The Universal GameDev Challenge (which Intel and Microsoft sponsored) invited developers to design a PC game that leveraged one of five Universal-owned iconic brands: Back to the Future, Jaws, Battlestar Galactica, Voltron: Legendary Defender, and Turok. The companies selected the winner from nearly 550 submissions worldwide. Gbanga received $150,000 and a year-long consulting contract with Universal for capturing the grand prize.
In Voltron: Cubes of Olkarion, players duel each other in real time. Using the cube superweapon from Voltron: Legendary Defender, Gbanga imagined a world where the villain Zarkon finds a way to mass-produce more cubes, and in their story, smaller cubes with different attack and defense abilities formed the basis for an ancient Olkari board game.
I was one of the judges, and demo’s quality impressed me. I’m not a Voltron fan, but after a few minutes I understood how to play the 2D game. Judges selected Voltron: Cubes of Olkarion based on its instant playability of the game prototype, its potential for expansion into a commercial product, and most important, the amount of fun judges had while playing it.
“We’ve been creating gaming experiences on a wide range of platforms for more than a decade,” said Andreas Halter, game producer at Gbanga, in a statement. “But we’ve always been limited to designing games around our own IP. With the Universal GameDev Challenge, we relished the opportunity to work with a blockbuster franchise. We’re all huge fans of Voltron: Legendary Defender, and having the opportunity to pour our love for this series into an exciting new game project is a dream come true. We’re incredibly grateful to Universal and Unity for the opportunity.”
In addition to the grand prize winner, we picked five additional runners-up: Mick Heijkens (Backpack to the Future), Tom Breuer (Back to the Future IV – Time Anomalies), Alexander Ferguson (Turok: Legacy of Stone), Max Snyder (Turok: Escape from Lost Valley), and From the Future (Battlestar Galactica Deception). Each gets $20,000 in prizes.
“It’s all about fast-thinking and quick decision-making. Two players face each other on battlefields across the galaxy. Each player must defend their own base while attacking their opponent,” Halter said in an email. “The titular Cubes of Olkarion offer both offensive capabilities — such as firing a powerful frost beam — as well as defensive characteristics, and must be arranged in strategic patterns to outsmart the enemy. No two matches are ever the same. There’s no winning strategy – players must constantly try to predict their opponent’s moves and adapt their plans on the fly in order to win.”
All six winning teams participated in a mentorship program in Los Angeles, where each team received project guidance from industry experts hailing from Universal, Unity Technologies, Intel, and Microsoft, along with competition judges, including Back to the Future co-creator, co-writer and co-producer Bob Gale, and Voltron: Legendary Defender showrunner and Dreamworks TV co-executive producer Lauren Montgomery.
All six winning game prototypes are playable at the Made With Unity booth at Unite LA from October 23 to October 25.
Gbanga consists of the following team members: game design lead Robin Bornschein; art director Yury Schicker; producer Andreas Halter; quality manager Ramona Ent; animation designer Manuela Seiler; AI programmer Alex Steinacher; system engineer Marc Steiner; programmers Benjamin Klingler, Jonas Krucher, and Kevin Biehler; programmer intern Federico Mantovani; testers Valeria Glauser and Ascan Helfer; writer and executive producer Robbert van Rooden; and executive producer Matthias Sala.