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Monday, December 22, 2014

Students create video game, profits go to charity

Instead of playing a video game, some students on campus are creating one that would benefit a charity for children with diabetes.

About 30 students are working together to develop Alloy, a video game in which players create robots out of scrap metal in a barren wasteland. The assignment is for the capstone course in the Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media program, and dozens of volunteers are also pitching in work for the project.

Once completed, the game will be available for free download online.

Those who play the game will have the option of making a donation to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The earning potential of a video game was evident to the students in the IFDM course. But making profits that the students were allowed to keep would have been legally complicated because the game is being produced through the University, not independently.

Profits would have been divided up between the school and the students working on it.

Hannah Gillis, the game’s producer and a senior in the IFDM program, said the students decided to donate the proceeds to the foundation.

“We wanted to capitalize on the opportunity with a good cause. We felt like JDRF was a good choice. My 6-year-old cousin was diagnosed with Type 1 (diabetes) about a year ago, and our director has family members with Type 1 as well, so JDRF was kind of close to heart.”

Eric Geusz, another capstone student, enjoys playing real-time strategy games. He said he wanted the game to have replay value.

The player develops the BuilderBot, which uses the available materials to create new bots. The bots are then used to find power crystals that power other bots. The crystals are coveted, and the dynamic creates a “capture the flag” situation.

Geusz said the robots in the game rely on juice pods to keep operating at top capacity, something similar to the insulin injections children with diabetes need. This was a small instance in which the game’s developers could relate the disease to the game aside from the fundraising aspect.

Students produce every aspect of the game — from the concept to the graphics, students are in charge.

Gillis is in charge of setting deadlines and goals for game. An important aspect of her job is to ensure that people have a job that matches their capabilities.

While most of the group’s leads are students in the capstone course, the majority of the game’s developers are not. The basic programming was done using Unreal Development Kit, which creates the basic platform for the game.

Gillis said that along with raising funds, the game’s developers are working on the Beta release of the game, which will come out on April 8. The live release for the game is April 21. The game will be available at AlloyVideoGame.com.