Pre-Alpha I Sprint

This post describes the work I have completed in the past two weeks as pod lead for the VFX Pod for WolverineSoft Studio. This sprint was slightly shorter as official production only began on Tuesday, February 4th. Most of my work consisted of familiarizing myself with Atlassian tools as I managed work and resources for my pod.

Pre-production recap

Before this sprint began, I re-familiarized myself with the various graphics and VFX tools available in the current version of Unity. This was to prepare myself for advising my pod members during actual production. Here is an example of a grass-waving effect I created in Shader Graph during this time:

Waving grass

Week 1

In the first week as production began, I had to hit the ground running to get everything ready for my pod members to start work. Unlike many of the other leads, I did not participate in WSoft Studio last semester, so I was learning to use Jira, Confluence, and Bitbucket for the first time (in a while at least). During this week I started to collect the first few Jira tasks that would go to each of the pod members for the sprint, but mainly worked on creating special tutorial pages in Confluence for learning Unity Shader Graph and VFX Graph respectively. Each of these pages went through several points on the main features of each tool and some of the major workflows, as well as including helpful related videos.

Shader Graph Guide VFX Graph Guide

Once my group met for the first time at the kickoff meeting on 2/4, for this week I assigned each of my three pod members tasks to read these tutorials and get up to speed on how to use the tools. Each member came in with different levels of experience, but the tutorials seemed useful overall so I was glad.

Week 2

At the lead meeting on 2/8 and the general meeting on 2/9, I finished formulating and then distributing each of the pod members’ Jira tasks. I tried to assign the tasks based upon what I understood to be each team member’s strengths when I met them at the kickoff meeting.

First, I had David Sohn working on a dust VFX for when the player runs around the stage. As David was already rather familiar with Unity and its tools, he was able to make a good result within a few days without relying on me much.

Second, Zena Abulhab worked on creating a glint shader that could be applied to a number of objects from coins to blades, crystals, and more. Zena worked hard on this, but since this was her first time using Shader Graph she did require me to provide more guidance and tips on how to solve issues. I ended up having to check out her branch and play with her solution to provide hints on how to get the right effect. Happily, in the end she did get it working though which I was proud of.

Glint

Third, Eli Lustig worked on creating the first part of the player’s teleport ability VFX. Eli is interested in external programs for creating VFX like Blender and Houdini, and this week was working in Blender instead of Unity so I didn’t get to see as much of what he was doing until the next general meeting. However in the end he evidently was working hard on a good dissolve effect for the player’s sprite as they disappear.

There was also a special pull request I did a code review for midweek on an outline shader that came from outside of the VFX pod. This was interesting as it was written in plain CG/HLSL code so I was able to practice reading that. The script itself was fine and the only suggestions I made were to style and conciseness before the pull request was accepted and merged.

Reflection

Overall, I am proud of the effort I put into creating documentation and preparations during the first week of the sprint, but think I could have done a better job of being proactive in the second week. From the lead meeting on 2/15 I learned this was apparently a sentiment shared by other leads towards their own teams, but I still think I could have been available more especially earlier on. With Zena’s work in particular as she needed a bit more help, I felt like I was blocking her when I waited too long without responding to a question she had asked. I am taking this lesson to apply in future sprints so I can be a more effective lead for my pod.

This sprint also I was not working on any effects myself since there was not too much work to do yet. However in the coming sprint it looks like there will be more tasks from other pods and I will be able to make my own VFX contributions outside of just being a lead. I’m looking forward to seeing the work I can accomplish myself!