Growing up in the shadows of Microsoft, Nintendo and DigiPen Institute of Technology, it’s no wonder that many Redmond High School students have connections and aspirations related to creating video games.
Several teams from RHS will take part in Microsoft’s annual “Hunt the Wumpus” high school game design contest, coming up on June 2.
RHS science teacher Paul Osborne remarked, “Each year Microsoft works with some of the Advanced Placement Computer Science classes at area high schools. Students are divided into project teams. The goal of each team is to implement a specification for ‘Hunt the Wumpus’ using Microsoft programming languages and tools. Microsoft also provides one technical consultant to each team.”
Students then gather at Microsoft to show off their work, which is judged on criteria such as creative interface and quality of play, Osborne said.
“The students benefit from experiencing genuine product development, using professional tools and by being guided by real software engineers,” he noted.
At RHS, the opportunity to participate in the competition is extended to the whole student population. Some are in computer science classes and earn academic credit for their participation. Others form “extension” teams which meet on their own time and can include students who aren’t taking computer science.
One such team calls itself Interrobang Interactive. Two members, Tyler Menezes and Adam Ryman, are in the AP Computer Science class and were also part of a team that won a User Experience award at last year’s “Hunt the Wumpus” contest. Others on the team have also done the competition before and/or know one another from robotics competitions. Still another portion of Interrobang Interactive consists of visual and performing artists providing video/audio content and voice talent.
Menezes explained that “Hunt the Wumpus” was an “old-school” video game. In Interrobang Interactive’s version, for which Menezes wrote the script, the Wumpus is a super-virus and players have to go back in time to stop the Wumpus.
“The original was very hexagonal, very mathematical,” said Ryman.
Paul Cretu added, “It was a memory and logic game.”
This version, said Ryman, will be a 2D platform where you can change everything around you.
Also different from other “Hunt the Wumpus” teams is that Interrobang Interactive is jobbing out specialized skills such as voiceovers to RHS drama students, rather than having the programmers do it themselves. In the real world of high-quality gaming, that’s the way it works.
The students from Interrobang Interative are highly motivated by the success stories coming out of DigiPen. Those college students who’ve produced award-winning games have been swiftly hired by professional game companies such as Valve.
These RHS students would like to follow in their footsteps and are putting in extra time and effort to make their game worthy of professional recognition. They said it’s not uncommon for them to meet right after school and work on their game until 9 p.m.
“The most motivation is for exposure to the real work environment,” said Preetum Nakkiran.
That goes for both the programmers on the game team and the artists.
Voice actor Keith Roper said he once voiced a movie and found it somewhat easier than acting on stage because “you just read lines, but there was no blocking.”
Yet drama students Amelia Samson and Dalton Broback said they found the voiceovers challenging in a different way. “You also have body language to communicate on stage,” Samson pointed out. Broback agreed, “Here, you’re expressing yourself only through your voice.”
At the competition on June 2, the Interrobang Interactive team will present their game to five or six judges who work at Microsoft.
They said everyone who enters the contest gets a certificate and $40 to spend at the Microsoft store. Winners also get trophies. But these students are mostly invested in this endeavor “for the satisfaction of knowing we won and have a professional product,” said Pramod “Jamocha” Chavali.
They’re also making a documentary about their creative process.
Learn more about Interrobang Interactive at http://www.interrobanginteractive.com