It's been two weeks since the GAMBIT Singapore lab really got started, with a bunch of new interns and part-time staff who are waiting for their call-ups to join the Singapore National Service. There are still some finishing touches to be made (the signboard with our name still isn't up yet!) but production has begun in the middle of all the renovation and interior decor work. Hopefully, by next week we'll have everything in place - just in time to welcome a whole bunch of distinguished guests who are planning to visit our lab. (But that's another story, for another day...). In the meantime, you can go see some pictures of the lab at our Flickr photo gallery.
Or I can try to describe it in words. (Skip the next two paragraphs if you'll rather look at the pics.)
As you get off the lifts at the 9th Floor of the Adelphi Lifestyle Mall, you'll be greeted by a signboard that lists all the offices on this floor. About five lots are dedicated to the Attorney-General's Chambers. That's right. We're right next door to the highest criminal prosecutors in the land. (We're also next to the Singapore Cricket Club and another legal consulting firm... I wonder if our neighbours think we're too frivolous for their serious, highly cultured work environment?) Anyway, walking past the mahogany-framed doors of the AG Chambers, you'll see the GAMBIT office... such as it is. Our signboard still isn't done yet, so we have a nice wooden frame with a gap in the wall facing you. The entire front of GAMBIT is made of glass, with a very small lounge area - two chairs and a magazine rack underneath a TV. The TV will be playing trailers of our games - if and when we can create those trailers and connect the TV to the PC that's playing them. (Should be done by next week, hopefully). To the left of the lounge is the meeting room, surrounded by white walls and glass panelling. This is where all the high-level conferences and meetings take place - it has a projector, whiteboard markers, and everything. We've been using it mainly for brainstorming and Sprint Planning meetings. Past the meeting room, you'll walk into the main lab area itself.
The lab is split into 2 closed offices, 1 game room, an open pantry area, 8 cubicles, and a row of empty desks with hotseats for people who want to come in and work for a short while. One of the offices is Chor Guan's, the other is a spare for whoever is visiting from MIT and needs an office. The rest of the staff are split among the cubicles and the hotseats. We have a total of 12 people in the lab at the moment - but we can accommodate up to 16 if need be. (And even up to 30, if we decide to buy more chairs and use every bit of desk space available). There are bulletin boards along the side walls, where we have our Scrum boards and task lists, and a bookshelf in the back corner for holding the lab-owned books and magazines. The game room has a wide-screen TV, three gigantic bean bags, an Xbox 360 and a Wii. The rest of the consoles will come later. In the meantime, the games we have are being kept under lock and key in the cabinets lining the back wall underneath the windows. The windows themselves look out over Funan IT Mall, where we usually go to buy our software, IT equipment, and lunch. And that basically sums up what the lab looks like. For the rest, you'll need to come and see for yourself.
Let's talk about games.
We're currently working on three games in the GAMBIT Singapore lab - continuations of Backflow and Wiip, which were developed last summer, and a totally-new Xbox LIVE Arcade game set in the same game world as Wiip (and sharing some of it's characters). It's going to be a game about a circus acrobat / stunt-clown who fails all the time. Think of it as being to extreme sports games (like SSX and Tony Hawk) what Burnout is to racing games. Plus a circus theme. You get to control a ragdoll circus clown trying to perform acrobatic tricks in a 2D pinball-like arena, and the whole objective is to fail, crash-and-burn as dramatically as possible. People seem to like it so far (it must appeal to their inner sadists or something... probably the same things that motivate people to try and kill off their Sims).
We're in Sprint 2 now, just finished with pre-production and beginning the production phase. Wiip and Backflow are expected to be released by June this year, and the Xbox LIVE Arcade game is targeted for release in September. It's a tough, challenging course we've set for ourselves, but hopefully we can ship on time. (It's a little strange to realise that our deadlines aren't driven so much by publishers or the market as much as they are driven by a very pressing need to have a clear slate by the time the next batch of students finish the summer internship at MIT. Every year, I can foresee that all games MUST be done and the lab freed up in time to tackle the next big block of stuff coming in from the spring and summer projects... talk about your highly-motivating push factors. ;-P) And the fact that most of our current staff will have to leave to join the armed forces around then means a constant flux of change happening all the time.
Working in this lab is like working in a whirlwind. It's exciting, and you can fly, but you're constantly buffeted by forces going every which way, and you never know when the wind's going to die out. But while we have the opportunity, we're going to fly as fast and as high as we can.