Amid throngs of gamers and developers at this year’s PAX East convention, Kyle Flores ’22, MFA ’23, was stationed at the Clark University booth to show off “Spaceholder,” the virtual reality game he created with Becker School of Design & Technology peers. The game, featuring spooky elements, attracted the attention of convention-goers.
“Seeing people play and receiving great feedback was something that got us all really excited,” Flores says.
The annual PAX East convention celebrates gaming in all its forms, from electronics to tabletop play. More than 100,000 people — including job recruiters and investors — packed the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in late March to attend educational panels featuring industry superstars; see new game demos and musical performances; and, of course, play games.
For Clark students, the exposition presented an exciting opportunity to showcase the games they’ve developed throughout the academic year in Game Studio, a course that replicates a professional game studio environment where students get hands-on experience developing games.
Working on “Spaceholder,” Flores learned the value of simplicity.
“Try to make your game unique but not too fancy. I dealt with setbacks while programming because I made something too intricate,” he says. “Make something that works and then build off it.”
The BSDT showed eight games at PAX 2023 from graduate and undergraduate studios. In addition to “Spaceholder,” the Clark booth featured ImPAWsible Quest VR, Rapid Rabbit Robot, Discolosseum, Garden of Táozi, Love is a Numbers Game, Scam Call Catfish, and Sweetland Slumber Party (& the Familiars).
Professor Terrasa Ulm, director of the BSDT undergraduate program, and Professor Amanda L. Theinert, director of the MFA program, have been attending PAX East with students since the convention came to Boston in 2010.
“Being one of the first gaming programs at PAX and keeping that tradition every year is something we’re proud of,” says Ulm.
Steve Lucini, MFA ’23, developed “Discolosseum,” a digital trading-card game, with inspiration from “Yu-Gi-Oh” and “Magic: The Gathering.” In this game, players share a pool of resources they can use with each turn. The card art features intricate depictions of fantasy creatures that offer the player visual cues. The game starts simply and becomes increasingly difficult to master as more cards come into play.
“This project required artists more than any other role, which was hard to balance from the beginning to the end of development,” says Lucini.
With “ImPAWsible Quest VR,” Mengliu Lu ’22, MFA ’23, took on a new challenge. She had never worked on a game with animals before. VR goggles transport players into different environments through the point of view of an animal, such as a giraffe in the Sahara or a cat in a neighborhood.
“Our biggest challenge in development was rendering issues in VR,” she says. “We wanted to make the cats look realistic and puffy, and their hair caused the most issues for us.”
Lu wants players to feel empathy for the animals.
“It was really fun to imagine yourself as an animal and see what sort of challenges you encounter,” she says. “If people experience the life of a wild animal, they can feel more connected to that animal’s story and hopefully translate those feelings to the real world.”