Virtual reality game Intern Astronaut takes grand prize in fifth annual MassDiGI Game Challenge pitch contest
Above: L to R – Broken Door Studio’s Kedong Ma, Yingying Chen, Shane Stenson, Sean Halloran, Jake Hawes and MassDiGI’s Monty Sharma
Cambridge, MA – February 29, 2016 – Intern Astronaut by Broken Door Studio, a team of students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), won the grand prize in the fifth annual Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI) Game Challenge pitch contest this weekend.
Intern Astronaut is a virtual reality game that takes on-the-job training to new heights. Made for Gear VR, Intern Astronaut is an immersive and funny game that enrolls the player as an intern tasked to fly a spaceship.
Taking on the role of an untrained intern in the game, players must watch their spaceship’s monitors for urgent instructions from mission control on what to do to keep their ship flying. Any instruction completed incorrectly or not quickly enough will damage their ship until their internship ends with them stranded in space! Every time players start the game their ship is equipped with different control panels and they are given new instructions on how to pilot it, ensuring that every playthrough is as challenging as the first day on the job.
Broken Door Studio, which also won the College Beta/Near Release category, is made up of Sean Halloran, Yingying Chen, Shane Stenson, Kedong Ma and Jake Hawes. The game will be released for Gear VR in late spring 2016.
“Our team is thrilled to have won the Game Challenge. It was a great event for all of us,” said Sean Halloran, the team’s programmer. “We got terrific feedback from so many amazing mentors and judges. We learned so much. Everyone making games should go to it.”
The MassDiGI Game Challenge helps indie, startup and student game developers and entrepreneurs shape their ideas and products for launch. This year 35 teams from across the northeast competed in front of a packed room at the Microsoft New England Research & Development Center in Kendall Square.
Above: L to R – Competitor Chaima Jemmali meets with mentor Wizdy’s Nikita Virani
The annual event is a showcase for the expanding game development cluster in the region. Over the event’s two days, dozens of game industry veterans served as speakers, mentors and judges.
As the Grand Prize and College Beta/Near Release Category winner Broken Door Studio won cash, legal services from Greenberg Traurig, computer hardware and game merchandise valued at over $7,500.
“This year’s contest was the closest competition ever,” said Monty Sharma, managing director of MassDiGI, “We were really impressed by the teams, their creativity and skills. Each year we see improvements in the games and in their market potential.”
Other top winners include Worcester-based Zephyr Workshop which won the People’s Choice Award as well as the Indie Demo/Alpha Category for Florafiora, a game they are making in collaboration with Mob Made Games of Cambridge.
“Winning not only our category but the People’s Choice Award is rewarding and humbling,” said Breeze Grigas, Zephyr Workshop’s Co-Founder and Designer. “We’ve been coming to the Game Challenge for five years, each time we get better and this year it really paid off for Florafiora.”
Florafiora is a single-player experience where you help planetoid-dwelling “Seedizens” explore and expand their tiny universe, meeting other cultures and keeping everyone happy and productive.
“With so many exciting games from indies and students in the competition, it was a challenge to make a decision,” said Caroline Murphy, CEO of the Boston Festival of Indie Games, one of the contest’s judges. “To me, just entering the MassDiGI Game Challenge shows a commitment to creating games that speaks to success.”
The other top Indie winner was Jig Time which won top honors in the Beta/Near Release Category. Jig Time is a fun, new photo-sharing app – like Snapchat but with more game elements – that allows users to exchange their images in the form of interactive jigsaw puzzles.
I++, another team of WPI students, won the Serious Game Category with Chinmoku, a mystery game which seeks to teach the player hiragana, one of the Japanese writing systems, through immersive gameplay.
Serious Game Category runner-up honors went to EduSaga, a team from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, with their eponymous Chinese language-learning detective game.
Heist Night, made by yet another team of WPI students, won the College Demo/Alpha Category.
Winning the High School Category was PolyThief made by Nostradingus, a team of students from Millbury (MA) Memorial Jr./Sr. High School.
“We met these students three years ago. Since then their teacher has given them encouragement and brought them to the Game Challenge each year. The students have learned from mentors and from each other how to build an award-winning game,” said Sharma. “It’s great to see.”
Runner-up in the High School Category from Westborough High School was Hoksy with Shelter Shock.
