GAME LAUNCH: Play your cards right in Pluto’s Ascent – 10/1/20

Play your cards right in Pluto’s Ascent

Pluto’s Ascent, a free and fun card-based role-playing game, is available for download now on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Compete in a tournament as Pluto, the outcast god, in a quest to redeem your honor as a true planet. Face off against other cosmic deities, grow your set of celestial skills and face your destiny in the ultimate battle against Sol himself.

The mobile game was created during the 2020 MassDiGI Summer Innovation Program (SIP) by Jack Breenfrom Framingham State, Jasmine Duerk from WPI, JD Calvelli from Brown, Lexis Harvey from Becker, Andrew Knollmeyer, Sam Shapiro from Clark by Primrose Kirk from Berklee.

Working over the summer, the team produced a beta/near-release version of the game – watch the trailer here. From there, we brought the game into our Collab (FKA LiveStudio) program at Becker during the fall ’20 semester. Through Collab, more students across a range of disciplines, including business students in our marketing lab, had roles in polishing the game and getting it ready to launch. For a roster of all the contributors to the game, check out the credit roll. You can download Pluto’s Ascent today for iOS and Android.

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GAME LAUNCH: Make way for Danger Ducklings – 9/30/20

Make way for Danger Ducklings

Danger Ducklings, a free, fun and cute puzzle game, is available for download now on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Help two ducklings get through their 9-to-5! Both ducklings go where they’re told to but they aren’t the brightest – they think every instruction given is for both of them so they both move in the same direction and the same time. It’s up to you to help them avoid hazards, perfect levels and clock out!

DDThe mobile game was created during the 2020 MassDiGI Summer Innovation Program (SIP) by John D’Amico from Becker, Sofie Levin from RISD, Arianna Sargent from Lesley, Ezra Szanton from Tufts, Cavan Vince from RIT, Alina Zheng from Wellesley and Primrose Kirk from Berklee.

Working over the summer, the team produced a beta/near-release version of the game – watch the trailer here. From there, we brought the game into our Collab (FKA LiveStudio) program at Becker during the fall ’20 semester. Through Collab, more students across a range of disciplines, including business students in our marketing lab, had roles in polishing the game and getting it ready to launch. For a roster of all the contributors to the game, check out the credit roll. You can download Danger Ducklings today for iOS and Android.

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GAME LAUNCH: Fight the virus in Merge Surge – 9/29/20

Fight the virus in Merge Serge

Merge Surge, a free, fun and exciting tower defense game, is available for download now on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

MSThe NIGHT Virus has struck Neo Robo City, glitching its inhabitants and threatening to close it down forever. Deck out a team of robots with powerful chips to fight off the viral drones!

The mobile game was created during the 2020 MassDiGI Summer Innovation Program (SIP) by Kazmuir Long from Temple, Brandon Coulombe from Becker, Henry Stadolnik form WPI, Vladimir Karashchuk from Becker, Whitney Kluttz from RIT, Olivia Bogs from WPI and Primrose Kirk from Berklee.

Working over the summer, the team produced a beta/near-release version of the game – watch the trailer here. From there, we brought the game into our Collab (FKA LiveStudio) program at Becker during the fall ’20 semester. Through Collab, more students across a range of disciplines, including business students in our marketing lab, had roles in polishing the game and getting it ready to launch. For a roster of all the contributors to the game, check out the credit roll. You can download Merge Surge today for iOS and Android.

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GAME LAUNCH: Sneak around with Raccoon Revenge – 9/28/20

Sneak around with Raccoon Revenge

Raccoon Revenge, a free, fun top-down sneak-‘em-up game, is available for download now on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

RRSnatcher the Raccoon loves trash and treasure! Scoop up both while avoiding pest control and use your collection to unlock more levels – and, of course, hats! Cute characters and fun gameplay action abound!

The mobile game was created during the 2020 MassDiGI Summer Innovation Program (SIP) by students Angie Yang from Bryn Mawr, Ashley O’Handley from Becker, Cassandra Servis from RISD, Elijah Cobb from Northeastern, Mike Lavallee from Becker, Yali Izzo from Wentworth and Primrose Kirk from Berklee.

