Characters move across the desert sand battling over ancient ruins in the Middle East. Lines from animated players tell the history of crusades and wars. This is not the typical video game on store shelves, but then again, junior Corey Jeffers isn’t the typical video game designer.
Jeffers designed the video game his freshman year at Ithaca College. It took him three months to complete and involved everyone on his floor — his friend down the hall did the graphics, his resident assistant composed the synthesizer score, his roommate wrote the plot and his floormates recorded the voice-overs.
“I love that game, still to this day,” he said. “We talk about it every once and awhile because of the quotes [and inside jokes].”
Other students will have the same opportunity at the first Ithaca Game Jam on Saturday. Hosted by the IC Game Developers Club, the event will give graphic designers, sound designers, writers and programmers 24 hours to build interactive, multiplayer video games from scratch.
The Jam is based on last year’s Global Game Jam, which both Jeffers and junior Ryan Giglio, the club’s vice president, attended in Albany, N.Y. It was hosted simultaneously around the world and gave teams 72 hours to create a game. Senior Chris Hendrickson, the club’s president, said like the Global Game Jam, all of the teams will start with a mystery restriction for their games but will not end up with the same results. He said the setup will teach students more about the game design industry by having them work around obstacles and be creative.
“Everybody starts at the same spot, but then you get such a different product at the end,” Hendrickson said. “Everybody is working from the one limitation, but from imagination, it goes in so many different directions.”
Hendrickson said the teams typically divide the rolls of animation, sound and programming among themselves. They start with the concept and goal of the game, and then the group members use Photoshop and Maya 3-D animation software to put together the final product.
“You have the project building — building from different people working the whole time as hard as they can on whatever specifics there are,” he said. “It’s kind of amazing how it all comes together so quickly.”
For many designers, the Game Jam will fill the void of the gaming major the New York State Education Department denied approval for last summer. Jeffers, the club’s treasurer, said he was devastated when the degree was shot down.
“My college decision was down to Ithaca College and the Rochester Institute of Technology, where I was accepted into the video game design program,” he said. “I decided to come to Ithaca … and they happened to have a video game design major that was opening up over the course of the years here, and I was just ecstatic. I felt as if it was meant to happen.”
Jeffers said the IC Game Developers Club gives him and other students a chance to explore video game designing and producing outside of the classroom. He said because he never had the chance to enter into the game design major, he is now creating his own major in Computer Information Systems. Jeffers said he was amazed he could make his own major based on game design.
“I remember in orientation when I first met my roommate,” Jeffers said. “He was telling me how he signed up for one of the
intro-level freshman courses about game design, and I thought, ‘This is amazing.’ From that day, he told me to go out and seek those classes if I was really interested.”
The Game Jam event has also inspired other gamers to get involved with designing programs. Junior Giovanni Colantonio, host of ICTV’s game-centric show “Game Over,” said he considers gaming a cultural and business trend worthy of study and is excited that an event like Game Jam is happening on campus.
“It is a really interesting idea to have people with the same interests come together — to create art together,” he said.