Other Category Runner-up honors went to:
Indie Demo/Alpha: Petricore Games with Traveling Merchant
Indie Beta/Near Release: Copper Frog Games with Tattoo! A Game of Ink
College Demo/Alpha: Omnitone Games from Becker College with HotWired
College Beta/Near Release: French Frogs from Becker with Make Bonds Now and Jeremy Slavitz from Tufts University with Metamorphic
Honorable Mentions were given to:
Indie Demo/Alpha: BareHand with Big Boi Little Boi
College Demo/Alpha: MOTU from Fitchburg State University, Revolver: Rebound from WPI, Convergence from Becker and The Experiment from the Five College Consortium
College Beta/Near Release: Lily Leap from Becker
Indie and College Category winners also received prizes including cash and legal services from Morse, Barnes-Brown & Pendleton valued at $1,000. The event is supported by MassDiGI’s annual sponsors and hosted by Microsoft New England Research & Development.
About the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI)
MassDiGI is the statewide center for entrepreneurship, academic cooperation and economic development across the games ecosystem. MassDiGI’s many programs and activities support business growth and enhance the talent pipeline between higher education and the game industry.
For more information about MassDiGI, please visit massdigi.org or follow them on Twitter @mass_digi.
Winner – Broken Door Studio – Sean Halloran, Shane Stenson, Yingying Chen, Jake Hawes and Kedong Ma with “Intern Astronaut” Runner-up1 – French Frogs – Samuel and Tristan Charron with “Make Bonds Now” Runner-up2 – Jeremy Slavitz with “Metamorphic“
Finalists – Broken Door Studios (WPI), Metamorphic (Tufts University) and French Frogs (Becker)
Honorable Mention – Lily Leap (Becker)
College & Indie Serious
Winner – i++ – Francesca Carletto-Leon, Dillon DeSimone, Sam Wallach and Robert McKenna with “Chinmoku” Runner-up – Jeffrey King, Katie McDonald and Melissa Cochran with “EduSaga“
Finalists – EduSaga (Harvard University Graduate School of Education) and i++ (WPI)
Winner – Nostradingus with “PolyThief” Runner-up Hoksy with “Shelter Shock”
Finalists – Hoksy (Westborough) and Nostradingus (Millbury)
For MassDiGI, 2016 is already shaping up to be one of our most action-packed years yet. In addition to our annual programs, events and activities around the Game Challenge, GDC, PAX East and SIP*, we have a stack of special projects in the pipeline along with a couple of games to launch. Phew!
That said, we’d like your help in spreading the word regarding a final push on our MA game industry survey. If you’d be so kind as to share it across your channels be it social media, email etc. and ask folks to fill it out, we’d be very grateful. The survey itself takes just a minute or two and the aggregated (and anonymized) data we get from it is very helpful to us when working with government etc. This link goes directly to it: www.massdigi.org/survey.
This year, the survey is a collaborative effort that we are doing with UMass Boston and the UMass Donahue Institute through Prof. Pacey Foster. Once the quantitative piece is complete Prof. Foster and UMass graduate student Brad Bleidt also plan on doing a few interviews with some community leaders and developers. We are already looking forward to sharing the results with everyone in late April or early May.
Lastly, we’re working with the folks at the SHiP iT! Game Jam in Montreal. If you or anyone you know might be interesting in jamming on a ship in the St. Lawrence in late May. Drop us a line. We have made arrangements with the organizers regarding tickets (including, potentially discounted spots for students). Should be an amazing time. Check out their video below.*
Hibachi Hero, a free, fun and fast-paced first person food shooter released today on the App Store, came from the imaginations of talented MassDiGI SIP interns Sai Timmermann from IUPUI, Melissa Chiu from RIT, Chris Bruno from Becker College, Mackenzie Denker from Northeastern, Uyen Uong from RPI, Rejon Taylor-Foster from Becker and Alex Ripple from Berklee who all teamed up to bring the game to life.
Working together this past summer, the team, using Unity, produced a great game (watch the trailer here) which caught the eye of our New York City-based game publisher partner, Thumbspire. From there, in coordination with Thumbspire, we brought Hibachi Hero into our LiveCode Studio program at Becker during the fall 2015 semester. Through LiveCode, more students from Becker as well as other schools had roles in the further development of the game and getting it ready to ship.
This fall, the LiveCode launch team, a group of students from across a range disciplines, put the final touches on Hibachi Hero and it is now available to download for iOS (coming soon for Android on Google Play – stay tuned).
It has been a busy semester for the launch team which pushed out Limbs (Google Play, App Store), a SIP14 and LiveCode 14/15 & 15/16 title, in October and, working with Thumbspire, launched Midnight Terrors (Google Play, App Store), also a SIP14 and LiveCode 14/15 & 15/16 title, which hit the stores earlier this month.
Note: Read other launch stories from the Worcester Telegram here, AdWeek’s SocialTimes here, The Patriot Ledger here and MassLive here.
