Imagine Cup 2012 half full of Cougars
Three of the six teams competing in the Microsoft US Imagine Cup 2012 finals will represent UH in game design, marking the fifth-straight year that the University has had teams enter the competition.
The competition is helpful in preparing the students for what they might expect in a real-life business situation, said Research Assistant Professor Yun, who mentored two of the teams. Each team must go through three rounds and bring their ideas from storyboard to the finished form that they are judged upon. The winners receive a cash prize and an internship opportunity with Microsoft Corp.
“We can’t just create anything; it’s a real product. Microsoft is the client and we are the developer,” said Yun. “We have to create [the game] according to their description.”
Team Zigers (Xbox), Team Wasabi Ninja (Windows Phone) and Team Eager Beavers PC (Windows) have each designed and developed a game centered around a major world issue and will present them in Seattle beginning on April 3.
“The games that the students are doing are based on the United Nations’ millennium goals for 2015,” said digital media developer and mentor José Báez-Franceschi. “They focus on issues such as poverty and hunger, disease, renewable energies, environmental sustainability, global warming and education.”
Graduates Patipol Paripoonnanonda and Martin Le, and undergraduates Jackchalat Chaiyakhom and Josh Riffel of Team Wasabi Ninja, mentored by Yun, made the game “Phagy” for Windows Phone. The game makes use of the phone’s camera to allow the players to interact with their environment.
“The player assumes a role of a nano-machine where the player needs to destroy harmful materials in the water systems,” said Paripoonnanonda. “The game is aimed to raise awareness of water pollution in developing countries as well as the rest of the world.”
The Xbox game “Spillville” focuses on oil spills and was created by Team Zigers, consisting of undergraduates Michael Slater, Chris Gonzales, Sin Ng and Allison Sherrick and is also mentored by Yun.
Rounding off the UH competitors is Team Eager Beavers PC, whose computer game “Hydrobot Adventures” tackles restoring ocean life after heavy pollution. The team is made up of graduates Hien Nguyen, Sushil Joshi and Debjyoti Majunde and undergraduate Khoa Le and is mentored by Báez-Franceschi.
“We expect to draw the attention of the audience toward the problem by showing hypothetical visualization of what the ocean environment will become in the future if we do not act now.” Joshi said.
Six more competitors will be chosen in March, and Yun and Báez-Franceschi say they hope this is a chance for more UH teams to compete.
“This year we already have three teams set and we are trying to get more seats in spring. I hope and expect at least four teams,” said Yun. “We would love it if we could break our own record.”
In 2011, UH was the only school to have four teams compete in the finals and achieved first and second place in mobile game design and third place in Windows/Xbox game design.
“It’s not just because we are good mentors, but it’s because [the students] are highly motivated, dedicated and hard-working,” said Yun. “They contribute 10 to 40 hours a week for three months to improve their games. To win, to represent UH properly, that’s what they have to do.”