LifeSpark Arena Weekly Update 3/5/15 – GDC and Future Content

Alberto - Environment Concept Art

LifeSpark Arena Weekly Update 3/5/15

By Dominic Ricci

Hey everyone! Crickets chirp as the video game development industry has convened in San Francisco throughout the week for the Game Developer’s Conference. Not everyone on the team went, but our dear Lead Designer Bryan Edelman did, as did many of our colleagues and professors. A lot of cool stuff, Source 2, etc. Notably, two USC games won awards this year, Close Your and Outer Wilds from IGF. Anyway, onto the update, short as it is.

Future Website Content

As you might have noticed, LifeSpark Arena will not be putting out weekly updates for the foreseeable future. We will, however, be rolling out entirely new brands of content in the coming few weeks, including continuing our Sunday interview series. Please stay tuned as we prepare more awesome content for you guys!

A Labor of Production

With a lot of the team tired out from midterms, gone for GDC, or otherwise occupied, you could say production has been a bit slower this week. Except, it hasn’t, because our Production Lead, Collin Helstien, would have to “stop working for the team” in order for that to happen. So everyone, no matter how tired, still has a task waiting for them next week, still has their marching orders on what to do, and LifeSpark is still on schedule because of Collin taking the painstaking time to keep everything moving no matter how tired, busy, or otherwise occupied he might be. If you want the beating heart of LifeSpark, then you have to look to a gigantic team of talented people. The mind, spread out among the leads but expanding across them, however, is most certainly Collin Helstien, who has kept everyone on track with consummate professionalism. The team is better for it now, and continues to be for the future.

There is some development info, I swear…

Last section notwithstanding, plenty is still getting done on all fronts as people chug away. Large strides have been made with complete UI redesigns and overhauls for the menus and in-game interface. These will be tested and ironed out to perfection, with the Game Director himself Yale Buckner handling many parts of the design and management. Coordination with the engineering and art teams is keeping this initiative on track alongside development of exciting new heros.

Oh, and bug smashing. A lot of bug smashing.

Well that’s all for this update! Once again, keep an eye out for new content on the horizon, and check out our team interviews in the meantime! Everyone on this team has a story to tell, and we want you to see who exactly is making the amazing games out there, starting here, at LifeSpark Arena.


LifeSpark Arena Weekly Update 2/12/15 – The Secret To Games

Shaun - LifeSpark Landscape Concept 2

LifeSpark Arena Weekly Update 2/12/15

By Dominic Ricci

Hey guys. I got into the office a little late today – USC had a visitor, and I got sidetracked by talking to the secret service. No biggie. On to the game!

The Biggest of Playtests

The day started with a playtest including faculty and team members. Everyone busted open LifeSpark Arena’s most recent build and fought for control of the LifeSpark. Great ideas were thrown around, bugs were railed against, and a lot of productive feedback came out of the session. Aligning all parts of the experience is still a high priority, and our producer was sure to match the backlog of tasks with the concerns. It was incredibly helpful for moving forward during the next few months!

IMG_1104 (1)

Mastery of Painting

Not Davincis, but our artists have been cranking away in various areas. A wire frame and other assets for the map are in place and they are being worked on diligently to be put into a build. One of our artists is wrestling with the delicate art of UV Unwrapping for a character. Once that is done, the character will be well on her way to being introduced into the game!

Sydney - Trees Yo!

The Particulars and Specifications

The engineers continue to work hard at a myriad of features and bugs that, regrettably, aren’t too interesting to talk about. They control how fast something falls to the ground, how swiftly a character responds when you tap the screen. This week they are making sure the fog of war functions properly, that a certain new character’s moves can be executed, and that it is easy for the player to understand certain functions. Glamorous? No, but hard and important work nonetheless.

We Prefer Beer, or…

Martini Time Productions is moving along, with the legal work progressing in a predictably slow manner. LifeSpark Arena is in it for the long haul, and MTP will be the platform pushing it forward all the way through. Articles of organization are being filed and the specifics of how the production company will be run is in the burner.

That’s it for now! Stay in touch on our Facebook and Twitter pages (links to the right) for more information on LifeSpark Arena!

LifeSpark Arena Weekly Update 2/5/15 – A Saint Arrives

Alberto - Environment concept Art 3

Lifespark Arena Weekly Update 2/5/15

By Dominic Ricci

A new week, a new set of development on LifeSpark Arena! Hopefully you guys caught the interview with game director Yale Buckner on Sunday. He went over his inspiration in making the game, talked about design philosophies and touched on plans for iterating the game in the future. Check it out! Now, on to the game!

Advice From A Saint

One of the advisors for LifeSpark Arena, USC faculty member St. John Colón, came in and drilled into the design of the game, talking particles, map sizing, and ways to iterate on currently existing game mechanics. This turned into a lengthy brainstorming session involving designers and engineers about bringing new ideas into the fold. Some things that were thrown around include changing the size of objects in the map, giving Spark Points new abilities, and better telegraphing elements of fusion.


What You See

The artists and art lead have a menu wireframe locked down for a final design. The UI as a whole is going through an overarching improvement process, with the menu leading the forefront as a primary concern. Making the menu user friendly was a high priority for us, as was keeping a consistent design across the whole of LifeSpark Arena’s UI. Keep the feel, keep it usable, and make it fun for our players to navigate.


A Gorgeous Vista

The designers have been hard at work on the new map. With the navmesh being laid out for players and minions to move along, soon the props will begin to be placed as well in their appropriate locations. The scale of the map is changing quite a bit, with time to combat and distance to center of the map all being considered with fast-paced gameplay in mind. Each area of the map will have its distinct style, and that will help players tell where they are at any given time, just by viewing the area around them.

