Chapman game designers among top finishers in U.S. Microsoft Imagine Cup

Panther Games team members (l-r) Andrew Minarik, Matt Loesby, Matthew Shaffer and Chris Boyd, created an award-winning game for Imagine Cup.
Panther Games team members (l-r) Andrew Minarik, Matt Loesby, Matthew Shaffer and Chris Boyd, created an award-winning game for Imagine Cup.

A Chapman University team has placed in the top four of the 2012 U.S. Microsoft Imagine Cup competition. Going on 10 years, the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition involves thousands of student competitors to present creative technology solutions that address real-world challenges. The theme for this year’s Imagine Cup is “Imagine a World Where Technology Helps Solve the Toughest Problems.”

Chapman University computer science graduate Chris Boyd ‘11, along with Matthew Shaffer, Matt Loesby, and Andrew Minarik, comprise the Chapman Panther Games Team Alpha which placed 4th in the competition this weekend at Microsoft’s headquarters in Seattle. An online people’s choice competition continues.

To fit the 2012 theme, the team had to develop a game which addressed one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals or one of the world’s toughest problems. They chose to focus on the Invisible Children and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, and created the game Children of War.

“It was tough to go from this world problem to a game because we didn’t want to make something like a first person shooter of a child,” said Boyd. “The challenge was fitting the game to the issue so that the message is there, but the game is still fun to play. For example, there is no weaponry in Children of War.”

The player is the child and tries to get from the left to the right on the screen with one “bad guy” to escape from. There are obstacles like haystacks, walls and buildings where the child can hide. As the game evolves, more bad guys appear and the obstacles begin to move. The player can also rescue other kids and control multiple kids and keep them both hidden. The object of the game remains to get the children to the other side. A player has infinite tries, but there is a time limit to move the child to the other side.

The game designers spent a week and half fleshing out the design and structure for the game, then worked for months in earnest on programming.

“The technical challenge in developing the game was getting the enemies to go around the obstacles,” said Matt Loesby. “We had to develop a completely new and separate algorithm just for that.  While computers are really smart, they are also really dumb in that a computer doesn’t have intuition (to go around an object) so you have to teach it intuition.”

Panther Games Team Alpha receives $1,000 in prize money for its fourth place finish. In addition, if Panther Games Team Alpha receives the most Facebook votes by May 19, it will win The People’s Choice Award and travel to Sydney, Australia, in July for the Imagine Cup 2012 World Finals.

There are three ways to vote:

  • On Facebook: http://aka.ms/p0bhjh
  • Text to Vote: Text “PGames” to 45444
  • On Twitter: @mstechstudent: I’m voting for Panther Games Team Alpha in    #ICPeoplesChoice.
Dawn Bonker

Dawn Bonker

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