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 profiles the team behind technicolor platformer Colormental, a final project for Full Sail Real World Education's (Winter Park, FL) Game Design and Development program which earned a spot as a Student Showcase winner and is described as follows in the students' entry form:
"All the color has been drained from Chromopolis and you, Roy G. Biv, must battle the deadly Huemans and restore the lost colors of your cartoon world. Solve unique puzzles and work your way past deadly platforming traps that will get you that much closer to chilling back in full 256 again."
Gamasutra: What's the concept behind your IGF Student Showcase winning game, and give us an outline of the team that's behind it?
Well, all the color was drained from Chromopolis and you (Roy G. Biv) have to stop the deadly Huemans and restore all the color they stole from your world. You utilize five different elements that you absorb from the Huemans in addition to the color (fire, air, ice, lightning and poison). Each of these elements have their strengths and weaknesses. Your goals are to restore all the color in the world and solve unique elemental-based puzzles as you battle your way through Chromopolis.
Our team goals were to create a game that was original, pretty, balanced and fun. Most of all we wanted to have a great time putting it all together, which we did.
Our core team of Programmers:
Chris Aardappel - AI
AJ Bolden - Physics and Collisions
John Boyer - Engine Dev, Graphics Guru
Andrew Davis - Tools, Level creation, Animations
Will Dull - Particle/Effects System
Cory Lamontagne - HUD and Sounds
Sounds and Music:
Colormental is John's brainchild. John was the brains behind a lot of our module concepts. He has a great mind and was a giant asset to our whole team. Will hopped into our group ready to go, putting out ideas all over the place. He was our effects master and a great one at that. Always coming to meetings with a new effect or design to show off, and in the end, is a huge reason why our game is so pretty. He is very driven and really pushed our name out there.
Chris was our lead, keeping us in line. He worked countless hours tweaking AI to actually include the "I". Chris is quite possibly one of the best speakers I have encountered and he added life to every presentation we gave. I see him as a born-to-lead kind of guy.
The hardest job, in our opinion, was held by Andrew. He was in charge of everything Maya and animation/model related. Redesigning systems in the time he did is simply amazing, and he knows kung fu, what more can you ask for in a programmer?
Then there is AJ, our physics guy and a great writer. He provided a lot of the conceptual and story aspects of the game. AJ spent his hours tweaking and tweaking as we found bugs. We couldn't possibly count the hours he worked. Lastly, there's Cory. He was our "universal" guy. He designed the debug systems and dipped his fingers in a little of everything, not that we all didn't, but he was the go to guy when people had an particularly hard problem.
We'd like to thank all the Full Sail staff especially Justin Gallo, our game producer, for helping us and for all the great feedback. Thanks to all the asset people that worked on our game and responded to our posts online looking for concept art and music.
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?
Full Sail is the only kind of school we could have ever attended. It's kind of in your face, in a very good way. Everything is done at high speed, with great attention to detail as far as information learned. The instructors played a big part in not only our education, but our success in everything we did. To them, we owe a great deal. Colormental was our final project for Full Sail's Game Design and Development program. Consequently our second project for school, which helped us in being prepared, and reminded us that one can, in fact, live on carbonated beverages and day-old pizza.
GS: How long did development on the game take and what tools did you use to
Our final project class gives two months for design (Design Doc, TDD) and three months for actual production. Early on our group decided that working two days a week on our project wasn't going to work out well if we wanted to compete in the IGF Student Showcase. Will has been to the GDC the past two years and he has seen the quality of games in the Showcase.
We knew that some of those schools have a year or more to work on their games. Since we had only five months, our team decided to work it like a full-time job. We worked Monday through Friday 10-6 or more. We only worked on weekends before a milestone (Alpha, Beta, Final).
The fact that we made it into the Showcase was just amazing because we always
wanted something bigger for Colormental then just a grade in our school. For tools we used Visual Studio .net, Photoshop, Maya, 3D Studio Max, and lots of caffeine.
GS: What was the all-time best and all-time worst moment that you encountered
during the game's creation?
The best moment was during our final project presentation when we showed the
game off to the school. The whole experience of being able to show the game off to our friends and families was a great way to finish off a long couple of months and the fact that the response was so great, made us feel really confident.
Our team didn't have any really horrible moments during development. We ran into lots of small technical issues which were usually fixed in a matter of hours or days. We seemed to have our heads on straight and we really managed to look ahead at what issues or risks we'd face in the future and work out ways that we could avoid them. We did run into a lot of hardware issues. I think we had to send in our laptops for repair overall about eight times during development. We also had to scrap our memory manager early on and we had spent a lot of time trying to get it to work correctly and so we lost a lot of time that would have been spent on the AI.
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)?
Will has gotten over 50,000 hits to his online portfolio this month. Our team has gotten a lot of positive feedback from industry people. I'm sure some of our group members that are working non-industry jobs would be happy to hear from a number of game companies that would be interested.
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
First and foremost, gameplay is key. Most employers have seen their fair share of tech demos and what they would find more impressive is a team that can create a game that not only looks good but plays great and delivers a memorable experience. We make games to entertain, and while it's cool to say you used the latest technique, if you can make it truly fun and original, it's that much more special.
GS: Have you tried any of the other Student Showcase finalists? If so, which ones did you especially appreciate, and why?
Before the winners were announced we tried to play every game on the list. Some had broken links though, and we unfortunately didn't get to play those. We all loved Cloud. The amount of polish on this product is amazing. The music and the game play are very original. we love how you can mix the clouds together to create storms. This game basically blew us away. Please create more games! Please!
All the Student Showcase games were excellent this year. Our team is quite honored to be amongst such quality games.
GS: Name one thing that people probably don't know about your game.
We originally planned to finish the game for our final project and then start working on an "IGF" build. That is, a new version of the game with an extra level and boss fight that we would submit to the IGF. But because everyone was busy getting situated around the country, this never came to be. We still have tons of ideas for the game. We will add new things and release new versions of the game every now and then on Will's website (www.willdull.com).
We aren't sure if people understand the name Colormental. The "color" part of the name is obvious but the "mental" part is short for "elemental".
GS: Have you any other messages for your fellow Student Showcase winners?
work is truly inspiring and we cannot wait to meet some of the great
minds behind these games at the GDC. Everyone put in a great deal of
effort to get here. Be proud of yourselves. Eat your Wheaties.