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GCG: Student Postmortem - Gamebuilders' QuantumS

In a rapid-fire postmortem on GameCareerGuide, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Gamebuilders share the ups and downs of developing QuantumS,
A special interest group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign called Gamebuilders created a stealth-based, puzzle video game using XNA. In a rapid-fire postmortem on GameCareerGuide, the students share what went right and wrong in developing their title, QuantumS, particularly in the lead up to the Independent Games Festival Student Competition submission deadline. Gamebuilders is composed of a number of small teams working on individual projects. After choosing their projects at the beginning of the year, each team works on theirs independently until the end of the year when games are exhibited at Engineering Open House. In QuantumS, the player takes on the role of a young boy who must use his time traveling power to evade guards, solve puzzles, and escape a ship that he's trapped on. Similar to last year’s The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, from students at the University of Southern California, the game play revolves around the player recording his or her character's actions to a timeline, and teaming up with past versions of herself, which repeat everything that was done before traveling back in time. Kevin Dressel (project lead, lead programmer, and artist), the student who wrote the postmortem on behalf of the team, discusses in the article why developing a game that toys with time travel is exceedingly difficult. He also mentions in the "What Went Right" section that they used A* pathfinding and a "primitive state-based AI" to drive the enemy guards in the game. "The guard AI was one of the most complex pieces of our game, requiring editable waypoints, efficient ray casting to determine whether the guard could see [the player character] Timmy, and appropriate behavior near closed doors and chests," Dressel writes. As for what went wrong, supporting Xbox 360 was more difficult than the students had hoped. "When we decided to use the XNA framework," Dressel writes, "we intended to include support for the Xbox 360. Unfortunately, not enough foresight and testing went into the design process to allow our final build enough playability on the console. "The intricacies of the Xbox 360, such as limited garbage collection, were unaddressed throughout much of the development cycle, and the overall (and generally false) acceptance of the XNA framework’s ability to give a carbon-copy experience to our PC counterpart ended up shooting us in the foot when the console build was finally tested. Preemptive research into matters like these may have helped us thwart these problems early on." The complete postmortem of Gamebuilder’s Quantums is available on GameCareerGuide.com, Gamasutra’s sister site for educational issues related to game development and student game developers.

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