At the beginning of their semester, Game Development students presented their ideas to classmates, then voted on the pitch they liked best. The winning idea was Magic Masks, an adventure puzzle game set in a world called Season Land. For the next seven weeks the students set to work developing the game, coming up with the idea to create two masks with different abilities for a character called Lido, and designing different environments and levels. Next, they added new concepts and created a storyboard. Finally, they created a second character named Rosy and developed two additional masks. To travel through all 24 levels, players utilize push blocks, create their own blocks and more to solve puzzles and travel through the four seasons.
The student team submitted their game to the Entertainment Software Association’s 2015 E3 College Game Competition. The contest provides students the opportunity to exhibit their work at E3, the world’s premier trade show for computer, video and mobile games. For E3, more than 400 university game development programs submitted their games’ story details and content assets to be judged by a panel of game industry veterans and media professionals, with the potential to win a coveted special showcase display at E3, plus valuable networking opportunities. The Academy students were ecstatic to be chosen as one of just five finalists at E3. As a result, Magic Masks received tremendous visibility and has also been featured at Comic Con 2015, PAX Prime 2015, Comic Expo 2016, SXSW 2016 and GDC 2016.
From Demo to Development
Magic Masks was accepted on Steam Greenlight, an online platform that enlists the community’s help in picking some of the new games to be released on the gaming platform Steam. With thousands of games and millions of users, Steam is a powerful force in the digital gaming world. It’s where users discover and download games, and consequently it’s a resource for independent developers to gain exposure and potentially release their games. “Because Steam provides such a large community, we will have access to over 100 million users, and a chance for some of them to see and hopefully download and play Magic Masks,” says Andrew Miller (2013 MFA graduate of Game Development), who worked on the game’s rigging and animation. “I never would have thought that I could work on a published game so soon in my career, but more and more it’s becoming easier for small teams and developers to do so.”
Once a game gets enough votes, it’s advanced to “greenlit” status. From there the game’s creators can finish developing the game and release it for purchase on Steam. Not long after Magic Masks was submitted to Steam Greenlight, it received enough community votes to be greenlit. “It’s an unbelievable feeling when there are so many people who like what we are making,” said Yulong “Tobby” Tao (2016 MFA, also Game Development) who worked on Magic Mask’s 2D and 3D art. “This gives me so much passion to continue making video games. It’s appreciation for our hard work, it’s approval for our skills in developing games, and it’s motivation to work even harder to make the game better for players.” The team is continuing to develop the game–and creating an impressive game design portfolio in the process–employing feedback from potential customers on Steam Greenlight, and creating an active community around the game.
“[The Academy] has helped me make this dream come true.”
—An “Rolf” Chung (2016 MFA, Game Development), lead designer of Magic Masks