Off The Map is a year-long project that encouraged students to create interactive environments using the CRYENGINE games engine. The competition supported by Crytek the British Library and GameCity, challenged students from selected universities to draw inspiration from British Library maps and then turn that inspiration into games. Teams could choose from three different maps: The Pyramids of Giza, Wiltshire’s Stonehenge, or London around the time of the Great Fire in 1666.
The competition short-list comprised of three teams, two of which were teams from the University of South Wales’ Computer Games Design Course. As finalists they had the opportunity to visit Crytek’s studios in Nottingham for feedback about their games and to gain an insight into the companies production processes. The teams were then asked to showcase their games at the Nottingham GameCity festival to an invited audience of professional games developers.
Ian McMichael presented his team’s work entitled ‘Mystical Wings’, a fantasy world based upon Stonehenge where the player controls Liliana a 6″ tall faery.
James Macleod and Max Cutler then presented ‘Catacombs’ a game which takes the player on a journey through a fantasy landscape of underground dungeons and caves hidden beneath Stonehenge.
Computer Games Design Lecturer Adam Martin says: “The student’s professionalism during the event was excellent, they did a fantastic job of conveying a sense of the games they had created and described the technical details of their production, they impressed the seasoned games developers at Crytek. We are very proud of what they have done.”
We are now preparing for next year’s competition and see this as a great way to enable students to engage with industry in a meaningful and valuable way. The ethos of the course is to make great games, so when competitions like this arise we can integrate them as assessable coursework. We actively encourage our students to work on projects that combine academic rigour and technical expertise, both of which are highly valued by the industry partners involved with the Off The Map project.
Earlier this year, Crytek launched a creative competition for students in association with the British Library and GameCity. The Off the Map challenge invites students from participating universities and colleges to draw inspiration from a selection of British Library maps and then turn that inspiration into interactive environments using our free CryENGINE 3 SDK.
Among the participants is the University of South Wales. One of their faculties is the City Campus in Newport, where students can get their degree in Computer Games Design, one of the oldest and most established Games Design courses in the UK. It has an international reputation for its teaching, research, and quality student experience. The program’s study areas range from key concepts to game mechanics and conceptual skills, focuses on both creative and technical processes, and teaches the students how to be a practitioner within a team.
Catacombs by team Asset Monkeys.
Senior Lecturer Adam Martin says that the competition ties in perfectly with their program. “One of the strengths of our course is to recognize the importance of creative practice within games design, as we really focus on the creative and artistic aspects of contemporary games production. We want our students to develop their ability to think, research, and experiment, combined with traditional design principles. This competition asks students to challenge and surprise, and provides a unique starting point for understanding and creating their game world. We are especially mindful that it is a game we are making, not just a historical reconstruction of a certain environment.”
Participants in Off the Map must choose between one of three maps as their source of inspiration; the Pyramids of Giza, Wiltshire’s Stonehenge, or London around the time of the Great Fire in 1666. “We considered various maps and scenarios, but eventually settled on Stonehenge,” says Ian McMichael from Team Faery Fire, who are working on a game called Mystical Wings. “It will be a third person action game, where you play as Liliana as she explores the setting of Stonehenge, a vast landscape in comparison to the fairy character who is a mere 6” tall. This concept was inspired by fairytales and the folklore behind Stonehenge.”
Concept of Wiltshire’s Stonehenge by team Faery Fire.
“The design was built upon further within the group,” Ian continues. “We refined and finalized the use of scale and perspective, turning it into the game we currently have. The most important part of the design is of course the map. It will be used to create parts of the level, as well as other visual aspects of the game, like the HUD. The concept art we produced has given us further inspiration for the visual aesthetic we are aiming towards.”
Even though most students haven’t worked with Crytek’s CryENGINE before, the learning process has been relatively easy according to Adam. “Our students are effectively learning as they go! With the CryENGINE being such a powerful and visually rich environment to work within, it allows the designers to construct visually, in real-time, and then instantly test the game without lengthy compiling times. This provides a very fluid workflow throughout the entire creation process. The real-time lighting system and extensive visual effects are very intuitive for our arts-based students to use.”
Now that the CryENGINE has been incorporated into Newport’s Games Design course, Adam hopes that students will use it to create even more successful and beautiful games. “We firmly believe in the significance of the independent games sector, with alumni successfully creating their own companies and winning significant awards. It would be great to see the seeds of a publishable game at the end of this project.”
Production footage from team Asset Monkeys and their game called Catacombs.
To find out more about our CryENGINE 3 SDK and download it for free, please visit www.mycryengine.com.