Ready, set, go! MassDiGI and HackerRank announce CodeSprint – 2/20/15

Ready, set, go! MassDiGI and HackerRank announce CodeSprint

By Tim Loew, executive director, MassDiGI

Are you the best game coder in the world? Prove it by competing in our MassDiGI CodeSprint challenge. The challenge, conducted in partnership with HackerRank, gives competing students the chance to test their programming mettle with the winners taking home some great prizes like $250, a Nvidia Shield Portable or a 3-day 2015 PAX East badge. Click here to enter. The online competition starts today and closes on March 3  – with the final bot competition presented at the Pre-PAX East Made in MA Party on March 5.

hrHackerRank is a site for hackers from all over to solve programming problems in different computer science domains like algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and to excel in different programming paradigms like functional programming.  It is the planet’s fastest growing developer platform and it is on a mission to make the world fast by making hackers the best at what they do.

Companies like Riot and Pocket Gems use HackerRank as part of their recruiting process  – so competing students just might find they get a call after this CodeSprint is over! Good luck to all.

Link: https://www.hackerrank.com/massdigi-codesprint

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2015 Game Challenge Announcements – 2/7/15

Update – Read full results announcement here on Gamasutra. Read the story here on VR World and here at the Daily Herd.

Update – Winners announced:

  • Grand Prize – Wooplex “Wooplex”
  • People’s Choice – Team Future “Black Hat Oculus”
  • Indie Demo/Alpha – Mob Made “Descendants” [Runner up Zephyr]
  • Indie Beta/Near Release – Wooplex “Wooplex” [Runner up Team Future]
  • College Demo/Alpha – Play Nimbus “Private Eyes” [Runner up Deli Bar; 2nd Runner up Two Brothers]
  • College Beta/Near Release – Maximum Crash “Starlot Derby” [Mustachio]
  • Serious Demo/Alpha – Studio REKS “Paper Pests”
  • Serious Beta/Near Release – Skylight “Lyrical” [Runner up DynamicX]
  • High school – The Kilskast “Math for Honor” [Runner up Nostradingus]

Update – Finalists announced:

  • Indie Demo/Alpha – Mob Made “Descendants” and Zephyr “Florafiora”
  • Indie Beta/ Near Release – Team Future “Black Hat Oculus” and Wooplex “Wooplex”  (honorable mention to UE Games)
  • College Demo/Alpha – Deli Bar “Carpe Diem” (Becker, UMass Lowell), Play Nimbus “Private Eyes” (Becker) and Two Brothers “Hyper Syntax” (Champlain) (honorable mention to The Hurly Birds  “Get Up, Chuck”(Northeastern))
  • College Beta/Near Release – Maximum Crash “Starlot Derby” (Becker) and Mustachio Games “Red Survivor” (Binghamton, Northeastern, Hampshire & RISD)
  • Serious Demo/Alpha – Studio REKS “Paper Pests” (WPI)*
  • Serious Beta/Near Release –  Skylight “Lyrical” and DynamicX “The Shield: By Sword and Knowledge”
  • High school – Nostradingus “Insula Noe” (Millbury, MA) and The Kilskast “Math for Honor”(New York, NY)

Stay tuned for more detailed posts soon.

* Category winner

 

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Think summer: 2015 SIP application period opens – 1/30/15

Think summer: 2015 SIP application period opens

By Timothy Loew, executive director, MassDiGI

SIP '14 - Team picture

SIP ’14 – Team picture

There may be 33.5″ of snow on the ground as I write but it is never to early to think about our annual Summer Innovation Program. Since the program began in 2012, of 296 total applications, 61 students from 16 different colleges and universities have earned a spot to spend their summer making games with us.

This past year, the 22 accepted students came from Becker College, Berklee College of Music, Hampshire College, MIT, Mt. Holyoke College, Northeastern University, RISD, Smith College, Tufts University, UMass Lowell and WPI.  Working on teams – in just a little over 11 weeks – they produced four great games, all of which will be available to play soon, with two being published by Thumbspire. To get a sense of their games and the process, scroll back through some of last summer’s blog entries.

There is no other internship program like SIP in the world. Accepted students will have a game development experience they will never forget. Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? Details on the program, as well as the application, can be found here. The deadline for applications is March 20, so apply today!

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The gates are open: 2015 Game Challenge registration begins – 12/2/14

The gates are open: 2015 Game Challenge registration begins

By Tim Loew, executive director, MassDiGI

One of the events I look forward to most each year is our big MassDiGI Game Challenge pitch competition. There really is nothing like it. Come experience it for yourself – team registration and general admission for the 2015 edition is now open.

