About Qualified Immunity
The Senior Design Project (SDP) course acted as a culmination of everything we’ve learned in the AET program. The end goal for this course was to conceptualize, pitch, develop, and produce an interactive project that reflected our skills and capabilities within a medium of our choice. The actual content of the project was up to us to decide, and since all of us were most familiar with game design, we chose to develop a game as our project. The result was Qualified Immunity, a single player 2D isometric mystery-solving game where the player takes on the role of a young, new police officer in Colander City. As the player works through the cases assigned to them, they will slowly uncover secrets rooted deep within the police department itself, pushing the player to make decisions and compromise between morality and justice.
We wanted to give players autonomy over the game world, immersing them into the game’s characters and narrative. We sought to bring awareness to abuse of power and how that can easily lead to corruption and mistreatment, pushing players to think critically and be open to question the things they see and hear.
Qualified Immunity was a valuable experience in content triage and work scheduling for all of us as a team. The initial pitch for the game outlined a range of features we envisioned, like an open-world map the player would be able to explore, with procedurally generated side quests that would allow the player to explore various narrative branches outside of the main missions. The release of Qualified Immunity submitted for SDP, and later for the Level UP Showcase, was significantly trimmed down to fit development into the roughly 3-month timeframe allotted for production.
What are you most proud of for this project?
First and foremost, I’m most proud of our team’s communication and coordination. We were all already either friends or familiar with each other prior to team formation, and we quickly built up a good rapport in the early stages of development. Each of us knew what our roles and responsibilities were, and we each worked tirelessly to fulfill our objectives. Undoubtedly, Qualified Immunity was finished thanks in great part to this teamwork, and it taught us all the importance of team synergy in group projects.
On a unit level, I’m proud of the work Victor and I put in during the weeks leading up to the final deadline ironing out bugs and re-writing or re-organizing code where necessary to make certain mechanics and systems function the way we needed them to. Many sleepless nights were dedicated to the process of debugging, and while inevitably a few issues are sure to remain in the game’s current build, it was this process that allowed us to release Qualified Immunity in its current polished state.
On a personal level, I’m proud of the isometric object sorting system I designed for the game. We wanted the game to have an isometric perspective — using an angled viewpoint to give the game a 3D appearance and feel while using 2D assets — but to do so, we needed to either build the game with a 3D perspective in mind, or dynamically change the rendering order of in-game objects in real-time. We settled with the second option to shift some of the workload off our sole artist, and I designed a system that would enable objects to “re-order” themselves (i.e. appear behind or in front of other objects) using height coordinates, some math, and a few conditionals. The result turned out surprisingly well (though the system did need tweaks here and there during the development process), and it allowed our artist to simply drag-and-drop assets into Unity — the script would handle the rest.
A special mention: All assets and code we developed for the game were done in-house. This added significantly to our workload but meant that we knew the ins and outs of our game at all levels and could pinpoint the causes of bugs and other problems fairly quickly.
Any tips or advice you have for incoming/current AET Majors that really helped you?
AET is a major that is designed for an industry built on change and, as a result, is itself in a constant state of change. AET does not focus on teaching students exactly how to use the software and hardware they will need to succeed, but rather focuses on teaching students how to quickly adapt to these tools so that when they change or are replaced, you’ll be better able to continue and expand your work. However, this means that there is often a lot of emphasis on self-learning, which can sometimes leave students in the dark. Be prepared to explore tools and material not directly covered in your classes on your own time!
Another tip: Be prepared to hear the term “networking” a ton. While skillset is important, so are the people you become familiar with — creative industries can be tight-knit, and being able to talk with others and be sociable is pretty crucial. It can be difficult to put yourself out there — speaking from experience with stage fright and social anxiety — so the key is to start small. Talk with your instructors and professors — many will be open to and even enthusiastic about helping you connect with others who followed the path you may want to take in the future, for example.
Finally, and somewhat related to the previous tip, make friends! Besides just knowing others who you can have fun with, it’s great to be able to tackle group projects with people you’re familiar with.
Level UP was a collaborative showcase including UT students across Arts and Entertainment Technologies, Game Design and Development, Computer Science and Radio-Television-Film.
Alex Kong (AET '22) — Coder
Alex Kohl (AET '22) — Narrative Designer
Ashli Black (AET '22) — Artist
Catherine Kim (AET '22) — Narrative and UI/UX Designer
Victor Do (AET '22) — Coder
Course & Professor
Senior Design Project I with Professors David (D.S.) Cohen, Jessie Contour, Jose Kozan, and Shannon Murray
Unity, Visual Studio, Twine, Procreate, Figma, Photoshop, Audacity and Premiere Pro
Alex Kong (AET '22) — Coder