George Mason University

News at Mason

Computer game design students take “Turbolance” to national competition

July 31, 2018   /   by Mary Lee Clark

For Ryan Kennedy, one of the best things about video games is being able to share them with other people. And so he was delighted to see his senior project for game design shared with an even broader audience than expected. 

Kennedy and Noah Bowden, both seniors majoring in computer game design, were finalists in a college game competition and were subsequently able to bring their project to one of the largest annual gaming events in the world—the Electronic Entertainment Expo, more commonly known as E3. 

Their game, “Turbolance,” is a multiplayer game with four characters who joust each other on motorcycles in rounds that are quick and action-packed. 

 

Visitors playing "Turbolance" at E3. (Picture via @TurbolanceGame)

The concept was inspired by the types of games Kennedy and Bowden would play together as freshmen in the common areas of their Mason dorms. 

"[Bowden] would bring his laptop out in the common room and hook it up to the TV and play games that would have local multiplayer—[he’d] plug in three or four controllers and everyone could play games together," Kennedy said. This marked the beginning of a long friendship between the two.   

Their game started as a project for professor James Casey’s class, a two-semester senior capstone course where students work as a team to produce a game they can show off in their portfolios. 

"We learn a variety of game development roles," Bowden said. Students learn a wide variety of skills and then focus on the parts of game design they enjoy most, such as character design or programming. 

Their diverse skill set—Kennedy favors programming while Bowden enjoys animation—made them the perfect team for this project. When E3 announced their college game competition for 2018, Casey and other professors decided “Turbolance” was well-rounded and the best of the senior projects to represent Mason in the competition.  

Casey said Kennedy and Bowden were very passionate about their work, and their efforts showed in the final product. Many E3 attendees dropped in on the game and played the demo version.

"They showed the passion and the skill,” said Casey, who attended the convention in Los Angeles with the students. “It paid off for them.”

While this is the first time Mason has placed in the competition, it’s not the first time students have been invited to E3. In 2016, students Kayla Harris and Lewis Sellari won the AARP/ESA Social Connection GameJam with their game “Neighbors,” which helped address the loneliness and isolation that adults older than 50 can feel as they age.  

The demo Kennedy and Bowden brought to E3 is available on their website for free at turbolancegame.com. They plan to release a paid full version of the game on the distribution platform Steam. Eventually, they hope to create a version of the game to release on Nintendo Switch, the platform for which the game was initially designed.