April 01, 2010
Proceeds to Benefit Children's Hospitals
Splashes of color, each with a distinctive musical sound, explode and mingle on the screen in a new iPhone® game developed by a team of students and soon to be available for purchase through the online Apple Store.
Called ChromaWaves, the game is the result of months of work by five CIA students majoring in TIME-Digital Arts (for technology and integrated media environment) and seven computer science students from Case Western Reserve University. The CIA students created the digital art, the CWRU students developed the programming, and one student from each school collaborated to design the sound... all as a requirement of a game design course offered jointly by the two colleges last fall.
“The students actually followed the game development pipeline that you would find in industry,” said CIA Assistant Professor Knut Hybinette. “They brainstormed, did sketches, did a risk assessment, set goals, had a timeline, and did beta testing before they presented the finished product.”
ChromaWaves earned the students good grades and rave reviews, not only from their professors in Cleveland, but also from three producers and a creative director at videogame giant Electronic Arts (EA) in California, who critiqued the students’ final presentation via live video feed last December. They encouraged the students to have the game published on the Apple App Store. “It was incredibly gratifying to hear those high-level people from EA say ‘I would buy this game right now,’” said CIA student Andrew Kuhar.
Despite the grades and accolades they received in December, the students from both schools continued refining the game well into spring semester. “We kept working on it even though the actual class was over because we wanted to publish it to the Apple App Store and we wanted it to be really good,” said CIA student Cory Hughart.“We were committed and so were the Case students,” added Matthew Barton, also a CIA student. “For Marc and me, it’s just great to see when students continue the work beyond the class,” said Hybinette, referring to his co- teacher, CWRU Associate Professor Marc Buchner. Their hard work paid off in a game so playable, iPhone owners may even look forward to long lines at the bank for the opportunity to play ChromaWaves. The player shoots at enemy balls of color, some of which explode and leave what look like ink stains on the screen. As the ink stains linger and overlap, the screen takes on interesting patterns and colors.
The color mixing theme emerged early in the team’s brainstorming. “Chris Jennewein, our lead programmer, came up with the idea for the colors and we all really liked that right away. As artists, we understood color theory. We saw really quickly where that could go,” said Kuhar, who developed the visual concept for the game. “We did discuss for a while the idea that the screen background is like a blank canvas and that you are working on top of that canvas,” added Barton. Kuhar and CWRU student Jesse Lee produced the game’s music. “We picked instruments to represent each color. So red is a piano, blue a marimba, yellow a vibraphone. You mix the sounds when you mix the colors,” he explained. “The idea was that when you play the game, you’re participating in building this really ambient soundtrack. So every time you play you’re going to hear a different series of notes. It builds on the color mixing theory and it also helps support our ambient gaming aesthetic,” said Hughart. Jim Wiser, the lead student artist, had worked on an iPhone game in an internship. “I knew what would and wouldn’t work. We wanted short play sessions so you’d be rewarded fairly quickly, we wanted it to appeal to a really wide audience, and the idea of color mixing by multi-touch came in pretty early,” he said.
Once they realized the game might actually earn income on the Apple Store, the students decided it would be tricky to equitably distribute the earnings, especially once they went their separate ways after graduation. Wiser suggested the team designate all proceeds to benefit Child’s Play, an organization that furnishes children’s hospitals with videogames, DVDs and other toys on their wish lists. (childsplaycharity.org)
The team agreed, and even found extra motivation in the idea of raising money to help entertain hospitalized children. “I think we felt that if we were going to go to that length and have it for sale and actually donate the money to an organization that a lot of people respect, that we wanted to put a little more effort into adding features to the game, re-mastering the artwork so it looked a little crisper, re-mastering the sound so it mixed a bit better, just giving it another layer of polish so we felt that it was worth purchasing and that it was a good portfolio piece for us too,” said Kuhar.
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