Computer information systems students create video game in a weekend

Brainstorming at the Global Game Jam
Brainstorming during the Global Game Jam

Lots of people like to play video games, but from Friday night through Sunday afternoon, seven students and an instructor in the computer information systems and technology program created their own.

 

            The 48-hour event was part of a worldwide game-creation event called the Global Game Jam, which is now in its third year. Teams in 93 countries (150 in the United States) created 6,800 games around this year's theme, “Ritual.”

 

            Jeremy Callinan, an instructor in the computer information systems and technology program, spearheaded the Pitt-Bradford effort, which used seven students, nine different computer programs and two cases of energy drinks to create “Night of Fenrir.”

 

            In the game, the player searches for three ritual objects to take to an altar in order to escape the curse of a monstrous wolf, Fenrir, of Norse mythology. While the player searches for the objects on a grassy plain lit by a beautiful full moon, Fenrir could appear at any time to take the player out and howl his triumph.

 

            Codie Martin of Allegany, N.Y., came up with the name and title page for the game. Martin used a digital design tablet and digital pen to create the title page drawing, then tweaked it with digital tools.

 

            Following a group brainstorming session after Global Game Jam revealed the theme at 5 p.m. on Friday, the group divided the work that needed to be done.

 

            Jessie Adams of Edinboro created the plain, the mountains, a cloud-filled sky and even a lake with torch-lit bridges and clouds reflected in the water with the help of Evan Griffin, a broadcast communications major from Levittown. Griffin also designed the altar for the ritual.

 

Doug Elliot of Sinking Spring and Cyrus Patell of Fort Washington worked on the user interface while Aaron Dixon of Bradford created chests containing the ritual items.

 

Justin Conley of North East made detailed three-dimensional houses on the plane. “That was a 70-step process,” Callinan explained in Conley's absence Sunday afternoon.

 

Callinan himself worked on Fenrir.

 

“I didn't know we were going to do something this complex,” said Dixon, who has taken a single semester of game design with Callinan. With it being the first year Pitt-Bradford has taken part in the jam, none of them did.

 

Callinan said that their original brainstorming yielded a much more complex game, but they had to trim the scope down to something that could be completed in the 48-hour time limit.

 

“They did a great job,” Callinan said of the students. “Basically, it's a complete world. The plain aesthetics of it are pretty good. It's very tranquil until the werewolf comes.”

 

Like any project, students were learning to work together, determine the scope, plan an ambitious project and solve the problems that come up. Lots of problems.

 

“Probably half of our time was spent fixing things,” Callinan said.

 

Adams said the jam was “Fun and not fun. It's fun when it's working.” And when it's not? Well, that's frustrating. But the students clearly took pride in the finished project.

 

“I like the sky best,” Adams said, admiring the scattered stars, shadowed puffy clouds and luminous moon.

 

To check out the students' work and play “Night of Fenrir,” visit www.globalgamejam.org/2016/games/night-fenrir.