Students had to design their own concepts and video games
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — A graduation requirement for seniors in the growing game design program at the University of California Santa Cruz may become a gateway into the business world for some of the hard-core gaming students looking to design games for PlayStation, Zynga and the iPhone.
Over the past year, the 27 students in UCSC’s Baskin School of Engineering computer science department had to design and build a video game, developing a detailed story line, game levels and graphics. Last week, five teams presented the final product to a packed room filled with friends, fellow designers, playtesters, family and teachers.
“My favorite part of college has definitely been this class,” senior Josh Scorca said. “I’ve learn the most here than anywhere else.”
Scorca, along with his team Stack and Deploy, plan to release their game as an iPhone application at the end of the month. Stack and Deploy combines a card game with a video game. The player is a commander of a ship and must defeat his opponent by destroying his base using a variety of cards to gain health and weapons.
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“We had eight people and put in 40-50 hours a week putting this together for a school project and all of it was free labor so we though why not try to turn it around into a commercial product,” senior Vinit Agarwal said. “I went ahead and got a developer’s license to make an app way before we started. We worked hard and I think we got it.”
The four other teams, which created games ranging from spaceship shooters to puzzle games, also plan to get their games noticed, by releasing them on the Internet to the public.
The 4-year-old UCSC course, which is restricted to senior computer design majors, brings in guest lecturers from PlayStation, Microsoft, EA
Video Games and other gaming companies to discuss design strategies and techniques. Students get hands-on experience through multiple rounds of prototyping, developing technology infrastructure, design adjustment and of course, multiple rounds of playtesting.
“During the quarter, we had testers come in every Sunday,” Agarwal said.
“Toward the end of the quarter, three times a week.”
Once Stack and Deploy goes public, the team plans on fine tuning it even further and creating more cards to release on a weekly basis that gamers can buy. They hope to begin building their own company as soon as they graduate.
“It just keeps getting better every year,” associate professor Michael
Mateas said. “As we become more well-known we attract better students and are figuring out ways to better guide them.”
The class is expected to grow from 27 students to 75 in the next year,
Mateas said. And despite hard economic times, the students who graduate do find success in the real world including landing jobs with Xbox Live and Zynga.
“There aren’t a lot of programs out there that combine design and technology from the ground up,” Mateas said. “I provide criticism to every team all the time and as we scale up with more students and expand that will be a challenge, but a challenge that came from success.”
Game Design Final Projects 2010
— ARC Infinitum: Space real-time strategy game. Developed for the PS3.
— Debris: Robot blows up cubes to gain strength and size. Grow as big as you can before time runs out.
— Helios: Vertical scrolling cooperative space shooter with customizable ships. Two players must appropriately customize ships to support complementary gameplay styles in order to clear levels. Developed for the PC.
— Penumbra: A puzzle game with an innovative lights-and-shadows mechanic in which you avoid shadows while moving through 3-D architectural environments. Developed for the PS3.
— Stack and Deploy: Combines collectible card mechanics (ala Magic The Gathering) with a space real-time strategy, supporting single-player and head-to-head matches. Developed for the iPhone.