Drexel University and the University of Central Florida/FIEA won the top honors in the annual Intel University contest for best student games at the Game Developers Conference. The contest is a good place to spot the talent for the next generation of games.

Drexel’s Fling to the Finish won the prize for best gameplay in a national bake-off that pitted students from more than a dozen college teams with student game projects. The University of Central Florida/FIEA won best visual quality for Hollowed.

Intel, the world’s biggest chip maker, gave $40,000 in hardware prizes in three categories: Best Gameplay, Best Visual Quality, and Innovation categories.

The judges included Mike Geig, technical evangelist at Unity Technologies; Ben Mears, community manager of games segment at SideFX; Lesley McDiarmid, senior vice president of corporate partnerships at Green Man Gaming; Andrew Parsons, story + voice team for Windows Developer Product Marketing at Microsoft; Luis Cataldi, Unreal Engine global education at Epic Games; Richard Hilleman, video game creative and electric motorsports at Amazon Games; and Justin Woodward, cofounder at The Media Indie Exchange (MIX) and business development at Fig.

Above: University of Central Florida/FIEA won best visuals for Hollowed.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Best Gameplay

1st Place: $10,000 Intel hardware grant: Drexel University, Fling to the Finish
2nd Place: $5,000 Intel hardware grant: University of Central Florida/FIEA, Hollowed
3rd Place: $2,500 Intel hardware grant: SMU, Up in the Air

Best Visual Quality

1st Place: $10,000 Intel hardware grant: University of Central Florida/FIEA, Hollowed
2nd Place: $5,000 Intel hardware grant: University of Wisconsin/Stout, Sun of the Children
3rd Place: $2,500 Intel hardware grant: Drexel University, Fling to the Finish

Innovation Award

$5,000 Intel hardware grant: UC Santa Cruz, CtrlShift

Carnegie Mellon University

Project Name: Project Presence

Project Description: Project Presence was a semester-long project that was developed out of the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University. We explored the possibilities of designing a branching narrative game for virtual reality that maintains a 3rd-person perspective. Through the development of a 7–9 minute film noir experience with more than 30 different routes through the story and 10 different endings, we discovered important lessons about designing for non-character player role that we believe will contribute to the development of future interactive VR narratives.

Team Members: Bradley Plaxen, Zoe Qi, Melissa Robinson Schoeller, and Sharon You.

DigiPen Institute of Technology

Project Name: Suara
Project Description: Suara is an Audio-Reactive Action Arcade experience that takes place on the surface of geometric worlds. Fight waves of enemies, defeat bosses, and bring life back to the Geoverse.

Team Members: Nicholas Gulezian, Alexander Schwab, Andrew Dillon, Antoine Zanchetta, Jason Jorgenson, Axel Garcia, Kevin Do, Chase Rayment, Gabriel Chenier, Hans Berghoff, Paden Cross, and Greg Dixon.

Drexel University

Project Name: Fling to the Finish

Project Description: Fling to the Finish ​ is a wacky cooperative platformer where you’re tethered to your best friend, worst enemy, or awkward acquaintance. Get up close and personal with your partner as you share a controller operating two halves of an energetic duo connected by an elastic band. Teams will have to stay in constant communication to stand a chance of getting through crazy, unpredictable obstacle courses. To find out more, fling over to SplitSideGames.com.

Team Members: Andre Edgarian, Ryan McMahon, Utkarsh Dwivedi, and Ben Spurr.

New York University

Project Name: Flight Simulator

Project Description: Flight Simulator is a game where the player is a passenger, not the pilot. Aboard a commercial airliner, the player decides how they want to spend time at their window seat while waiting out their transatlantic flight – leaving the rest to modern aviation. Flying is the safest mode of travel so there is nothing to worry about. Just sit back and enjoy.

Team Members: Hosni Auji

Rochester Institute of Technology

Above: MetroGnome

Image Credit: Intel

Project Name: MetroGnome

Project Description: MetroGnome is a voxel-based rhythm defense game that teaches players essential components of music. Players are encouraged to explore different areas throughout the game to discover new environments and original songs. Players may also choose to record their own rhythms after importing their music into the game. These mapped beats may then be saved and replayed at any time. Created first in November 2017 as part of a game jam, MetroGnome has evolved into a musical adventure that enthralls both players and educators. MetroGnome is currently in production with RIT’s MAGIC Spell Studios.

Team Members: Matt Barry, John Blau, and Barrington Campbell.

Savannah College of Art and Design

Above: Dialect Effect

Image Credit: Intel/Savannah College of Art & Design

Project Name: Dialect Effect

Project Description: Dialect Effect is an immersive language learning VR experience. It allows the player to learn words and phrases in a foreign language by using voice recognition in response to game character interactions and prompts. The current language lesson is set to Mandarin Chinese. The player engages the lessons in a virtual environment set in a Chinese apothecary, where the player is met with the wise Dr. Tong. He/she will be tasked with responding with the correct words in a foreign language. By speaking the words correctly, the player advances the experience.

