January 11, 2017 Student Spotlight: Tubular Runner
Erika Scipione
Erika Scipione

I came to the 8-week Unity course as a rusty Environment Artist trying to better understand the context in which my assets would be used. I had gone to college for game development, but had focused on 3D graphics. It was quite appealing to know that eventually I would be able to execute a large portion of game development on my own, not just the art. I had some passing experience with Unity before, the engine seemed pretty approachable, but I also like to learn things from the ground up. The course brought me from beginner to journeyman, and I am happy to say I now have a strong grounding in all the aspects of Unity game development.

I was fortunate enough to come to the class with a bit of coding experience, but the experience of working through several projects in C# helped immensely to solidify my comfort with code. There are a lot of intangibles too when it comes to coding a game, I learned a lot about how to strategically approach a problem. Our instructor, Kevin, was excellent in that regard, he had a excellent balance between letting us flex our own problem-solving muscles but never left us out on a limb for too long. Our TA, Rob, also did a ton to help us along in terms of providing excellent recaps of what we went over in class and connecting us to supplemental resources. In addition, I became far more comfortable with the numerous tools that Unity provides developers, the class easily saved me a year’s worth of poking around the interface on my own through trial and error.

My favorite part of the class had to be the final project. After weeks learning so much, I was itching to branch out on my own and put what I had learned to the test. It was an excellent opportunity to explore some of the more esoteric aspects of C# and also to build something on my own while still having the support of Kevin and Rob to work through the numerous pickles I got myself into. The first time I saw my concept come to life, oh goodness, that feeling was magical. Also I can’t stress enough how great it was to meet other people interested in Unity development in the area, my classmates were awesome!

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I had a bit of a choice in what I wanted to work on for the final, I was tempted to do something more art heavy and coding simple, but I figured I can easily do that on my own time and I wanted to explore my newfound coding confidence a bit more. Whatever it was though, I decided it had to be in 3D. I ended up going with an idea that seemed to have a reasonable scope for a one-woman team, an endless runner in a tube. It’s called Tubular Runner, which is a bit ridiculous to say the least, but I wasn’t going to waste precious time coming up with The Coolest Name Ever ™ .

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Anyway, it’s a reasonably simple game at it’s core, you play as a little bouncy guy going through an endless tube, and you rotate the tube to collect green power-ups, avoid red obstacles and live as long as possible. I was ridiculously happy to reach MVP (minimum viable product) by the end of the class, but I definitely want to take it further. Ideally the end game will get progressively harder as you go on. Obviously the play should speed up, that was the most frequent question I got when people played it. Eventually I’ll leverage the system I built to call in sequences of track to spawn more challenging sequences as well. Power-ups would be a nice addition, as well as debuffs, and oh, better graphics for sure! My largest goal would be some kind of persistent high score or global leaderboard. I figure I’ll release Tubular Runner sometime in 2017 and sell it for about 5 cents a copy, you gotta start somewhere! Thanks Playcrafting, and super special thanks to Kevin Harper and Rob Canciello, for giving a young game artist like me the skills and the confidence to build games in Unity from start to finish!

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Quick Questions

How did you get into games?

My parents were foolish enough to buy me a SNES when I was 5, so I was probably doomed from the start. Dabbled in Pokemon and Zelda at 10 and by the tender age of 15, some school friends got me hooked on Elder Scrolls. It was a short jump into the Construction Editor (which came packaged with Morrowind) and modding and well..the rest is history!

You’re part of the first manned mission to Mars! You’ll be gone for 5 years and can only bring 3 games to play alone or with your 3 fellow astronauts. What are they?

Only 3 games?!? Well, D&D is obvious, because that is the gift that keeps giving. From there, I’ll take whatever the current Bethesda release is at the time, because 100% completion in any of their games should eat up a good chunk of time. My final pick is Chess, a nice classy game that takes a lifetime to master, also good in case of power failure!

What would be your dream game to build?

Something super open-world, surrealist and absurd. I want to make people go through the crazy dreams I have, and what better medium to do that in? In my opinion, games should show us something we don’t see every day.

What do you love best about the game community in NYC?

I love that it’s growing! Every week I’m seeing something new happening, and the recent focus in emergent technologies (VR, AR, all that) only makes me more excited! Playcrafting has been a huge part of that, so thanks and keep it up guys!

Choose 5 words to describe your experience making games so far.

Challenging, rewarding, potential, sorcery and coffee.

 

 

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