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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GAME 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


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!

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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.’


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


 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: or on Facebook at:

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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.


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 –

Twitter –

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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


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: and on Facebook at:

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Surf’s up! Making Cat Tsunami – 7/2/14

Surf’s up! Making Cat Tsunami

By Ryan Canuel, senior, Becker College


So, I’m sure that you’re already thinking to yourself “what the heck is a Cat Tsunami?” Well, a Cat Tsunami isn’t very different from the tsunami waves that you are accustomed to; the only difference really is that a Cat Tsunami is made entirely of thousands and thousands of cats.

Now, you’re probably wondering how a tsunami wave of cats is formed. It all started like any other day, except this was no ordinary day. It was Black Friday and sales could be found everywhere, but there was one sale to rule them all; a catnip sale. Immediately thousands of cats began to claw over one another trying to be the first to make it through the doors of Cat-Mart and purrrrchase some low priced premium gold-label catnip.

You play as Kai the surfing cat. Kai was quick to realize that being a part of a mass horde of cats wouldn’t get him any closer to his dearest desired catnip, so he came up with the one thing he must do to be first to the store. He must surf the waves of cats!

cattsun2This idea spawned from a number of ideas all created in a brainstorming session at the beginning of MassDiGI’s Summer Innovation Program to make a game about cats, crazy huh? The team of people you can blame for creating this are:

  • Lili Sun, MIT – Lead Programmer
  • Matt Metzger, UMass Lowell – Build Manager & UI Programmer
  • Paige Coblentz, RISD – Art Director
  • Aislynn Kilgore, Hampshire College – Lead 3D Artist & Animator
  • Renzo Heredia, Berklee College of Music – Composer & Sound Designer
  • Ryan Canuel, Becker College – Producer, UI Artist, & Lead Designer (also, the person to blame for writing this)

I’m amazed every time that I look at where we were compared to where we are now. In these few weeks we have progressed from little more than a title and crazy concept to a fully-fledged and functional game, and that is absolutely amazing. It’s wonderfully satisfying to be able to see someone pick up the game you were a part of making and see them smile, laugh, and become slowly more and more frustrated with virtual seagulls.

The amount of work that goes into creating a game is something a person playing can easily overlook, but the amount of time everyone here puts into their games proves that it has to be a labor of love. Working a 40 hour week, implementing things on the side, showcasing the game at events in Boston on the weekends; are all things done to achieve the goal of developing a game we can all be proud to say is something that we made.

We have reached the stage now where we are constantly getting feedback on Cat Tsunami and what can be done to improve it, and while after working on your game for a long time it can be hard to hear what you’re doing wrong it’s also enormously beneficial as a step towards releasing a final well-polished project. We’ve already begun making changes this week in response to feedback that we’ve received, and will continue to do so into the next few weeks remaining. One of the best parts of developing a game is how interesting it is to watch as the game evolves to meet player’s feedback and become something they enjoy playing as much as we enjoy making it.

You can follow Cat Tsunami on Twitter:

And on Facebook:

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Going pro: The evolution of a game dev student – 6/25/14

Going pro: The evolution of a game dev student

By Andrew Krischer, sophomore, Northeastern University

College has the strange effect of making me feel like a really old kid. Going to classes and working with professors is like playing doctor was when I was younger. I go through the motions of acting like an independent adult: managing my sleep schedule (sort of), buying groceries (sometimes), and interacting with professors in a professional setting. Despite all these changes, I always caught my roommates and I acting like children: Sticking gummy bears all over our walls, building and then destroying our snowmen, ordering large pizzas at ungodly hours, and not going to bed until the sun rises.

This summer, I find myself in a similar position at MassDiGI’s SIP. This program is my first introduction to a professional, albeit creative work environment. My previous work experiences were all in the front end of the food service industry. Every day I’d meet lots of new customers and get to chat with them while working. And the thing is, as Tyler Durden puts it, many of those interactions were single-serving. Never before have I established professional working relationships with others in the sense I have since interning at SIP.

I’m working primarily with four other extremely talented team members to transform our concept, Limbs, in to a full-blown game. These are folks I see, chat and work with five days a week nine hours a day. All the while, I can’t but help feel as though we’re impostors just going through the motions of professionalism. We set our deadlines, hold our meetings, and charge our tasks. I’ve got to be honest, it’s strange telling a teammate who’s older than you to complete menial tasks. That being said, we do everything playfully and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Andrew KrischerI remember when one of our team members was feeling especially frustrated with a program we were all trying to coerce into working. At the time, we had no art or code 100% finalized, so we had an entire blank column on our Kanban whiteboard. She sauntered over, defeated, draws a skull and crossbones and writes in a speech bubble, “I’m DEAD.” Over the next few days, that doodle became a focal point of creativity. One of our artists drew an incredible doodle of a giant squid screaming “SO MANY LIMBS!”, as our game heavily focuses on the theme of body parts. The next day a dragon was born devouring the giant squid.

And the best part is that an entirely different team working on an entirely separate game did a similar thing on their board – turning it entirely into cat puns, rife with accompanying images.

We’re now in our fifth week at this program and I’ve made a really cool realization. These motions of professionalism and development aren’t just theatrical – it’s how our workspace works.

We all love fun, video games, and, begrudgingly, cat puns.

My prior knowledge of professionalism has come from popular culture and in many ways my family. It turns out I can develop my own style of professionalism that’s creative and productive at the same time.

Now, I can’t wait to see what kind of compelling video games we create after working in such a creative and fun environment.

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