While the latest edition of the Princeton Review’s annual rankings once again slotted Drexel among the top 10 schools for game design, a group of Dragons set the program apart with a game that edged out its peers for top recognition at the University Showcase competition at Intel’s Game Developers Conference.
The showcase pits entries from each of Princeton Review’s top 10 game design programs — which ranks both graduate and undergrate programs — against each other as part of Intel’s annual gathering, which is recognized as the world’s largest gaming conference. Mirrors of Grimaldi, a game created by a group of Drexel undergraduates as their senior design project with digital media professor Jichen Zhu, PhD, as an advisor, took top billing and $10,000. It is the first time a team from Drexel has won this highly competitive event.
Mirrors of Grimaldi is a local, multiplayer game, which means you sit next to three of your friends to play it — greatly increasing the heckling factor.
Each player customizes a “town peasant” character that is dropped into the middle of a demon-possessed carnival to open gameplay. With four players simultaneously in action, the screen is split into quadrants. Each player scrambles frantically to avoid swarms of enemies or swat them away and directly into the screen of an opponent.
This is where the fun begins.
The split screens, themselves, can become a friend or foe. In addition to being interactive, with competitors able to whack enemy minions across screen boundaries, they are also reactive. As you become more surrounded and harried by the demonic adversaries, your share of the divided screen shrinks, while your competitors reap the befits of the freed-up space.
Though, as Zhu points out, “for players who are not doing so well, the smaller screen size makes it easier for them to whack enemy minions across the split screen boundaries, thus providing them with the chance for a glorious comeback.”
Ultimately a player meets their demise as perspective, along with the enemies, close in.
The last player standing moves on, and enjoys immediate bragging rights over nearby competitors. Drexel’s team enjoyed bragging rights at the national conference when the uniqueness of its game design and engineering impressed a panel of judges from the game design industry enough to bestow them with the first prize in “Best Gameplay.”
“I think what the judges found impressive is that the game innovates the core gameplay element of its genre — the split screen,” Zhu said. “Unlike standard split screens that are fixed, such as Mario Kart, players of Mirrors of Grimaldi constantly fight for their portion of the individual screens. This is a very unique element and it shows our students’ skill at both conceptualizing and creating a game that is fun to play.”
Mirrors of Grimaldi beat out games from Carnegie Mellon University, DigiPen Institute of Technology, New York University, Southern Methodist University, Rochester Institute of Technology, SMU, UC – Santa Cruz, the University of Utah, The University of Texas at Austin, the University of Southern California, and Savanna College of Art and Design.
The winning team consists of Andrew Lichtsinn (producer), Thomas Trahey (lead programmer), Boyd Fox (programmer), Evan Freed (art director), Patrick Bastian (artist), Steven Yaffee (artist), undergraduates in Westphal’s Game Design & Production program; Alison Friedlander (organic modeler/rigger), an animation and visual effects major; and Alexander Hollander (programmer), an undergraduate in the College of Computing & Informatics studying computer science.
The game is currently in alpha state of development, but you can watch gameplay footage or download the latest version for Mac or PC here. It will also be on display with many other student-designed games at Drexel’s Digital Media 2016 Showcase on June 5.
Drexel’s Game Design Program in Westphal College’s Digital Media Department has been regularly ranked among the top programs in the nation over the last handful of years. In addition to game research endeavors, such as the RePlay Lab and the Procedural Expression Lab, it also boasts an Animation Capture & Effects Lab specializing in cutting-edge digital animation and the Entrepreneurial Game Studio, led by Frank Lee, PhD, who put a spotlight on the program when he put giant video games on a Philadelphia skyscraper. This year the program became Westphal’s first to offer a doctoral degree.
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