When David Schwartz watched the game that a team of students had developed after participating in a 48-hour competition, his instincts told him he was watching something special.
Schwartz attends a game developers conference annually and had noticed a trend. A new genre was emerging: games that could be simplistic mechanically, but that dealt with deep human emotions.
“When I saw their game, it immediately caught my attention,” says Schwartz, an assistant professor in the School of Interactive Games and Media in the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences. “It looked like those games that were emerging at the conference.”
So Schwartz, who organized RIT’s participation in the Global Game Jam challenge—a worldwide event where game developers gather at satellite locations, form teams and build a game around the same theme in a 48-hour period—decided to enter the game into a competition between the top games from each satellite location.
“I knew it was a low probability,” says Schwartz of the chances the RIT team would finish in the competition’s top 10 and win a trip to the Casual Connect Europe gaming conference in Germany. “There were so many games out there and I knew it would be really competitive.”
But the RIT team, comprised of Lane Lawley, Brian Soulliard, Devin Ford, Lawrence Jung and Kevin MacLeod, defied the odds and earned a spot in the top 10.
“It was so hectic trying to get ready for the trip that I didn’t have much of a chance to think about it until I was on the plane,” says Soulliard, a fourth-year software engineering major from Mechanicsburg, Pa. “But, wow, our game was one of the top 10 out of 1,500 in the world. That’s a real honor to say the least.”
The game, called Ultimate Celebration, involves a character rounding up various friends to invite them to a party. Except the party never happens. As the game unfolds, the sky darkens and ominous things begin to happen. At a pre-determined time in the game, the Earth comes to an end.
That outcome is unavoidable—despite how well a player may perform.
“It’s impossible to beat the game,” says Lawley, a part-time computer science student from Henrietta. “It is designed to provoke emotion and that could be sadness, loss or frustration. It depends on the individual.”
Soulliard believes the game has deep meaning.
“It’s a metaphor for life and death,” Soulliard says. “No matter what you do, dying is eventually unavoidable. You can’t stop it.”
Lawley estimates that the group spent approximately 34 of the 48-hour competition working on Ultimate Celebration.
“When I wasn’t sleeping, I was working,” he says. “We made a really good game and we’re proud of it. Now we have proof we’re one of the best.”