The Green Team from the University of Huddersfield (aka Salt, Pepper, Done!) won X48, which took place at the University of Derby’s cutting edge Games Lab last weekend, (20-21st March 2009), with their game Seavolution. Students from universities in Derby, Wales, Nottingham, Huddersfield, Teeside, Lancaster, London, Bournemouth and Aberystwyth also took part.
Seavolution, made in less than 48 hours by Jay Walton and Dan Fitchie, is a one-button game aimed at GCSE/A-level Biology students. The objective is to guide Goldy the mutant goldfish through major eras in history to reach his maximum evolutionary potential. To do this, players must apply skill and adaptation to survive the ravages of the sea. Survival of the fittest is key, and to become the fittest, players need to collect colour-matched proteins to advance their DNA. Points are gained by collecting the correct molecules, and will be lost for incorrect ones. After beating the game, the amount of proteins accumulated are counted and will serve to act as a multiplier for a player’s base score.
X48 brought together 80 budding videogame design and development students from all over the UK who relocated to the University of Derby for this two-day intensive development session dedicated to gaming. Using Microsoft’s XNA Game Studio 3.0, X48 student teams were offered an unprecedented opportunity to be mentored by and have their work reviewed by computer giant Microsoft and UK broadcaster Channel 4– key sponsors of the two-day game camp produced by Pixel-Lab.
Sixteen teams competed, each tasked with making a game over two days on the theme of Evolution– a theme chosen in recognition of the 200 year anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, and 150 years since the publication of‘The Origin of Species’. Game design elements chosen by the competitors took in subjects as diverse as DNA, genetics and cloning; Richard Dawkins, creationism and religion; reproduction and sex; change over time; and even Vernor Vinge's concept of The Singularity, (a single point in time where human evolution is set to change beyond recognition, usually associated with the advancement of Artificial Intelligence). Each team was given extra points for educational, historical, biological, and anatomical accuracy.
“We were extremely impressed by the quality of the games produced,” says Jody Smith, Editor of E4.com,“especially because the teams had little more than a day and a crate of energy drinks to work from concept to completion. The different teams’ interpretation of the evolution theme varied greatly. There was everything from high-concept 3D strategy games to platform and beat‘em-ups, but the guys from Huddersfield Green wowed us in the end, with a creative learning angle to a simple but addictive gameplay mechanic. I look forward to seeing what all the very talented people who took part do next.”
“X48 had a fantastic buzz both online and offline. It was great to see the obvious skill and passion of the students in action, and we’re looking forward to seeing the games on Xbox Community Arcade in the very near future.” said Andrew Sithers, Microsoft’s UK Academic Lead.
Matt Birkin, Technical Support Manager, at the University of Derby, added;“the weekend went very well and it was a pleasure to host teams from across the UK. They seemed to get a real kick out of using the impressive array of equipment we have here at the games lab.”
“The University’s Derby Games Studio also sponsored a prize, to help send the X48 winning team to the Develop Industry Conference in Brighton in July.”
X48 winner Jay Walton said, "This is our first step onto the games industry ladder. I have spent the past few years studying hard for my degree and now, to win the X48 Game Camp, the work seems to be paying off– I must be doing something right!"
Winning team member Dan Fitchie said, "My background is in the sciences, so the evolution theme was brilliant for me. I remembered just how boring some of the methods of learning at college could be. So we thought why not make a game to try and make educating people on subjects like DNA interesting and fun? Winning showed me that my skills as an artist and team-worker must be of some merit otherwise we wouldn't have won."
Playable versions of the X48 games are now available for download at x48gamecamp.com where anyone can try them out and provide valuable feedback.
• Richard Birkin Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org / 07973480098 / Twitter: x48
• Sean Kirby, University of Derby 01332 593004 / 07876 476103 / email@example.com
• Rebecca Ladbury / rebecca.Ladbury@virgin.net / 07941 224 975
Logos and images for press use: www.x48gamecamp.com/press-resources
Notes to editors
X48 brought together 80 budding videogame design and development students from all over the UK who relocated to the University of Derby’s cutting edge Computer Games Lab for a two-day intensive development session dedicated to gaming.
The event was themed to challenge the students to develop games that looked beyond the traditional puzzle or first person shooter in a bid to create new conversations around gaming and to attract the attention of new audiences.
• Marcus Lynn, Technical Director, Lionhead
• Dean Calver, Lead Programmer, Splash Damage
• Tom Armitage, Maker and Writer, Schulze and Webb
University of Derby
University of Wales Newport
Nottingham Trent University
University of Huddersfield
University of Teeside
University of Lancaster
London Metropolitan University
University of Aberystwyth
X48 was produced by Pixel-Lab, a computer games and digital media development agency working across the UK’s computer game and digital media industries. Pixel-Lab advises, develops and delivers strategies to support growth in the games industry from skills development to support infrastructure. Pixel-Lab also works with organisations outside the industry, enabling them to harness the power of play. Pixel-Lab are developing a number of new programmes that put innovation and talent development at the heart of the game development process.
About Microsoft XNA Game Studio
XNA Game Studio helps game developers at every level, including students, hobbyists and professionals, access the largest installed base by providing professional-quality tools, support and solutions that can be used across Microsoft gaming platforms. More information can be found at http://creators.xna.com
Founded in1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq "MSFT") is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential. www.microsoft.com
About the University of Derby Games Labs
The Games Labs opened at the University of Derby’s Kedleston Road site in 2005.
Microsoft was involved with them from the very beginning, supplying equipment for the use of students studying Computer Games courses.
The University of Derby is both a Microsoft IT Academy– meaning it delivers Microsoft official courses to students and local businesses– and a member of the Microsoft Academic Alliance, so students have access to the latest products and can keep software when they leave. Licensing arrangements also allow students to use software at home at reduced rates.
Over the years the wealth of technology available to the University’s Games Labs has been expanded and updated. Built to replicate the commercial working environment, they allow small teams to work together, giving students a taste of how they would operate within a company once they have graduated. The suites’ technology includes state-of-the-art PCs with dual screen set ups, dedicated connections to many different gaming consoles, High Definition Televisions (HDTVs) and plasma screens.
The gaming consoles and development kit available in them ranges from retro master systems, mega drives, Sega Mega Drive and Jaguar to current models; including Microsoft Xbox 360 and Xbox Pod, Nintendo Gamecube and Playstation PS3.
The University also has the official development kits for Sony PSP, and Nintendo Gamecube. Students and staff use a variety of software platforms for games development, including Microsoft XNA, the Unreal engine, and Emergent Gamebryo.
About Channel 4
“Channel 4 Education broke new ground in 2008 by moving its television spend online: its budget of£6m was spent with British indie talent, in producing video, websites, services and games for 14-19 year olds, including the BAFTA-winning Bow Street Runner. 2009 has started with Routes ( www.routesgame.com) and a number of web, PC and cross-platform games soon to follow. Channel 4 Education aims to grow and support UK-based indie gaming talent in producing highly entertaining games and other services that have, at their heart, something fascinating to learn from,” www.channel4.com
About Flip Video UK Ltd
Flip Video is a pioneer in developing simple, affordable digital imaging solutions for the mass market. The revolutionary Flip Video family of camcorders ignited a new category of video cameras that puts the power to shoot and share video into the pockets of everyday consumers. Flip Video camcorders are the world's first with on-board software to enable editing, organising, and seamless video uploading to YouTube, MySpace and other video sharing sites. For media information contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Flip Video, visit the official UK website www.flipvideo.co.uk