It is hard to believe that 2016 will mark our fifth time hosting the Game Challenge. Time flies. Over the years we have seen some amazing game concepts and titles near-release from a range of indies and students of all sorts. Take a look back in our Game Challenge archives and check them all out. We are proud to have had folks participate from far away places and right next door. And, sponsors, mentors, speakers, volunteers and judges have helped make it all happen. Thanks again to everyone involved, we sure couldn’t do it without your support – especially, Microsoft New England for providing such great space each year.
That said, we expect this year to be better than ever. Though no substantial changes have been made, we have tweaked a few things which will be noticeable to veteran competitors at the event. With only 40 slots available, team registration will go fast so if you’re an indie, college or high school team, sign up sooner rather than later. See you on February 27 and 27!
Don’t let the bedbugs bite: Midnight Terrors hits stores
By Tim Loew, executive director, MassDiGI
Midnight Terrors, a free, fun and challenging tower defense game released today on the App Store and Google Play, came from the imagination of Joe Lajoie in May 2014. At that time, Joe, a Becker College student (now alumnus), was an intern in our annual MassDiGI Summer Innovation Program (SIP). After successfully pitching his idea about a boy named Casey and his toys to the rest of SIP, he along with talented students Renzo Heredia from Berklee, Loren Sherman from MIT, Ning Xie from Mt. Holyoke, Benji Smith from Northeastern and Aromie Kim from Tufts teamed up to make the game a reality.
Working together over that summer, the team, using Unity, produced a high-quality game (watch the terrific trailer here) which, during a demo at Boston TechJam, caught the attention of New York City-based game publisher Thumbspire. From there, partnering with Thumbspire, we brought Midnight Terrors into our LiveCode Studio program at Becker during the 14/15 academic year. Through LiveCode, many more students from Becker as well as RISD, Hampshire and WPI had roles in the further development of the game, winning awards and polishing it to the point where it was tested in international markets.
This fall, the 15/16 LiveCode launch team, a group of students from across a range disciplines, put the final touches on Midnight Terrors and it is now available to download for iOS and Android.
It has been a busy semester for the launch team which pushed out Limbs (Google Play, App Store), another SIP14 and LiveCode 14/15 & 15/16 title, in October and, working with Thumbspire, has Hibachi Hero, a SIP15 and LiveCode 15/16 title, slated to hit the stores on December 17.
Update: Click here to read the Worcester Telegram’s December 8 story on the Midnight Terrors launch.
Take this, please: 2015/16 Mass. game industry survey
By Tim Loew, executive director, MassDiGI
A few years ago we launched our first survey of the Mass. game industry. We learned quite a bit. We hope to learn more this time around, too.
That said, I’d like to thank all the survey respondents in advance – be they companies, studios, divisions, universities, hobbyists, non-profits, indies, schools, departments, colleges, etc. The information you provide in the 2015/16 Mass. Game Industry Cluster Census & Econometric Survey is critical in helping understand aggregate workforce, business, education and technology trends while providing the statistical foundation for expected biennial comparisons as well as ongoing efforts to attract talent, grow the sector and build alignment across industry, academia and government. Confidentiality is assured. Only aggregate data will be reported.
Take two minutes and take the survey – click here!
I’d also like to thank Prof. Pacey Foster at UMass Boston and the folks at the UMass Donahue Institute for there invaluable assistance.
I encourage you to share the survey link with anyone and everyone in your network. The more data, the merrier.
Limbs – Puzzle & Dislimberment, a free, fun and match-three game is now available to download on both the App Store and Google Play. The game, created during the 2014 MassDiGI Summer Innovation Program (SIP), was developed by students James Spavold from Becker College, Catherine Shen from RISD, Andrew Krischer from Northeastern, Sienna McDowell from WPI and Renzo Heredia from Berklee College of Music who all teamed up to bring the game to life.
Working over that past summer, the team, using Unity, produced a good game – watch the trailer here. From there, we brought Limbs into our LiveCode Studio program at Becker during the 14/15 academic year. Through LiveCode, more students from Becker as well as other schools had roles in the further development of the game and getting it ready to launch.
This fall, the LiveCode 15/16 launch team, a group of students from across a range disciplines, put the final touches on the game and it is now available to download for iOS and Android.
It is shaping up to be a busy semester for the launch team which plans to publish Midnight Terrors, also a SIP14 and LiveCode 14/15 & 15/16 game, and Hibachi Hero, a SIP15 and LiveCode 15/16 title, before the end of the year.
Please note Limbs has been renamed and can be found in the stores as Limb Lobber.
This past Thursday’s jam-packed Open House marked the end of our fourth annual Summer Innovation Program; and what a program it was! Our 24 amazing interns did a remarkable job in getting four game projects in near release condition in just over 11 weeks of work. We were impressed and proud of their effort throughout the entire summer. Stay tuned as we make announcement related to the games over the coming months.
Information on the games as well as links to Open House media coverage can be found below.