Interview with UK Imagine Cup UK Games Finalist – Team Sapient from University of South Wales


Meet The Team:
Here is an introduction to each of the members of team Sapient. Along with the primary roles they performed during the games development.

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Riccardo DeLuca – Hi, I am a programmer and game designer studying at the University of South Wales. Hex World was a game I designed last year, and it never stops amazing me to see how far it has come since then. I have spent countless hours programming various systems into this game that have brought its world to life, to see the world shifting and pulsing is something I never tire of. This is a project I have put my heart into and cannot wait to see how much further it can go.

Roles: Game Designer, World Programmer, World Artist

Michael Harty – I’m a programmer from south Wales and have just completed my master’s degree in computer game development. After seeing the original demo video for Hex World back in October I was extremely excited to see where the project could go, and delighted in seeing it change over time to the colourful little game it is now. The world and its shifting mechanics have introduced a challenge to AI pathfinding that I have thoroughly enjoyed, and I will also love watching a little flying book make his way around our levels. I can’t wait to see how much further Hex World will go and what the game will look like when it gets there.

Roles: AI programmer

Thomas Mahoney – I’m a freelance video game developer from South Wales. I’m a passionate gamer and my love of games has evolved over the past few years into a love for making games. I’ve recently finished my masters degree at the University of South Wales where I was studying Computer Games Development and although I’m a trained programmer, I also enjoy the artistic side of making games which has pushed me to develop my skills in both areas. After forming team Sapient and beginning to work on HexWorld I think we all knew we had started making something special. From the start, the game had such a wide range of feedback from sound to art to gameplay, which really helped us push it in the right direction. The competition so far has been a rollercoaster ride filled with a crazy mix of stress, fun, and learning curves around every corner. I’m so happy our team has achieved so much throughout this experience and the excitment of taking HexWorld to world finals is overwhelming. 

Roles: Player Programmer, Player Artist

Ciaran Harty – I am a student studying computer game development at the University of South Wales. Last year with a group of friends the development team Sapient was formed. Originally we were working on a separate project however we quickly switched to Hexworld after we saw the potential in the game. It has been a thrill to be a part of Sapient alongside my friends. Over the course of development I have watched as Hexworld has changed from a white box bouncing in a field, to the colourful game it is now. When we started to compete in the imagine cup I never would have thought we could make it so far. I’m very excited to see how much further we can take Hexworld and am excited to see it evolve as time goes on.
Roles: Sound designer and programmer, UI designer and programmer

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The Game
The game Hex World follows the adventures of a character called the tourist as he travels through various environments seeing all there is to see in a vast and unpredictable world, while getting caught in the middle of all sorts of trouble. The world he travels in is comprised entirely of hexagon shaped tiles that can each move independently, transforming the world around the player creating variety of landscapes and effects. This is the central component to our game that allows us to create a variety of game mechanics that has the player directly working with or against the world itself.

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The tiles themselves can also be given unique mechanical and forms of interaction. Using this we are able to imbed mechanics into the terrain itself by creating a series of tiles with their own behaviours. This includes grass tiles that can be blown up, jump-pad tiles that can launch objects into the air, spike trap tiles that can eject spikes, and many more.

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Game play

 

What Inspired the Game?
The world within video games can be fascinating from a mechanical point of view, and I believe that if you can make changes to the way a games world functions and exists then you can create interesting game mechanics that otherwise could not be possible in more traditional gaming worlds. This is what I wanted to achieve with Hex World by creating an environment that could shift dynamically and in real time. – Riccardo DeLuca

How did You Guys Start Working Together to Make This Game?
We are all a part of the same course at uni and have been studying together for the past 4 years as we all obtain our masters. We had all been told about the imagine cup from our university lectures and thought it be a phenomenal opportunity to get involved with a Microsoft hosted competition, it was something we just couldn’t let slip by us. So over the summer we started meeting up every week to create a video game that would be good enough for the imagine cup. We were initially making another game other than Hex World, but realised its scale would make it too difficult to make in time for the competition. However Riccardo was working on another game at the time and we all decide that this game had much more potential and a more manageable scale than the other, so we all starting to work on it to make it into the game it is today.

What Was Your Experience Attending the UK National Finals?
It is safe to say that attending the UK National finals was a shock to us and just how much more intense this competition was. Though while everything was quite intimidating, everyone was very friendly and took the time to take an interest in us and our game. We started the day off by having a one to one meeting about what we should expect during our presentation, this really helped us plan ahead and develop strong answers to a variety of questions.

When we saw who we would be in competition with we were slightly nervous. There games were very well polished and very fun to play. So we were definitely feeling the competitive spirit in that moment. The guys were good to talk to though; it is always interesting for when we get to talk to other game developers.

We were the second group to walk up to the stage and do our presentation; needless to say standing up there was quite the adrenaline rush. The presentation went very well, though we were ready and on guard for the questions. Luckily the judges seemed to really enjoy our game, and asked questions that we were able to answer quite well. When watching all the other presentations from all the other students we were really enjoying the amount of passion they all had for what they were doing in their projects.

When we won we couldn’t quite believe it, standing up there really felt like all the work we had put into this game had paid off. As we headed home we contacted our friends and family to let them know the news, it was an incredible moment for all of us.

We also recently won the world semi-finals, and that took us all by surprise. Needless to say we were all rather ecstatic. None of us can really believe how far this game has gone, something that was just an idea a year ago is now potentially taking us to Seattle on a world stage.

Please elaborate on your plans for your project after the conclusion of Imagine cup?
We Plan to keep developing this game and bring it to market. As we are persistently improving various aspects of the game, at the moment we are in the process of improving our world systems to bring levels significantly larger than we have demonstrated before.

Tell us one thing you learned from this project. It could be about how to make a good team, or a hard problem you solved, or something about the research you did into your project’s goals.
One thing that has been a vital lesson for us is the importance of user feedback. We have contacted local game development studios, have shown our game off at game dev South Wales meet ups, and set up beta tests in our university games club and we always receive feedback on issues that were completely blind to us or ideas for game design that we did not consider.

Journalists often want a quote directly from a team member. Please write a couple of sentences about your hopes for your project and name a team member who is the source of the quote.

“Growing up I played video games that inspired me, helped develop my creativity, and provided me with a means to bond with my brothers and my family. What I want is to develop a game that is as important to someone as the games I grew up with were to me, and I hope Hex World can be that game” – Riccardo DeLuca

“We are all passionate about video games as we all grew up playing them. Video games have the benefit of providing an experience unlike any other. With Hex World we want to provide our own unique experience that can be enjoyed by all gamers” – Ciaran Harty

“My dream is to create games that people all around the world will play and love. Hopefully through this competition this dream can become a reality” – Thomas Mahoney

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