Phoenix Makes Games Jam tests skills of Arizona developers

Game developers from across Arizona participated July 18-20 in Game CoLab‘s Phoenix Makes Games Jam, a 48-hour challenge to create a video game.

Four teams built games for the event based around a dinosaur theme and presented them July 20 at Arizona State University in Tempe.

“We wanted to bring people together and show them what we could do,” Game CoLab co-founder Ben Reichert said. “I wanted to do something that kind of symbolized Arizona because we do have some archaeological things here.”

Game CoLab has hosted game jams in the past with the most recent being the Phoenix Global Game Jam.

“With the global game jam we didn’t have any prizes and I’m really excited we had some prizes this time,” Reichert said.

A panel of judges chose the winners based on theme, programming quality, art style and gameplay features.

Event sponsors included the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Ascendum, Arizona State University, The University of Advancing Technology, Unity, Cartel, Cosplay Fan Gear and “Indie Game: the Movie.”

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The winning team behind Dinosaur Story.

First place and the prize of a permanent Unity Pro license went to Dinosaur Story, a dinosaur exploration simulator that challenges the player with surviving in a 3-D world. The player dinosaur must prey on weaker dinosaurs while evading larger ones that can kill it, team member Tyler Knecht said.

“It’s a battle between surviving hunger and not being eaten,” Knecht said. “Eventually plants won’t suffice and you need to become a predator to survive.”

The Dinosaur Story team included Knecht, Ian Robinson, Bo Eleftheriou and Noti Peppas. It also won the ASU Center for Science and Innovation award and a $50 Steam gift card for its inclusion of real-world science such as its sun cycle and trees that grow over time.

Second place and two one-year Unity Pro licenses went to Dino Panic, a 2-D side scroller following a dinosaur as it tries to escape the oncoming inferno of a meteorite while dodging various obstacles.

While escaping, the player picks up items that allow the unlocking of different playable dinosaurs. It was developed by Heath McKinney, Dan Roush and Juan Ramirez. Dino Panic also earned the Audience Choice award and a copy of “Indie Game: The Movie.”

Heath McKinney demonstrates the gameplay of Dino Panic.
Heath McKinney demonstrates the gameplay of Dino Panic.

The judges awarded third place and a one-year Unity Pro license to Dino Digger, a game where the player controls an archaeologist at a dig site. The Minesweeper-like title gives the player a set budget of $1,000  to find fossils, which add points, while avoiding injuries that subtract points.

Shawna Davis and Dominic Galasso developed Dino Digger. Davis said the choice to not include live dinosaurs was an attempt at a more realistic style.

“We wanted to take sort of a real-world approach,” she said.

The fourth game at the event was Rappy the Oviraptor, a 2-D sidescroller that lets players control Rappy as he collects randomly spawning eggs and dodges other oviraptor enemies.

The team behind Rappy the Oviraptor was Joshua Barnett, Heather Waters and Christopher Martinez.

Barnett said the team had trouble finishing the game in 48 hours due to their choice to build their own engine instead of using Unity.

“I think it was ambitious of us to try to build an engine, but we could have just used Unity,” Barnett said.

Reichert said he was impressed by the final products at the Phoenix Makes Games Jam.

“It’s a big part of our mission at Game CoLab to highlight game development in the Valley,” he said. “There’s nothing better than getting your hands dirty and creating a game.”

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