[RB] Hi, this is Robert Bailey, the producer and creative director on VRoom, a car combat game from Falling Tricycle Games. Here today with Noah Kellem -
[RB] the lead modeller on the project.
[RB] Do you want to introduce yourself?
[NK] Uh, yeah, my name's Noah Kellem, I'm the lead modeller on the project.
[RB] Fair. So what got you into games?
[NK] I got my Xbox 360. It wasn't my first game console. I grew up on Playstation and Playstation 2. But I got my Xbox 360 a long time ago, I was 13. I played Halo 3 at my friend's house, one night, and I decided I needed to start playing this game. So I bought an Xbox 360, and then I had my bar mitzvah, and you get gifts for your bar mitzvah, and one of my friends got me Bioshock! And so, that was a game that I didn't think I wanted to play. It was rated M, and I was 13.
[RB] So is Halo.
[NK] Exactly, but Halo wasn't scary. At least to me. Bioshock seemed scary, so I didn't want to play. I think I had it on hold for six months. And then I finally, I heard really good things about this game, I should play it, I should get into it, and then I got completely immersed. I love the story, and I love the character development, and everything about the entire game was amazing to me. And that's what made me decide to really want to be a game developer.
[RB] Does Bioshock stand out as a favorite game?
[NK] Yeah, it's up there, for sure, in the top five. If I had to make a top five, I'd put the Mass Effect franchise, as a whole, up there. In no particular order, but uh...Mass Effect franchise up there, The Last of Us, as Rob knows I absolutely love that game, then Bioshock, Bioshock Infinite, I could probably say the Bioshock franchise. Besides 2. 2 was fun, but not great, story wise.
[RB] To me, Bioshock 2 had the best gameplay of the series, but like -
[RB] I played it in high school, and was like what?
[NK] That's it?
[RB] Yeah, it's just running through and killing everything. This is great!
[NK] It was good. I wasted so many hours on that game. Loved it.
[RB] What type of projects have you done in the past? Game or otherwise?
[NK] That's a good question. I've made a lot of games I think, uh no, I haven't, I haven't made a lot of games [laughs]. Let's be honest here. Worked on things for class projects, mostly. My favorite were the analogue games that I made. Rob was on my team for a lot of those. So he can personally witness my level of involvement with those things. I loved them. Just this past year did a lot of web projects that I really, really enjoyed.
[RB] What type of web projects?
[NK] Yeah, did a web audio visualizer, like everybody else in this major. Tried to spruce mine up a little bit. Made it look like a radio instead, er...yeah, a radio. Old timey stereo kind of system. Had speakers on the side, displayed who, what was playing, who the artist was, and then various options you can do. That was a lot of fun. Right now I'm working on a speech-to-gif searcher. I'm just calling it speech to gif, it's not speech to text. Yeah, that's fun.
[RB] Do they have to pronounce gif the proper way?
[NK] No, they don't. Actually I wonder? I've never actually tried to say gif (ed: soft g) into the speech API, so maybe it'll recognize it as gif (ed: hard g), since it is the internet. And people on the internet made it.
[RB] Let the code decide.
[NK] Let the code decide, that's not for me to say.
[NK] That means that I am mostly in charge of making all of the 3D assets that are present in the game. So everything the player will see, essentially, and interact with, is modeled and created by me. The steering wheel, the car, all that's got to come from somewhere. So you use software like Maya or Blender, I personally use Maya because it's what I know. You take either a cube or cylinder and essentially keep adding vertices to it until you make it into what you want.
[RB] Everything's just rectangles right.
[NK] Yeah, I just make boxes. Just varying levels of boxes.
[RB] Boxes all the way down. What got you interested in the VRoom project?
[NK] I bought a Vive. [Laughs] I had debated back and forth with buying one for a very long time. At one point, I was like "that's too much money, I really shouldn't, that'd be extremely irresponsible of me." And then one day, I was looking, and I was wondering what they were selling for on eBay. And I found one that was selling for $750, which, still extremely expensive, but it was $750 flat rate, and I didn't have to pay for shipping, and there was no tax on it, so I was saving at least $250, and I bought bullet. I'm basically a spoiled child when it comes to me and my spending habits. So I bought that, and I fell in love with VR. I thought for a little while that I wanted to just make VR games for the rest of my life, so when I heard VR project, I hopped on that. Real fast.
[RB] Yeah, funny enough, knowing you had a Vive was one of the reasons I went through with the paperwork. Worst case, I know one person.
[NK] Know one person that can test it!
[RB] So what are you looking forward to with VRoom in general?
[RB] I know we're coming up on the final hours of the project type stuff.
[NK] I really just hope people find it enjoyable. I mean, you make a game, and that's really what you want it to be. You want it to be fun, and you want people to like it. Because you also spend a lot of hours putting into it. And it's not necessarily a representation of who you are, but you gain a slight emotional attachment to it. And you want people to like it because you think that means they like you. Because art and artists sometimes don't get separated as much as they should. But I understand those are different.
[NK] What's up?
[RB] Says the man with th-
[NK] Says the man with the mixtape, yeah I get really offended when people don't like my mixtape. I remember I recorded some songs for a couple of students last semester that were taking an audio course that was all about that. And one of them, afterwards, says "I don't really like his singing!" And I was real offended. I was like dude, find yourself someone else to find songs for you. "I think he could ha- he couldn't have done much better, he's got a bad voice." I was like, "dude, hm, okay."
[RB] So looking forward, not just this project, but long term - I don't know why, that's an awful segue.
