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Students develop games, build audiences in largest computer game course yet

EECS 494 uses game design to teach its students broader lessons about iteration in software development| Short Read
EnlargeShowcase demos
IMAGE:  Course instructor Austin Yarger, right, plays a group's final project at the EECS 494 Computer Games Showcase

The 2018 Computer Games Showcase flooded Tishman Hall with pirates, hard-hatted miners, and patriotic space war recruiters on December 11. Seniors in EECS 494, Computer Game Design and Development, and visiting students from Eastern Michigan University showed off their final group projects with live demos set up around the hall.

494 uses game design to teach its students broader lessons about iteration in software development. The course includes visiting lectures from game industry experts and two team projects and a solo project. The final group project requires the students to cover all phases of game development, including system conceptualization, specification, design, implementation, and evaluation. The students developed the games over six weeks using the Unity game engine.

Course instructor Austin Yarger wants students to come away with the ability to take feedback in stride and apply it in a slow-but-sure process of continuous improvement. In the end, each group should finish a game that is accessible and fun to a wide audience.

This year’s presentations were animated and frequently costumed, with many groups setting up props, displays, and costumes themed around their finished games. Attendees were able to hear presentations by the students about the games and had plenty of time before and after to try them out.

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The addition of Eastern Michigan students to the event was a new idea this semester, says Yarger. “Teaming up with them propelled many of our games’ aesthetics to new levels of polish and charm,” he says, adding that the experience also gave the class experience with client-freelancer relationships.

Yarger also had the class experiment with a new submission procedure. As the students developed their games, they submitted development blogs to IndieDB.com. The popular site is a platform for small studios to promote their work and report on progress, and gave the class the opportunity to treat their project like a serious design undertaking for an audience.

“Many of our student games have hundreds of views and even some budding fan communities!” Yarger says. With luck, the course could turn out gaming startup companies in the future.

The chances aren’t bad either – the course’s popularity continues to climb, and this semester it even faced capacity issues. Yarger looks to address this in subsequent semesters, potentially by opening additional sections.

“494 had another incredible year,” Yarger says. “The students put tremendous effort into their work, and our community has felt the impact in the form of fantastic games.”

Read more about the students’ games:

  • Astro Turf Wars
    Astro Turf Wars by Reformed_Picnic_Jackals Studio Battle it out as the Americans versus the Soviets to claim planets in this arcade-style space domination game. Grab asteroids with your claw gun and shoot them at your enemies to knock them off planets. Raise your flag over a planet to capture it and start earning points.
  • BombIT
    Battle it out as the Americans versus the Soviets to claim planets in this arcade-style space domination game. Grab asteroids with your claw gun and shoot them at your enemies to knock them off planets. Raise your flag over a planet to capture it and start earning points.
  • Buccaneer Booty Battle
    Buccaneer Booty Battle! by Pear Gaming Studio 4 pirates. 4 boats. 2 teams. 1 chest. Some coins. Cannons, rowing and all the coins you can collect. Yarg, matey!
  • Dashing Bears
    Dashing Bears by Lucky Dragon's Den Studio Dashing Bears is a four player racing, platform, and party game. The game features four different bears running in a forest, dodging obstacles and escaping from the hunters. The bears have to collect items during the fast pace running in order to boost themselves or even create more chaos for other bears.
  • Demo Smash
    Demo Smash by Team Demo Smash Studio Battle it out with fast action car combat. Prove victorious in the stadium.
  • Demolition island
    Demolition Island by Almost Above Average Games Studio Demolition Island is an action packed car based oddball style game where four players fight to control the flag the longest! Players can pickup a variety of car parts along with rockets, landmines, and shields to help win the game!
  • Element Escape
    Element Escape by Dog Gardens Inc. Studio Element Escape is a fast-paced 4 player, 2v2 shooter-platformer! Players will be need to think quickly and act fast to bring the power cores to their ship and escape a crumbling planet.
  • Escape to Hyperspace
    Escape to Hyperspace by DABD Studios Escape to Hyperspace is a four-player arcade shooter game where players are stuck in a deadly asteroid field and are looking for a hyperdrive to escape. A passing ship offers a hyperdrive, but to obtain it players must kill each other, bring coins to the ship, and finish with the highest bid.
  • Giga Squadron 1.21
    Giga-squadron 1.21 by Whats4Dinner Studio Giga-squadron 1.21 is a high-speed, 4-player shoot 'em up game in which players work together as a team to destroy enemies and discover planets. Discover and liberate each planet to defeat the invading aliens!
  • Miner Mayhem
    Miner Mayhem by Shrug Studios Studio Miner Mayhem is a four-player platformer racing game, where each team controls one miner speeding through an abandoned mine in search of gold coins, armed with nothing but grappling hooks, pickaxes, and non-functional legs.
  • Now Museum Now you Don't
    Now Museum, Now You Don't! by Error Mob Studio A thief tries to steal a trophy from a museum and escape while a guard tries to trap and catch him. In this stealth pvp game, 2 players are pitted against each other to see who can outwit the other.
  • Party Poopers
    Party Poopers by Yeet! Studio Party Poopers is a 2v2 multiplayer heist game in which one teammate is in a large house searching for a safe while the other operates cameras to help guide his partner around. Players must figure out the combination to the safe and beat the other team to the objective and escape through the front door to win.
  • Rekindle
    Rekindle by lama.io Studio Rekindle is a 4-player co-op survival game. Use your torch and feed the fire to survive the night with your gal pals.
  • Uberite
    Uberite by Prism City Games Studio A first person puzzle platformer set in a cargo star ship after an attack from unknown assailants.
  • The Showroom
    The Showroom by Automotive Interactive Studios Studio The Showroom is an interactive experience that allows you to get close up with cars that you may not get to see on a normal day to day basis. Simulation, Automotive, Interactive, VR
  • Stepping Stones
    Stepping Stones by Triple B Studio A maze-based adventure platformer set in multiple environments. Face the challenges in each level and find your way to freedom.
  • Soul Raisers
    Soul Raisers by Pyrrhic Crown Studio Soul Raisers is a 2v2 action battle arena game where rival cults slay and then sacrifice each other to resurrect an ancient deity.
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    Austin Yarger

    Lecturer, EECS

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