TROY, N.Y., April 29, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Augmented Reality, Microsoft Kinect, mobile apps, and so-called "serious games" are all part of GameFest 2011, to be held May 6-7 at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The annual festival, now in its eighth year, is larger than ever, drawing on three collegiate game design programs, an exhibition of more than 30 student games, and appearances by industry leaders including Brian Reynolds, chief game designer at Zynga, developer of FarmVille and FrontierVille.
"GameFest is a showcase of creativity in games and electronic media - a public event to talk about how games and simulation are evolving," said Ben Chang, associate professor of arts and co-director of the Games and Simulation Arts and Science (GSAS) program at Rensselaer. "It features games of all kinds including ones that stretch the boundaries of what we think games are."
Both the games expo, and the symposium to follow, go beyond conventional video games to include the technology and uses that are broadening the field of games and simulation, and opening opportunities for students, said Lee Sheldon, associate professor of language, literature, and communication and co-director of GSAS.
"One of the things that we like to do with GameFest is show that all games don't have to be guys in metal suits with big guns," Sheldon said. "In fact, thanks to the iPhone and Facebook, the days of expensive AAA titles are pretty much over as the dominant form of game. Our students are making games that can reach an audience and make money outside that narrow form."
GameFest is hosted by the GSAS program at Rensselaer. The GSAS program was launched in the fall of 2007 to provide comprehensive understanding of interactive digital media, a balance of disciplinary competencies, and the mastery of a self-defined set of interrelated disciplinary challenges at the nation's oldest technical institute. GSAS has been named among the top 15 out of 150 undergraduate game design programs in the United States and Canada, according to a new survey from the Princeton Review. The program will graduate its first full class in May 2011.
GameFest Expands in 2011
GameFest 2011 is sponsored by Vicarious Visions, Zynga, Champlain College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, as well as 1st Playable Productions and Agora Games. The festival is divided into two days, with an expo of student-designed games on Friday, May 6, and speakers and panels on Saturday, May 7.
Sheldon said the theme of GameFest 2011 - "Transitions" - speaks to the transition of students as GSAS graduates its first full class, and the transition of a festival that is expanding its reach.
"Up until now it has been an RPI-centric event. This year we are expanding: we're welcoming other schools in the region. For the first time, GameFest will also include Champlain College and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. And we're expanding participation of commercial and serious game companies from startups like Deadman Productions to giants like Zynga," said Sheldon.
Student Game Demonstration and Competition
The games expo will be held on Friday, May 6, from 5 to 9 p.m. in the Alumni Sports and Recreation Center on the Rensselaer campus.
As part of the expo, 20 games will compete for cash prizes in an exhibition juried by Vicarious Visions, an Albany, N.Y., company founded by brothers Karthik Bala, RPI '97, and Guha Bala.
The competitors include:
- Feast, a mobile-phone based augmented reality game for the Android Operating System
- Dream Catcher and Rail Brawler - two games for the Microsoft Kinect system
- A Night in Twistwyck Manor, now available at UnPossible Games
- Yamada Box Legend, which explores a universe on the nanoscale
- And Tic, a game poised for release on the XBox Live Indie Marketplace
In Tic, designed by Rensselaer student Julian Volyn, gamers take the role of an industrial robot (a "unicycling, wall-drilling, helicoptering" robot at that, according to Chang) on a valiant quest to save its kind from the plans of Evilcorp. The game's intricate graphics draw users through a fantasy landscape of swirling shapes and marvelous creatures.
Feast, designed by Rensselaer students Yuting Lian, Nick Coppola, Chris DiPastina, and Paul DiPastina, is mobile phone-based for the Android Operating System that employs augmented reality, a new horizon in gaming that combines the physical world with the virtual world. The game is layered onto video captured through the phone's on-board camera.
"The way this game works, you have objects and images on a table top that when seen through your phone are transformed into the game world," said Chang. "It's a whole new area in games."
Marc deStefano, a clinical assistant professor of cognitive science at Rensselaer, said he was pleased to see Dream Catcher and Rail Brawler, two student-designed games building on the Microsoft Kinect platform.
"It's a new and exciting computer interface, and it could change the way we interact with machines in general," said deStefano. "It's only been out for a few months, so I considered it notable that we have two entries this year that use it."
A Night in Twistwyck Manor, designed by Rensselaer students Sheila Porter, Josh Elliot, Jesse Natalie, Kevin Todisco, and Erin McQuade, revolves around a boy who is dared to spend the night in a haunted house.
"It's a very creepy game that does some really fascinating things that mess with your sense of space and reality. It's a terrific puzzle-solving game," said Chang.
Yamada Box Legend, designed by Rensselaer students Thomas Astle, Justin Burdick, Ben Esposito, Yuliy Vigdorchik, Russell Honor, and Allie Johnston, takes users through the concentric worlds inside a nesting series of magical cardboard boxes.
"It explores the idea that what you do at the microscopic level, and in one of these nanoscale worlds, can have huge effects on the macro world," Chang said.
GameFest will present a series of speakers and panel discussions on Saturday, May 7, with sessions running from 9:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS).
Brian Reynolds will give the keynote address from 10 to 11 a.m. in the CBIS Auditorium. Reynolds is the chief game designer at the world's most successful mobile and social media game company, Zynga, developer of FarmVille, Mafia Wars, and FrontierVille.
Reynolds will discuss the fastest growing segments of the video game industry. Research firm Gartner expects global revenue from mobile gaming, the segment that includes games for smart phones, to rise 19 percent to more than $5.6 billion in sales this year, while it is forecast to grow to $11.4 billion in 2014.
Following the keynote address, four panels will take up the theme of "Transitions" with discussions on commercial games, serious games, entrepreneurship, and graduate schools.
Joining representatives of the sponsors at GameFest will be participants from Breakthrough, a human rights organization that uses the power of media, pop culture, and community mobilization to inspire people to take bold action for dignity, equality, and justice. Breakthrough recently launched a new alternate reality Facebook game, America 2049, that explores questions of democracy and human rights.
For more information on GameFest, including the schedule of events and registration for the symposium, visit the GameFest page on the GSAS website.
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SOURCE Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)