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The Eden Contingency

Five members of the Eden Contingency team (from left): Adam Hackley, Dylan Dipaolo, Laura Lee Harris, Christopher Martinez, and Adam Harrison. Not pictured: Derrick Eshenbaugh and Vilaudys Howard.

Next time you fire up a video game console and crack open a Red Bull, you might be playing a game made by Columbus State grads.

A seven-person team completed a sci-fi adventure recently as part of the capstone class for their Video Game program degree. Called the Eden Contingency, the game follows a security officer on a space station who must fend off an alien incursion. Each level is a self-contained room, and the player is thrown into each room blind. It’s a claustrophobic, fast-paced experience.

The group settled on an idea for the game on the first day of class, said Adam Harrison, who served as the group’s lead programmer. It draws inspiration from classic games like Diablo and Starcraft.

It also features randomly-generated levels, which allows the game to turn limited assets into unlimited gameplay. Harrison, 33, hadn’t done random level generation before, but was itching to try it. “It was one of the more challenging parts of it for me, on the code side.”

The Eden ContingencyThe seven-person team allowed members to specialize, but also get a taste of all aspects of the game. Adam Hackley, a 21-year-old North Lewisburg native, was in charge of the environment of the game and worked on building and lighting each room. Dylan Dipaolo, a 22-year-old from Dublin, was the documentation lead and made some 3D props such as swords and tables.

The team also worked to delegate tasks and balance the workload.

“The most important thing I learned was working with a small team to get things done,” said Dipaolo. “The experience is pretty valuable for anyone trying to get into the game industry.”

“We all were serious about what we were doing and knew we wanted to make it as good as we could,” Hackley said. “There were a few arguments of course, but for the most part everything was very smooth.”

The capstone class brought together students from two programs, the Video Game Art & Animation degree from the Interactive Media department and the Game Developer degree from the Computer Science department.

In addition to teaching students to design and destroy malevolent aliens, Computer Science also trains students on programming languages such as Java and C++. Computer Science faculty talk continuously with industry partners to ensure they’re teaching skills employers are looking for.

The employment outlook for game designers is bigger than most people realize, said Peter Carswell, an assistant professor in the Computer Science department. The local scene has 50 or so “indie” game development groups, as well as a number of up-and-coming professional game developers such as Tracermedia and FreshGames. In addition to shoot ‘em ups, local game developers are making promotional games for advertisers and educational games for textbook publishers.

The Video Game program is laser-focused on building skills, Harrison said. “We were making games from the first day in the first class.”

Instructor Henry Bawden says his game students are developing skills that will serve them even if game development never becomes more than a hobby. They’re honing their programming chops, solving problems creatively and – perhaps most importantly – learning to work on a team. 

The Eden Contingency“If you program a game, you have solved 90 percent of the problems you will ever find in business,” Bawden said.

The team presented the Eden Contingency to the Central Ohio Game Development Group meetup in early June, and plans to present at the Game Development Expo at COSI in October. The game just needs a “boss level,” says Dipaolo.

Meanwhile, members of the group are putting the experience to work. Hackley plans to transfer to Franklin University in the fall to get a bachelor’s degree in Interactive Media. In his free time, he’s working on his own game.

Harrison got a job before he even finished the Computer Science program. He got an internship with an e-commerce company after his first year, and that turned into full-time employment. For now, he sees game development strictly as a side project, although it’s something he might pursue as his career evolves.

Dipaolo’s next move is to travel to Seattle and pursue a career in the gaming industry. “I’m hoping this will help me get a job out there.”

For more information, contact:

  • Henry Bawden, Art and Design Assistant Professor, hbawden@cscc.edu, (614) 287-2079
  • Peter Carswell, Programming Assistant Professor, pcarswel@cscc.edu, (614) 287-5173