December 17, 2009

Microsoft Releases Game Developed in ECE's Advanced Graphics Lab

A video game developed by master's student Justin Kellogg in ECE Professor Pradeep Sen's Advanced Game Development course was released by Microsoft on December 16 and is available for free trial download from its Xbox Live website.

In the course, students developed advanced versions of three different games for release on the Xbox 360 console by working with Microsoft's XNA game development environment. Kellogg made a game called Magnetic Defender, an "intense top-down shooter with a magnetic twist." The player defends four missiles as they head toward their intended target while using a magnetic field to keep enemy projectiles away from the missiles. The game includes a two-player cooperative mode and 3D graphics.

Within the first two days after its release, Magnetic Defender was downloaded more than 1,000 times from all around the world, with destinations including Japan, Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Canada and France.

Magnetic Defender is the first product release by Dr. Sen's Advanced Graphics Lab (AGL). Two more games are in the pipeline and should be available in a few weeks. Next to be released is Marauder Madness!, which was designed by ECE graduate students Jeremy Wright and Craig Vineyard and which has the player captaining a pirate ship that must make it through a world of perils while capturing ports and treasure.

The last game to be released this year, Toybox Racing by John Harger, puts players behind the wheel of a remote-controlled car that's slaloming around hurdles in an imaginary toy-filled room.

Videos of all the games are currently available on AGL's YouTube channel. In addition, the division of AGL that is releasing the games, AGL Games Division, has a new website in the works that provides information about its game development program and development process: http://agl.unm.edu/games.

The two new games in the process of development have now been uploaded onto Microsoft's Xbox web site for a monthlong review process in which game development experts test it to ensure that it passes a stringent set of requirements.  However, xblaratings.com is already offering previews of all the AGL games on its website pending their upcoming release.  Xblaratings evaluates games that play on Microsoft's Xbox 360 video-game console for the Xbox LIVE Arcade and Indie Games websites.

Xbox LIVE Indie Games are Xbox 360 games that are made by the gaming community, reviewed by the community, and can be played by anyone. The site describes itself as "a place where up-and-coming talent shines, and where anyone with an idea can bring it to life on Xbox 360." In his blog, Magnetic Defender creator Justin Kellog invites Xbox 360 owners to check out the Indie Games section in their Xbox LIVE Marketplace. "If you're tired of the same old FPS, RPG, etc. that tries to meet the status quo, a lot of these games will be quite refreshing," he says.

Five of Dr. Sen's computer gaming students received Creative Awards from STC.UNM in April after filing copyrights on their video games. Thanks to the success of the program Dr. Sen is currently building, UNM has joined MIT, USC and the University of Washington on Microsoft's list of technical universities that have game development programs featuring XNA, Microsoft's game development toolkit.

AGL's three new Xbox games were available for the public to test play during ECE's daylong Video Game Competition on December 10. The event also featured games developed by students in Professor Sen's ECE/CS 412 Introduction to Computer Graphics class.

Dr. Sen promises that this is only the beginning of the game development program in ECE. "The games are going to get more sophisticated as we fine tune our development process and are able to integrate artists more effectively working alongside our engineers on the projects," he says. While we wait for more games, however, anyone with an Xbox 360 game console and an Xbox LIVE account can download Magnetic Defender and try it out for free!

Game on!