Working over the summer, the team produced a beta/near-release version of the game – watch the trailer here. From there, we brought the game into our Collab (FKA LiveStudio) program at Becker during the fall ’20 semester. Through Collab, more students across a range of disciplines, including business students in our marketing lab, had roles in polishing the game and getting it ready to launch. For a roster of all the contributors to the game, check out the credit roll. You can download Raccoon Revenge today for iOS and Android.

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Hello, my name is Collab – 9/10/20

HelloWe’re happy to announce our latest and greatest program for students, Collab. After a nearly nearly 7 years we decided it was time to take all that we learned from our semester-based LiveStudio (née LiveCode) course and replace it with Collab.

Collab, which will be offered across multiple institutions, has been designed to:

  • create more of a job (and SIP-like) feeling with associated expectations
  • increase contact with industry professionals and leaders
  • build larger and more complex games
  • generate revenue

All of which we feel will improve our ability to further fuse our style of relevant real world experience to traditional classroom learning.

 

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The games of SIP20 – 8/21/20

The games of SIP20

By Timothy Loew

Last Friday we wrapped up MassDiGI SIP20 and, all things considered, it was a really great summer. Due to the pandemic, we curtailed the program by almost a week and had to work out a few kinks early on back in May but the teams still managed to exceed expectations. Many thanks to all the mentors, speakers and professionals who shared their time and expertise during past few months. Overall, five games were developed across several genres. All will officially launch in Collab (fka LiveStudio) during the coming months.

Danger Ducklings

DD is a puzzle game where you help 2 ducklings get through their 9-5. Because they’re youngsters, they’ll think every instruction you give one, is for both of them! Move them to avoid all sorts of asymmetrical madness in this grid-based workplace hazards game. Watch the trailer here.

 

Pluto’s Ascent

Compete in a cosmic tournament as the outcast god, Pluto, in a quest to redeem your honor as a true planet. Fight other cosmic deities in card based RPG combat and manage and grow your set of celestial skills to aid you along your journey. Watch the trailer here.

 

Fostr

Care for and help cute animals find their forever homes! Hone your caregiving skills with small animals and move on to foster more exotic and wild animals who all need help finding loving and safe homes in this adorable and relaxing 2D mobile game. Watch the trailer here.

 

Raccoon Revenge

Snatcher the Raccoon’s dumpster has been emptied. Go into the city and steal both the trash and treasures from the nasty humans in this top-down sneak-‘em-up. Watch the trailer here.

 

 

Merge Surge

The NIGHT Virus has struck Neo Robo City, glitching its inhabitants and threatening to shut it down forever. Defend the power core by decking out a team of robots with powerful chips to fight off the viral drones! Watch the trailer here.

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All good things – 8/14/20

All good things

By JD Calvelli, Brown University ‘ 21

As the teams continue to march towards today’s inevitable end of their time as members of MassDiGI SIP20, it seems like the perfect time to do a little bit of reflection. Team members had to transition to fully remote work, develop new relationships strictly online, and deal with the realities of a COVID-19 world. It can be said without a doubt that SIP20 has been an incredibly transformative experience for all the teams and their members. But, to get at how exactly the teams felt the SIP20 experience impacted them, we decided to go straight to the source and ask them directly!

SIP20What are the things you learned as a team from SIP that you plan to take back with you to your teams at school?

Team Pork Dumplings

“Appropriate scoping of the project is definitely paramount, but it’s impossible for a game to be perfectly scoped from the beginning. So we’ve found that it’s equally important to be aware of the state of the game, time frame, and expectations constantly such that appropriate and informed decisions regarding what gets cut in production can be made when necessary so that the core of the game can be as strong as possible. In our case, those cuts took the form of more enemy AIs and enemy skill usage, but, hopefully those mechanics can be reintroduced later down the line of development. Furthermore, we found that communication within the team is critical, and as a result, some of the most important procedures to determine as early as possible are the communication modalities that work best for the particular team. Hearing everyone on the team’s opinion, in whatever way is best suited for them to share it, is necessary to make the best game possible.”

Team Blackforest

“Black Forest, like all SIP teams, is subdivided into three main sections—programming, artists, and designers. Our contrasting skill sets meant that we often had different opinions and approaches to implementing our game mechanics, resulting in periodic *friendly* debates. However, as the weeks progressed, these vocal sparring matches became less frequent, and we were able to reach compromises faster. Our producer, John, attributes that to an increased trust and understanding of each other’s roles and abilities, which we feel is of utmost importance in any team. ‘I’d turn my back and Ezra would implement three different juicing techniques, and even though we weren’t yet in the juicing phase of our game, we would keep Ezra’s changes because they made our game so much greater,’ he recalls.”

