RIT to become first university to publish video game on Xbox One platform

Award-winning game Hack, Slash & Backstab will launch at noon on Aug. 31




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Rochester Institute of Technology will become the first university to publish a video game on the Xbox One gaming platform when Hack, Slash & Backstab is officially launched at noon on Wednesday, Aug. 31. The game, which will be available for purchase for $4.99, will also debut simultaneously on the Steam platform and be available for sale through the digital storefront Humble.

Hack, Slash & Backstab was produced in residence at RIT in a studio course offered through the internationally ranked School of Interactive Games and Media, and the RIT Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity (MAGIC). The original concept was created in 2015 by Andrew Phelps, founder and director of RIT’s MAGIC Center, and is published and maintained through MAGIC Spell Studios, the commercial, for-profit arm of the MAGIC Center.

“This is a defining moment for RIT’s digital media program,” said Phelps. “When you talk to people who know what publishing a game really entails, they can’t believe that a university is making this happen. We are thrilled to finally get this game in the hands of players.”

The game also won third place in the Best Visual Quality category of the 2016 Intel University Games Showcase in March as part of the 2016 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Hack, Slash & Backstab is a two- to four-player couch co-op dungeon crawler that uses a game setting to seemingly reduce the stakes. Players work together as warrior, rogue, wizard and archer to survive a dangerous world, but only one player will be crowned the winner as betrayal and backstab become the tools of choice. To watch the trailer for the game, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TqS_mPH7lY.

“It’s very unusual to create a game during an academic course,” said Rob Clifford, a 2016 graduate of RIT’s game design and development program from Suffern, N.Y., and the game’s former project manager. “We had a small team—15 students—and a limited amount of time to work on the project. We accomplished what we wanted to and exceeded our own expectations.”

Earlier this year, RIT was named one of three Digital Gaming Hubs in New York state by Empire State Development. The Digital Gaming Hubs, which also include Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and New York University, will receive $150,000 each, per year for three years. The hubs’ objective is to increase the economic impact to New York state by fostering innovation and creating collaborative activities that spur new games or companies as well as providing resources and mentoring to encourage students and entrepreneurs to enter the growing gaming industry. In addition, the gaming hubs will assist existing companies with gaming concepts, technologies and trends and host events focused on assisting the gaming community.

RIT’s game design and development program was recently ranked third at the undergraduate level and seventh at the graduate level according to the new 2016 international rankings from The Princeton Review.