Game Design Competition Takes it to the Next Level

Team Claims $35,000 for Developing Functional Demo and Business Plan

Eight teams of game creators from The University of Texas at Dallas found out Friday night whether their products had won them a share of $50,000.

First place went to “Balance of Power” an iPhone game that puts the player in the role of an arms dealer who provides weapons to both sides of a war.

In the second Computer Gaming Entrepreneurship Competition (CGEC), teams spent nine months creating a functional demo game and comprehensive business plan.

The winning games of the 2008-09 CGEC are:

  • First place and winner of $35,000 in cash prizes and development money – “Balance of Power,” an iPhone game by the 5 Minute Games group. The game puts the player in the role of an arms dealer who provides weapons to both sides of a war.
  • Second-place winner and Hughes Ventures Award for Excellence in Innovation recipient – “Hour Zero,” an adventure game and detective story in both 2D and 3D for Xbox 360, created by the Frisky Pixel team.
  • Third place – “Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages,” a top-down 2.5D space shooter scenario that blends fast-paced action and massively-multiplayer online (MMO)-style customization, developed for XBOX Live Community Games, designed by the Triple B Titles team.

“This level of support by Kingdon Hughes of Hughes Ventures helps us place the study of game development right next to the study of the business of game production,” said Dr. Thomas Linehan, ATEC program director and Arts and Humanities Distinguished Chair.“Kingdon helps our students connect to the real world they are about to face.”

The first-place winners represent a cross-section of technologically cutting-edge schools at UT Dallas; 5 Minute Games team members are from the Schools of Brain and Behavioral Science, the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Arts and Humanities.

“I am continually impressed by the level of sophistication, innovation and hard work these students have shown,” said Monica Evans, competition coordinator and assistant professor of computer game design in arts and technology (ATEC). “Each of the teams worked on their own outside of classes for months to create these games, and I’m proud of each and every one of them.”

Second place and the Hughes Ventures Award for Excellence in Innovation went to “Hour Zero,” an adventure game and detective story for Xbox 360.

The first place team will continue to develop their game this summer with the assistance of Robert Robb, associate vice president of technology commercialization at UT Dallas, and Ludovick Michaud, creative director with Dallas-area animation studio Jamination, as well as faculty members from the ATEC program at UT Dallas.

Teams were made up of three to eight UT Dallas students. Teams received guidance and review of their games at checkpoints throughout the competition design phase.

“It’s a gift for us to have so many game industry professionals in the area who have helped by advising teams, judging the final submissions, or volunteering to assist the winners with further development,” said Evans. “It helps tether these games to the professional world, and gives our student teams a shot at creating something that will flourish beyond the University.”

Kingdon Hughes, head of funding sponsor Hughes Ventures, has high hopes for the competitors and for the ATEC program.

“Maybe someday a business venture will be started from these fledging projects,” said Hughes. “UT Dallas has an enormous opportunity to expand on the gaming business, thanks to Dr. Linehan and his team. With his leadership and the talent of the students coming out of the program, I can see the UT Dallas ATEC program becoming the #1 gaming education program in the country.”

The GCEC is sponsored by Hughes Ventures, UT Dallas, The Institute for Interactive Arts and Engineering and The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. For more information about the competition, contact Dr. Monica Evans at (972) 883-4332 or visit the competition Web site at atec.utdallas.edu/cgec.

ATEC Course Looks at Green Trends in E-Business

Graduate student Michael Lynch investigated the environmental effects of the bottled water business. His project featured an iPhone application that would track where water bottles could be refilled to cut down on plastic waste.

What if many of the touch points along a product’s journey from concept to creation were friendlier to the environment? What if the marketing mechanisms designed to encourage consumption of products were more environmentally conscious?

A graduate course in the School of Arts and Humanities is examining the underlying business issues of an increasingly networked economy, with key explorations delving into design of e-marketing programs, next-generation virtual work interfaces and potential impact of green virtual technologies.

Dr. Marjorie Zielke, assistant professor of arts and technology (ATEC), teaches the E-business Environment Design course. With various guest speakers and readings, such as Jeff Jarvis’ book What Would Google Do?, the class tackled a wide range of topics and discussions.

Students discovered how digital networked technology is restructuring society and changing business and the overall economy. They also explored the impact of e-business design on the environment and analyzed ongoing trends in e-business environment designs.

“The students tackled real business issues in terms of e-marketing, virtual work design and the environment, and they were expected to be able to apply ATEC design ideas in a business context,” said Zielke.

Students implemented class concepts by creating a final project. Michael Lynch, a graduate student in the final year of his MFA in arts and technology degree, investigated the environmental effects of the bottled water business during Zielke’s course. His project featured an iPhone application to track where water bottles could be refilled to cut down on plastic waste.

“We were responsible for finding information for our own individual projects of interest,” said Lynch. “I learned a lot about the e-business environment, including green topics that I had never really considered before, like the recycling and bottled-water industries.”

According to market researcher Mintel, about 12 percent of the U.S. population can be identified as “True Greens,” consumers who seek out and regularly buy so-called green products. Another 68 percent can be classified as “Light Greens,” consumers who sometimes purchase green goods and services.

“The course offered a new perspective on our present business environment, especially at a time when everything we discussed in class was featured in the media,” said Lynch.

Zielke will offer a class on design aspects of e-marketing and e-advertising in Spring 2010.