SquadHero goes for the gold…and the red, and the blue, and the green.…

SquadHero:Revolver uses the Guitar Hero game controller in an innovative way that has nothing to do with guitars or even music. Photo via grapplehookgames.com.

SquadHero:Revolver uses the Guitar Hero game con­troller in an inno­v­a­tive way that has nothing to do with gui­tars or even music. Photo via grap​ple​hookgames​.com.

One of the over­ar­ching lessons I’ve learned since coming to North­eastern is that video games can be the foun­da­tion for some real learning — both in the playing and the making of them. So I was mighty pleased when I learned that a couple of our stu­dents won the Boston Fes­tival of Indie Games’ Shield Stu­dent Inno­va­tion Award. Eric Peterson, one of said stu­dents, told me that the annual cel­e­bra­tion of Boston’s indie game scene wel­comed sev­eral thou­sand atten­dees who got to peruse the halls of MIT playing new video games of all shapes and sizes. There were talks, there was art, a game jam, and even a video game con­cert (although you’d have to ask Peterson what that was all about).

Peterson and fellow com­puter sci­ence major Adam Gressen devel­oped the first ver­sion of SquadHero:Revolver for a class assign­ment with game design pro­fessor Magy Seif El-​​Nasr in December 2012. “She pushed the projects in the class to be inno­v­a­tive in their design, and so we decided to try building a game that used a guitar con­troller in a way it had never been used before,” said Peterson. “Specif­i­cally, we wanted to build a game that used the guitar con­troller, but had nothing to do with music and was not con­strained to the same game­play as Guitar Hero.”

What they came up with is an endurance-​​style arcade game in which players con­trol a fleet of up to five space­ships as they battle an end­less onslaught of enemy mis­siles, earning pow­erful upgrades that keep them in the fight for as long as pos­sible. If you’re familiar with Guitar Hero, you’ll under­stand this next part better than me: the col­ored but­tons allow you to fire shots from each ship, while the strum bar lets you rotate (or revolve) your squad for­ma­tion. The goal is to orga­nize your squad so you can shoot your ene­mies with the appro­pri­ately col­ored missiles. 

The orig­inal design was actu­ally called Bul­letHero and only involved one ship, Peterson said. “But as the team — which even­tu­ally came to include design major Nikita Filatov – con­tinued to work on it after the class ended, they broke that one ship into five and started “playing around with it.” Their first demo of SquadHero:Revolver took place at Northeastern’s first annual Game Demo show­case, from which they walked away with two awards: Most Inno­v­a­tive Game and Game of Show. “It was really exciting and moti­vated us to keep working on the game and even­tu­ally submit it to Boston Fes­tival of Indie Games,” said Peterson. And I assume they’re glad they did…since it turned out to be so successful.

Next up in game design shenani­gans is Global Game Jam, which takes place a in three weeks and was founded by Susan Gold, Pro­fessor of the Prac­tice in the Col­lege of Arts, Media, and Design’s game design. The event takes place over 48 straight, sleep­less hours, in 63 coun­tries around the world. Stay tune for more deets on that one!