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  • By Thomas Healy

CCU club introduces fundamentals of video game design to members

CCU students have created the university’s first organization for video game design.

Spawn Point is a student run club that introduces the fundamentals of video game design in a hands-on environment. The club provides students the opportunity to build their own game. Formerly known as the Game Makers Guild, the club was restructured after previous executive board members graduated. Wyatt Beard is the current club president and has successfully found a new direction for the game designers.

“After I was elected, I decided to rebrand and come up with a new plan for how we would operate. I suppose what inspired me to do that was years of playing games and aspiring to be a game developer and just wanting to do that with my career. And the lack of any actual game design program on campus just kind of motivated me to do that myself,” he said.

The rebranding would culminate in the club’s prestigious goal: a student made video game. Members of the club pitched ideas for an original game, and then a vote was held. The idea that received the most votes was put into production. This semester’s votes favored the brainstorming of Alisha Ulander whose 2D adventure game will be the club's production for the spring semester. Like most members of the club, she has plenty to learn in terms of game design. This will be her first major project after becoming inspired to elevate her love of gaming.

“I’ve always had a deep love of videos games, especially indie productions from small studios. I wanted to create something fun for people to enjoy,” she said.

The video game will be a 2D adventure game with a focus on combat, but also offering platforming and puzzle elements.

“You play a delivery person for a small courier service. As you explore the city you live in, you come across an alternate dimension that is leaking into your world. You go on an adventure to seal off this other world and save your neighborhood,” Ulander explained.

Wyatt gave some more details.

“We’re kind of drawing visual inspiration from the works of M.C. Escher. Just like odd geometry, things that shouldn’t make sense, but seem plausible in some way,” Wyatt said.

To achieve this goal, members are trained in Unity, a game design engine used in various commercial products including Cities: Skylines, Dusk, and the Ori series. Club members also plan to use the Adobe Suite for rendering 2D images and Blender, a 3d modeling software for character creation.

The university offers many academic programs for careers associated with video game design such as information technology, digital design, and digital media, but nothing specific to video gaming. Wyatt and club Vice President Emily Beecroft agreed that the lack of a video game design program on campus was troubling for many students.

“I think that Coastal should really invest in a game design program, as there are a large number of people that are interested in game design and development. As an example, this semester Dr. Bergeron is teaching GEOG 456 ‘Video Game World’ which is an introductory course to game design using Unity. When Dr. Bergeron originally opened the course, it filled up so quickly and had such a demand that she needed to open a second course to handle the overflow due to how many people wanted to be learning about game design,” Beecroft said.

The club is open for any interested party that wants to try their hands at video game design, regardless of a student’s field of study or level of gaming experience. There are no requirements to join the club apart from a $5 fee. The club aims to prepare students to confidently take their ideas from theory to practical through game creation. Jarod Bowers shared his experience with the club.

“I believe it has [helped me with my career goals] because we started going into more detail about all the aspects of programming and all the types of design we have to do, if we’re going into a business for example. And we’re also going with Unity as well, and we’re trying to create our own project. And I believe it helped me a great deal, because I have not really touched any gaming developing software at all, so I feel like this really helped me out,” Bowers said.

The club is looking for new talent from various fields of interest, as games are a diverse media which draw on both practical skills and reasoning capabilities.

“I think that the skills that are required for game design and game development are really overlooked. There is a lot more to it than just having basic art skills. Anyone can join the game development process, not just people who excel in the arts! Game development has many facets outside of the artistic side. While it is obviously important to have people working on the art, many people are needed to actually write the stories of the game, or depending on the topic of the game, researchers for the history of the game you are making,” Beecroft said.

“A popular example Wyatt and I like to use is Assassin's Creed, as it is a game that is set in a specific time period and takes massive amounts of research to actually complete. Game development requires people to market the game, to create music, to create the art, to design the levels, people to voice act and especially people to test the games before they are sold to the public. There are so many positions available to people that it's unfortunate that so many people miss out on the opportunity to do what they love because they believe that they don't have the skills.”

For more information on the club or how to join, visit Coastal Connections.

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