UT gaming academy debuts its first video game

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Students play “The Calm Before” at a release party hosted by The Denius-Sams Gaming Academy in the Moody College of Communication. “The Calm Before”, a first-person shooter computer game, was created by a team of 20 video game students from across the country.
Photo Credit: Chris Foxx | Daily Texan Staff

The one-year-old Denius-Sams Gaming Academy in the Moody College of Communication released its first video game Friday.

The academy, composed of 20 video game students from across the country, hosted a release party during which attendees could play the game “The Calm Before.” The game took nearly seven months to develop, according to academy participant Zachary Lubell.

“The Calm Before” is a first-person shooter computer game inspired by the games “The Legend of Zelda” and “Deus Ex,” according to the game’s website. Players must fight beasts and solve puzzles to save an island from an impending storm. 

Academy students pose with Roderick Hart, dean of the Moody College of Communication. Chris Foxx | The Daily Texan

The academy focuses on teaching leadership and management skills within the video game industry because the participants already understand the basics of development, according to program coordinator Joshua Howard.

“The participants experienced going through the process of concept and pre-production green light, presenting to potential clients or a board of directors, then journeying though the different phases of game production, all while building an actual product for release,” Howard said. 

Howard said graduates of the academy will have an advantage over video game developers who follow traditional career paths.

“Having the simulation of a working studio allows us to pull the participants out of difficult situations as they are happening [and] then examine the circumstances, repercussions and solutions from both the inside out to see what they can learn from it,” Howard said. “The results leads to graduates of the program having knowledge and experiences that it would take years to develop in a traditional career path.”

Lubell said presenting the game in March at the Game Developers Conference, the largest event for video game developers, proved to be the toughest challenge in the development process.

“We had to make some really tough decisions in that very short window to prepare and to polish and to do all sorts of things that we would not have traditionally done during the middle of development just to prepare for [Game Developers Conference],” Lubell said.

A student plays "The Calm Before." Chris Foxx | The Daily Texan

Gerard Manzanares, an employee at Cloud Imperium Games, said “The Calm Before” has some impressive qualities but could use additional features that would help improve its overall quality.

“The art style and environment is great, and there was no lag at all,” Manzanares said. “[The game] has a good basis but needs something more like a compass, or objective marker, or any type of direction.”

“The Calm Before” is free to download on the game’s website, www.thecalmbeforegame.com