A new video game designed and produced by BYU students recently received a highly regarded award from Rookie Awards an international board that evaluates and ranks the best video game design schools worldwide. The award earned BYU the number five school in the world for game design and development.
Liminus: The Silent Guard is an interactive computer game directed and produced by BYU students Emily Ellis and Gabe Reed, respectively. Ellis and Reed collaborated with about 50 other students to bring the game to life, a painstaking project that began in the summer of 2021. They estimate that thousands of hours went into the game from concept, 3D modeling, computer programming, special effects and music.
There are a lot of moving parts, and there’s an order to making a game like this, said Reed, who noted that his role as producer was to keep everything moving in the right direction. Concept art had to be done before models and models had to be done before animation. Planning everything and keeping it on track was my responsibility.
In the game, users play as the Shepherd, an eternal being who rescues and protects lost sheep in a mythical land called Inbetween. The shepherd leads the sheep to safety, avoiding wild wolves and other dangers that lurk in the dark. Game players use strategy and simple puzzle-solving skills to guide the sheep to safety. of the game is available for free and can be played on a PC.
The concept for the game stemmed from an idea Ellis had been mulling over for years. I’ve been wanting to tell a story with a new take on the Grim Reaper since the summer of 2018, but I wasn’t sure what the right format would be; I was wondering if it could be a book, a TV show or some short animation, she said. When the animation program started looking for ideas for a video game, I decided to make it and the other students really liked the idea and it took off from there.
Ellis said that designing a video game requires a laser-like focus on core gameplay experiences, and it forced her and her team to think creatively about how the game would progress, how to equip the main character with tools to avoid attackers, and finally, how a user can succeed in the game.
We spent a lot of time looking at how people would interact with the game and learning how different people would play it, she said. It’s not a fighting game, but there are defensive moves that Shepherd uses, so finding the balance in game creation was challenging because we wanted to create something that would appeal to a variety of players.
The game was completed as a capstone project for BYU animation students and was subsequently recognized by the Rookie Awards as one of the best games of the year. BYU was also named the number five school in the world for game design, joining a list that includes institutions such as New3dge in France and the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom.
“It’s really cool to see BYU up there with these very specialized schools that are focused on animation and game design,” Reed said. Knowing that we can compete with them and hold our own is good.
Both Reed and Ellis credit their professors and say they are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the animation program at BYU and get real-world experience in a studio-like format; something they feel has already set them up for success after graduation.
The real value comes because of the great professors who have worked in the industry and who give us the space to develop our skills and give us the confidence that we can solve problems. To be allowed to start and run big projects like this is humbling. We learned so much on the job, said Ellis, who noted that students often began their meetings with prayer and felt guidance and inspiration as they worked together. There’s a lot of heart and soul that went into the game and I hope people see that.
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