed the game from an interesting tech demo, to a game that I would download myself and play, just because it is fun.
While I did have some prior experience with Unity and C#, in the first couple of days I was often rather lost, as this project was way more advanced than anything I had ever done before. But thanks to the power of the internet and the great help form the team I was able to learn really quickly, and after just a few days I was managed to make good progress and was super happy that my changes actually made the game better.
Day after day I was able to tackle bigger things and extend the functionality more and more. Of course, nothing ever goes smoothly for too long, and especially in software development you run into many situations where you think something should work, but then realize that it doesn’t, or that there is some other bug somewhere that you hadn’t noticed before. In these situations, it helped to take a step back, look at everything I changed since the last time it worked, and then try to solve the problem, either on my own, or with the help of many great forums posts out there, or someone on the team that was able to help me out and point me in the right direction.
One thing I am especially proud of, is the way I implemented water into the game. After you scanned your surroundings, there is an algorithm I wrote, that analyzes the terrain and then generates bodies of water as an additional obstacle, as only lemmings that have been assigned the behavior “swimmer” can cross those sections. To make it look more natural, one of the things I used is an algorithm called Perlin Noise, that makes the semi random placement of water more natural. The hardest thing though was that was that I didn’t want any water where it wouldn’t make sense, like the edge of an object shouldn’t have any water, as then it would flow away in the real world, or if there are some free-floating parts of terrain these shouldn’t be water either. Detecting that was a bit of a challenge, but I was able to come up with a solution, which made me really happy.
All in all, I learned a ton in my time here, not only about programming, but also about game design in general, and other things like how to approach problems, manage your time, and asking good questions. I am really grateful to Gbanga for giving me this opportunity and am sure that this isn’t the last time that I worked on a videogame.