Nano Swarm Takes Main Prize at MassDiGI's Game Challenge

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Posted April 24, 2012 - By Rob Manuel


San Francisco, Austin, Toronto; when it comes to centers for game development and instructing the gaming innovators of tomorrow, MassDiGI wants to add one more city to that list – Boston.

Home of some of the most prestigious schools and development studios such as Irrational Games, the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI) is looking to create an environment where students looking to get into the industry start in college and finish with a real job in a development studio right down the road. One such group of students took a step closer to realizing their dreams of creating their own blockbuster game when they won this year’s Game Challenge.

Started last year and based out of Becker College, this innovative group of educators stretches out across more than twenty other campuses in the region and incorporates local business and government to support the efforts of the students looking to gain real world experience. MassDiGI looks to get your hands dirty in the field as you take classes by bringing the real world games to you.

Events such as their reverse sabbatical bring real world projects such as Family Guy Online into the class for students to help with some of the labor while learning in the process. Summer Innovation puts students on real projects during that long break between semesters as they stay in dorms for free, get a little cash, and actually work on projects that will see the light of day. That’s a far sweeter deal than any game tester gig.

As it turns out, we already know of one of the projects heading down the pipeline – Nano Swarm, the winner of this year’s Game Challenge for Best Concept Category. Of the twenty-eight teams who entered this year, 80HD, a group composed for five students from the surrounding area, caught the imagination and the votes of the judges this year by presenting a highly polished tower defense game for the iPad.


We were fortunate enough to get a quick interview with Emil Ritter, member of 80HD, about what it takes to make a winning project and what’s in store for him during the summer innovation session.

How did you come up with the idea behind Nano Swarm?

Emil: We enjoy tower defense games, and it has established itself as a popular genre recently. The idea of reversing the roles and letting the player go on the offensive seemed like something worth exploring. We also liked the organic flow that a flock of birds has and we thought that that motion would create great visuals and game play.

What do you think separated your game from the group of other participants?

Emil: We think it was a novel concept; at least it's not a game we’ve ever seen. Apparently the judges agreed. That said, we really liked a lot of the other teams' concepts and prototypes.

How long have you been working on the idea?

Emil: It’s an idea we’ve had floating around in our heads for a while. The MassDiGI challenge gave us access to the advice we needed to expand upon the concept. There is nothing like a deadline to focus the group, we really pulled together to flesh out the idea.

Now that you have a chance to fully realize your game over the summer, do you already have ideas on how to expand or improve it?

Emil: Most definitely, we have tons of ideas for new levels and challenges, but our first step will be to settle down and polish the core game.


What are you most excited about winning the competition?

Emil: We’ve been given the opportunity to get started in the industry with guidance from insiders. Every recent graduate that we know struggles to find a way into the industry and because of MassDiGI we have a shot of being known as game developers. It is amazing.

How did you come together as a group to work on this idea?

Emil: We all attend Becker College so we gravitated towards each other when we heard about the Game Challenge. Since we were all interested in participating, we decided to form a team and sign up.

For other students looking to get their own games off the ground, what one piece of advice do you have to them?

Emil: Come up with an original gameplay mechanic that will make your game stand out from the crowd.

While everyone will be working on their tan, 80HD will be working on getting a shot at becoming published developers. We look forward to seeing the final product as well as catching up with Emil and the rest of 80HD when we check in back with them after the summer.

Nano Swarm Takes Main Prize at MassDiGI's Game Challenge


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