Game Challenge '14 - Grand Prize winner Jenna Hoffstein, founder, Little Worlds Interactive

Game Challenge ’14 – Grand Prize winner Jenna Hoffstein, Little Worlds Interactive, The Counting Kingdom

Since the Game Challenge began in 2012, over 120 teams have entered some pretty amazing games including titles like The Counting Kingdom, Catlateral Damage, PWN, Wobbles, Depression Quest and  Pathogen – just to name a few of the winners from past years. In addition, over 700 competitors – be they indies, students or hobbyists –  had the chance to meet with industry mentors, hear from experts, share knowledge, split $50,000 in prize value, have fun, play and celebrate games.

This year, we made a couple of changes worth pointing out – 1.) moving the event from early March to early February and  2.) redefining Concept and Prototype to Demo/Alpha and Beta/Near Release.

In addition to those changes, we are also pleased to note that this year’s event t-shirt design will come from the winner of, you guessed it, the Game Challenge t-shirt design contest. Give it shot.

Other than that, thanks to the sponsors, mentors, judges and volunteers, it should be as exciting as always.

Of course, we couldn’t pull any of this off without such great teams and their games – the competition is the show. I look forward to seeing you there.

 

 

 

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Launch! Many Mini Things coming soon to the Leap Motion App Store – 10/29/14

Launch! Many Mini Things coming soon to the Leap Motion App Store

By Pat Roughan, senior, WPI

photo

Many Mini Things is a fun motion-control party game for the Leap Motion controller that combines many mini-games with mini capsule toys. The mini-games challenge you to win as many as possible before losing four times. You preform actions, like spinning a DJ disc or kicking a hacky sack into space, by moving your hand over the Leap Motion. Each victory is rewarded with a virtual collectible toy, and high scores for each difficulty are saved to an in-game score table.

Download Many Mini Things  for free here, invite your friends over and have a blast!

When our team of developers looked into the Leap Motion, we wanted our players to immediately understand the controls for our games without instruction. We decided on motion, grip, and spin as our three controls, and looked at real world activities that used these motions. We then added a level of unexpected wackiness to it, like fireworks going off after petting a rock, to make the activies more engaging than their real world counterparts.

The game, made for players of all ages, was created by a team of six students from WPI, Becker College, Smith College and Berklee College of Music during the 2014 MassDiGI Summer Innovation Program (as well as Becker students from a fall ’14 /spring ’15 Live Code course ). Our team of interns worked over the eleven weeks to create a game that would be published for all to enjoy through the Leap Motion app store. With help from game industry mentors and MassDiGI staff, we turned Many Mini Things from a concept into a reality – and we hope you love it as much as we do.

Find us online!

Web –  http://games.massdigi.org/manyminithings/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/manyminithings

Twitter – https://twitter.com/ManyMiniThings

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Why analytics matter – 7/22/14

Why analytics matter

By Benji Smith, sophomore, Northeastern University

As game developers, we often tell ourselves stories when making games. Not the ones that you see in a script, but ones about the people who will play the game. “Okay, so this part will introduce the player to mazing, and then they use that to defeat the boss, and then they’ll feel awesome.” Every pixel, line of code, or variable changed all has a purpose, and we tell ourselves that the player will interact with it in a particular way and get a specific reaction out of it.

In reality, things aren’t that easy. Our stories about our games are often as fictional as the stories within them. That’s why we playtest. But playtesting isn’t an exact science; it’s often much more qualitative. And that’s good! There are a lot of changes that require qualitative feedback more than raw data. But there are also a lot of risks that come with it. We tend to gloss over feedback more easily. Every piece of info we receive gets contorted into our story. It’s all too easy to assume that the tester is an anomaly, that most players will play the game ‘properly.’

Splyt_Scrnshot_01.fw

But with quantitative feedback collected from all players, the illusions disappear. It’s no longer, “I didn’t see the button,” but rather “Out of 100 players, 63 didn’t see the button.” Likewise, it’s no longer “This player just doesn’t understand,” instead “63 percent of players just don’t understand.” This summer, we’re using Splyt Analytics to help drive our decision making on Midnight Terrors.  It’s hard to argue with the data, because data doesn’t tell a story. Data is the story.

That’s not to say data is infallible. It can be outdated or incomplete, and it can certainly be misinterpreted. But it can never be wrong. That’s because data is just what happened. It doesn’t carry any analysis of its own, it’s just a series of numbers and events.

