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UMBC Game Developer’s Club has big plans

Room 005 of the Engineering building is bustling with bright young faces, all eagerly chatting amongst themselves about classes, video games and recent TV episodes. The students snack on Chic Fil A and sip from Starbucks cups. Many of them are wearing graphic T-shirts with images of Pokemon or Vault Boy on them. The room they fill is small, filled with rows of Dell monitors hooked up to Alienware computers (though the students have all brought their own laptops and leave the desktop computers untouched). A bulletin board on the far side of the room is empty save for push-pins arranged to form a wide smiling face. Posters hang from the walls, each one featuring the abbreviation “UMBC GDC” is the same futuristic font. This is the weekly meeting space for the UMBC Game Developer’s Club.

The club president, senior Eliot Carney-Seim, quiets the room and begins the meeting by citing the ever-quotable Kanye West: “Would you believe in what you believe in if you were the only one who believed it?” Laughter rises from behind laptop monitors, and Carney-Seim adopts a more serious tone. He mentions the importance of having connections within the game developing community and the necessity of being passionate about a project, encouraging new members to join a project team that appeals to them. He emphasizes bringing their own talents to the table before offering some advice: “Take the time to learn peoples names. Converse and work with them. Just like with an RPG, if you have a low charisma, you’ll have a harder time down the road.”

He doesn’t need to instill a love of gaming into the hearts of his club members — most of the students who join are passionate about gaming already. Club vice president Andrea Wozniak, a sophomore studying animation, stated that “UMBC Game Developers club is one of my main reasons for coming to UMBC. I saw that they actually made games every year, as opposed to many other colleges” — the posters lining the walls back up her statement, each one boasting a number of titles produced by the club for each academic year —  “The games were actually fleshed out and polished, as opposed to the stereotypical flash games I was originally expecting.”

Other students are drawn to the club for different reasons. Charles Douglas, a junior information systems major and club secretary, said “I first learned about the club through a friend of mine. He told me that the game developers worked on coding games as well as making art in  3D and 2D using different kinds of programs. Since I had a background with Adobe and some animation, I thought that it’d be great to try.” His decision to stay was similar to Wozniak’s: “Walking in and seeing what some of the senior artists were working on, I was hooked almost immediately. Some students were making 3D characters and it honestly looked like something you’d only see at a big budget studio. It made me think that I could learn something great and after awhile I finally sat down with one of the artist and learned how to 3D model in a few days.”

The games created by the club are the product of team work. The club is divided into project teams, each consisting of a minimum of three students. The objective is simple: Each team has to create a game, and each team has to provide a demo to present to the other developers. Carney-Seim presents his own demo first, using his internet browser (one tab of which reveals a google search for Kanye West quotes) to access his game. He describes it as a fun project he made as a Christmas gift for his friends, titled “Eggnog.” He invites club members to join the server and play it with him, and four of them compete which others shout distractions or encouragement to one another.

The club is not all fun and games, however. Members often demonstrate their work to industry professionals, meet with developers, conference with professionals to learn the latest and greatest of the gaming industry and present their games at competitions that take them all across Maryland and, occasionally, America. According to Douglas, however, there is still plenty of time to bond within the club. “We use Friday’s as a day to work together on the games and maybe have some fun with other games the club has made. Every few weeks we plan an event to keep things fresh. They range from a typical party to going to the RAC and playing basketball together.”

This semester seems to be a promising one. Both Wozniak and Douglas believe that the club can only improve from here. Previous creations such as “Huebots” earned the club national recognition, and Wozniak believes that the club will continue to be a wonderful experience for anyone considering going into game development. According to Douglas, many of their upcoming projects have potential. The club is currently working on developing 4 games, and they have also started an indie project group program, meaning that the club will support developers creating games outside of a group. The club already has a few games available to play on Steam and are certainly worth keeping an eye on for future development.