2006 IGF Student Showcase Q&A: Kickbach Studios (Sea of Chaos)

This Q&A features one of this year's IGF Student Showcase winners, Kickbach Studios from DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, WA, discussing their story-driven 3D action naval combat game, Sea of Chaos.


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 Kickbach Studios from DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, WA, who earned a spot as a Student Showcase winner with their 3D action naval combat game Sea of Chaos, described as follows in the students' entry form:

"Sea of Chaos is a story-driven 3D action naval combat game. Defend your homeland against the evil Vandamourians, battle ferocious pirates, and acquire new ships and upgrades to help you achieve your ultimate goal of bringing peace to the seas."

Kickbach Studios' Sea of Chaos

Gamasutra: What's the concept behind your IGF Student Showcase winning game, and give us an outline of the team that's behind it?

The original idea for Sea of Chaos started from the airship battles in Skies of Arcadia and ended as a 3D story-driven naval combat game.

Kickbach Studios was formed in 2004 at the start of the fall semester from parts of two other teams. We have varied levels of experience programming and hail from all over the country. Kickbach Studios is Ryan Dudley - Producer / Physics Programmer, Luke Lenhart - Technical Director / Graphics Programmer, Johnney Nguyen - Game Designer / Gameplay Programmer, Daniel Kellogg - Product Manager / Network Programmer, Steve Romero - Lead Tester / AI Programmer, and our art team of Katie Clark and Sirio Brozzi.

We are still together today, sans Daniel and the artists, working hard on our next title - Brigades, a 3D war-themed action shooter.

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?

Sea of Chaos was created as our junior project for our game development class at DigiPen Institute of Technology. The degree program we are in is for a BS in Real-Time Interactive Simulation (Computer Science). It is a four year degree program covering several aspects related to game development focusing on C++ programming. Every year includes a game class where students work in teams of usually four to five people, to design and create a game using what we have learned. Game projects increase in complexity each year and usually span over two semesters.

GS: How long did development on the game take and what tools did you use to create it?

Sea of Chaos took roughly 9 months to develop over a period of two semesters at Digipen as well as some final touch-ups the following summer. Well over 3000 total man-hours went into it.

Most of our programming was done in VC.NET using C++. Our graphical assets were created using 3DS Max, Blender3D, Photoshop, and the GIMP. Our music was created using Cakewalk Home Studio 9, and synthesized on a SB Live with a custom soundfont. Additionally, all of our documents (TDD, GDD, etc) were created in OpenOffice. We also created our own tools specifically for the game, including a map editor and a simple menu editor.

GS: What was the all-time best and all-time worst moment that you encountered during the game's creation?

The all-time worst moment was during the presentation of our prototype milestone. We had a completely different user interface and control scheme, that was not well-received. After which we realized that the interface needed a complete overhaul.

There were several high-points throughout the development of this game: The first cutscene, when we got the first ships from our artist, when the bird-juggling mini-game was created. But the all-time best moment was our final presentation when we were able to show off the completed project to the entire school.

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)?

We have just begun to look for jobs so professionally we do not have anything to report. But fellow students and instructors often complement us on how well the game turned out.

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?

The number one thing to do is to have a nice, polished game that is complete. It doesn't have to be overly complicated or anything, just focus on the things that are important to making your game look and feel good. Don't worry so much about creating a lot of content such as levels and extra modes. As long as you focus on say a few levels that are highly immersive with the core gameplay you want the player to experience, then you will have a pretty good basis to demonstrate your game. And if you happen to have time, then you can add all the extra levels and cool stuff later.

GS: Have you tried any of the other Student Showcase finalists? If so, which ones did you especially appreciate, and why?

One of the other finalists that we were most fond of was Ocular Ink since it had a nice tutorial and its gameplay was innovative.

GS: Name one thing that people probably don't know about your game.

There are several things that most people don't know about Sea of Chaos.

If it was completed according to our original design, it would have been more of a strategy game, but over the course of the project, it evolved into an action game. There also would have been ten levels instead of five, levels five through nine were cut due to time constraints.

In the final version that we turned in to DigiPen, there was a free-roaming "world" game where you could sail around freely between all the areas in the game as well as some special areas we created specifically for it; however, it is not in the IGF version, as we were unable to get it fully polished in time.

As for things that actually made it in the game, there is the bird-juggling minigame mentioned earlier, and also you have the ability to control your allies via an interface accessed by pressing Caps-Lock.

GS: Have you any other messages for your fellow Student Showcase winners?

Congratulations on earning this achievement. Good luck in the future. And to anyone that is still in school, maybe we'll see you again at next year's IGF.

P.S. - Make me a sandwich.


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