In some ways, it’s a bit intimidating to use analytics.  It’s effectively handing off your game, and letting whatever will happen, happen. You can’t coach people, and you can’t hide from the results. In some ways, it’s like launching a title (just with a quarter the stress). But it’s absolutely necessary, because polishing a game can’t just be an art. It needs to be an art and a science. And for that, we need data.

 

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A farewell to arms: Making Limbs – 7/11/14

A farewell to arms: Making Limbs

By James Spavold, senior, Becker College

Colors

 At this point it is safe to say that many people have played a match three game (cough, cough Candy Crush Saga), or a variant of the genre. Match three was the idea given to us to brainstorm about at the beginning of MassDiGI’s SIP, so we took it as far as we could. Starting with “we should throw ragdoll limbs at a wall; that could be fun”, and from then on that was the idea that we embraced. Eventually taking on a mad scientist feel and a more friendly robot zombie limb approach, after much debate, Limbs moved forward out of the planning phase.

Limbs features a little alien kid named LAK, but he has a few problems. He came to your planet to make some friends, but those friends eventually turned against him and you must protect him. Of course, you do this by throwing limbs at those that turn against LAK. Combat isn’t just simply matching three colors; you need to plan ahead for certain limb combinations that make combo creatures. Limbs tries to break the boring routine of match threes and offers interesting battle mechanics that effect the game board as a whole. Plus, throwing ragdoll limbs at an enemy is extremely satisfying.

background_concept_developmentThe team that is making Limbs become reality consists of five students from five different colleges, and we had never met each other before this.

  • Renzo Heredia – Audio Engineer and Composer – from Berklee College
  • Andrew Krischer – Producer and Programmer – from Northeastern University
  • Sienna McDowell – 2D Artist – from WPI
  • Catherine Shen – Art Director, 2D Artist and UI Designer – from RISD
  • James Spavold – Lead Programmer and Build Manager – from Becker College

Working in the team has been a great experience for all of us. Personally, I have worked in a handful of teams in my college career, and they have been on both ends of the spectrum. This has definitely been the most motivated team I have ever been on. At first SIP’s eleven weeks seems like a large amount of time, then you start and get halfway through the process and it feels like no time is left. Even when our team hit that point, we didn’t lose much motivation, and this was the first time that one of my teams has powered through that.

It feels great to be working in this environment. Meeting my team, and also the other teams working alongside us, was a great opportunity. Not only to make games and extend your network, but also to make some great friends with similar interests and feelings towards games. With this great atmosphere, working forty hour weeks isn’t that bad at all. In fact coming into work feels great knowing that by the end we will have a fun and interesting game to show our friends, family, and future employers that we made start to finish.

You can follow us on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/LimbsTheGame or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/LimbsTheGame

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Leap for joy: Making Many Mini Things – 7/10/14

Leap for joy: Making Many Mini Things

By Pat Roughan, senior, WPI and Yuka Ninohira, junior, Becker College

Motion control technologies have  fascinated and frustrated players and developers alike. They’re great when they work, but long or difficult gestures increase the chance of hardware losing track of the motion and players feeling cheated. When our team approached the Leap Motion, a USB infrared camera for PC and Mac that tracks hand and finger movement, we knew that whatever game we designed would have to feel natural for the player and work well with the device’s capabilities.

mmt1

From that emerged the idea for Many Mini Things, a mini-game compilation game. In it, you’re standing at a capsule machine, popping in coins to get toys. To get the toy, however, you have to defeat the mini-game lurking inside each capsule. In order to win, you’ll have to move, spin, point, swipe, and grab through fast-paced games to attain sweet victory – or hilarious failure.

Many Mini Things is the product of a seven-person team from various colleges:

  • Pat Roughan, WPI – Producer & Artist
  • Yuka Ninohira, Becker College – Art Director & UI/UX Designer
  • Aaron Lin, Becker College – Lead Programmer
  • Owen West, WPI – Build Manager & Programmer
  • Oliver Awat, Becker College – Level Designer & Unity Programmer
  • Hannah Klales, Smith College – Level Designer & Unity Programmer
  • Renzo Heredia, Berklee College of Music – Composer & Sound Designer

The idea for Many Mini Things started with us MassDiGI SIP interns being greedy, wanting to have a bunch of different ideas as the final game we were going to pitch at the end of our quick 10 minute brainstorming exercise. However, we quickly cut down each idea because of how short the game would be or how tiring it would be, and that continued until we had nothing left. Eventually, we came up with the best idea ever, which was “Let’s just put them all together in one game!”

mmt2Over the course of development, Many Mini Things has gone through several drastic changes.  And by drastic, we mean it almost looks like a different game each time we look back. We went from a 4-scenario game to a game where a knight is adventuring through a cave, and ultimately ended up with a game where you play with a capsule machine.

