Hack, Slash, and Backstab: A Look Into The MAGIC Center's Newest Release
by Jake Krajewski | published Oct. 13th, 2016
When searching for a job, one of the most important things an employer will ask is whether or not one has experience in the field that they are applying for. RIT knows this and gives students ample opportunity to gain experience by requiring mandatory co-ops for some majors and, in the case of several creative media majors, allow them access to the Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity (MAGIC) Center. This center allows students to work with more experienced staff in tandem to create projects from almost nothing and see them all the way through to the end. Even in professional settings, and especially in co-ops, some may never manage to stay on board with a project long enough to see it transform through the early stages of development into its release.
The latest creation to come from the MAGIC Center is a game by the name "Hack, Slash, and Backstab." The development of the game was actually part of a special research studio offered to students by the Interactive Games and Media department as an advanced elective. The course was headed by professor Andrew Phelps, the CEO and founder of the MAGIC Center, who, along with Designer in Residence Aaron Cloutier, performed a bit of pre-production for the project before the course began. It was mostly concept work, refining the basic premise of the game and acquiring some starting designs for the character models and such. With only that as the basis, the 15 students were tasked with creating the game from the ground up.
Joe Coppola, the lead of the player interface and experience team and a spring 2016 graduate from the Game Design and Development program, was kind enough to sit down to an interview with Reporter. He explained that the majority of what you see of the game now was done by those 15 students over the 15 weeks of the 2015 Fall semester. During winter break, the finishing touches were performed by Game Design and Development students — now graduates — including associate producer Rob Clifford, art, animation and visual design lead Jayson Fitch, music and audio lead James Zolyak, programming and development lead Jim Arnold as well as Coppola himself. After that, Eric Mazer, lead of platform engineering and quality assurance — and at the time a fourth year Computer Science major — spent the spring semester prepping the game for its release both on Steam and on the Xbox One.
Coppola expressed high praise for the course. He thought it was extremely interesting to be able to work in such a close replication of a real game development studio.
"We were very close to what the actual game development process [is like]," he said.
He now works for IBM as a 3D creative software developer. He stated that he believes the course helped to prepare him for that kind of work. "It's still the same iterative sort of process," he mentioned.
Robert Clifford was also kind enough to answer a few questions. After having asked Phelps if he knew of any co-op opportunities, Clifford joined the team as an associate producer — not as a student taking the course, but as a student on co-op. He compared his position as the project lead to "being the oldest sibling in a big family" as he had to both be an authority figure and a member of the team, doing work to further the project. He also praised the course as being very close to a real game development studio, stating that "the only difference is the people you're working with all happen to be students."
Of course, experience alone wasn't the only thing the students gained. They also got to see what it was like for a game they worked on to be released to the public and to be played by others when they debuted it at the Intel University Games Showcase, where the game took third place in the Visual Quality category.
"You never know how someone is going to use your game until you see them do it," Coppola commented. He thought it was really cool to be able to see how other people would play his game and see what he could have improved or done better. Even outside of the classroom, the game was able to be a learning experience for everyone.