UCI’s Team Stealth Bomb took the top prize for its game “Overthrone” at IEEE GameSIG 2019, the Intercollegiate Computer Game Showcase of the IEEE special interest group in computer games. The win should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the showcase — UCI has walked away with the trophy five years in a row. What was new this year was UCI’s complete sweep, winning all three top spots as well as the award for Game Design.
“We have a really strong, powerful program here,” explains Darren Denenberg, a lecturer in the Department of Informatics who took over running UCI’s GameSIG program this year. “It was a nice inaugural year for me.”
The event was held at UCI, with the top 10 Southern California finalists competing on May 26 and presenting their games to a panel of industry judges:
- Phil Adam — VP of business development and sales at Intellivision;
- Adam Brennecke — game director, producer and programmer at Obsidian Entertainment;
- Bill Fisher — president and founder of Quicksilver Software;
- Brandii Grace — co-founder of Neil DeGrasse TysonPresents: Space Odyssey;
- Dave Kosak — lead designer at Blizzard Entertainment; and
- Curtiss Murphy — technical director at MobilityWare.
“I don’t envy the judges,” notes Denenberg, “because all of the games were great.”
Yet when the judges made their final decisions, they gave the Game Design award to “Illuminate,” created by Banana Penguins (Andy Le, Anthony Ha, Hanyu Shou, Jeffrey Ye and Grant Hirahara). Third place went to “Planty of Buds” by Steampunk Rejects (Andrew Xie, Tina Feng, Kyle Kissler, Bruce Tran, Christian Gramling and Kevin Chao), while second place went to “Gundalf” by Team CIDARU (Dominic Langmesser, Isaac Men, Crystal Agerton, Richard But, Uyen Lam and Amanda Osterkamp).
When it was announced that “Overthrone” was the first-place winner, members of Stealth Bomb were thrilled: Nikhil Sharma, David Jamgochian, Dikai Fang, Benson Ishii, Diego Guzman and Brian Lam — all senior Computer Game Science (CGS) majors. “I was surprised but delighted,” says Sharma.
“I couldn’t be prouder of what my students have accomplished with their games this year,” says Informatics Professor Tess Tanenbaum, who watched these games evolve as part of the Capstone Game Project course. “Teaching our two-quarter capstone project class is always a treat because you get to watch all of this talent, enthusiasm and raw potential coalesce around these games.”
“‘Overthrone’ is our capstone class project,” says Fang. “We spent around 20 weeks to design, develop, and balance it.”
They designed it as a twin-stick multiplayer battle royale game. “It puts players in a fierce competition among themselves to see who can become the ruler of the realm, using any weapons and power-ups they can find to their advantage,” says Guzman.
For Jamgochian, the most challenging part of developing the game was adding the finishing touches. “Normally, when developing games in a class, we only have a few weeks to create one, so we never move beyond creating a rough prototype of our games,” he says. “Polishing a game in the capstone project was uncharted waters for our team.”
Guzman, on the other hand, says the biggest challenge was designing maps that accommodate players of different skill levels, while Sharma was most worried about ensuring the game was “fun.”
In the end, they overcome all challenges they faced to create an award-winning game. “I am immensely proud of what we were able to accomplish with ‘Overthrone’ and extremely honored to receive first place at IEEE GameSIG,” says Guzman.
“I think UCI continues to succeed in this competition because our students work hard to create a complete and polished experience from end-to-end,” says Tanenbaum, “and because they focus so hard on finding a core of fun in the moment-to-moment gameplay before expanding it outward into a full design.”
Next year’s IEEE GameSIG will be held at Cal State Fullerton, where Denenberg hopes to take the showcase to the next level. “We’re ready to start seeing more schools, maybe even from out of state, come in and start participating.” He is in the process of partnering with the Student Game Developer Alliance (SGDA), comprised of students from all over southern California. “We’re hoping to use those connections to bring in even more competitors.”
— Shani Murray