Game on

By Ivy Hillman '12
January 30, 2012

From 4 p.m. last Friday until 4 p.m. Sunday, a group of Bradley University students and alumni worked around the clock to develop a video game from start to finish. The team was one of some 50 around the world participating in Global Game Jam, an annual event that attracts professional developers, hobbyists and students with a passion for game design.

Bradley’s team gathered in the Caterpillar Global Communications Center under the direction of organizer Monica McGill, assistant professor in the Department of Interactive Media. This was the first year Bradley has participated in the event, which gives students an opportunity to stretch their creativity in a non-graded application.

“This event gives any student in the computer game technology or the game design concentrations a chance to practice their passion in a fun, supportive environment,” McGill said. “They encountered some of the challenges that may arise during game development and learned how to work through them.”

A game review session Friday night gave students the opportunity to showcase games they created in Bradley classes last semester. The room was packed with students trying out each other’s games. Many migrated toward senior Alex Miner’s two entries.

“Pin Pong Ball” is a game Miner created for the Xbox Kinect system. It is a variation of the old-school 2D game “Pong,” but with a 3D twist. The player stands in front of the screen and uses his or her hands to bat a ball back and forth against the computer. “RGBlaster” is a game Miner created for the iPad with the help of classmates Adam Zimmermann and Matt Vroman. The highly addictive application requires the player works to “blast” different colored invaders on the screen.

On the sidelines of the game review, the development team began brainstorming and outlining a plan for its mission – to create a game inspired by an ouroboros, an ancient image of a snake or dragon eating its own tail. The students and alumni discussed several ideas dealing with the cycle of life. In the end, the concept deemed most appropriate for the stipulated 48-hour development period won out.

The result is a game titled “Cyclic,” in which a player starts as a caveman and can move forward or backward through time, depending on its own actions.

Senior Andrew Howell is credited with the sound; alumna Jes Schroeder and junior Mariah Donner were the artists; junior Nicole Werling, alumnus Shaun Greiner and senior Rob Braun did the coding; junior Julie Mohedano was the writer; and George Brown, chair of the Department of Theatre Arts, recorded the voicetrack.

McGill was pleased with the outcome of Bradley’s inaugural Global Game Jam and plans to host the same event again next year, as well as similar game development opportunities during the fall.

“This was a fantastic event, especially for the first run,” McGill said. “Anyone who loves games and wants to try their hand at creating a game can learn a lot in a short amount of time.”