Games designers at the University of Chester have ‘packed a punch’ at their first ever entry in the biggest ever UK student game jam.
Lauren Davies, Abigail Hunt, Nicholas Pollard, Will Sowden, Daniel Stockdale and Elliot Whitehouse, otherwise known as Alpaca Punch Studios, came second overall with their game Road to Utopia, created during a marathon 36 hour competition.
The event featured teams from 20 educational institutions from across the UK and students taking part were challenged with designing and creating a game from scratch in just 36 hours.
This is the third annual competition run by Ukie (the UK Interactive Entertainment Association), a non-profit trade body supporting and promoting the wider games and interactive entertainment industry in the UK.
The event was held as part of the London Games Festival.
The students’ game designs were judged on concept, playability, narrative and creativity.
Each institution was allocated an industry mentor, with Alpaca Punch being mentored by Chris Payne from BAFTA awarding winning games design company, Traveller’s Tales, who create the multi-million selling LEGO videogames.
Programme leader of the BSc in Games Development at the University of Chester Ralph Ferneyhough joined the University last summer after a highly successful career in the computer games industry.
He explained what the team of first year students had to do within the challenging time scale: “They had from 9.30am until midnight the following day to design and create a game related to this year’s theme ‘Utopia’. Our students made use of one of the game engines we teach here (GameMaker Studio) and created a game which followed a grandfather recounting his story of the struggles he had many years ago surviving after an apocalyptic event and trying to reach Utopia – the city he lives in today. The player re-enacted that story, controlling the grandfather when he was a boy, making his way stealthily past roving guards and collecting food to survive.
“Another lecturer on our BSc course, Lee Beever, and I were with them for much of the time, offering support and guidance, and Chris visited three times to help them design and manage the creation process of the game. However, all of the work was the students’ own, and it resulted in a fully realised and playable game, full of hand-drawn art and levels all created from scratch in such a short space of time. We were all there right up until midnight on the second day, and the final game was submitted with about 50 seconds to spare!”
The students themselves all enjoyed the competition.
Lauren said: “It was an intense and incredible experience, I can’t believe we did so well”.
“It was definitely fun and challenging,” said Will. “Everyone did their part in creating something awesome and the end result was fantastic.”
Elliot added: “This experience has given me a realistic insight into the game industry, especially when it got to the crunch at the end.”
Ralph said: “Our team did amazingly well, especially given that all our students taking part were first years – they were up against many more experienced teams, even those at Master’s level. They have really shown they can apply the skills we are helping them acquire, and work together to create a complete game in an amazingly short time. I am extremely proud of the tenacity, determination and sheer hard work they displayed.”