Game Design | Programming School
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Game Boy Game Group

A group of game development students at UAT have banded together to create a game to play on Game Boy. Right now, the group is still in the alpha stage, under the supervision of UAT instructor Mike Eilers. The game, with the working title "Festival," revolves around a young boy and his robot exploring a technology festival in a culture that is increasingly hostile to the encroachment of technology on traditional life and labor.

So far, the group has written a 40-page script outlining the world, plot and characters. Concept art (see below) has been drawn up.They have created the graphics engine and started on creating the music, sound, tile background and triggers. The programmers have started on an editor for cut scenes that they built from scratch in Visual Basic. All the coding has been done in C, using an open-source compiler called HAM.

The game will be a role-playing game based on mini-games. "Instead of beating up monsters, you will solve puzzles," Eilers said.

David Koontz, the project lead and lead programmer, explains about the project:

I wrote a good chunk of the engine and now I'm concentrating on making sure we have a solid framework from which to build on new sections of the game next semester.

We are learning about the development cycle as a whole, especially the necessity of good planning. We have run into situations where critical components have been in development longer than expected and as a result other systems cannot be implemented. This has served to make us think long and hard about how our various game systems interact and attempt to create as little cohesion as possible so that systems can be improved without significant change to the overall system.

We initially wanted to implement the first third of the game story this semester. We didn't get that far mainly due to engine issues preventing us from actually implementing the various game scenes. Next semester we hope to be past most of these issues and able to concentrate fully on content creation and integration.

Pick a game that the GBA is suited to. After you have a reasonable game idea, scale it back to the point where you can see progress relatively soon. Nothing motivates the team like seeing their work reflected in a playable game soon after they complete it. This feedback cycle virtually guarantees that your teammates will be doing their part because the reward is so tangible.

Having strong leadership with clearly defined roles is essential to getting anywhere in a project like this. Tons of promising mods or original projects have been cut off at the knees when the lead on that project refused to put people in charge and not concern himself/herself with ruffling feathers. If the project is treated like "just a student thing for a portfolio" then that's what it will turn out like. If a project is run like a business then much of the politics that dooms many mod projects will be lessened. If you're looking to join a project and half the team members are "lead" something, run screaming. Find a group that's got a realistic goal and has a handle on how they propose to accomplish that goal from the engine selection to the delegation of responsibilities.