Day in the Life: Phillip Bossant, Executive Producer and Art Director

The America 's Army Game Project Public Applications Team's Executive Producer and Art Director Phillip Bossant describes a Day in the Life of doing game development for the U.S. Army.

Phillip Bossant

Phillip Bossant works for the America 's Army Game Project Public Applications Team in a dual role as both executive producer and art director. He has been an integral part of the America's Army online multiplayer game for nearly four years, and has been involved in all of the game releases since the original game debut in July 2002. He began as an artist with a bachelor of Fine Arts before entering into software and game development. He has worked in the game industry for over 13 years in various capacities from independent contractor running a small studio, to start up and large game company experience to the current U.S. Army Game development team.

Typical Day in June 2005

6:00 AM– Is when I usually get up. I have an alarm as a back up but I prefer shutting it off before it goes off. I'm a light sleeper so I'm often noticing the time well before then. I have a rather long commute so sometimes it's necessary to get up even earlier to get a jump start on the day. I am on the West Coast so at times this is necessary to effectively work with others from East Coast teams on the project. I work most often onsite in Monterey but am also set up at my home office with high speed and remote access.

I'm not naturally a morning person but it has turned out this way through necessity. Balancing years of aggressive work schedules with family life has always been the norm in my household. After getting dressed, I head downstairs with my dog, and boot up the computer.

7:00 – Morning time is always busy and by now I should have already freshly ground and brewed a pot of nice dark roast coffee, fed and walked my dog, read and/or replied to some email, fixed a quick breakfast while reading comics and briefly going over the newspaper, and packed a lunch. From then it's upstairs again to get the first of two kids up for school. Back down to the computer to do more email and prepare any files or items I need to take into the office. Time to get the next kid up and a breakfast ready for him.

Before becoming team lead, I was full-time doing art and asset production and would typically have already gotten in an hour or two of painting by this time.

7:40-8:30 – Carpool duty means I either take my daughter and neighbor to school and/or drop my son off at his school before heading to the highway for my long but beautiful commute to the studio in Monterey. Sometimes this is when some of my first business calls begin. Many people involved with the Army Game Project are on East Coast and it tends to be a good time for quick calls. If I'm not doing that then it's music or audio books for the drive. I've knocked off dozens of novels at this point and found it to be an unexpected pleasure and unique way to experience a novel based on the skills and artistry of the reader. Either way, it's a bit of a chance to clear my head before starting at the office.

9:30-10:00 – A typical time for me to be at my desk again taking care of emails that require file transfers and phone messages. I generally greet team members and let them know if I have any special requests for the day or to pass on any news or updates. Today it's to let team members know that it looks like we have secured a new office space in the San Francisco Bay area. The Army Game Public Applications Team (the team responsible for the public version of the America's Army game) has been in Monterey for several years now and while it is quite beautiful and wonderful to visit it is not an optimal location for a game development team by any means. This new location in the Bay area will help us gain numerous advantages, and finding and attracting good talent is not the least of it. We are looking forward to adding new San Francisco developers to our team, and are also pursuing a sort of partnership with a local Digital Media college there to set up access to each other's top-of-the-line studios. I also check in on our two new animators and their progress in our 24 camera motion capture studio. They are setting up and preparing to tackle a very long list of animation needs for both upcoming releases and government projects.

America's Army

11:00-12:00 – This is the usual time for a Team Leads or special task meeting to deal with design/production issues. Today, we have our Army Game Project weekly production meeting where we have representatives from many of the groups involved in the project.

The Army Game project has a unique team structure. The project is run out of the Office of Economic Manpower & Analysis (OEMA) at West Point. They direct the efforts of the various development teams which include the Public Apps team, the Government Apps team (team that manages the integration of the AA game technology for training), and the Future Apps team (team that uses AA for new weapon modeling). The Army works with the teams to make sure they are provided with all of the relevant information and materials needed to achieve their mission.

For example, the Army provides Subject Matter Experts (SME), like our current integration manager who is our active duty SME from the 20th Special Forces Group, for activities like content review and to arrange visits to Army posts. We've had many visits from these SMEs who look at our game and make suggestions to make it more realistic, whether is the stance of a soldier, how he's holding a gun or the smallest detail on a weapon. This feedback is invaluable to our team. We've just come back recently from a “green up,” with them and I need to transfer photos taken from it for other groups. These "green up" events are set up from time to time to get developers on the project out to various Army Posts to get some first-hand experience of some Army training and to collect reference material as well. Each time we go we come back with tons of photos and video footage as well as a better understanding of the Army and how our soldiers train. Plus, there is nothing else quite like taking a high speed banking dive into a canyon on a Blackhawk helicopter ride to inspire and enrich our future designs for the game!

At our weekly meeting, OEMA, all of game development teams, our web support team, our marketing agency, and others come together to discuss upcoming issues and milestones. This meeting is a good time to connect, trade notes and share information. On this call the various groups talk about upcoming visits from OEMA, another green up event, upcoming tradeshows and events featuring the game, and game release dates.

12:00-12:30 – Almost always finds me eating at my desk while working. Not a great habit certainly but I'm already switching channels to start art tasks.

12:30-3:00 – This is the time I'm often trying to work on assets and deal with art and level design issues. We've always had some terrific talent on this project and the current art and design team is no exception. Fortunately, the look and feel of America's Army has already been well established and it's typically not hard to steer the artists and designers in the right direction. This and their skill level is the main reason I'm able to handle my dual roles with any success at all. Our team is not large so everyone here has opportunities to spread out a bit and not be pigeonholed into a single role or type of asset creation. We try to play to each individual's strength. I enjoy sitting with people one on one to check out their progress on assets and levels. Many times, I'm just providing feedback but sometimes I am directly involved with making the solution. If I'm really lucky there might be large sky backgrounds that need to be hand painted but it's rare that I get to spend much time painting on the project these days.

3:00-3:30 – Checking email, there are some screenshots and other assets to look over that were just sent from Ubisoft. I've already been to their office in S.F. several times to go over various parts of their production. They are producing the first console versions of America's Army called America's Army: Rise of a Soldier, which comes out this fall on both Xbox and PlayStation 2. They are using many core assets from the PC game while approaching many game design issues with different and newer concepts.

3:30 - 4:00 – I try to get outside for a bit and check in with some of the guys. I might even have a cigarillo (mini cigar). This time usually provides me with a decent spot and break to discuss issues.

4:00 - 5:00 – Will often find us playtesting new levels. We try to include the whole team which serves multiple purposes. Working out and tweaking gameplay issues are obvious benefits but it's also an opportunity for the team to be aware of challenges faced by other disciplines on the team. During testing we can see the status of each other's work whether it be new designs, assets or possible code issues.

5:00- 7:00 After playtesting we share some feedback and ideas and most of us get right back into making some of the solutions. It's another block of time where I try to get art issues taken care of.

7:00- Usually I'm about out the door by this time if I'm not staying overnight. Sometimes there are more calls on the road but often it's back to music, baseball on the radio, or audio books again.

8:30-9:30 or so This is where I grab some dinner, usually with wine or maybe a brew and get “caught up” on family issues. I might help with homework or if it's all done already then maybe help my youngest get past a “tough” game level, get him a bath, a story, a song, and finally to bed.

10:00 - Now I have a bit of time to finally chill, chat with my wife, maybe even watch a movie. I try to crash before midnight but don't always make it. There's a lot to do tomorrow.


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