Viz prof’s pointers help teens win national video game competition

A student team from College Station High School captured first place in a national interactive application and video game development contest with a little advice from professional game developer André Thomas, a visualization lecturer at Texas A&M.

The students created a game, “Batventure,” in which an albino bat, lacking the camouflage necessary to survive in a cave and abandoned by his family, strikes out on his own.

In developing the game, the team sought advice from Thomas, who for seven years prior to joining the visualization faculty, led graphic development, planning and implementation for EA Sports’ football videogames.

The students’ game is available free on Google Play for Android mobile devices.

After meeting with Thomas, student developers Tyler Johnson, Samantha Villalobos, Pablo Villalobos and Kelvin Wang, made several changes to the game’s appearance, including changing the landscapes and adjusting the color of the bat.

“This is awesome,” said Thomas, as he played the game on a tablet, guiding the bat through an urban landscape, under the watchful eyes of the two Villaloboses, brother and sister, during a recent campus visit.

The game captured top honors at the National Leadership and Skills Conference, hosted June 25 and 26, 2014 in Kansas City by Skills USA, a nonprofit organization serving high school and college students preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations.

Competitions at the conference took place according to parameters set by each contests’ respective industry.

Each student on the “Batventure” team received more than $11,000 in scholarships, software and prizes.

The students are soon headed to a game developers’ conference in Seattle, where they will mingle with and learn from industry developers. They were invited to the event by Unity Technologies, whose software the students used to create their game.

posted August 11, 2014