LifeSpark - Desert Frozen Ruins

 Chugging Along

Engineering has been keeping up work in a variety of areas. Lane creep behaviour is in progress, fog of war is almost finished, and gameplay effects for future characters have almost completely been put in.

A small issue in-engine came up – a feature that had been stomped a long time ago came back with a vengeance, blocking some progress and making it harder for the engineers to do their job. Luckily this has been isolated and fixed, and doesn’t present a problem any more!

That’s it for now! Stay in touch on our Facebook and Twitter pages (links to the right) for more information on LifeSpark Arena!

LifeSpark Arena Weekly Update 1/29/15 – A Disney Introduction


LifeSpark - Crystal Forest

Lifespark Arena Weekly Update 1/29/15

By Dominic

Hey everyone, welcome to the last week of January. The LifeSpark team is still cranking away, and here’s your snapshot of what is happening.

A Surprise Visitor

This week started off with a bang! Tolga Tekin , Senior Manager of Technology from Disney Interactive floated through the office, checking out all of the games under development for the Advanced Games program. LifeSpark Arena, Apophis, Toward the Stars and Polyseum all came under scrutiny by this industry visitor. Little did we know, this visitor was also an alumni of USC, graduating from the Viterbi School of Engineering in 2004 with a Masters in Electrical Engineering.

After jumping into a game of LifeSpark Arena, Tolga gave excellent feedback on minion movement, game mechanics, and representation of information in the game – namely, who was winning. He had great comments on the UI as well, giving the team pointers on what to move toward next.

What Can You See

The engineers of LifeSpark Arena are a hardworking bunch! Every week they conquer countless tasks and difficult challenges. For some of the engineering teams this week that means focusing on fog of war – making sure the player can’t see too far, isn’t too limited, and that the resting state of the fog of war still shows the map and environment in all its glory.

Some more bugs were smashed, notably an unfortunate case where poor souls would stay in their bodies after death, allowing the player to target the body even with them dead. Thankfully, this has been fixed, and bodies now stay dead. We don’t approve of zombies here at LifeSpark, and they’ve been dealt with.

The Earth We Roam

Yale and the design team have been hard at work with the new map design. With the new pillars for our design ironed out, it’s a matter of implementation and making sure every area is addressed from multiple angles. What does this mean?

– Lanes throughout the map are more clear, and connect Spark Points in a logical and easily understood manner

– An overall radial design will allow for different “pizza slices” of the map. This keeps a certain symmetry, while also allowing for multiple or secondary areas of approach

– Jungle camps are being rearranged to incorporate a sense of exploration into the map, placing them in secondary areas and incentivizing exploration, without taking away from the main lane theme

A cool new feature is also the map being explicitly set into different aesthetic appearances, with each corner of the map having its own visual style that contrasts with the others. This will help keep players oriented while also giving a little more visual flair!

Martini Time Productions

LifeSpark’s LLC development team, Martini Time Productions, has been officially filed with our lead producer, Collin Helstien handling the proceedings. We are all very excited for the company to be made official, and are poised to take LifeSpark to the next level with an official company behind it.

That’s it for now! Stay tuned for next week’s update – we have some exciting things in store, including an interview with Yale Buckner, game director on LifeSpark Arena!


LifeSpark Arena Weekly Update 1/23/15 – Maps & Bugs!

Environment 1

Lifespark Arena Weekly Update 1/23/15

By Dominic

Hey everyone! Welcome to the new and improved LifeSpark Arena website. I’m Dominic Ricci, Marketing Director for LifeSpark and I’ll be jotting down some updates on our progress every week, here, on our site. This will include information on design, engineering, production, or anything else our team is thrilled to be working on.

Also keep an eye out for new content coming out in the future. You can expect this content here, our official Facebook channel, and our official Twitter account. We have a lot of exciting things planned for the coming months, and you will get a first hand look at both the team and details of the development process.


A lot of today was spent with Collin Helstien, our Production Lead, talking to the team about general ideas and goals for the coming months and semester He went over new planned heroes and bosses, what our resource allocation looks like and what we want to prioritize in making them. Some team pillars for the semester include a focus on Quality Assurance thanks to a lot of testing, clarity in map design and construction, and getting a better database in place for bug testing and more.



The map in any MOBA is a complicated space, and every MOBA map forces difficult design decisions. How to represent LifeSpark Arena’s combination of Spark Points and directional objectives is a huge challenge. Everyone from the team – engineers, artists, and designers – pitched in on map design at a huge round table event.

References were thrown from Starcraft to DOTA, with elements from all being taken out and carefully analyzed. Making them merge to form a great MOBA experience, especially on IOS, was the main objective. It took us hours to debate the proper way to keep clear lanes and directions for the player while also remaining true to LifeSpark’s initial plan. Eventually we came to a great conclusion, one we will be excited to share in future updates.


In any great game there are bound to be bugs. One of the things we really wanted to work out in the coming months was our process for identifying them with a solid QA process, relating that information to the engineers, and then tasking engineers correctly in getting them taken care of. One idea was replacing our generalized bug list with one central bug reporting email (managed by Lead Engineer Kaleb Williams) who would then categorize the bugs according to factors like severity to player experience, ease of accomplishment in fixing, as well as a myriad of other detailed engineering criteria.

That’s it for LifeSpark this week! Stay tuned for further updates rolling out every week, it has been a pleasure getting this information out to you guys! We are dedicated to getting you guys an amazing game.