Dev Adventures: Universal Studios Villain-Con Minion Blast
Hey! This ride has finally been unveiled and soft-opened! Congrats to everyone on the Pure Imagination Studios dev team that was involved in this project. I'm glad I was looped in to play a small part in this colossal endeavor. It was quite a surreal experience and an incredibly complex project. So with that in mind, I figured I'd write a short blog post about my own experience with it for you all to enjoy.
(Universal Studios, Florida Theme Park, Orlando)
This bombastic attraction was built in Universal Studios, Orlando. It features a wireless handheld blaster that guests use to fire at on-screen targets while standing on a moving walkway. The walkway takes riders from scene to scene as they battle various villains from the Minions and Despicable Me films, earn points and cause a whole lotta digital mayhem around them...as you do whenever Minions are involved.
(The ride's promotional poster)
The dedicated Pure Imagination Studios software team was brought into the fold for software engineering, and QA support during the resource-heavy production process. I was flown in as a consultant on behalf of the company and tasked with doing an analysis of the ride during its construction.
My job was to design a pipeline for quality assurance during the pre-alpha stage of development. So...after reviewing the project's existing documentation, I flew to Orlando and got up early in the morning for a walkthrough of the construction site.
(6:00AM, Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Good Morning Orlando)
After the onsite tour, I sat down with the QA team in the Universal backlot offices and started breaking down the experience, charting its potential vulnerabilities, and figuring out the best ways to test such a complicated project effectively and without leaving major blindspots or risking people stepping on each other's toes.
(Documentation is key)
I'm a sucker for structure, so after reviews, meetings, and long discussions with members from each relevant team, I came back to California and put together a document that outlines the tools, best practices, and protocols that I am proposing.
I took the scene-based design of the ride and split it into test cycles. These cycles were broken into clearly defined sections and I created a ranking system per component that allowed the QA team to rank each test case's current state and quality during each test cycle.
The sheet was collapsable and easily expandable, and since our job was laser focused on the interactive, digital component of the experience, I set it to calculate all rankings per scene into a single score and then combine all scene totals into one mega rating for the entire build.
(My testing tools are always color coded....because colors are cool)
This way, at the end of every cycle the engineering and management crews get a clear idea of how stable the build is, where the specific vulnerabilities are, what lags behind, what got fixed, and what broke between this dev cycle and the last.
(Expands, contracts AND automatically does math. It's MAGIC!)
This system was designed to help with accountability and organization...and when it comes to production, I tend to prefer those over confusion and finger-pointing among team members (Really weird...I know! ). So with a toolkit, a plan, and fancy documentation, I left the team to work their magic, and after spilling buckets of blood, sweat, and tears....VOILA! They made it happen!
(A walkthrough of this entire experience by this really energetic dudebro)
I'm glad I had a chance to once again flex the left part of my brain, use everything I've learned on previous projects, and take on such a weird, logistical challenge. It wasn't as hard as tolerating Florida's awful humidity, but still...
P.S. My head was too big for this helmet and it ended up hovering above it like a weird alien spaceship when I was touring onsite. I looked pretty stupid.
Until next time!