Computer Science students' game earns third in People's Choice vote

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Computer Science students' game earns third in People's Choice vote

 The Null Values team

Members of The Null Values gaming team from Northwestern Oklahoma State University show Tulsa’s KOTV News on 6 reporter Dan Brewley (seated at left end of table) the game they created for the second annual Heartland Gaming Expo at the University of Tulsa. Evan Vaverka helps Brewley as he maneuvers through the game while other team members watch, including (from top, clockwise) Taylor Dowling, Adam Burnett, Christian Coffey, James Skinner and Justin Ashton.

In their first competition of this sort, students in the Northwestern Oklahoma State University Computer Science Club earned the respect of their peers with a third place People’s Choice Award at the University of Tulsa’s second annual Heartland Gaming Expo.

Northwestern’s “The Null Values” team was comprised of Justin Ashton, Waynoka senior; Adam Burnett, Conway Springs, Kan., post-graduate; Christian Coffey, Alva senior; Taylor Dowling, Alva junior; James Skinner, Alva senior; and Evan Vaverka, Hennessey senior. Computer science instructors Mark Bagley and Debra Hogan accompanied the students to the event.

“The Heartland Gaming Expo brought together teams from universities throughout Oklahoma and Kansas to engage in a wide variety of game-related activities,” Bagley said.

The team’s award came in the final competition of the Expo where members must display and present a game created prior to the event.

Bagley explained that a number of teams in the competition had been working on their game for nearly two years. The Null Values members started talking about their game in November and in January began working to meet the entry deadline for the competition.

“In spite of this time disadvantage the team completed a working game using the Unreal game engine, “Bagley said. “The first person shooter games pits a robot tasked with exploring a new planet against an ever increasing number of enemy robots. The team chose as the game’s abstract the words ‘intended to introduce the user to the concept and feeling of desperation.’ They accomplished their goal over and over as the exciting game-play drew many to try out their game. The response was uniformly positive and as a result of this, the team received third place in the People’s Choice Award category that included more than 30 teams.”

Bagley said team members also had fun when Dan Brewley of KOTV/News on 6 in Tulsa chose their team and game to extensively interview and film.

“Of the 30 minutes of filming only 50 seconds made the air, but the team members hope to obtain the remaining video so they can put together a more complete presentation of their experiences,” Bagley said.

Team members also competed in other gaming events including the 24-hour Hack-A-Thon designed to test the team’s command of their program language and game engines.

Bagley said Northwestern’s team members produced a conceptual design of the requested Roller-coaster game but were unable to implement it in their 64-bit graphics tools. The teams that completed the project all used 8-bit graphics and wrote simple games.

“The Null Values team shot for a highly complex game but were unable to finish it,” Bagley said. “The effort itself was a great experience, and the team members picked up many ideas that will enable them to complete this in future competitions.”

Team members also took part in an opportunity to play a Japanese game that was designed for the Sega game box before being ported to Germany then ported to America. Bagley said several team members placed in the top 10 of each group but none higher than fifth place.

To be a first effort and to be selected as the third place team in the People’s Choice category was a huge win for the group, Bagley said, and added that they hope to receive funding to assist in their future efforts. Team members also plan to enter multiple competitions each year, and hope their efforts will become a major recruitment tool for the Computer Science Department and for Northwestern.

“The team has already begun the process of plotting new games and building the strategy needed to continue working on their competition game,” Bagley said. “Their game design efforts tie in to the Computer Science Department’s new efforts to introduce Robotics and Robotics Programming to the curriculum. The team member’s experiences will be used to fine tune the curriculum the department offers as well.”

Team member Vaverka also is looking to the future and added, “The team has the opportunity to establish something that lasts at Northwestern.”

-NW-