Not just anyone can build a video game. But if you’re a student, Microsoft provides free software tools to develop games for the computer and Xbox 360.
Two groups from California State University, Fullerton took Microsoft up on its offer and then entered their games into the Imagine Cup, Microsoft’s student technology competition. Results were just released and locals Team Green Pill placed second and Team CTW came in third in the national contest. Team Ligersoft from George Washington University took the first place trophy.
Not bad considering the 16,000 student teams registered for Imagine Cup, which included nine categories such as software design, algorithms and short film. All projects had to relate to this year’s theme, the environment, so it’s appropriate that the finals took place on Earth Day.
“You’d be amazed by the quality of these games. The artwork is really, really impressive,” said Jim Pinkelman, Microsoft’s director of academic relations for the U.S.
The students got to work with Microsoft’s XNA Game Studio Express, a kit for hobbyist game developers to turn pastimes into games for the computer or even the Xbox.
But will we get to see any these games for our own Xbox?
“It’s the student’s property. What students want to do with those games is up to them,” Pinkelman said. “This is really just about getting students inspired, but if they started a company or found a publisher, that would be fantastic.
Both Fullerton teams, who are members of CSF’s Video Game Design Club, plan to post their games on the club’s web site by the end of the week.
Art Munoz, a digital animator for Team CTW (short for its game, Clean The World), said that he and programmer James Methvin have another year of school. They plan to continue to make the game better and may start a company. Team CTW also included programmer Memhet Akkurt and artist Terry Wong.
“This whole process has been amazing,” Munoz told me. While he got some guidance from a professor, he and Wong pretty much did the art themselves. He learned Photoshop and Flash in the process of developing the game about a boy who sweeps away soda cans and litter while at the same time avoiding purple blob monsters, in order to save the Earth from impending extinction.
Team Green Pill’s game, LATROP, short for Last Attempt to Save Our Planet, is a multi-level game that awards points to the gamer who can get the most soda cans into the recycling bin. The team is composed of Rusty Scrivens, Joshua Jackson, Corinne Ashimine and Christopher Faucon.
The Team Ligersoft game, Ecocism, is “an arcade-style shoot-em-up and real-time strategy that takes place in a future dystopia in which resources have been squandered and ravenous energy-guzzling machines run amok rendering the earth’s surface an “uninhabitable wasteland.” On Ligersoft’s web site, the game appears to be coming out this summer.
The slick-looking game is probably what pushed it to the top, winning the two roommates $5,000 and a booth at the PAX Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle this August. The team may also get a chance to go to the world finals in Paris.
Watch video trailers from each team: