Becker Game Students Use New Tech to Make Games for PAX East 2017

Published on Friday, March 10th, 2017

Becker College is becoming known as the place you can come for a “future-proof” education. With its Interactive Media programs—game design, game development and programming, game production and management, and game art—Becker’s School of Design and Technology has its eye on the future, and has launched “Ludi Futuri,” (that’s Latin for “Games of the Future”) at PAX East, March 10-12 in Boston.

The Games

Ludi Futuri encompasses a collection of student-made games using new tech, all on display at the eighth annual gaming convention that has “rocketed in popularity, selling out every year to become one of the biggest gaming conventions in the U.S. (along with PAX West in Seattle),” according to gaming news website Pixelkin.

For each of PAX East’s eight years, Becker College has hosted a booth to showcase student work, and one could say the Becker booth has “skyrocketed” in the level of technology and number and sophistication of games on display. Games included in #BeckerPAX17 are:

  • Puzzle Hamster VR, a virtual reality game using Vive hardware,
  • Mailforce Elite, using 3D Rudder hardware,
  • Jay Walker, using Microsoft Hololens hardware,
  • Mystria, a virtual reality game using Vive hardware,
  • Watch Out!, which uses Tobii Eye tracking hardware, and
  • Zap Zap Zombie Cats, which Form Z 3D printing technology.

Games that are played using 3D Rudder hardware are controlled by foot, and games that use Tobii Eye tracking hardware follow the movement of the eye, enabling game developers to create games accessible to people with some mobility challenges, according to Professor of Game Design Terrasa Ulm. Ulm advised the “Puzzle Hamster” and “Watch Out!” student development teams.

“We will have other games at the booth as well, that fall outside of the “ludi futuri” theme,” says Ulm. “Of particular interest is an arcade game for which the students built their own cabinet and button interface, and a multiplayer game which we printed 3D characters from, and a mobile puzzle game which is themed around computer/tech viruses.”

The Tech

The Vive virtual reality headset topped the Popular Science “Best of What’s New” list in 2015, and the Vive company and its partners are continuing to innovate beyond games into medical and business industries.

The 3D Rudder foot-powered VR controller was launched in 2016, to allow players to “move intuitively and naturally.” 3D Rudder can also become a tool for developers to create accessible games. “It readily emulates keyboard keys, a full mouse, or a joystick at the feet, letting disabled people do new and more things with their computer,” according to a company press release.

Microsoft’s Hololens is billed as “the world’s first holographic computer.” The “mixed reality” headset allows the wearer to view and interact with holograms, but does not block out the external environment, like virtual reality.

In January of this year, the Tobii company announced that it would be bringing “eye tracking solutions to multiple new consumer technology categories including VR, personal computing, and smartphones.” Tobii offers a number of gaming devices and has released more than 45 titles of eye tracking games.

The Gamers

Becker “game students,” as they are popularly and affectionately referred to, learn their craft in a real world studio environment. Teams that include designers, programmers, producers, and more, collaborate as they would at a real game company. Industry pros visit campus, and sometimes work and teach on campus as a digital fellow.

Students are exposed to opportunities to connect with developers at many levels, on and off campus. Students regularly attend events like PAX East, the Indie Train Jam, the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC), and the MassDiGI @ Becker College Game Challenge. Having MassDiGI @ Becker College is a pipeline to connect Becker students to students at other colleges and industry employers, and to find publishers for their games. The Becker chapter of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) hosts game jams and other events.

For several Becker seniors, PAX East is a big stage to showcase their work that, on April 20, they will present to prospective employers at the Game Design Senior Showcase, on the Becker College Leicester, Mass. Campus.