Team Donair

“From the start, our primary focus has been to work on what we wanted to, both as a team and as individuals. After weeks of brainstorming, during which we compiled a detailed analysis of all our ideas, we discovered that each one of us was most excited about creating a game featuring a little raccoon who aimed to overthrow the human race. That excitement has been the driving force of the team since the beginning. However, unchecked excitement does not build a game. The most significant lesson we learned during our time at SIP was how to blend an abstract idea with our passion in order to build and develop a physical, playable game. The combination of appreciating scope and helping each other lead our own passions in the right direction was how our game was made. One word for that could be production, another might be communication. Whatever it is called, we’re definitely bringing it back with us to school to make some fantastic projects.”

Team Linguini

“We were able to get a closer look at what each discipline does, allowing us to appreciate each other’s strengths and the value we all bring to a team. During SIP, we’ve also learned the importance of understanding and adapting to team dynamics. Every team is different, and you will be much more efficient if you take the time to understand each team member’s working/communication style and preferences. Another thing we plan to take from SIP is the concept of getting external feedback on our work as soon as possible. It is useful to get the opinions of others’ even well before you’ve gotten things to a polished state. It can give you a perspective you hadn’t considered before, catch issues before you dive too deep, and help determine if your game is fun or engaging at its core.”

Team Chowder

“One thing that SIP demonstrated to us was the power of learning from your peers. Everyone on the team brings unique skills to the team and being able to teach people some of your skills to make others more capable is an amazing talent. Asking the team can get you much faster answers than trying to do independent research. Being able to teach peers and learn from them is a skill that we can take back to school and utilize on a daily basis.”

What are some things you wish you had done differently at the start of SIP? What are some of the lessons you as a team learned as you went through the process?

Team Pork Dumplings

“At the beginning of the process, our team spent quite a bit of time in the design phase of the project, which we believe had a very positive effect on our ability to smoothly transition into production. However, it would have been smart for us to dedicate some more time explicitly prior to entering production to researching available tools that could be used to make our lives easier in production, and tools to avoid using so as to not make our lives harder in production. For example, we weren’t aware that VFXGraph did not work particularly well on mobile until it was too late, and as a result we had to redo later in production visual effects done in VFXGraph that were breaking the game.”

Team Blackforest

“A challenge in the beginning was the steep learning curve of Plastic, our source control software. To minimize occurrences of merge conflicts (which we initially regarded as catastrophic but soon learned were not so bad), we would hold ‘merge parties’ at the end of each workday. These were, at first, dreaded meetings filled with frantic screen-sharing and nervous discussions of the glaring red errors plastered on our screens. However, merge parties soon became a joyous event, as they gave us an opportunity to unwind after eight hours of programming, drawing, and level designing. Though some of us took concern to our occasional lack of focus, we learned to embrace it. Our bonding gave us a greater sense of each other’s interests and personalities, allowing us to work together more cohesively during the ‘focused’ parts of the workday.”

Team Donair

“Coming into SIP, everyone had different foundations in game development. Getting everyone to the level they needed to succeed on the project was a priority at the start. Everyone had as much learning time as they needed. Although that time for learning did get everyone to the proper skill level, it meant that they came into a project already underway. I wish we had used more strategies focused on getting everyone integrated into the project. Since we didn’t do much prototyping, the game grew very quickly and people might not have had adequate time to learn the ropes before new features were added. All of the learning was some of the most useful time spent in the project, but if more awareness and communication was put towards that process, perhaps we could’ve been able to make everyone’s path in the project smoother.”

Team Linguini

“We now recognize that nailing down a killer theme, tone, or aesthetic direction is more important early on than knowing how the lower-level mechanics function, as those can be worked out later and won’t really matter if the game isn’t interesting in the first place. The final game we ended up with started from just the idea of making something with a neon aesthetic. Another lesson we’ve learned through this process is to avoid getting too attached to our ideas. This applies to all parts of the development process as well, not just the early planning. Midway through development we took a hard look at our plan to make different chip types grant special combined effects and realized the required resources and design headache to get it to a finalized state wouldn’t be feasible for us, so we scrapped the system.”