Team Members: Carl Vitasa, Tyvic Stallworth, and Ralph Roma.

SMU Guildhall

Project Name: Up in the Air

Project Description: Up in the Air is zany, open-world game about a balloon dog exploring a demented theme park populated by crazy children. Players must use a variety of power ups, from water balloons to inflating helium, to fend off the kids and collect carnival tickets. Players can burn down the attractions, knock over a castle, trap children in cardboard jails, master hopscotch, become radioactive, turn off the sun, or get popped by a cactus. If they are particularly unlucky, they can even find the notorious child Chunkles and fall victim to his gaping maw.

Team Members: Jake Patton, Drew Fulsom, Sarah Broussard, Sam Adlis, Feini Pan, Chong Deng, Kate Barker, Dharmik Dave, Wenzheng Huang, Ramon Ridenour, Santiago Moreno, Kristine Chen, and Zexin Ye.

UC/Santa Cruz

Project Name: CtrlShift

Project Description: Sneak, hack, escape! You can’t do this alone! CtrlShift is a two player asymmetrical local co-op, where communication is key. As hacker and spy, the two players try to save mankind by hacking mainframes and liberating the hive mind controlled people that are made to guard the sentient AI. We combined the classic stealth game with the hacker genre in this 80’s vision of the future dystopian scenario. CtrlShift combines room-scale VR with a 2D hacker interface, utilizing the PC. This means two very different views of the environment, so keep each other up to speed.

Team Members: Dylan Faust, Ashkan Nourkhalaj, Eleonora Hackman, Lingyi Qu, Zejun Yuan, Eadmond Dai, Rodney Balajadia, Garrett Gerberding, Yuki Wong, Mark Garma, Brendan Wolf, and Daniel Helling.

University of Central Florida/FIEA

Project Name: Hollowed

Project Description: Hollowed tells the story of a woman who will do anything to bring her perished loved one back to the world of the living. Control Halia and her spirit Oco simultaneously on a single controller in this side-scrolling puzzle platformer.

Team Members: Erin Marek, Charley Choucard, Leah Augustine, Louis Hofer, Siddharth Suresh, Martin Holtkamp, Jerrick Flores, Kayla Garand, Brandon Kidwell, Gabi Capraro, Yunhao Huo, Doug Halley, Will Perez-Valines, Melissa Almirall, Paul Salas, Matthew Trupiano, Anthony Ballinas, and Cameron Schwach.

University of Utah

Project Name: Logout

Project Description: Logout is a stealth action-adventure game about a Social Media Apocalypse, your only weapon is emotion manipulation. Play as Quinn, a citizen of Outpost 72 and Neural Net hacker. The Neural Net is used by the government for control, the people for distraction, and the world for communication. Quinn uses her ability to hack into the Neural Net to emotionally distract citizens so she can find a way to disconnect everyone and save her brother.

Team Members: Alanna Carroll, Brian Alexander, Lytal Ouska, Chelsey Thompson, Zeno Saviour, Ajay Sathish, Mark Smith, Nancy Newren, Arpit Aggarwal, McKensie Felix, Yukun Peng-Drew, Andrew Liu, and Jensen Lillywhite.

University of Southern California

Project Name: Paws ‘n Claws

Project Description: Paws ‘n Claws is a VR co-op tower defense shooter where players can place and be the towers with various ultimate weapons to defeat cat thieves, as a dog soldier, built for HTC Vive. As newly recruited dog soldiers, players will defend their master’s precious fish from cat thieves using ridiculous dog weapons that happen to be in the house. Use peanut guns, exploding watermelons, and free-form jazz to send cats flying. No worries, all weapons are non-lethal and no cats will die in this game.

Team Members: Handa Zhang, Zheng Song, Hongjie Huang, Shaofeng Tang, Xutong Zhou, Yiyi Chen, Bran Mcdonald, Evan Arden, Ryo Homma, Xavior Torres, Alejandro Villero, Ling Lu, Ryder McNair, Brandon Jung, Yiming Zhang, Zhongpeng Shao, Cecilia Tung, Raiki Qiu, Hong Anh Nguyen, and Shimpo Yuta.

University of Wisconsin/Stout

Project Name: Sun of the Children

Project Description: Sun of the Children is a 2.5D character-driven, side-scroller inspired by mythology, culture and nature. The game combines real-time storytelling and gameplay without the use of cut scenes, verbal or textual narration. Sun of the Children unfolds across three acts, the first of which requires the player to unite the land-bound Stardust Boy and water-bound Grasshair Girl by growing trees and moving platforms. As the characters move closer together, the world becomes increasingly vibrant with color.

Team Members: Hue Vang, Chuewa Vang, Kayla Techmeier, and Sou Yang.