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Fall 2022 Semester Recap

MonRiverGames members have been working hard this semester to bring our games to life. Between Spy Cats, Dawn of Alina, and One Man’s Trash - developers, artists, and writers honed their skills and flexed their talent through exploring the game development process. We invited Fall 2022 members to share some of their favorite moments and thoughts about their experiences at the studio over the past few months. If you would like to be part of the studio, the sign up link is here: https://tinyurl.com/MRGSignUp

 

Zach Hubbard


“Game dev is so vast. Whatever your strengths are, there is something in game dev for you.” Zach, vice president of the WVU Game Developer’s Club, joined MonRiverGames in the summer of 2022. He served as one of the primary developers during the fall semester, working on all titles, as well as independent projects of his own.


“I like to challenge myself,” he said. His favorite experiences from this semester were the ones that were the most difficult to figure out. Between learning how to animate characters and configuring a player inventory to save its state, Zach faced challenges head-on. He also enjoyed writing a blog for the MonRiverGames website, something he had never done before. “It was a really fun experience,” said Zach. “You are part of something larger than just doing assignments for a class. You’re part of a studio.” Zach will graduate in spring of 2023 as a computer science major.


Favorite Game: Red Dead Redemption 2



Malachi Ruffin


“Do not be afraid to make mistakes.” Malachi, a new member of MonRiverGames as of this fall, dove headfirst into both design and development throughout the semester. His favorite experience was creating assets for One Man’s Trash as part of a team. He enjoyed “working off of Emma,” the creative director behind the game, and “really thinking about how to create things in a certain way” to incorporate other’s ideas and creations.


Malachi also challenged himself to learn new things. “The learning curve was frustrating,” he said about his first experience with Unity and C# programming. “I literally wanted to pull my hair out.” Although it was a challenge, designing and programming a level independently cemented Spy Cats as his favorite studio game of the semester. Malachi is an advertising and public relations major and will graduate in the spring of 2023.


Favorite Game: Call of Duty: Black Ops II



David Wolfe


“Never stop exploring outside of the class,” said David. “Take the initiative to go learn different things.” Throughout the fall semester, David supported MonRiverGames as a primary developer on Spy Cats and Dawn of Alina. He said his favorite experience, as well as his most challenging experience, was troubleshooting and polishing code from other developers. “It felt cool to do more in a project instead of just doing tasks and jumping through everybody’s code,” he said.


“It was cool seeing other people’s ideas and how they implemented it versus how you would.” David supported MonRiverGames by combining individually developed levels into a cohesive game to be play-tested at events like BitBridge and the WVU art/media showcase. He also developed original games throughout the semester, including Kevin, which were tested and given feedback by the studio. David looks forward to graduating in December 2022 with a major in Interactive Design for Media.


Favorite Game: The Last of Us Series



Tessla Muir


“It was cool to try a bunch of different things.” Tessla left her mark on the studio this semester as a designer, artist, and programmer. Originally recruited from the computer science department, she delved into Blender modeling to create her first 3D model of a dragon by following a Udemy course. Her programming expertise is evident in one of her favorite and most challenging experiences this semester. She loved creating a complete dialogue editor for One Man’s trash, and was challenged when creating an entire original editor for the inventory system. Much like her Blender model, she was self-taught in many of her programming endeavors, utilizing tutorials and online resources to finish her projects.


Tessla also created the concept and pitch for Spy Cats, which was a semester-long project that allowed each student to design and develop their own individual level. As a multifaceted member of MonRiverGames, Tessla recommends that those interested in developing for the studio have some prior experience programming. She advises those not coming from a computer science background to try taking CS 110 or prepare in advance. Tessla will graduate in the spring of 2023 with a degree in computer science.


Favorite Game: Stardew Valley



Jackson Sigler


“Take this class if you’re truly interested in game design.” As president of the UI/UX Club, Jackson offered a unique perspective and talent to MonRiverGames this semester. His graphic designs can be seen throughout the layouts of various studio games. Jackson’s favorite studio game, Spy Cats, features a custom level selector layout of his creation with “top secret” folders and a hidden stage.


While the fall was his first semester of MonRiverGames, Jackson’s previous programming experience helped him create a robust Doodle Jump clone, as well as a polished independent level for Spy Cats. His favorite part of Spy Cats was coding his cat to do backflips during the jumping animation. Although he enjoyed his work with MonRiverGames, as he prepares to enter the graphic design industry, Jackson recommends that students with a stronger interest in UI or UX take advantage of the spring capstone that emphasizes that curriculum. He looks forward to graduating in December of 2022 with a major in Interactive Design for Media.


Favorite Game: God of War (2018)



Emma Chase


“Working collaboratively on a game that’s a little baby of mine is really, really cool.” Emma’s experience with MonRiverGames started with one of her first games as a developer, and is wrapping up with her at the helm of her idea and the studio’s newest title, One Man’s Trash. “Creating the story has been my favorite part,” she said. After adapting one of her existing pitches to meet the theme of ‘death is useful,’ Emma’s idea for One Man’s trash came to life.


