Fantasy Friday: A Trip to Rochester Institute of Technology

Last month I went to Rochester Institute of Technology’s annual Imagine RIT event. The place was loaded with families from the area checking out what the students have been working on. I took a particular interest in the students working on games, as they are the next generation that will bring us indie titles and AAA titles alike.

My first stop was at Michael Moffitt, a computer science major, and Julian Hammerstein’s, a mechanical engineering technology major, display. They created Ghost in Machine, an addictive and difficult sidescrolling platformer with an old-time feel and graphics. I sat there longer than I should have trying to clear one jump. Even on the first level the difficulty ramps up quickly, making you perform blind jump after blind jump, while dangerous parts are flying toward you. The duo made the game in 10 hours, so they could enter it into a game development competition. The group was also displaying an arcade machine filled with classic fighting games, and an original game.

Next, my journey brought me Astral Bear Studios, where a group of seniors was showing off their iPhone RPG, currently called Project

Pandora. The game uses a turned based style of gamplay, which is perfect for the platform. The graphics were great for a iPhone game, and really reminds me of games from my childhood. The game is fun, and the concept art was absolutely stunning. The group plans to stay together after graduation, to form the indie studio.

I walked outside of Astral Bear Studio’s room, and found a detective puzzle game on display. Dan Sterinfeld, the programmer and lead designer, Ben Saxe, the level designer, and Frank Tufano, the graphic designer, created Fade: Case of the Stolen Diamonds. Detective Pete, a stealthy mouse, is trying to solve the case, and players must drag a box around the level so he can fade through the walls and reach his destination. The game took the trio a year to make, and is currently available on the Apple App Store for 99 cents. The visuals have a unique art style that is beautiful and looks as if a professional studio created the game, and the gamplay is as smooth and professional as the art direction.

In the main lobby of the building, Justin Smith, Jake Green and Dan Townsend, each game design majors were helping children play their RTS game. The game started out just as a simulation exercise for class, but the team decided to go forward with the project creating, Vindictive.

“We didn’t intend for it to be an RTS, [but it] turned into an independent study,” Smith said.

They also competed at the game design competition at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. They didn’t win, but they had fun showing off the game.

Lastly I talked with Whitney Brown, an artist for Store World. The game is a retail Facebook game where people start out with nothing and grow their store based on supply and demand. It also takes into account store décor and other factors to draw customers in. Store World is not only a mindless Facebook game to get addicted to, but the team is applying real world business strategies, and because of that, the school will force every business student to play the game, starting this fall.

Whitney is tasked with designing all the assets and tagging them, so the programmers can implement them into the game. The clothes she designs can fit anyone’s tastes. A store can be centered around retro, punk and semi-formal to just name a few.

“If you make a skirt you have to make sure that the color is labeled, the outline of the color is labeled, and the shadows have to be labeled. It is very structured and everything has to be in perfect folders,” Brown said.

Each group brought a different kind of game, which made exploring the event even that more interesting. The kids were even having fun playing the games, and being exposed to technology. It was a successful event where families got to preview the future of technology.

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Sounds cool, I should check that out next year, and the RPI event. I'm in Central New York, so just a few hours from everything. Are you up here as well? Would love to check stuff out with other semi-local girl geeks. Feel free to find me on twitter/email.