UCO Computer Students Developing Video Game

UCO Computer Students Developing Video Game

Remington Steele, project leader of Zero Set Gaming, works on developing “Project Music Man,” a game that he and several other UCO students are working on. The group plans on releasing a demo next summer. Photo by Ryan Naeve, The Vista.

Students at the University of Central Oklahoma spent the summer developing a computer game and hope to have a demo completed next year.

The group, Zero Set Gaming, includes UCO computer science majors Remington Steele, Caleb Mills and Josh Drumm, along with Selena Gjovaag and Sara Handy, who both contribute to the game’s artistic design. A sound engineer from Washington named Zack Ormiston is tasked with producing the game’s music.

While there’s no official title yet, “Project Music Man” is the codename the team has given the game for the time being, said Steele, the project leader. It’s being created using a developing software called Unity and will feature 2D graphics and mechanics similar to old-school classics like Nintendo’s “The Legend of Zelda.”

“‘Project Music Man’ uses the elements of a music game and an RPG,” Steele said, referring to a genre of video games called role-playing games. “You’re using music as a weapon.”

In the “Project Music Man” universe, there are musicians called creators who use music to generate an energy force opposed to just sound. Among these creators are ‘alphas,’ the champions of a specific kind of music, Steele said.

“So if somebody is making a thrashing metal riff on his guitar, it’ll slash down a building. Or if a character is making a techno percussive beat, it’s going to cause an earthquake,” he said.

Creators are divided by certain music types, such as strings or percussionists. As the game’s main character, the player wields a reprogrammable keytar and uses multiple musical powers similarly to show how different music genres blend to create jazz or rock ’n roll.

The player also gets new sounds and upgrades to power up as the game progresses, Steele said.

As they navigate a virtual city with musical districts organized by genre, players will encounter new characters and have opportunities to embark on side quests.

Steele said the team wanted to include a variety of relatable characters throughout the map to help players establish emotional connections and keep their interest.

“We have a dynamic supporting main cast that has everything from a recluse — a guy who’s been a wallflower his entire life — to a character that comes from a broken home,” Steele said. “We’re including all these archetypes to help people see themselves in that character’s shoes.”

While he admits the mechanics and graphics of “Project Music Man” are nothing innovative, Steele said Zero Set Gaming hopes to maintain players’ attention with a compelling storyline surrounding the impact of music and a fun, original game soundtrack.

“It’s like a mixture of reading book, watching a movie and playing a tabletop game — it tells a story,” Steele said.

“Project Music Man” is a passion project.

Zero Set Gaming’s original goal was to get a working demo done before the fall semester began; however, designing a video game is no simple task, Steele said.

The team held weekly meetings during the summer where Steele would assign goals and discuss upcoming deadlines, but there’s still plenty of work to do.

“We got most of our predevelopment stuff done this summer — the storymaking, script-writing, character development, concept art and some music,” Steele said.

“We have the world and the actions between characters within the world established,” Steele said. “What we’re mainly working on now is the menu system, enemy AI and combat.”

Each member of Zero Set Gaming is responsible for helping with different aspects of Project Music Man, including coding, character attributes and fighting mechanics. Some processes, such as character design, took a lot of collaboration from individual team members. One of the game’s characters was designed in three different art styles before a final concept was decided.

Once the “Project Music Man” demo is complete, Zero Set Gaming plans to begin a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the rest of the game, Steele said.

Currently, those involved in the project have been working for free and on their own time, but the team is hopeful that the final product will be worthwhile.

Steele said Zero Set Gaming’s ultimate goal is to engage players with the story of “Project Music Man” and help them develop new tastes in music.

“At the end of the day, this is for everybody else,” Steele said. “We just want to make a difference in people’s lives, and if the story that we’re telling can do that, that’s the end goal.”

“If two percent of the people that play the game feel that way or get that feeling within them, it was all worth it,” Steele said.

For aspiring game designers hoping to someday develop their own virtual adventures, Steele offered some advice.

“All I suggest is to do it,” he said. “I realized even if I just do this as a project, a hobby, or something I do in my free time, I’m not going to know what the limits of being a game designer are until I actually do it.”

The great thing about video games is that it’s not just someone reading the story to you — you’re creating the story. That dynamic can be applied to any life goal, Steele said.

You’re the main character — you’re the protagonist of your life. If you have a dream, do it, because otherwise it’s going to well up inside of you and you might end up regretting it in the future. It never hurts to try,” Steele said.

For more information about Zero Set Gaming, email Remington Steele at rsteele5@uco.edu.

“If you try and you fail, oh well. But if you can find those people that help you make your dream a reality, go for it,” Steele said.

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