SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Somebody has to develop those video games that keep millions linked to their computer screens, fingers at the ready.
Why not Wofford students?
That’s the idea behind Dr. Aaron Garrett’s “Intro to Video Game Design” Interim. Using Construct 3, a game development system, his students spent January designing, developing, building and – of course – playing original games on their laptops.
The month began with simple game designs, but, as the students got deeper into their games, they ran into obstacles – much like game players do as they advance from one level to another.
“I was worried that they might give up or simplify their game idea to avoid the problems, but none of them did,” says Garrett, an assistant professor of computer science. “The students were very tenacious about finding solutions to make their games do what they imagined.”
Zhixi “Sunny” Yan ’20, a computer science and physics major from China, designed a “platform” game similar to Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong. The goal is to move a character from platform to platform left to right across the screen while avoiding bad guys and various pitfalls.
“They don’t know what they’re going to encounter,” Yan says. “I’m intent on making it hard because that’s how I want my game to be.”
He says designing a game is easy at the basic level but becomes more difficult as the landscape becomes harder to negotiate.
“It’s hard in that case because I have to test every change so many times,” he says. “But it’s been fun. I’m interested in computer science, and I like gaming stuff.”
Although most students in the class have significant experience playing video games, Emily Moore, a first-year student from Boiling Springs, S.C., is a rookie.
“I’ve never been really computer savvy,” she says, “but it wasn’t hard to figure out most of this stuff.”
Garrett uses much of the class time to work individually with students to deal with problems they encounter as they dive deeper into their games.
“Micah Tiffin is working on a dodgeball game,” Garrett says.
“He has a host of issues that he has had to solve to make the game he wants – making the enemies intelligently throw their balls at the player and dodge incoming balls, making computer-controlled teammates for the player and giving the player control of a different teammate if he or she is hit by a ball, etc.
“Those are all problems that we never covered together in class, so he has spent a lot of time working through those solutions on his own. Usually, he gets to a point where he has worked for a couple of hours and can’t quite get it to work right. So then I can sit with him for 20 minutes, or sometimes much longer if it’s a tough problem, and talk through how he might get to a resolution.”
Sophomore Eric Craft, a computer science major from Anderson, S.C., is building a game he has named Glitch. It fits into the Mario platform family.
“I like older video games, like Mario and stuff, and I thought this would be cool,” he says of the class. “This game has taken a few days to do, and, of course, it’s nowhere close to Xbox or PlayStation or any of those games. But the design part has been fun and interesting.”