In addition to creating social content for MonRiverGames, she also enjoyed working on Spy Cats and creating her own level, even though programming in Unity was challenging. “I’m proud of myself because I’d taken a video game class in the past and I wouldn’t even know what to look at,” she said. “I know what is wrong and I’m able to at least start troubleshooting.” Emma also did not have much experience creating digital art, so she enjoyed making assets for games like Dawn of Alina and Spy Cats. Her spirit for learning new things inspired her peers. “Everyone needs help with something, so don’t be afraid to ask,” she advises future students. “The class is based on collaboration, so everyone has different strengths. Ask for help and don’t be afraid to sound stupid.” Emma will graduate at the end of the fall semester with a degree in advertising and public relations.


Favorite Game: Cash Cow (Webkinz), Plantz vs. Zombies



Soren Kowalski


“In order to get as much as possible out of this [class], go out of your comfort zone in as many ways as you can.” Soren was a primary developer during his first semester with MonRiverGames, and took the lead on Spy Cats to push it across the finish line. A passionate indie developer outside of the class, Soren’s knowledge and love for programming, art, and design was invaluable in supporting the studio’s multiple games and endeavors. He enjoyed creating his own Anubis-style level for Spy Cats, and created the secret hidden level for the game as well.


Although he had programming experience, bug-fixing and creating the UI for Spy Cats presented a challenge that he faced head-on by maximizing his teammate’s capabilities. “Not everything is everybody’s strong suit,” he said. “We can play to our strengths.” For future students, Soren recommends that they prepare for the class. “I encourage you to try and expand,” he said. “If you’re not a strong coder, I’d recommend trying to use the resources that this club… and this class provides and that your classmates have. If you’re not a strong artist, try and learn from your classmates and whatever area you feel weak in.” Soren will graduate in the spring of 2023 with a degree in computer science.


Favorite Game: Airships: Conquer the Skies



Caleb Miller


“Be ready for anything.” Caleb joined the studio this semester and was eager to try a variety of new things such as asset creation, script writing, and Unity development. His favorite experience, creating an individual dinosaur-themed level for Spy Cats, combined many of the skills he has developed during his time at WVU. Programming the level in Unity was a new experience for Caleb; like many other artists and writers in the studio, coding in C# was challenging. Although he created multiple learning games, such as Doodle Jump, his experience developing this semester helped him solidify his desire to do solely writing or designing.


Caleb created the primary narrative for Dawn of Alina, adding humor, lore, and memorable encounters to the studio’s ongoing summer project. His latest work can be seen in One Man’s Trash, as he worked collaboratively with other artists and writers to bring the studio’s newest game to fruition. Caleb recommends that future students be open and ready for unexpected learning experiences when trying different disciplines within the studio. Caleb will be graduating in December 2022 with a major in Interactive Design for Media.


Favorite Game: Batman: Arkham City



Madison (Maddy) Roy


“Take chances.” Maddy Roy has been with MonRiverGames for multiple sessions as a dedicated artist and animator. Her work can be seen across all of the studio’s games, including Spy Cat’s menus, Dawn of Alina’s UI, and assets for One Man’s Trash. She enjoyed working on Spy Cats as she “got to play around with 3D art and different formats.” Maddy also was excited to work on the UI/UX and thumbnail images, saying “I get to be a lot more detailed. It’s a lot more fun for me.”


She is passionate about continuing to expand her artistic capabilities, and is currently learning 2D and 3D animation. Maddy is inspired by upcoming Dreamworks projects and is constantly looking on the horizon for new techniques, mediums, and implementations. When asked about recommendations for future students, Maddy said, “be ready to know what you want to focus on.” She urges new students to take advantage of learning new things: “volunteer for it and see what happens!” Her major is Interactive Design for Media and she intends to graduate in the fall of 2023.


Favorite Game: Sonic Adventure 2 (Chao Garden)



Victoria (Tory) Webb-Johnson


“It has been so fun weaving the story together and brainstorming ideas with the group.” Tory's first semester with the studio has been full of creative exploration. Between creating original content for MonRiverGames’ social media, designing assets for Dawn of Alina and Spy Cats, and writing the script for One Man’s Trash, Tory has had ample opportunities to flex her creative talent. Her favorite experience was creating videos for the MonRiverGames YouTube channel. “I love video editing and it has been fun having the creative freedom to make that type of content for the studio,” she said. The videos she filmed have been featured across all of the studio’s platforms and will help with fundraising and recruitment efforts for the future.


Favorite Game: Little Nightmares



Kayla Stein


Kayla joined MonRiverGames during the summer of 2022 and continued into the fall semester as an independent study teaching assistant. She sharpened her development toolkit and also explored sound design and music production working on the summer session's primary game, Dawn of Alina. During the fall, she helped artists and designers learn Unity principles and C# programming and supported with project management efforts. Kayla will be graduating in the spring of 2023 with a degree in public relations.


Favorite Game: Dragon Quest: Rocket Slime

 

If you are interested in designing, developing, writing, or creating games with other passionate individuals, MonRiverGames has a place for you. Sign up for the Spring 2023 session here: https://tinyurl.com/MRGSignUp

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