Team Chowder

“Scope is essentially the amount of work needing to be done in the amount of time available. If you are out of scope, then you have too much work for the amount of time available. With our idea established we started developing. Art was made and a game was taking shape. Our ideas began to wander, and we started adding new mechanics. We were working on things that should have been done later as the core of the game was incomplete. We stayed too long in this state and then, with 3 weeks left, we changed priorities to establish the core loop. In this time, we had to cut a lot of existing ideas and kill new one because they were not in scope. We finally understood scope and didn’t allow ourselves to run out of scope again. Scope is one of the most valuable lessons for the team from SIP as the ability to make this mistake in a safe environment means that a company won’t go under and we won’t lose our jobs.”

How did SIP help your team better understand game development as a career/industry?

Team Pork Dumplings

“By design, SIP provided us with a taste of what an actual studio environment is like. While Monty and Walt frequently checked in with us, ultimately our success or failure was determined by our team’s internal drive. In that sense, in SIP we were encouraged to be self starters, to seize opportunity, and to take responsibility for our own products in a way that will serve us regardless of what industry in which we end up finding ourselves. It also goes without saying that the opportunity to hear from mentors from all different corners of the games and tech industries provided us with an incredible, unique opportunity to learn by osmosis from those who really know their stuff.”

Team Blackforest

“SIP gave us all a valuable glimpse into a typical workday in the game development industry. Not only did we exit the program with a confirmed love for game development (and a stamina for a 40 hour workweek), but we also came out with a clear-eyed, bittersweet sense of realism. Though we had spent hundreds of hours over four months pouring our heart and soul into our game, we had to come to grips with the fact that not everyone would love it, and that’s okay. No matter how much (or little) money our app ends up making, we already know that we’ll always be proud of our work.”

Team Donair

“From having to maintain a consistent art style, to dealing with marketing and analytics, working on a game for a company, adhering to industry production methods, and releasing it on the App Store, everyone on our team was able to elevate their understanding and skills to meet a professional environment. But, the greatest benefit of SIP was being able to exist in the liminal space as a student and professional. While other game internships bring you into the professional world but keep you as a student, SIP brings you into the professional world, treats you like a professional, and still appreciates that we are all in the process of learning. We had a safety net, so to speak. Working on a game of our own in a professional context was the foundation of that balance.”

Team Linguini

“For many of us, this was the largest project we’ve worked on. We have a greater respect for all the moving parts that go into making a game that we weren’t privy to prior. SIP has taught us how to work through hurdles without putting excessive stress on ourselves and each other. Working remotely during a pandemic has been a unique experience that’s required both discipline and awareness regarding our wellness. Our final product is a testament to the idea that things tend to work out in the end. Taking care of ourselves in the meantime, and speaking up when we’re having a hard time has only proven to be beneficial to our team in the long run.”

Team Chowder

“SIP taught us the reality of game development being that everything is driven by money. Like everything in the real world, money is the beating heart that keeps many things going. Similarly, if a game is not making money then its development will end very quickly. This made us come to the realization that there is a balance between monetization and the original game image. Games are an entertainment service/product that people are willing to pay for. Many of us were in the consumer mindset when we started but have come out of SIP with a developer mindset.”

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The museum of summers past – 7/30/20

The museum of summers past

By Kazmuir Long ’21, Temple University

As part of the first-ever SIP Fest, Henry Stadolnik, Vlad Karashchuk and I created a Minecraft museum with statues of all SIP games past and present from 2012 until today. SIP alumni (and friends) can view all of the exhibits in the form of a “roller coaster ride” using minecarts and rails.

We spent about 15 hours on this and each exhibit is labeled with a sign description of the game title and the year it was developed.

The Minecraft server connection address can be requested by SIP alumni via email at infoatmassdigi.org.

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SIPBLOG: Team culture in the time of COVID-19 – 7/17/20

Team culture in the time of COVID-19

By Sofie Levin ’22, Rhode Island School of Design

Greetings MassDiGI-verse! My name is Sofie Levin and I am a rising junior at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and the lead of SIP20’s culture team, also known as Team Yogurt. Our team was specifically created this year with one purpose: to find ways to create bonds between all the SIP20 members while living and working in different places and in different time zones.

Working remotely during this internship has its challenges – not just for us, but for most people working remotely right now. From audio issues to our WiFi shutting down on us, one significant challenge has been trying to connect and bond with the rest of SIP20 members. Since we all belong to our own respective teams, SIP20 has few opportunities to connect with members of the other teams. Team Yogurt’s mission has been to create ways to familiarize everyone with each other and create a SIP community similar to that of past SIP years.

