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  • SpAI team members: (from left) Steven Scott, Abbey Miranda, Clyde Smets, Joseph Hitzke and Ryan Hayward.

Player-as-hacker video game wins international prize

25 February 2011

A clever, puzzle-filled video game which puts the player inside a computer to "hack" systems and crack firewalls, developed by five QUT students, has won an international games competition.

SpAI, the game the students developed for their final-year project for the Bachelor of Games and Interactive Entertainment at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), has won them a trip to the US and the kudos of winning Best UDK Indie Game for 2010.

The student team, called No Comment, put the game on popular site IndieDB for gamers to download and play for free.

SpAI was voted into the top ten by gamers and then Epic Games and IndieDB judges awarded it first place.

"We were surprised - totally blown away by the win. We didn't even know we'd been nominated till we'd won," said No Comment team member Abbey Miranda who has worked for an educational games developer for two years.

"We didn't want to develop just another 'shooter' so we designed SpAI as a puzzle platformer game. The first task for the player is to break through a firewall and it continues with a variety of problem-solving tasks."

Abbey said SpAI would appeal to "hard-core" gamers but it came with a tutorial so anybody could play.

Abbey said the five students were staying together as a team even though they had now graduated and had day jobs. He said the win was a boost for their CVs.

"We are polishing the game and taking it further - we are putting in our best work at the moment," he said.

The team leaves for the North Carolina headquarters of Epic Games in April where they will show developers how they made SpAI, tapped the potential of the UDK (Unreal Development Kit) engine and also speak at the East Coast Games Conference.

The team's producer Matthew Ford said the team hoped to publish a full game to commercial online outlets.

"Such humble beginnings can lead to great things. One recent example is a game made by students at a USA game degree school, which also had innovative puzzle mechanics set in a compelling and visually stunning world. Those students were hired by premier game developer Valve to make the gigantic hit game Portal."

QUT Bachelor of Games and Interactive Entertainment coordinator Dr Peta Wyeth said the final-year students worked as teams of programmers, designers and animators to complete the year-long project.

"They work closely with QUT staff and industry mentors to turn a computer game concept into an engaging game play experience," Dr Wyeth said.

"We have been impressed with the quality of the work produced and are extremely proud of our students. The SpAI team's achievements show that the Bachelor of Games and Interactive Entertainment is producing world class graduates."

Media contact: Niki Widdowson, QUT media officer, 07 3138 1841 or n.widdowson@qut.edu.au