The Daily Illini

GameBuilders members collaborate to create unique applications

By Dominic Rose, Staff writer

Every day, students and faculty members utilize resources made available to them through technological advancements. Many applications downloaded onto smartphones have been created by students at the University in order to simplify specific tasks.

GameBuilders is an RSO dedicated to creating video games. Students work alongside one another to build and design every aspect of these games, from art to technology to coding.

According to Asaf Geva, senior in LAS, GameBuilders is both an RSO and a special interest group that is part of the Association for Computing Machinery. It is specifically dedicated to making video games by teaching people how to work and maneuver different software,  called game engines, that help in developing games.  

Geva said that while the club appeals largely to computer science and Engineering students, there are students of many different majors needed to create a game.

“In order to create a game to be released, you need artists and animators and sound designers and game designers,” Geva said. “It usually requires a large amount of people to make a full, complete game.”

Geva said he created a small project last year with his brother, called “Swoinz,” which he considers a tech demonstration. The object is to show a sleek algorithm that models the movement of insects. He designed a bunch of small triangles to showcase the natural, slow behavior of insects.

Sherry Yi, a Ph.D. student in education, is also a GameBuilders member and is creating an app called “Pettuce.”

“Pettuce” is a mobile app about pet lettuce. Yi described the game as a clicker game, like “The Sims” combined with “Pokemon,” where the player earns currency by repeating a simple action.

“The goal of the game is to collect all Pettuce that are available by sending them out on jobs or adventures,” Yi said. “Each species has its own success rate at bringing the player back a new minion.”

After joining GameBuilders this fall, she pitched her idea to her team. She came up with the app idea after she drew a doodle of lettuce.

Originally, Yi said the game was going to be a pet simulator, something along the lines of “Tamagotchi.” However, after she and her team went through revisions on the design and gameplay, they decided to create a pet collection game instead. Yi works with a volunteer-based group in the club that includes a mix of engineers and coders in addition to one art history and painting major.

Yi said the app will most likely be free with in-store purchase options.

Students who participate in GameBuilders don’t only meet like-minded students and get to turn their ideas into realities; they also have the opportunity to make connections that will help them on their career paths.

Mylene Haus, University alumnus, said GameBuilders started her programming, art, general development experience and skills related to games.

GameBuilders also has a great alumni network, some of which are currently in the gaming industry today,” Haus said. “These alumni have been incredibly helpful for those looking to seriously pursue a career in game development.”

Haus also said GameBuilders hosts developer visits and talks from major industry companies like EA. In the past, members toured Volition Studios, a popular video game development company in Champaign that created games like “Saints Row” and “Agents of Mayhem.”

Every year, GameBuilders hosts an annual trip to the Game Developers Conference in February or March, which Haus said is an amazing place to go to for anyone with an interest in video games.

One of the games Haus has the fondest memories of working on was a multiplayer 3-D game for PC called “Squirrella Warfare,” a squirrel-themed shooter game that was developed in a 24-hour period.

Not only was the game itself interesting to work on, but the very environment of everyone working on the game together through the whole night was such a blast,” Haus said. “I will surely remember it for years to come.”

While the creation of “Squirrella Warfare” was fun, Haus said that in general, creating games is a time-consuming, daunting and holistic process that requires a lot of energy.

While Haus believes anybody can do it, she said an individual has to truly commit to a project and accept that it could take weeks, months or even years to finish. If someone is working completely alone, they must be prepared to do work in terms of writing, art, design and music.

Haus said while this can be a challenge, getting involved in GameBuilders is a step in the right direction, regardless of how much experience an individual has.

If any or all of these fields are new to you, then get ready to do a lot of learning and practice, too,” Haus said.

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