PlayStack x Exeter CSS Hackathon Round Up

 
Exeter University CSS Students at the 24-hr Hackathon

Exeter University CSS Students at the 24-hr Hackathon

A few weeks have passed since we attended the University of Exeter Computer Science Society 24-hour Hackathon, since then the winning team have pitched their game to our team, and their game will shortly be signed by our new student label! 

Now that the dust has settled, we decided to talk to the winning team along with the closest contenders to get their thoughts on the Hackathon.

 

FIREWALL (WINNER)

Team Firewall - The winners of the Hackathon

Team Firewall - The winners of the Hackathon

Students: Alex Ly, Gareth Morgan, James Bache, Mark Berrow

The game: A wave-based, local co-op, twin-stick shooter, Firewall really impressed us with its level of polish and variety of enemies. It may not have been the most inventive game, but it was focused and polished and led to me saying 'just one more try' on more than one occasion.

The 24-hour process of creating Firewall started with the planning phase for which we spent the first hour thinking of ideas with influence from games we all enjoyed playing while constraining our ideas to what was achievable in 24 hours. A shortlist of 10 or so ideas was whittled down to 1 which took attributes and features from the other ideas in the shortlist.

We started by splitting up the processes and assigning each member of the team a task which suited their strength. As we battled through the process, our team synergy was what got us through – that and coffee!

We all supported each other as much as we could and remained enthusiastic about the project which was the easiest part as we had all made an input in the idea and were invested in carrying it out. Our energy was depleting through the process but increased towards the end as we were testing our game and our efforts were paying off.

The last few hours were the most intense as it was a race against time and race against falling asleep; we had moments to fix our bugs and maximise the user experience. With little time to spare we had finished our game and had a blast playing it with our team. In the judging process, seeing other teams play and enjoy our game made it all the more rewarding.

 

IN AN INSTANT (RUNNER UP)

The team behind 'In an Instant' hard at work

The team behind 'In an Instant' hard at work

Students: Chris Phippen Alexandre Tunstall, Scott Richmond-Wood  

The game: A really unique physics-based puzzle game that was grounded in reality! Players guided a small electron around a maze by adding spheres of time, positive/negative charge and more onto the puzzle board. I was really impressed by how In an Instant actually awarded your scientific knowledge and gamified it. 

Myself and the team are intrigued by the notion that very simple systems can lead to extraordinarily complex outcomes; How individual particles’ behaviour can be understood, but that when integrated into a larger system, readings can become totally incoherent. This is what we wanted to demonstrate with in-an-instant – a puzzle game centred around three fundamental driving forces:

 1. Gravity
2. Magnetism
3. Time

The way these fields interact is what’s really at the core of our game. Focusing around these has allowed us to make puzzles which (we hope) force you to think about the counterintuitive nature of various aspects of the world in which we live.

We got to work coding and designing – though none of us are particularly affluent artists, which is our excuse of the graphical “beauty” of the game. The first ten hours of this twenty-four-hour event were spent tweaking and recoding Unity’s physics engine to fit our needs. 

We were chuffed to come second, and had celebratory pint afterwards, which in hindsight was not a good idea. The body does not deal with lack of sleep, ridiculous amounts of caffeine and sugar, and then alcohol.

Overall, we all thoroughly enjoyed the event, and definitely look forward to attending another as soon as our young, sleep-deprived minds have recovered.

 

PLATFORM PARADIGM (RUNNER UP)

Platform Paradigm.jpg

Students: Danny Newman, Mikey Chammings, Chris Mott, Patrick Mallen  

The game: This title had players swapping between two different dimensions to solve platforming-based puzzles. Each dimension had a different rate of time, meaning that moving objects may be faster/slower when swapping between them. To add to the complexity, certain objects would only appear in particular dimensions. 

Our demo only includes two levels, however, we believe these showcase the time manipulation element well through moving platforms, and the ability to interact with different objects and platforms that only appear in one dimension. These levels also showcase how time is limited, and spending too much time in the fast dimension will make time run out quicker.

We started in the first 2 hours by discussing various different game ideas, and settled on the theme of dimensions - we then researched existing games that had a similar theme, and tried to settle on an idea that was unique. We then split up our 4-person team, with one person doing level design, one programming, one modelling, and one sound design.

Overall the Hackathon was a very good learning experience and was a lot of fun to work together for a whole day to develop a game.

Conclusion

We were blown away by the quality of games made within such a short time frame. Seeing so many students create such awesome titles in 24 hours was really impressive. Firewall only just beat the competition by a few points and choosing a winner was extremely difficult.  This is just the first of many grassroots events that PlayStack will be involved with and are really excited to see Firewall develop over the following months! 

 

 
Edgar Khoo