The next hit Fortnite experience may have been conceived by a team of students in UNC Greensboro’s Esports Arena.
On October 27 and 28, UNCG and Epic Games hosted Game Jam, a workshop for students interested in developing their own video games.
At the Game Jam, approximately 30 aspiring video game creators from UNCG, Wake Technical Community College (Wake Tech), Durham Technical Community College (Durham Tech), Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC), and North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University (NC A&T) came together for the two-day event. There, they used Epic Games’ Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN) to learn about video game creation, brainstorm, and collaborate with fellow students to develop their own games, and showcase their creations to vie for impressive awards.
UNCG’s assistant director of esports innovation, Sophie Priest, organized the Game Jam and was encouraged by the registration response to the first event of its kind at UNCG. “Game Jams are usually all-night affairs with teams competing to design games within a time limit, but we wanted to work with Epic to provide an educational aspect to it.”
Priest reached out to schools with game development or computer science programs and spread the word throughout UNCG’s esports community. Participating students included experienced game animators and those with minimal experience, but all were excited to use UEFN to bring their video game ideas to life.
“We started the event on Friday morning with a UEFN workshop and then let the participants socialize and break into teams that they would work closely with throughout the next day,” says Steve Isaacs, Epic Games’ educational program manager. “Many of the teams just met on Friday. We loved watching how they brought different skills to their partnerships. It’s a practice they’ll use in their future careers.”
First Person Troubleshooters
The teams began developing their games on Friday afternoon and came back on Saturday morning to finish their creations before presenting their games to the group at the end of the workshop.
“Their hard work really paid off,” Isaacs said. “Not only were the ideas fresh, but almost every game we saw felt like a fully playable game.”
The teams tested their gameplay with on-site technical support from Cleverlike Studios before they presented their creations to compete for Best Gameplay Experience and Most Innovative Game and Team.
“The Cleverlike instructors were amazing. I cannot gush about them enough,” said participant Andy Villasmil. “They did a great job introducing UEFN to everyone and were willing to help with seemingly any question. None of the teams would have produced these amazing projects if we didn’t have support from Cleverlike and Epic.”
Since the event featured prizes that encouraged professional development, the Game Jammers were motivated competitors.
“We were blown away by the presentations,” said Isaacs. “These teams made the judging really difficult.”
Erin Ago and Maddy Tidball, computer science majors from UNCG, were named Most Motivated Learners. They won a year’s subscription to UEFN’s Creator School from Cleverlike Studios. An award valued at $500, these students will have access to game development instruction to expand their skills.
Most Innovative Game was awarded to Sloane Miller, Nick Dewberry, Cambrell Etheridge, and DaeQuan Peele from NC A&T. Instead of the typical tower climber game, their creation had players start at the top and descend to lower levels. It impressed judges and competitors alike and won the team a $400 Amazon gift card.
The most coveted award, Best Gameplay Experience, went to Moisty Mire, a team of aspiring game developers who also walked away with a $400 Amazon gift card. Andy Villasmil, a computer science major from UNCG, met Jared Young from Durham Tech and John Klous from Wake Tech on day one of the workshop.
“I happened to be sitting next to Jared and we started talking and had lunch together. After exchanging ideas for a bit, we decided to be a team,” Villasmil explained. “We were lucky because Klous’ team decided to disband, leaving him looking for people to join, so the three of us grouped up and got to work.”
Moisty Mire’s game, “Tower of Salvos;” and “All Out War”, a game developed by a team from GTCC; along with a Halloween-themed video game created by two UNCG students and a student from Wake Tech were named most complete games, which accompanied a highly sought-after prize. These three teams have the opportunity to work with composers in UNCG’s School of Music to create a soundtrack for their video games.
Since the Esports Arena’s opening in May of 2022, it has been a gathering place for students, a competitive arena for esports tournaments, and a laboratory for teachers and professionals interested in adapting video game technologies for education, but now UNCG can add creative inspiration to the list of Esports Arena purposes.
“Even though the Game Jam was technically a competition, people were always walking around, checking out other projects and helping each other out. By the end, I really didn’t care if we won or lost because everyone had put in the work and had amazing projects that deserved to win,” said Villasmil. “But there is honestly nothing more rewarding than seeing people enjoy something you made that did not exist 36 hours before. It’s pretty incredible.”
Story by Becky Deakins, University Communications.
Photography by Jimmy Nguyen.