[NK] Whatever. I just want to work on websites. Or web experiences, mostly. They don't necessarily have to be games. I'm kind of over games. I thought I liked them at first, but they are a lot of work, and that's not necessarily what deters me from them, but I lose motivation to work on them quickly, at least in terms of the coding aspects. I really don't have the drive for it. At least in web projects, I really, really have the drive for it - I like the fact that I can at least see what I'm doing immediately, there's that immediate feedback of what you're doing, having it impact the overall state of the project. A lot of what gaming is is back end coding, at least when you're making your own game engine which is the standard thing to do. A lot of it isn't necessarily immediately reflected, and it's very behind the scenes, and I really cannot stand backend coding. I can't do it, my brain is not wired that way. I do not like those kind of problem-solving skills, er those kind of problem-solving,...those kind of problems! [Laughs] Front end to me is where it's at, and I think web provides the best platform for me to be able to really contribute and reflect my passion for front end coding.
[RB] I want to say cool, but I feel like you'd just yell it back at me again.
[RB] I need new words.
[NK] Awesome, um...yeah.
[RB] I was gonna say, you're just gonna go straight into dead air!
[NK] Cool. Cool!
[RB] So with the web stuff, you're not into back-end type stuff. So are you interested in server architecture and those types of things? Or more just making that front facing user experience?
[NK] Servers are interesting to me. I definitely don't want to shy away from server programming, purely because it can allow you to do a lot of things with your service that you wouldn't necessarily be allowed to do otherwise, if you're working purely on the client side. So I am sort of interested in it. I'd like to learn more about it before I make a firm commitment on my level of endearment for server programming. But what we've been doing, at least in class, has been interesting to me. Albeit, I don't really understand a lot of what's going on. Like headers and putting things out to make things work somehow, magic. Server magic makes no sense to me so far.
[NK] That's definitely what it is. I want to take it.
[RB] Turning it back onto VRoom, anything standing out to you on the project?
[RB] Good engine noise.
[NK] [Loud engine noise] The sound design. Because it was done by me and you. No, honestly I think it's really cool with what the code team's been able to accomplish at least for learning a new engine and at the same time implementing a new technology when only one member has experience on it.
[RB] And he (John F.) was on the Oculus, not even the Vive.
[NK] And he was on the Oculus, not even the Vive. A whole different kind of API and framework. That's really cool, watching people grow, adapt to newer challenges. And whatever their speed, it's cool. We have a car. You can drive it. It's cool.
[RB] What are you anticipating to be a problem? Granted, it's final days, but the next couple days and final week of rounding up and polish, anything you think will be a problem with your stuff?
[NK] Being able to rapidly produce the assets we need. Being the sole modeler is a little brutal. I dunno, I have other commitments at the same time. My turnaround rate, albeit it could be a little bit faster, is about one a week. Which is kind of rough, especially for a game that requires a little bit more than that. You look at other projects, that's comparable to what other groups have been able to accomplish. You look at this project called, Quintessence, which was done by a grad student, that I kind of worked on last semester a little bit, contributed a few environment art things that have since been scraped since someone else came in and did them way better, they're working on it for their third consecutive semester, maybe even fourth, and then they'll level of their art implementation is way higher having been able to work on for this long than it was on their first pass. The lead modeler on that, told me that they basically scraped all their original assets, and there weren't nearly as much of them as there are now. And that seems to be a general theme for first iteration projects, at least so far.
[RB] You get the stuff out there, and then replace it eventually.
[NK] Yeah, precisely.
[RB] I don't know if VRoom will come back next semester or whatnot, depends on what people's interest is. Quintessence was a huge group, is now a very tiny group to slowly develop . Something similar might happen. It might not. It's been a great learning experience, seeing people go from "I can't get a box to move, Unreal's garbage, we should go to Unity" and now we've got a stick shift -
[NK] To be fair Unreal is garbage.
[NK] Unreal is garbage because they have so many bugs. Too many bugs!
[RB] To be fair, if we had waited a week longer before putting in the code, it would have been fixed in 4.15!
[RB] Aw well.
[RB] Any parting thoughts besides a dislike of Unreal?
[NK] I will say the project has definitely tired me out. It's been a lot of work so far. It's still a lot of work. I don't imagine slowing down at all. At least, it's slowing down a little bit now that the semester's winding down and we're kind of meeting the end. But I'm kinda - I hate to say it, but I'm kind of looking forward to at least taking a break from it.
[RB] Yeah, same.
[NK] It's constant.
[RB] We've been speeding into crunch right now. I can't wait till Sunday. I don't want anyone to work on Sunday on this. Everyone relax. We do have some final polish and placing assets and tweaks.
[NK] I get to play a show on Sunday. I get no breaks.
[RB] But you won't be working on VRoom. And most of the model assets are done as well. I'm not gonna ask "let's do that second semester pass NOW."
[NK] [Grumbles]. Ways to make your art team hate you.
[RB] We'll working for exposure. It's college.
[RB] Sad face. On that surprisingly dour note, I think we're both still excited for it, just tired.
[NK] It's tired. We've hit the burnout.
[NK] That's all it.
[RB] Everything's coming together. But hey, we don't have a final in this class so that's good.
[NK] YES! Yas, queen.
[RB] Okay, so on that note. So any parting tho- I already asked the any parting thoughts. Oh god. It's been a long semester.
[NK] It's been a long semester.
[RB] That concludes the interview with Noah, Noah Kellem.
[RB] So that concludes the interviews with the entire dev team. I don't have a stand alone one because it'd just be kind of awkward to interview myself, and everyone's been busy. So, yeah, that concludes that whole arc. There will be some post mortem content coming up soon on the blog. So, thank you for listening!