“Pressure Switch” Q&A with Professor Terrasa Ulm

Published on Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Professor of Game Design Terassa Ulm is a source of power and inspiration, leading a legion of talented game developers through challenges and opportunities. A great opportunity for Becker College student game developers is to showcase their work at PAX East, the largest games show on the East Coast. Professor Ulm answers question here about “Pressure Switch,” the featured game at the Becker College booth (#138) at PAX East 2013.

Q: Can I play “Pressure Switch” now, and how? Will people be able to play the game at PAX?

A: Pressure Switch will be exhibited and released for the first time at PAX East 2013. It will be showcased to play on the gaming stations at the Becker College booth.

Q: What makes “Pressure Switch” stand out from other games?

A: Pressure Switch showcases a student developed game engine using C# and XNA libraries with an emphasis on the 3D rendering pipeline and shaders. The game play focuses on the inherent choices gamers face often unconsciously – risk and reward, but in Pressure Switch, the choice is dramatically demonstrated with the very balance of life and death constantly being juggled. Rather than develop your character as a hero through moral choices, you must make strategic choices that reveal your nature as either a live for the moment or more defensive creature.

Q: What is your goal for the game—sale to a game company, creation of a new company, sell direct to consumers, mobile app?

A: The goal is to sell direct to consumers as an indie-developer. One of the many advantages of the Becker College program is that it provides not only the education required to succeed, but also the resources and opportunities that might otherwise be sacrificed in order to complete one’s four year undergraduate degree. The resources to complete a game title and the opportunity to release at PAX East are tremendous stepping stones for any up and coming game designer/developer, and to be able to make that part of your degree is a significant advantage.

Q: What is behind your decision to make the game’s hero suffer as he attempts to achieve his goal?

A: The reality is people make sacrifices, big and small, and in the game world, that choice is always integral, but not always at the forefront of play. Pressure Switch forces the player to be fully aware of the consequence of a double-edged decision, to face a constant sense of unease with each use of the game mechanic. This brings about a unique style of play and in a sense, provides a psychological assessment of the player that he/she cannot ignore but perhaps had never taken a close look at before.

Q: What makes playing “Pressure Switch” fun?

A: The high tension level throughout as well as the self-revelations that occur as you play, make the game exciting to play and increases replay value as the player may wish to have a heroic do-over!

Q: What was the inspiration for “Pressure Switch”?

A: The concept that having multiple lives in a game is so unnatural and takes away from the sense of competition and tension that it begs the question, what if you pushed that idea further and basically forced loss of life in order to play and ultimately ‘win’.

Q: What do you want players to learn from “Pressure Switch”?

A: Players should learn a bit more about themselves as gamers and as humans. At your core, are you frugal, an adrenalin junkie, optimistic? Your score in Pressure Switch should tell you quite a bit.

Q: Is there any educational value to the game?

A: Every game is educational, but the unique take-aways for Pressure Switch are about your individual sense of balance and risk management.

Q: How hard is it to make a video game?

A: There are any number of areas of focus within game development which provide challenges and no one has ever described the process of completing a game as easy. The number one component to successfully making a video game though is passion, which makes all of the difficult tasks labors of love and not just hard labor.