A group of computer game developers from the University of South Wales (USW) are through to the world finals of a global competition run by Microsoft.
Team Sapient – made up of Masters students Riccardo Deluca, Ciaran Harty, Michael Harty and Thomas Mahoney – were named the winners of the Games category at the UK Imagine Cup finals, after creating a game called HexWorld.
Imagine Cup is a global student technology programme and competition that provides opportunities for students across all disciplines to team up and use their creativity, passion and knowledge of technology to create applications, games and integrate solutions that can change the way we live, work and play.
HexWorld is a 3D adventure game that features an open and interactive world in which the player can explore, help natives and uncover mysterious dungeons and locations.
Team Sapient spent months developing the game before travelling to Microsoft UK headquarters in Reading to present it at the national finals.
The team, who are all studying the Masters course in Computer Games Development, are now preparing for the world finals of the competition, which will be held at Microsoft headquarters in Seattle next month (July). Where the winners will be awarded $50,000 and a mentoring session with Satya Nadella, Chief Executive of Microsoft.
The UK students could win $50,000 (£34,000) and a mentoring session with Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella.
The team, called Sapient, will enter the game they created – Hex World – which sees a character called the tourist travel through various worlds made up of hexagonal shapes that are constantly changing. The lead character is armed with an umbrella and explores forests and dungeons, completing quests.
The game, which has been in development for around a year, 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”, the team said. It has taken a “great amount of inspiration” from the hugely popular Discworld series of fantasy books, which have sold more than 80 million copies in 37 languages.
Sapient will compete in the Games category from July 26-29 against eight other teams from Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil, Bahrain, South Africa, Spain, Russia and South Korea. The winners of the group will then go up against the victors in the Innovation and World Citizenship categories. One team will then be crowned Imagine Cup Champions, win $50,000 and a private mentoring session with Nadella.
The four UK entrants are all current or former students at University of South Wales, studying computer game development, and have been working together for around four years.
DeLuca said: “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.”
The Sapient team
The team were told about the developer competition by university lecturers last summer and originally worked on another game, before that was abandoned in favour of Hex World.
We had been told about the Imagine Cup in our university lectures and thought it would be a phenomenal opportunity to get involved with a Microsoft-hosted competition. It was something we just couldn’t let slip by us, the team said. 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.
The game won the UK national final in April – an event the four found “intimidating”.
When we saw who we would be in competition with we were slightly nervous. [But our] presentation went very well, and 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. 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 taking us to Seattle on a world stage.
After the tournament, they plan to “keep developing this game and bring it to market”.
Speaking about the Seattle competition in general, Pablo Veramendi, Imagine Cup Competition Manager, said:
I never stop being awed by the forward-thinking and unique solutions that a fresh, young perspective can bring to the technology industry. These developers are poised to do great things, and I for one can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Dr Mike Reddy, senior lecturer in computer games development, said:
As a former Imagine Cup Judge, I know the significance of extra-curricular work in making sure our games graduates stand out from the rest when seeking employment. The effort of producing a winning entry to the Imagine Cup is significant; at least doubling the work that students might be expected to do towards their courses. So, even being in the UK finals was quite an achievement. To win shows the determination that Team Sapient has to succeed in preparing themselves for a glamorous, but hard working industry.
The event will be livestreamed online on July 29.