The Grove

Platform: Tablet · Engine: Unity · Team Size: 5 · Timetable: Three months

The Grove is a tablet game designed by One Eye Studios.  It is a puzzle adventure game in which the player guides the maiden Kiki and her spirit friend Koto through The Grove solving puzzles in both the light realm and the spirit realm. I was the programmer for this project in addition to handling planning and documentation. This was the first team game my team had worked on at SMU Guildhall. I worked on features like changing between worlds, character movement, and obstacle elimination (rock smashing and firefly scattering).


Contributions and Tools

Role: Assistant Lead, Lead Programmer


  • Programmed major features of The Grove including:
    • Character movement
    • Menu / UI features
    • Collectibles
    • Obstacle removal
  • Kept up with Game Design Document
  • Worked with Game Designer to bring game feature to life
  • Resolved personnel conflicts
  • Facilitated group feedback sessions
  • Performed Scrum master duties


Documentation and Downloads

Live Images

Risk Assessment/Management

ASSESSMENT: Personnel role Conflicts 

MANAGEMENT: Diffuse situation, Identify Roles

Method: Pulling teammates for One-on-Ones

Very early in the project we had a conflict between two members of the team. There was a miscommunication about what the role of each individual was. I took each member out of the room and identified where communication was breaking down. After talking to both parties and helping to clarify roles in the context of the team, the two individuals settled in to a productive and collaborative relationship for the remainder of the project.


ASSESSMENT: Communication of Coding standards

MANAGEMENT: teach coding standards

Method: Pair Programming with Level designers

As lead programmer I was able to set the coding standards for the team. In order to better spread out the workload I identified coding tasks that level designers could address. I sat with each of our level designers and pair programmed through some of these tasks to teach the standards and maintain progress. The result of these pair programming sessions was the level design department doing more programming so I could focus on integral features.


ASSESSMENT: Lacking team culture

MANAGEMENT: Cultivate positive candid team culture

Method: Facilitate In-Person guided feedback sessions

Part of the Guildhall curriculum is the completion of anonymous peer evaluations at the end of each sprint. The personnel conflicts that we had early in the project revealed a need for more open and honest communication. I scheduled time at the end of each sprint for us to sit in a circle and give feedback face to face. It became part of the team culture and the team relished the opportunities  to improve themselves and their teammates.

ASSESSMENT: Screen effect too expensive

MANAGEMENT: measure performance and cut/keep feature

Method: Optimize, test on tablet, cut if necessary

In The Grove, the player presses a button to switch between two different worlds. I wrote a shader for the transition with the help of an outside programmer to add a ripple effect to the transition. I noticed performance problems on tablet. After trying to work through the problems, I was unable to increase performance to an acceptable level. I informed everyone and cut the feature to focus on more important issues facing the team.

The Grove: Postmortem


Justin helped lead the team through example by keeping focused on the team tasks at hand while also working as the team’s primary programmer, effectively working as both programmer and producer.
— Andru Lynch, Level Designer
Justin was an amazing leader for our team. He held us together when things were hard, cheered us on, and always pushed us to give our finest work. The phrase he would use was: “I know you can do better”, and those words always pushed me to keep giving him my best. I know having him as a producer has set my standards for what I look for in a leader.
— Jackie O'Connor, Artist