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  • Writer's pictureJosh Grazda

Capstone: The Past, Present and Future of Cash Force

After a semester of brainstorming, prototyping, and implementation, we have reached the moment of truth. As we all pilled into the Alumni Auditorium at Champlain College, teams waited as a random team selector chose their fate on presenting the projects we have been working on for the past 3 months. After being called second to last, our team Holo Hexagon presented our game Cash Force!

The Past...

As a team our team started as a group of friends and colleagues who have worked together in the past on various other projects and assignments from game jams to production classes. Learning to balance or professional life in this way become something we struggled with for a few weeks. Often meetings were not as productive as we wanted and we would waste time joking around. Eventually we realized that while we are having a good time working together, we need to focus on the task at hand.

We started to have regular in person meetings that became more and more professional, eventually speeding up our retrospective discussions. Soon we started coming prepared for sprint planning before our meetings by going over tasks and goals for the week during our Capstone class, leading to very efficient use of our in person time during our meetings. This shift alone to a more professional environment within our team allowed us deliver the final build of our game after many iterations and implementation of new mechanics over the last couple of weeks of the semester. While we did work more professional as a whole, we were able to have more fun with our project as we had clear direction and goals created at the start of each sprint.

During the last few weeks when we focused on ironing out bugs and final features for our demo, I got to work with Karl a lot on many of our systems. This became a very eye opening experience for me as I saw the thought process he often went through to debug issues and how different it was from my own. Often Karl would spend hours trying to determine the issue with our handling system. Sometimes the gun would not release from your hand when you let go of it and often your hand would get stuck inside of magazine clips after trying to quickly reload and grab the gun handle. His process was very trial and error. Having never worked with another designer on a very technical system, this really helped me understand how I can help guide members of my team to fix issues they might be having in better way. I would often talk him through the logic of our issues and we would determine which areas could cause the bug. We would create debug outputs and test variables to make sure we were getting the result we wanted and when we found the issue, we would walk through how to adjust our code/blueprint to fix the issue. Not only did I help Karl learn the process for debugging, but I learned methods from him on debugging issues in VR. This dynamic applies to all members across our team and I have learned a lot from Austin, Emmett, and Adam as well about their discipline and the ways my programming knowledge can help assist them throughout the development of our game.

We then got to the process of creating our presentation and trailer for the end of the semester. I can say without question, this was the most fun I had with our team in developing Cash Force so far. Being able to create the experience of our game into a 2 min video really taught me about how to pitch a game in the best way. Focusing on the players experience and emotions going through our game and putting into a short trailer. The cuts and music helping to drive our theme, with Adam's stunning art creating a energetic and eye catching setting for viewers. We all got to use our strengths in a different way. Emmett's video editing skills, Karl's ear for audio editing, Adam's eye for composition, Austin's voicing talent, and my camera work ability in engine. I learned about some video and audio editing from Emmett and Karl in the process, giving me a new appreciation for their knowledge set on our team.

The Present...

Mid-mortems is over and our team has been chosen as one of 8 teams of 23 to go through to next semester. I was humbled by the experience of cuts and extremely grateful to everyone who worked so hard this year on making Capstone such a rewarding experience. It wasn't long ago that I was watching the senior Capstone presentations as a first year student and imagining being the one presenting. I'm now excited to see the games moving forward will develop with an additional semester worth of development after receiving exceptional talent from other teams. While we have accomplished a lot, there is more to be done on Cash Force and all of us on Holo Hexagon are prepared to lead our team into next semester and continue to create the experience we strive to develop.

The final week or two of this semester is determining our team and path moving into next semester. As the lead programmer, I'm now in a position to help steer our joining members to conquer the risks I determined at the start of our project. I have never been able to work on a game for this long and see those original risks staring me in the face. They are the next hurdle. With that being said, I'm confident we will be able to overcome these risks and create remarkable work to be proud of. The most daring problems often create the most exciting systems to work on! Discussing with the new members on my team, we have determined how their strengths will best alleviate the risks we face in future development. I can't wait to learn from our new team and nurture the same dynamic our team has created over this semester.

The Future...

With a much needed winter break between now and next semester, we will be taking a short break from development and just connecting as a team to help on-board our new members. It will also be time to research new tech that we have been wanting to implement and clean up our code base to help speed up on on-boarding for the team. I'm excited for the next step in development and all the challenge and triumphs we will face. Being able to end my 4 years at Champlain College working on a game I'm really passionate about, with a team that I enjoy working with, while gaining the experience I need moving forward in my personal and professional career. I'm also hoping to create more technical posts to help others learn about the process our team and I take to create our game, and the new ways we are exploring the VR game space. Until then, I would like to thanks everyone who helped and guided us on this journey such as everyone on the Holo Hexagon team, our professor John Boyd, our discipline adviser Sajid Farooq, COR adviser Bob Mayer, and everyone in our Capstone class who gave us feedback each and every week on our project, just to name a few. I'm excited to continue development moving into next semester and will see you in the new year!!

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