FXP Festival hits peak gaming success mode
Computer game contest showcases regional flair for creativity in schools and colleges
With just an hour to go before the entrants had to present their finished work to the committee, the FXP Festival was... surprisingly relaxed.
Not that there had not been dramas – one key programmer had gotten a bug of the human rather than computerised variety, another had a computer crash which wiped out half a morning’s work, and another had developed a game which was playable but was taking two days to upload.
A quick tour of the room suggested that a lot of the hard work had already been done on in the previous 48 hours. On Friday, the 23 teams assembled at Cambridge Regional College (CRC) and heard that the theme of the weekend’s burst of gaming creativity was ‘foul’, so game designs had to link to the word somehow.
Maybe there was a misunderstanding but this was turned to ‘fowl’ for some of the school and college-age contestants, as a tour of the room revealed.
First up is North Cambridge Academy, fielding three teams: Random, Phanton and er, the Year 10 team, whose game is “a sort of Supermarket Sweep” where your character is powered by methane so you have to find baked beans and eat a lot of them. Random’s game is called The Lwof. Lwof – fowl backwards – stands for Llamas World Operation Freeze.
“It’s a world domination – or defeat world domination – game,” explains Neil Matthews, the Academy’s computer science, science and geography teacher.
There are two categories: a game concept only, or game development. The Phanton team has done some coding, and is “creating an environment for characters to walk through, but there’s no game concept involved”.
Long Sands Academy is here for the second year. The St Neots Academy has brought Year 10 and 11 pupils along. They seem to know what they are doing?
“We run a computer club once a week, all year,” says head of computing, Neil Koncewicz. “Last year, we were runners-up in development.”
Was the first time a challenge?
“Last year was intense,” says Chris. “We’re relatively calm this year, perhaps because we have a good idea of what’s going to go wrong.”
The Long Sands team is called Adleg. Adleg? “A distinct lack of Earl Grey,” explains one of the team, which has created Fowl Play. The characters are awesome and the animations – “I have to draw each frame,” says the artist – superb. One bird of prey has wings “which are also fists to attack” and “glides when it runs”, another floats about in a believable fashion mid-air. They get designed in Illustrator, then ported into the gameplay. The end result is impressive: possible winners for sure, though there was a crash which wiped some data. “I lost one bird but I built another,” said the developer.
Long Road Sixth Form College brought four pupils but that was cut to three after one had got sick.
“He was their programmer,” says Long Road’s applied media teacher, Nick Potamitis. Applied media is “digital video, digital film-making, graphic design, layout, photo shoots ... game production is all part of the equation.”
The Long Road team is Josh, Tommy and Ben. They completed their exams this summer. Tommy is”currently working as a QA (quality assurance) tester, I’m hoping to move into a full-time position in Cambridge soon”.
“The course is really really good,” says Ben, who is going to university in Norwich to study art and design. Josh is going to Escape Studios in London to do a video game artist course.
The trio had to recover from the loss of their programmer. “It was rough,” said Ben.
“It was hell,” says Josh, “but we pulled through.”
Their game is Foulout. “What it is is a biomedical engineer going down into some caves to deal with various creatures – it’s playable.”
Is there a high score list?
“No because we literally finished the programme just a few minutes ago,” says Josh.
On the other side of the room is a team from Ipswich-based Suffolk Village College. They are flat-out doing some final checks to a game called Mulch. I ask one of the team of five how it’s going. “It’s going pretty good,” is the reply.
Next up is a crew from West Suffolk College from Bury St Edmunds, led by course director Kyrstie Hall. There are three teams: Dumbledorx, Toxic Virgins and Team Names Are Tight. Two are concept art teams and one is doing coding – Dumbledorx, whose game is called KFC – Kill Famous Chefs.
The Toxic Virgins have created “a 3D playtime and a play doctor who wears a bird mask and eventually he reveals himself to be a real bird monster who wants to take over the world”. Team Names Are Tight have written a game where, to win “you have to cheat”. It’s called Apocalypse Snail and involves a defence of earth against… you guessed it, against a race of intergalactic snails.
Last up – there were other teams from across the region but I did not get to talk to them before the day ended – is Sawston Village College. Washbot is the name of their game. One of the team is in Year 9 and the other three are Year 10. The main programmer was only slightly chilled.
“It was a little bit hectic,” he explained. “The teamwork part was may – we all know each other really well – but I had some bugs in the gameplay.”
It is their first FXP. “We’re really pleased with what’s been done.”
So they all should be.
- FXP was co-founded by Alison Taylor, MD of Conscious Communications, and supported this year by the Cambridge Independent.
There were two main prizes – one for the development of a full game and another for the development of a concept game.
Within the development crews, there were prizes for Level 1 – Years 8 to 11 – and for Level 2, further education. Here is the top three Level 1 development teams:
1. ‘OBI’ by Chesterton Community College
2. ‘Attack Helicopter’ by Chesterton Community College
3. ‘The Mengerists’ by Sawston Village College.
The top three Level 2 development teams were:
1. ‘We Are Not Prepared’ by Suffolk New College
2. ‘Long Road Games’ by Long Road Sixth Form
3. ‘Duck Authority Team’ by Suffolk New College.
The Level 2 concept winner was ‘Dumbledorks’ by West Suffolk College. “Genuinely the best I’ve ever seen in that category” said Mark Ogilvie, Jagex.
Concept Level 1 winners were:
1. ‘1000101’ by Long Sands Academy
2. ‘Knights of the Numerical Order’ by Parkside Community College
3. ‘xXx_Sporty_Skaters_xXx’ by Chesterton Community College.