In the run-up to the 2006 Independent Games Festival, which is held at Game Developers Conference 2006 in San Jose from March 20-24, 2006, Gamasutra is showcasing a number of the IGF finalists in different categories. As part of a series of Gamasutra Education-exclusive articles, we profile the 2006 IGF Student Showcase winners by interviewing them about their award-winning titles, which will be playable at the IGF Pavilion at GDC this March.
This feature interviews Nuclear Monkey Software from DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, WA, who earned a spot as a Student Showcase winner with their environmental puzzle game Narbacular Drop, described as follows in the students' entry form:
"Narbacular Drop is an environmental puzzle game in a fantasy setting, where the player navigates a dungeon with two interconnected portals. The dungeon has a series of traps and puzzles, which the player must solve by moving around objects in the environment using the portals. The key feature of this game is the Portal System. The game will be developed for the Windows 2000/XP PC. The game is non-violent and would receive an E for Everyone rating. The target audience is young casual gamers and hardcore gamers."
GS: What's the concept behind your IGF Student Showcase winning game, and give us an outline of the team that's behind it?
In Narbacular Drop you can explore the environment and overcome challenges in each level through portal gameplay. The seven of us were very passionate about finding a unique game-play mechanic that isn't like any other game out there.
GS: Tell us a little bit about the school and school program which were behind the game's genesis? Was this part of a course or final project? What kind of degree program did it count towards?
Our team came together at the DigiPen Institute of Technology to collaborate on our senior game project. Half of us were enrolled in the Real-Time Interactive Simulation program (which boils down to a computer science degree) and the other half were in the 3D Animation Program.
GS: How long did development on the game take and what tools did you use to create it?
It took us 2 semesters, which is the equivalent of about 8 months or so. The tools that we used to create the game were Visual Studio for coding, DirectX for our graphics package, Fmod for our sound package, Photoshop and 3DSMax for art, and Hammer for level design.
GS: What was the all-time best and all-time worst moment that you encountered during the game's creation?
It's difficult to chose a best moment, creating this game was a wonderful experience and it brought us closer together as a team. As for the worst moment, that would be cutting features because of time constraints. There were a lot of things we would have enjoyed adding.
GS: Do you (yet) have any success stories or positive experience based on showing the student game to people in the game industry (praise, actually getting a job in the biz, etc)?
Every year, DigiPen puts on an expo for the senior class to allow developers to take a look at our final projects. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with representatives of Valve and they were excited about what we were doing. Because of Narbacular Drop, our team is now collaborating with Valve.
GS: What are the most important things that student games should be showing off, in terms of both getting high marks in your courses and impressing potential employers?
Originality is essential! When you're in a learning environment it pays to experiment, you don't have to follow trends in the industry or cater to a publisher. Also, embrace your limitations, and take into account time constraints and resources. All in all, chose a game design that you'll have fun making, and in the end will be proud to be a part of.
GS: Have you tried any of the other Student Showcase finalists? If so, which ones did you especially appreciate, and why?
We're pretty sure that all the other entrants are checking out the other games, just like us. It's definitely an honor to be included among these projects.
GS: Name one thing that people probably don't know about your game.
The name "Narbacular" is a nonsense word came about because one of our teammates wanted to make sure that our website could easily be found when typed into Google. Luckily, the idea worked -- try it.
GS: Have you any other messages for your fellow Student Showcase winners?
We hope that everyone had as much fun making their game as we did ours, and wish everyone the best of luck in their future endeavors in the game industry!