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GameFest 2013 at Rensselaer: Future Play – Competition of Student Designed Video Games From Four Regional Collegiate Programs

Wed, 2013-04-10 00:00 -- katzme

April 10, 2013

Four collegiate game design programs, 40 student-designed video games, speakers from five game design companies (including Microsoft and Vicarious Visions), and one rollicking concert of game music favorites in the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC). It’s GameFest 2013 – the annual two-day showcase of student talent in game design and simulations, April 26-27, hosted by the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (GSAS) program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

 GameFest 2013: Future Play is a regional forum for students in game design programs to display their work, compete against their peers in a juried exhibition, and make connections in the game design industry. The festival, now in its 10th year at Rensselaer, is also a chance to check out the next generation of game design professionals. All events are free and open to the public.

Microsoft Game Studios Senior Game Designer Richard Rouse III will deliver the keynote address Saturday, April 27.

This year’s festival includes student-designed games from game design programs at Becker College in Worcester, Mass., Champlain College in Burlington, Vt., and Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), as well as the Rensselaer Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences program, recently named among the top 15 out of 150 undergraduate game design programs in the United States and Canada, according to the Princeton Review.

“GameFest gives students experience in presenting work in a public context and at a level of professional polish suitable for the marketplace,” said Ben Chang, associate professor of arts and GSAS co-director. A sampling of Rensselaer games to be exhibited in the festival includes:

  • Bigfoot Journals: An adventure game in which the player becomes a newcomer to a small town near the home of Bigfoot and the townspeople with varying agendas in relation to Bigfoot - a hunter seeking a trophy, a journalist who wants a picture of Bigfoot, and the owners of a B&B who want to maintain the status quo. By searching for clues and talking to the townspeople, the player uncovers the truth about Bigfoot and Ash Mountain.
  • Prismatic Showdown: A fast-paced, fun, split-screen multiplayer game in which two to four players compete to transform a blank playing field into a mosaic of colors. As players move through a grid, they leave a trail of color in their wake, while “power-ups” give players the chance to disrupt one another and take over the field.
  • Asunder: A space adventure game that places the player in the role of a repair-bot named “KT.” The player must navigate the wreckage of a destroyed cargo ship and locate power cells needed to restore the ship’s systems and deliver an important payload to its destination.

Sponsors for 2013 event include Vicarious Visions, which will also judge the competition, 1st Playable,—both  located in the Capital Region, and founded by Rensselaer alumni – as well as Arkadium, Games That Work, Microsoft, Emagination Computer Camps, Harmonix, and WMS.

“The Northeast has an important presence in the game world – New York, Boston, and Montreal, for example, all have strong game development communities,” said Chang. “Rensselaer is in a great location for pulling those communities together, and we definitely view GameFest as a community-building event for the games industry in the Northeast.”

Also on exhibit at GameFest 2013 are two special projects with Rensselaer roots:

Flo: The Watershed Project, an educational simulation that uses the Microsoft Kinect interface to cast players in the role of a drop of water as it cycles from rainfall over mountains, through streams, rivers, and reservoirs, to become drinking water in New York City. Along the way, players can seek opportunities for sustainable and eco-friendly practices, avoiding dangers such as floods, sediments, development impacts, and farm pollutants. A team of Rensselaer students, working until the direction of Professor of Arts Kathleen Ruiz, designed the game as part of a larger grant-funded initiative aimed at raising awareness about the link between watershed areas and drinking water.

Museum of Microstar: Winner of the grand prize in the Unity Technology 2012 DirectX 11 Competition, the game simulates a futuristic visit to a corporate museum of the history of energy and technology. While the narrative is described as a “critique of corporate techno-utopianism,” the mechanics and graphics of the game demonstrate the full capabilities of the Unity 3D game engine, popular among independent game developers for its accessibility and the ease with which it can be used in multiple platforms. Features within the game take full advantage of the capabilities of current graphics cards paired with the Unity 3D game engine. For example, the programmers created a simulation of a “microstar” that models the fluid movement of half-a-million particles. The game was created by Rust, Ltd., a collaboration that includes Anton Hand, a student in the Rensselaer MFA EArts program. 

GameFest 2013 kicks off on Friday, April 26, at 8 p.m. in the EMPAC Concert Hall with “Twas the Night Before GameFest” an evening of game music favorites. As the games are projected on the EMPAC Concert Hall screen, an orchestra will perform the music of Angry Birds, Super Mario Brothers, Uncharted, Bioshock, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and more. The orchestra will be conducted by Joshua Osburn, with performances by Mary Simoni, musician and dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, and Rensselaer students.

The student games exhibition and competition will take place at EMPAC from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Forty student-designed games will be on exhibit, with 20 entered in a juried competition with prizes awarded based on technical production, artistry, creativity, and the “groundbreaking” quality of their work. The keynote address, and a panel discussion on “Future Play: The People, the Technology, and the Games” will be held on Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m. in the EMPAC Concert Hall, followed by an awards presentation at 6 p.m.

A full schedule of the festival can be found here: http://www.hass.rpi.edu/pl/hass-events/gamefest-2013-future-play

For more information on GSAS and GameFest visit: http://www.hass.rpi.edu/pl/bs-degree-games-simulation-arts-science

Contact: Mary L. Martialay
Phone: (518) 276-2146
E-mail: martim12@rpi.edu