A team from UCF’s School of Visual Arts and Design is headed to one of the biggest video game conferences in the nation, by special invitation.
The team will unveil its Magical Savior of Friends video game at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) at the Moscone Center in San Francisco from March 21-23. The game is designed to help children who are missing limbs develop muscle isolation and control in preparation for getting a prosthetic limb.
UCF’s design team originally submitted the game to be considered for the conference’s juried competition – Alt Ctrl GDC. So faculty members were surprised when the main organizer of the conference, Simon Carless, asked them instead to showcase the game and prosthetic technology in their own booth, all at no cost to the team.
The invitation signed by Carless said “the product was so innovative and such a positive example of games in action, we thought it would be fair to give you a free booth at GDC Play.” The team also will hold a special session at the event – which attracts more than 26,000 attendees – about gaming and making games accessible to all audiences.
“For us, this is huge,” said assistant professor Matt Dombrowski. “Not only is it validation of our peers, but it also helps us showcase the work of Limbitless to a different audience, an audience that needs to hear about accessibility and gaming.”
The SVAD team has been working with UCF-based Limbitless Solutions, a nonprofit direct support organization dedicated to providing children with affordable 3D-printed bionic limbs for more than a year.
The collaboration led to several games that help children prepare to control 3D-printed bionic arms. Children who have received arms through Limbitless Solutions provided valuable input to not only design the games and make them fun, but also to provide a more engaging experience that may be of interest to all gamers. The new game is the result of lessons learned.
“It’s an incredible boost for us showing our experiment in a collaboration that has resulted in quality work on a global scale,” said Limbitless Solutions CEO Albert Manero. “This will give us an opportunity to share our work and vision with developers all over the world.”
Dombrowski and Manero will be joined by fellow collaborators assistant professors Peter Smith and Ryan Buyssens and Limbitless cofounder Dominique Corbin for the presentation at 1:30 p.m. on Friday.
“This is a very exciting time for the game development community,” Smith said. “Our technology is currently being implemented in customized ‘Bionic Kid’-centric games, but we are already seeing a shift toward inclusion from the larger game companies.”
The new game puts the player in the in the role of a customizable gnome-like character who uses elemental magical powers to fight the evil Sir Sneklesworth, a snake that has captured and held for ransom the frog inhabitants of his kingdom. Only by mastering all of your powers – each requiring the use of a different type of muscle flexing – the player can fight their way to Sir Sneklesworth and save their friends. The game uses a proprietary calibration system to simulate an analog input from a single EMG sensor. This analog functionality of the sensor will enhance the children’s muscle control and can be used to prepare them for Limbitless arms.
Attendees will be able to meet the SVAD/Limbitless Games team and see the game in action at their booth located in the GDC Play area.
This research initiative stemmed from seed provided by UCF’s College of Arts & Humanities. The SVAD/Limbitless team will not be attending GDC alone. They will be joined by their undergraduate research assistants.
“This is a ginormous opportunity to meet other people in the gaming community who want to create a positive impact on children’s lives through gaming,” said Lilly Nghi, one of the four student assistants.
The SVAD team is part of UCF’s undergraduate game design program, which was listed in The Princeton Review rankings for the first time this year. It came in at No. 36. The rankings will be featured in PC Gamer magazine on newsstands on March 27.