Editorís Note: GDN has been contacted to discuss a continuation of this interview. In the coming weeks we will publish answers to hopefully, 10 more questions that Robert put together for the team. It seems between school, work, life and everything, the students are just overwhelmed.
Jay Pecho -- Project & Tech Lead
Matt Lazar -- Producer
1. How did the DePaul Elite team come about and what were the qualification criteria for doing so? Supposedly this game would never have surfaced if not for each and every one of the talents in this seemingly handpicked team.
Jay Pecho -- The DePaul Game Elites was formed by the five advisers on the project (Alex Seropian, Patrick Curry, Scott Roberts, Joe Linhoff, and Bill Muehl). The goal was two-fold: to compete in the IGF Student Showcase and create an experience akin to actually working in industry. To best accomplish both of those goals, they put the word out and held interviews with about 40 applicants. Of those 40, 14 were chosen to be a part of the team (with a 15th added in the fall). I canít really comment on the criteria for being selected as I wasnít part of the selection process, but as a programming applicant I can say that we were given a programming test, a live implementation test, and an in-person interview. Speaking as the project lead, I am enormously happy with whatever criteria they used because our team worked really well together and made a game that competed and won in the IGF Student Showcase.
2. What base technology was used to create the game? (Game engine, rendering technology, hardware and software etc.)
Jay Pecho -- The base technology we used was QE, an engine made by Joe Linhoff (a professor at DePaul as well as experienced industry professional) and the XACT sound framework. The engine is a light-weight platform that does some of the interfacing with Windows and OpenGL. Itís definitely come a long way since itís inception at DePaul a couple years ago and it made it easier for us to focus on what was essential to making our game. After all, we were on an accelerated development schedule, going from initial concept to first IGF submission in roughly 5 months, and anything we could do or use to meet that deadline was welcomed with open arms. As for visual design, we relied heavily on shader technology. Our distinctive visual style was accomplished through the hard work of our visual design lead and shader programmer. The engine makes use of Maya as both a modeling tool and level editor. We had to write the pipeline to get models from Maya into the game as specific game objects but QE takes care of exporting the polygon data into an engine specific format. Our sound designer made expert use of Audacity for editing sound effects and the voiceovers.
3. How did the teachers/advisers participate/advise in the project, and what role did the designers in residence play?
Jay Pecho – Our DePaul University’s Game Designers in Residence played a key role in helping us to sort out priorities in development as well as putting us back on track when we strayed. They were also there to give us great feedback and keep us on schedule. Every Friday we would get a build together for them to play. These mini-milestones gave us the motivation to get as much work done on the game weekly so that we had something new to show them. They would play these builds and give us their feedback on them, what they liked and didnít like as well as well as suggestions to make it better. So they really acted as weekly play testers and mentors. If you are referring to the game designers in residence as Alex and Eugene, Eugene wasnít actually a part of this project. Alex, however, was the mastermind of the project. He was responsible for creating the team and he was very active in our meetings during the concept phase. As the project continued on, he was less available in person due to Disneyís acquisition of Wideload Games but he was always there to answer our emails and play builds of the game we put up on the wiki. We learned so much from being a part of this project and the advisers were really an invaluable part of the group.
4. By finally choosing M. C. Escher as your nr. 1 inspiration source for your model of physics, did your game world at some point get as impossible to physically build as Escher’s worlds? If, so how did you overcome that dilemma?
Matt Lazar -- The art team chose MC Escher because of how well the look married to the core mechanic of echolocation. The team spent long weeks looking over possible art directions. Kyle Sullivan, our visual design lead, came across Escher and thought his style could work with what we had built with our technology. Alongside Escher, the art team followed classic Renaissance-style architecture to bring the levels to life. We never built levels that were as impossible to navigate as his, but we thought being in pitch black most of the time was disorientating enough.
5. What are the next development priorities for DTF? Is there a risk/chance for DTF to go commercial after the IGF? Will the outcome of the important festival competition play any role?
Matt Lazar -- Right now the team is developing a newer version of the game for GDC. We plan to have many new additions to demo on the show floor for the event. As for anything commercial, right now our sights are on GDC. Whatever happens after that we shall see.
GDN would like to thank Robert Hedlerfog for his work on chasing down this interview. We look forward to publishing the following parts of the interview over the coming weeks