Culture screenshotOur team consists of one member from each SIP20 team: Ashley O’Handley from Team Donair, Whitney Kluttz from Team Linguini, Jasmine Duerk from Team Pork Dumplings, Marcus Johnson from Team Chowder, and me, representing Team Black Forest. When the team was first formed, we were like a rag tag group working together to solve our way out of a dungeon without any clue on  where to start. Barely acquainted with each other, it seemed almost impossible to try and tackle this quest to create a meaningful connection between all of the SIP20 members. As the leader, I too felt like I was ill equipped for this role. But as the weeks went by, we all were able to overcome our doubts and uncertainties and started to organize outside events which all of SIP20 could participate in.

Thanks to the power of technology, we have been able to find outlets which allow us to all communicate daily fairly easily. There are a plentiful amount of online platforms that enable us to reach out and participate with each other, such as Discord and Zoom. We have also used additional platforms which enable us to communicate with each other from the comforts of our own homes such as Netflix Party and more recently Amazon’s Watch Party. Jackbox, Minecraft and Smash Bros tournaments have been crowd favorites. We all have been able to find ways to connect with each other one way or the other, including the use of social media. With our main goal of creating a bond between all of the SIP20 members, we realized that we should have as many options as possible available for people to connect with one another, as some might not have certain platforms listed above. While Team Yogurt has organized our own events for the rest of SIP20 members, some outside of our team have already found ways to network with each other without our team’s help, something that I am thrilled to see happening.

While the connection we have in SIP20 differs from the previous years, I would argue that our connection in SIP20 is strong and equal to that of past years. We all have had the drive and desire to build connections with each other and, given our current services worked creatively to make it happen. It has been a lot of fun.

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SIPBLOG: From game dev noob to tilemap expert – 7/10/20

From Game Dev Noob to Tilemap Expert

Baking My First Black Forest Cake

By Alina Zheng’ 23, Wellesley College

Hello MassDiGI-verse! I’m Alina Zheng, a rising sophomore at Wellesley College and a participant of this year’s Summer Innovation Program. More specifically, I am associate producer of Team Black Forest, a small group of driven artists, programmers, and designers hoping to make it big with our cutesy puzzle game, Danger Ducklings.

Duck Heart imageWhile that may have sounded like a standard pitch for our team, I can assure you that the knowledge and supportiveness of my coworkers-turned-friends cannot be understated. In addition to being an associate producer (who lends a listening ear to the producer during decision-making), I am a programmer who, prior to SIP, had no experience in Unity whatsoever. Coming from a pure computer science program with very little material in the way of game development, I entered the SIP with a healthy dose of nervousness and a not-so-healthy ambition to cram as many Unity tutorials as possible outside of work. However, I soon realized that there was no need for this, because I already had two resources that were more valuable than any Brackeys YouTube video or Unity forums post: my co-programmers Ezra Szanton, computer science major at Tufts University, and Cavan Vince, game development student at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Thanks to Ezra and Cavan’s patience for teaching, as well as my observations of their  lightning-fast debugging skills, efficient navigation of the Unity environment, and solid grasp of the C# scripting language, I quickly overcame the learning curve and became our programming team’s resident tilemap expert.

Our talented artists Sofie Levin (Rhode Island School of Design) and Arianna Sargent (Lesley University), as well as our capable designer John D’Amico (Becker College) have been working hard to churn out polished artwork and levels. John is also our team’s pragmatic producer. He has been an incredible asset to our team’s workflow, always driving good discussions and getting us back on track when our meme bonding sessions have extended for a little too long. Thanks to the hard work of all of our team members, our game is slowly reaching the “juice” phase, when we can focus on making the game as satisfying and gorgeous as possible.

SIP20 has been an incredible experience so far. Not only has my work in Unity and C# helped me develop a stronger grasp of programming fundamentals, I have also learned that, with the power of Google Hangouts and Zoom, it is entirely possible for a group of hard-working, fun-loving young people to come together, befriend each other, and create something they’ll be proud of for the rest of their lives. I hope that my experiences will encourage other college students—especially those who do not consider themselves experts in game development—to apply to SIP. MassDiGI gave me my first glimpse into the world of video game design, and I am very grateful for that.

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