In da[velopment] club

50 Cent had no involvement in Tuesday night’s proceedings.

Simon Benarroch

Thirty-odd members of the Video Game Development Club met at Keller Hall on Tuesday night, as they do every week, to talk video games.

They were kicking off a semester-long game development project, starting with a raise-of-hands vote on several ideas members pitched last week.

One of the proposed games was a mod for “Mount and Blade: Warband,” an open-ended role-playing game set in Medieval Europe. The project, called “Fall of the Shogunate” plans to shift the setting from Europe to feudal Japan. Another was a mod for a mod — a “TimeSplitters”-themed conversion of “Goldeneye: Source,” which in turn is a mod for “Half-Life 2.”

By and large, however, most of the games proposed were to be built on homegrown code.

A game in which the player fights silence-generating robots by shooting music at them called “Free the Music” garnered a good amount of interest. Another was a strategic zombie survival game. One game, called “Maze of Oblivion” ambitiously aims to cast the player as both the main character and the boss.

By Thursday, the group will narrow down 14 potential projects to just three. Committed members will form development teams and work on the project throughout the semester.

As to be expected from unfunded, short-term projects, these games will all be 2-D. According to computer science major Graham Smith, six-year game-developer and one of the founders of VGDC, it’s a practical issue. With 3-D games you have to make a rig or skeleton for every model, give it a texture and make it move. In 2-D, all you need is a sprite or animated illustration. In short it’s a lot less time consuming.

VGDC is largely an educational group, and it invites members with varying degrees of technical savvy.

“It’s about a 50-50 split,” Smith said, “… about half computer science majors, and the rest artists and people who do sound.”

In the seven months the group’s been around, it has released several games. Most are quick-and-dirty projects for Ludum Dare game jams — challenges in which developer groups have to take a game from concept to product in 24 hours.

That particular Ludum Dare’s theme was evolution, so developers submitted three games that somehow dealt with the concept. Perhaps the most literal of these had the player jumping around collecting bits of DNA before a clock counting down his “life” expired, then allowing him to spend the collected DNA on upgrades for the next generation.

Another game, “Seed Feed,” was simply about an old man who flings nuts at birds with a slingshot. It could be a reference to Darwin’s finches, what with the beaks being developed for different-sized nuts, but that’s meeting it more than halfway.

So far, VGDC has finished only one long-term project, called “Projectile Ocean.” The player controls a penguin, helping him avoid wave after wave of homicidal ocean creatures by hopping between three platforms. Its artistic style is a mix of spastic 8-bit enemy sprites and a painterly icy ocean background.

While still clearly an amateur production, Smith said the real value was in the learning experience.

Nate Buck, a music and computer science senior and one of the group’s founding members, agreed. Currently working on a solo project called “Robot Groove Apocalypse,” he said there’s a world of difference between working alone and working in a group.

He ultimately hopes to get into the industry, possibly at one of the major studios. There, he said, it’s all about deadlines and working with people.

The three projects that get selected will give much-needed insight into the realities of game development for members of the VGDC who share Buck’s ambitions.