The first round of the Microsoft Imagine Cup has begun as competitors are judged in front of panels of industry experts; throughout the proceedings we have noticed a few standout presentations.
Hundreds of hours of work have gone into each project we've seen at the Cup so far, though the burning excitement from yesterday's opening ceremony has slowed to a collected and determined glow.
NomNom Productions: Shift
We first saw Game Development team NomNom Productions from Belgium who describe themselves as "Four DAE students on a quest to win epically", and have coded a title that they call Shift. Named for the title's primary mechanic, Shift involves a central island that supports a village, around which float four smaller satellite islands.
On each of these satellites resides a specific problem faced by the central village such as access to food and clean water, which the player must combat in a stylised minigame. In a manner similar to Reversi, a grid of tiles are presented to the player upon which can be fresh, fertile land, or the game can throw up obstacles such as arid tiles that prevent interaction.
The player 'shifts' a row of tiles to crops, and competes against an AI player who aims to do the opposite. The goal is to possess the most tiles on the grid, and the player can override the opponent's tiles with their own; though this is a power shared by the AI player.
The team explains one of Shift's minigames and its connection with the Millennium goals, the primary theme of the Imagine Cup. "A villager won't survive for long without clean water, so the player will have to think logically. If you let time go by and do nothing the village will die, slowly."
Education is a clear focus of the title, which is aimed predominantly at children and young adults. It's a fully realised 3D title that runs on either PC or the Xbox 360, which gives it a potential avenue for distribution if ever the game is expanded.
|NomNom Productions and Shift.
When asked what this would involve, they answered, "We want to add more levels and more countries - there are a lot of other problem areas [in the world]". The team explained that developing the game to the point it was presented took quite a lot of time. "We spent five, six months [working on Shift]. We got our education during the progress and it was hard, a lot of work goes into other courses."
With potential for new content delivered through patches and updates, there is even the possibility for current situations such as the oil spill in Mexico to be included via DLC, bridging the gap between news and an understanding that may be difficult for a student to comprehend; Shift may be able to explain it clearly. See more of Shift at the team's website.
Read on to see the next project, OneBeep!