Tamlyn Miller and Ryan Chadwick haven’t yet graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), but they’ve already landed coveted credits for design, writing, and voiceover work on a newly released video game by Watertown, Mass.-based Dejobaan Games LLC. The game – "AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! – A Reckless Disregard for Gravity" – has been nominated for an "Excellence in Design" award at the 12th annual Independent Games Festival, which will be held March 11 in San Francisco, Calif.
Miller and Chadwick are majors in WPI's innovative Interactive Media & Game Development (IMGD) program. They interned in summer 2009 at Dejobaan, whose founder and president, Ichiro Lambe, is a WPI graduate. Lambe took the students under his wing and invited them to help develop the video game, which is available for purchase only online. Miller, a senior; and Chadwick, a junior, have continued with Dejobaan on a contract basis to work on the game developer's 14th title, while they continue their studies at WPI.
"Ryan and Tamlyn contributed to our project in ways beyond what we expected out of undergraduate interns, with Ryan helping to shape the project's overall aesthetics, garnering us a recent nomination for Excellence in Design; and Tamlyn helping with research in an area called 'Procedural Content Generation,' which helped us do the work of a much larger studio," said Lambe, who is a member of WPI's IMGD Advisory Board. "I'm confident that these accolades will help Tamlyn and Ryan in their careers in the game industry. Knowing these students and the quality of their work, I’m especially proud to say that I'm also a WPI graduate."
In the game, players jump from building to building in Boston and perform stunts, weaving around the city to accumulate points, and making split-second decisions. "Aaaaa!" then throws in the spectators: As a player "falls," they can give fans a “thumbs-up," or a "less appropriate" hand signal to protesters. Miller worked on the game's voiceovers and skits, and programmed code that built its levels, while Chadwick took on developing models, textures, and concept drawings, and added aesthetic touches to the levels.
"For 'Aaaaa!,' I was able to add a great deal of my own touch," said Miller, who is a native of Cranston, R.I. "Since Dejobaan is an independent game developer, my input can definitely be seen in the game, which is something that makes me proud."
A Harvard resident, Chadwick said he is honored to be part of a professional team that has been nominated for a coveted "Excellence in Design" Award from the Independent Games Festival. "I'm still an undergraduate at WPI, but Tamlyn and I are actually working with real game industry professionals. WPI's IMGD major has given us the skills to help make an impact in this growing field, especially in Massachusetts."
WPI launched its IMGD major in 2005. The four-year undergraduate program blends both the artistic and technical aspects of game creation. Students receive a base education in both the artistic (art, music, and story), and technical (programming) aspects, and then select an artistic or technical concentration as the focus for the remainder of their program. They are also required to study social and philosophical issues associated with games and related media. The IMGD major is supported by WPI’s computer science and humanities and arts departments.
"WPI's IMGD program provides these incredibly bright, intelligent, and creative students an education that focuses on more than just their immediate areas of study,"Lambe noted. "IMGD project work is a great example of WPI's strengths; it’s an amalgam of logic, art, sound, and storytelling, which is great blend of technology and the humanities."
In the past two years, WPI students have placed in the top 3 in former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios Massachusetts Game Challenge (MGC). The contest, which is on hiatus this year, asks students to submit their original videogame creations to win prizes. In 2009, two WPI student teams placed in the top three, which was opened that year to colleges and universities from across the United States and Canada. In 2008, a team of WPI first-year students placed third in the contest’s inaugural year.
"The fact that so many of our students are already shining in the game industry – and they haven’t even yet graduated from WPI -- is a sign of how high the quality is of the students that are being attracted to the IMGD major," said Professor Mark Claypool, director of WPI's IMGD program.