11 December 2012
Oswald the Elephant delivers global win
Winning a prestigious international game developers' competition is just the start for the team behind iPad game Oswald the Elephant, their success persuading them to launch a new joint business venture.
The team, comprising three games graduates from RMIT University and one from Swinburne University of Technology, won a competition called Project Jetpack, which was part of the Game Connect Asia Pacific (GCAP) 2012 conference.
"I formed a team with Kalonica Quigley (RMIT), Tim Goschnick (RMIT) and Matthew Elvey Price (Swinburne)," Rhys van der Waerden, who has just completed studies in Games and Graphics Programming at RMIT, said.
"Together we came up with an idea and finished a prototype over the two days of the event. We called it Oswald the Elephant, designed for iPad."
The game is about an elephant who walks on stilts, and is designed to engage the player on a physical level, using the features of an iPad.
"The player controls the game by rotating the tablet left and right, which helps them feel the precarious lurching of Oswald's balance," Mr van der Waerden siad.
"The game looks like a picture book and features a combination of 2D for the scenery and 3D for Oswald and his stilts."
Project Jetpack was organised by leading 3D design software firm, Autodesk, and video game developers, Halfbrick.
The team is delighted with the prizes it received for winning the competition.
"Autodesk have provided us with a great computer and their Maya 3D modelling software," Mr van der Waerden said.
"But we will also be receiving a year of mentoring from Halfbrick, which will be amazing for progressing our careers."
The team met and formed at a local game jam - events where developers, artists and other creatives meet over short periods to create new games.
"The design we entered was based on a game we made for TIGJam, a 48-hour game jam organized by TIGsource.com, but I've been doing game jams for a year or two because they're a great way to practise a skill and experiment," Mr van der Waerden said.
"It's also a great way meet new people who do game development and form teams - we're now forming a company because of this short project."
Competition-winning iPad game Oswald the Elephant. This image is taken from the web version.
Mr van der Waerden credits his experience of studying Games and Graphics Programming at RMIT as not only instrumental in providing the skills to develop games, but also as perfect preparation for the group ethic of game development.
"There is no way in which my study did not help me with designing the game," he said.
"The games course has given me lots of experience for different aspects of the development process - how to work in groups and general workflow, what works as a design idea, how to structure code, and general design decisions."
The program leader for Games and Graphics Programming, Dr Fabio Zambetta, has also been an important influence.
"Fabio is a great and enthusiastic course leader and he's shown a lot of interest in the project," Mr van der Waerden said.
"I really enjoyed my time at RMIT, but one of the greatest things about being at university is being with a group of like-minded peers who can provide feedback and inspiration."
Dr Zambetta sees that winning prestigious competitions can be major career breaks.
"Rhys has been a great student with an inquisitive mind; not just a talented programmer, but someone who would question assumptions and would be able to communicate his ideas sharply," Dr Zambetta said.
"It's great to see our students win prestigious competitions, like this one at GCAP, as not only does this validate our efforts in running our degree, but it also represents a great career start for them, which they are certainly going to put to good use."
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RMIT graduate Rhys van der Waerden - a winner at international games festival GCAP 2012.