Huddersfield Team Takes X48 Competition

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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.

In : PC

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