Happy Umbrella Mondays!
Margaret, Casey, and April here to talk about our lead roles while working together at Turnip Town. We’re a pretty small studio with only ten full-time members, but it still helps to have a few people responsible for keeping everything organized and running smoothly, and that’s where Turnip Town’s three leads come in! Managing and developing a 3D game with a small team has its challenges, but is proving to be a fun learning experience for everyone!
As programming lead, Casey attempts to wrangle all of the proactive programmers together and create a working build of the game when needed. The entire programming team functions as a democracy where everyone has an equal say. As a lead, the main goal is to understand the strengths and skills of those who you’re leading. With the programming team, the strengths are very different between each of the team members (Maria, Spencer, Travis, Bob, and Casey, along with the traveling help of Keenan Barber).
At the start of development, the programming team worked together to set up rules and to define what ‘good programming practices’ were to us. We all grabbed projects we each wanted, and the lead’s role from that point on was to make sure that everyone’s projects accomplish what was needed for the latest game build, and to communicate with the art and design teams about new things that were added or things that need to change. Lastly, the programming lead helps coordinate frequent check-ins with other programmers see what everyone’s working on and ask if anyone needs any additional support.
April stands on several pillows of wonderment that describes the structure of Umbrella Mondays. However, when it comes to the overall design, everyone at Turnip Town has had an influence on what is essentially the game.
The design lead is responsible for the base game mechanics, as well as the level design, working closely with programmers and artists to ensure the vision of the gameplay. Working alongside Bob Vogt, April used symbols from the fire spirit language to design the base structure of the puzzles. This lead to a dynamic layout that actually spells a word in another language while also serving the puzzle mechanics.
Programmers Travis, Casey, Maria, and Spencer work closely with April to collaborate on the final feel of each in-game mechanic such as player movement, fire spirit behavior, and menu design.
Props conceptualized and modeled by Mary, Jacob, and Evan related to level design and mechanics are approved by the design lead before they’re eventually placed into Unity. The final look of the game is taken care of by the Art Lead, Margaret Clarke.
We have four dedicated artists on the Turnip Town art team (Margaret, Mary, Evan, and Jake), along with April, who is heavily involved with the art team while also directing the overall gameplay design. The art team is incredibly diverse–each artist has brought a unique set of strengths and interests to the table, and the biggest part of being an art lead is figuring out how to best leverage everyone’s individual skillsets while also leaving room for team members to branch out, experiment, and learn new things.
One of the ways this shakes out for the team’s art lead is in managing the artist pipeline. A single art asset might go through multiple different artists before it finally makes its way into Unity. One artist might draw a concept, another artist might create the 3D model, and a third artist might work on texturing, and a fourth artist might be responsible for making sure the colliders and materials are created properly in-engine, or the same artist may carry a single asset all the way through the pipeline herself.
There’s a fair bit of logistical work that goes into keeping track of what everyone’s working on and making sure that we’re sticking to our project deadlines while also maintaining a consistent art style, and that involves arranging lots of check-in sessions and informal critiques with each of the artists and with the team as a whole.
The art team collaborates with the design team to make sure that the art style of the game matches up with gameplay. Margaret also works closely with the programming team to collaboratively build lighting systems, particle effects, and any other assets that are natively built in Unity. This way, everyone on the team has a say in what the art aesthetic of Umbrella Mondays is, and we’re all excited to be working together to develop a consistent, beautiful experience!