Gaming students turn back time to create retro arcade games

Date 29.05.2024

The next generation of video game creators have battled it out to be crowned victors during University of Northampton’s annual Summer Game Jam.

Last Thursday (23 May), students were given just three days to design and develop a game from scratch that could be played using a retro UON games arcade machine.

The retro arcade machine – a bespoke creation built by Technician Demonstrators, Patrick Costelloe and Laurence Maybury – offered the unique challenge for the students to unleash their creativity and technical skills.

Reminiscent of arcade classics Pac-Man and Space Invaders, the two-player four-way joystick and six action buttons challenged students with retro controller limitations – which, ultimately, inspired some playful results.

Seven teams of Games Design, Games Art and Games Programming students – accompanied by students from the University’s Music Production course – put their skills to the test to claim the ‘Best Game Overall’ trophy.

Following an afternoon of game demonstrations, individual awards were presented to each of the teams for excelling within the following categories:

  • Best Game Overall: Secrets of the Labyrinth – Player v Player (PVP) topdown puzzle game with innovative use of light/dark motion.
  • Best Box Art: G.O.L.F. (Galactic Offensive Last Flight) – Controversially, not a game of golf, but a game of top-down space shooter (featuring a few recognisable UON academics as player charters and enemies).
  • Most Innovative Concept: Bomb It Up – A two-player cooperative game based on navigation through water and bombs.
  • Best Visuals: Xaldor’s Blade – A fast-paced two-player Roguelike platformer with an exciting defection machine.
  • Best Music: Speed4Need – Top-down driving game with road obstacles and excellent music.

A special mention was also given to an additional two games created by the students – Ultimate Wizard Showdown, a Player v Player duelling game between wizard characters, and BomBardMent, an aptly titled game which was set in the Middle Ages.

The Gaming Jam is a voluntary event that benefits students by allowing them to expand their portfolio and, for the Games Art students, to step into art styles they might not usually encounter.

Senior Lecturer in Games Design, Vikaas Mistry said: “The bi-annual Game Jam is a real calendar highlight for our gaming courses, and I’m as impressed with these teams as ever for the creative flair and design initiative they demonstrated.

“The three-day time frame we offered students served a practical purpose. Within the gaming industry, it’s very common for designers and developers to be given a tight time frame, so it’s vital for students to experience this and get to grips with working professionally under pressure and pushing their creativity to the max.

“This therefore gives students a great career development opportunity, gives them an edge on their CV and they can use it in their portfolios. We’re already planning ahead to the next Winter Game Jam, and we can’t wait to see where the next set of team’s creativity takes them!”

Find out more about studying Games Design, Games Art and Games Programming at the University of Northampton.