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Ready Player One: 18th Game Programming Competition Showcases Student Creativity

Game comp 22 doodle
Game comp 22 winners
Xinyu Xu (second from left) tied for third place but joined members of the winning team (from left) Eric Chiu, Kevin Cai and Anna Noonan.

Stony Brook University’s popular Game Programming Competition, presented annually by the Department of Computer Science (CS) in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, gives student game developers an opportunity to work together in teams to create a wide variety of different games. This year’s event on May 13 was the competition’s 18th iteration, presented in a hybrid format with finalists both in-person at the Student Activities Center Auditorium, and on a concurrent stream live on the competition’s Twitch channel.

Eleven finalists participated, showing off original games they created in CS courses CSE 380 Computer Game Programming, and CSE 381 Advanced Game Programming. The panel of judges included several Stony Brook computer science alumni, and they had the task of determining which game finished at the top of the leaderboard. An audience of students, family and friends were on hand to see the game demonstrations in action. The event was free and open to the public.

This year’s winner — announced by Richard McKenna, a lecturer in the Department of Computer Science — was “Doodle Finn,” created by Kevin Cai, Eric Chiu and Anna Noonan.

Doodle finn 2022“The idea was a top-down dungeon crawler game called DoodleDungeon, where the player flings their inkbrush to attack and defend themselves,” said Cai, who came up with the original concept. “However, we realized that it would be quite difficult to make and not as interesting gameplay-wise, so we switched to a platformer-type game. As the story for the game was developed, we changed the name to DoodleFinn.”

From there, the team added extra gameplay features and listened to feedback from play testing to make the game more enjoyable.

“The game requires quite a bit of hand-eye coordination for moving and drawing at the same time, so we focused more on puzzles and the atmosphere of the game,” said Cai. “Level design was made by each member and then polished a few days before the presentation.”

Cai said the inspiration came from games he played while growing up.

“I used to be a big fan of Nintendo,” he said. “I thought the drawing idea in Scribblenauts DS was very interesting. The idea of drawing also came partly from Splatoon. For the setting of the game, there were some doodle-themed flash games on that I remembered playing when I was very young.”

A third-year Computer Science/Applied Mathematics and Statistics double major, Cai said he is currently leaning toward a career in data science and plans to make more games in the future as a hobby.

“I did not expect our team to win, and it feels great,” he said. “I’ve always liked making games, and I’m happy that others can see our work.”

Game comp 22 group
Eleven teams took part in the finals of the 18th Game Programming Competition.

The runner-up was “Terminal,” developed by Thomas Aloi, Kazi Jamal and Jaswinder Singh.

Competition rules required that for each game, students combine their programming skills with their creativity. The competition provides a unique opportunity for student game developers to work in teams to create original games and then enjoy the presentations together. By engaging in these projects, students are able to practice and sharpen their programming skills.

Over the years, the contest has been judged by alumni in industry from companies like Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and many more. Students in the competition have gone on to work in industry on projects like The Sims, Skylanders, Geometry Wars, and Neverwinter Nights, among others.

Visit the Game Programming website for links to playable versions of all of the games. A video of the entire event, game video trailers and information regarding past events can be found at SBU Game Programming’s YouTube channel.

Rob Emproto

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