On March 14, in the sixth-floor conference room of Donald Bren Hall, you could find astronauts chasing shooting stars, blobs navigating through volcanoes and time travelers walking through a bear-infested countryside. And this was just part of the fun of the 2018 showcase for the Capstone Game Project course, taught by Informatics Professor Josh Tanenbaum. The two-quarter class, offered as part of the Computer Game Science major, culminated in this presentation of nine new adventurous games.
“There was a great, playful energy in the room,” says Tanenbaum, who was pleased that the crowd of 125 people included UCI alumni. “It was exciting to see previous capstone students return who had gone on to get jobs in the games industry. A few of them brought their bosses along to show off their alma mater.”
In fact, quite a few industry leaders were in attendance. “This was the first year that we broadened the participation in our industry mentor program to bring in folks from a range of local companies,” explains Tanenbaum. “I’m incredibly grateful to the mentors from Blizzard, Amazon Game Studios, Obsidian and RNG Studios for volunteering their time and expertise.”
According to Tanenbaum, attendees had really positive reactions to the games, and many were pleasantly surprised by the diversity of projects, which ranged from digital to tabletop, and from combative to cooperative. The students created the following nine games:
- Discarded — a side-scrolling platform game in which survival requires carefully appraising each new room entered (by Thunktank).
- Kat’s Yarn — a game in which you’re an astronaut chasing a shooting star across micro-planets representing puzzles that must be solved using rotational symmetry (by That Otter Game Studio).
- Curbside Combat —UCI’s first-ever fighting game, representing a significant technical accomplishment in a very difficult genre (by Team of Fighters).
- Blobcano — a competitive local multiplayer arcade game in which players are blobs inside a volcano, grabbing onto falling rocks to survive (by Team Electricano).
- ElecTRIO — an innovative cooperative side-scrolling puzzle game that grew out of a “happy” accident in Blobcano and involves three players navigating the environment by linking their wiggly arms and collaborating with each other (by Team Electricano).
- Hotel Limbo — a spooky but cute afterlife point-and-click adventure game, with some puzzle elements and a richly developed narrative (by The Boo Crew).
- Skyfarm — an addictive puzzle game where the player must toggle back and forth between the past and future to survive walking through a bear-infested countryside (by Paradox).
- Vindicator — a side-scrolling action platformer with deep role-playing game (RPG) elements and an extensive narrative (by Morty’s Mind Blowers).
- Eldritch Nights — a pen-and-paper tabletop RPG (another first for the Capstone Game Project class) using custom dice, with a Lovecraftian horror theme and an associated soundboard application for adding special effects and music (by Team Analog).
“Many of the games are quite innovative,” said Tanenbaum. He noted that Eldritch Nights was a particularly unique roleplaying game because it didn’t involve any forms of combat, instead “focusing on the psychological elements of roleplaying.” He also touted Skyfarm as one of the most “polished” showcase games he’s even seen, adding that “the team is already moving toward commercialization, where I believe it will be a huge success.”
The event itself was a hit, with students proudly celebrating their creative and technical accomplishments and attendees enjoying the playful results of this challenging but rewarding course.
See highlights from the event here.
— Shani Murray