Georgia Tech has been pumping out some impressive work from their interactive media program. A few years ago they released the bizarre interactive Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf simulator Facade. Since I saw the game, I've been interested in the emerging interactive artists from the school. Today I had the opportunity to check out what the students have been working on, and I was pleasantly surprised.
One of the first really impressive titles I came across is an MMOG called Mermaids. In the game players are given the opportunity to rebuild a long-extinct mermaid culture by farming, fishing, and cultivating the waters around them. The students were tasked with the goal to create an MMO where killing isn't the main mechanic of the game. Apparently it stumped many of them, but that's where the idea of Mermaids originated. The students who worked on Mermaids used the Multiverse Game Engine to create the game.
The most impressive feature of the game is the ever-changing world. If a player grows a bunch of a certain kind of plant in an area that attracts a specific kind of fish, there could be a massive fish bloom in that area. Now imagine if that bloom of fish attracts sharks, then you have just created a deadly zone for your fellow mermaids. The player can work with other mermaids to balance the ecosystem and rebuild the ruined civilization. What I saw wasn't a complete game, but the concepts were solid, and I would love to see how this one turns out, and how these ideas can influence MMOG development.
The most fun I had playing any of the games came from the bongo-driven paddle-fest, Lord of the Fjords. One group of students used the Nintendo bongo controller for their game and created a multiplayer Nordic paddle game. You control a group of 3 Nords in a paddleboat doing laps around a series of fjords. It was terrifically fun, with some of the tightest control I've seen in a paddle game. There was no life-like physics governing the movement of the boat, but it was fast and furious gameplay that had me hooked the second I sat down at those bongos. Java Monkey was used as the platform for the title.
The final game I checked out also used Java Monkey for development. Matics is a platforming puzzle game that closely resembles the visual style of Kirby with the debug mode from Sonic 2. In it, players control a little round Kirby-esque creature with an engineering belt and hat on. Imagine what Kirby would look like if he sucked up an engineer, something like that. build around a physics engine, players could stop the game at any time to place platforms, blocks, fans and springs anywhere on the board, then go back to controlling the main character where the physics of the objects would kick in. It was a great idea to be able to create and build platforms to work with, and the visual style was great.
These tech demos were brimming with personality and possibility, so I wish the best of luck to the students working on these titles. There was some great work on display, and some really enthusiastic developers that deserve to work in their respective fields.