In the past 7 weeks, we’ve faced a number of challenges and obstacles from coding to art, but we’ve also gotten closer to our goal, close enough that we can actually sit a person down and watch them enjoy our game. There is nothing more rewarding in making games than a person coming up to you telling you that they enjoyed what you worked on, and want to play it again someday.

We’ve got 4 weeks left in development, and we’re hard at work making every day, every hour count (with occasional donut breaks, of course).

You can follow our progress on our social media pages:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/manyminithings

Twitter – https://twitter.com/ManyMiniThings

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Things that go bump in the night: Making Midnight Terrors – 7/7/14

Things that go bump in the night: Making Midnight Terrors

By Joe Lajoie, senior, Becker College

mtheader

As children we were always afraid of the noises and shadows we would hear and see at night.  On those nights the only way we could fall asleep was to have either our parents check our room or leave a nightlight on. Whether it was the monsters in our closet or the monsters under our bed, we always had the feeling that we were not alone.  Midnight Terrors follows a young child named Casey who is tormented by things that go bump in the night.  Like all children Casey solves this problem by using imagination, giving life to the toys to keep the monsters away.

mtrbtIn Midnight Terrors you play as a protector of Casey, using the toys to build a maze to keep the monsters from reaching Casey. Whether you use the windup robot that shoots electricity from its arms or the toy soldiers who use their plastic rifles – it’s up to you to keep the monsters from reaching Casey. During the game all types of monsters will challenge you and you must use a combination of toys to keep them away from Casey.  Midnight Terrors is an old school tower defense game that focuses on mazing and tower combinations as the main strategy of the game.

The Midnight Terrors team consists of 7 students from 6 different colleges and universities.

  • Anthony DelBuono – rising senior at Becker College – Studying interactive entertainment – Lead 3d Artist & Texture Artist
  • Aromie Kim – rising junior at Tufts University – Studying cognitive and brain sciences – Art Director & Producer
  • Loren Sherman – rising sophomore at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – Studying computer science – Build Manager & Technical Artist
  • Benji Smith – rising sophomore at Northeastern University – Studying computer science – Lead Programmer & System Scripting
  • Ning Xie – rising senior at Mount Holyoke College – Studying computer science – Programmer & Code Review Prep.
  • Renzo Heredia – rising senior at Berklee College of Music – Film scoring and electronic production and design – Composer & Sound Designer
  • Joe Lajoie – rising senior at Becker College – Studying interactive entertainment – Lead Designer & 3d Animator

The concept for Midnight Terrors came about from an idea I had been working on for a few weeks. I submitted this idea to Monty Sharma before MassDiGI’s Summer Innovation Program (SIP) began, and I was allowed to pitch this to the other interns to see if they would be interested in turning this idea into a reality.

mtartAs you can tell by now the idea was a hit with all the other interns. During the first week of SIP, the interns were broken up into groups and we given a chance to brainstorm and expand on the idea of Midnight Terrors. From this session the number one feature that everyone wanted was the aspect of light.  This would later become known as the “flashlight nuke” – the ability to turn on a flashlight and clear the entire field of monsters.

During the next few weeks, the Midnight Terrors team began creating a prototype of the game so we could start obtaining feedback on how the gameplay and design was looking. We received a lot of positive feedback; testers thought the concept and story of the game was great! Some people even commented that it was fun to lose just to hear Casey scream.

I’m amazed every time I look at the game how far we have gotten in such a short amount of time and the work ethic of everyone on this team. Some members even work during the weekend just to get it done and into the game before our next build.

Everyday I come to work excited and happy to see how a little concept has slowly turned into a full-fledged and working game before my very eyes. It is exciting to be part of such a talented team.  It is so awesome and satisfying to see someone pick up the game, get a giant grin on their face as they play and know that you have been a part of their excitement through the game.  When we are not working on the game 40 hours a week, we are showcasing the game  at events such as Boston Post Mortem and Boston Game Forum. Both of which I highly recommend attending if you are interested in game development.

We are in the final stages of development for the game, and are having people playtest the game weekly to fine-tune the balancing. We are getting all the feedback we can and changing parts of the game to improve the readability and playability of the game to make it a better user experience.  Midnight Terrors has also made an entrance into the social media sphere. We are working on getting our games name out there in order to have an amazing launch.  It has been a crazy experience for all of us to make a game in 11 weeks that we can all be proud of. We are excited to see how our hard work has paid off.

You can follow us on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/MidnightDefense and on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/MidnightTerrors.

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