Ask anyone who plays video games, I guarantee at some point they’ve had to tell a parent “I can’t do the dishes right now, it’s an online game. You can’t pause an online game.”
I’m going to guess that most members of the new Video Game Development Club have said this to their parents as kids. They were the kids who were grounded for playing instead of doing homework, who camped outside game stores waiting for a hot new game, who spent countless hours of their childhoods playing online with friends they’d likely never meet in the real world.
They aren’t kids anymore. They’re finally getting to the age where they can show the world (and their parents) their passion was never just a game.
Before 2019, any future game developers here at Oregon State were working alone. Then Nathan DeStafeno, founder and president of the Video Game Development Club, took a little initiative.
“There’s a gap in our curriculum. We have a CS applied option called “Game Programming Simulation,” but at no point in it do you actually program a game,” says DeStafeno.
With no dedicated major, club, or any other forms of support, students with an interest in game development had no choice but to channel their interest through other forms of software development or to teach themselves online.
“I asked my faculty adviser why this club doesn’t exist, and he said ‘Go start the club yourself.’ So here I am,” says DeStafeno.
Now, DeStafeno leads the club. When they meet, the club consistently has upwards of thirty to forty members show up to hone their craft.
“We take everybody from all skill levels. I want to do this as a career,” says DeStafeno. “Some of our members just want to do this as a hobby.”
He begins each meeting by addressing the group as a whole. The members, his friends, shout friendly insults as he brings them to order, and they get down to business.
Did you think it was all fun and games?
“This year, we want to attend several Game Jams. What a Game Jam is: you set aside a weekend, and with your team you program a game,” says DeStafeno. “They’ll tell you something like ‘Go make a spooky game, here’s your instructions, here’s your team size, just go make something.’ Those are great to put on portfolios and on your resume, which is what this club is all about: building our members’ skill sets for their resumes and portfolios for their careers.”
After two terms of building the club’s foundation, the Video Game Development Club’s most ambitious project to date is right there in the club’s name: They’re developing a game to be distributed online. And they’re not just building some knockoff of The Legend of Zelda either.
“The goal is to make a 3D team based first-person shooter that’s reminiscent of the old Halo games, where you would have LAN parties, like in your high school computer lab,” says DeStafeno. “The working title is Local War. Local like a LAN party, and War because it’s a war game.”
Developing a game from scratch is no small undertaking, which is why the club is divided into five different teams, each tasked with overseeing a particular aspect of Local War’s development. While most members pursue a computer science degree, the ones who don’t fill in key roles outside of programming.
“Part of the reason that I chose sound design in the game development club, as opposed to programming, or AI, is because there aren’t very many artists,” says Robert Hudspeth, the officer in charge of the arts and assets team. “I’ve been composing music and audio on the side for the last six years, not very many people have that kind of experience on this team.”
Though the programmers are the ones who make the actual game, putting a game on the market requires work from all mediums.
“Game design is a lot like making movies now, you just have a ludicrous amount of people involved, you have people doing art, a lot of people are working on the back end, not coding at all.” says Zachary Morello, a member of the AI team. “If someone wanted to get into game design, there are a lot of options for them that are more than just coding”
If a legal agreement can be reached, the club’s end goal is to publish Local War on Itch.io, a popular platform for indie games, and on Steam.
Wait, a legal agreement? Whatever for?
“Game publishers work with companies, they don’t work with educational institutes,” says DeStafeno. Because Oregon State is a non profit university owned by the state, the legal hurdles for publishing games are unclear, but the team know their priorities “We’re very self driven and motivated just to make something cool together.”
The Video Game Development Club meets on Wednesdays at 5:00 PM in Batcheller Hall 244.