A video game created by students at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, is generating interest on Steam Greenlight, a PC-gaming website with more than 40 million users. The site allows game developers to seek feedback and build an audience for games that are still in development.
Support on the site could position the game for commercial success, said Matthew White, assistant professor of game development at Penn State Behrend. Good user reviews can push a new game into Steam’s commercial library, where, at any given time, the top titles are being played by more than 600,000 gamers.
“It’s the golden ticket,” White said. “It’s a massive, built-in audience that takes you, literally overnight, from hobbyist to professional game developer.”
Shane Shafferman, a software engineering major, led the development of the game, which is called “Colorful Life.” He and three other students created it in January, during the Global Game Jam, a 48-hour challenge in which developers build unique games linked by a common theme.
When the Game Jam ended, the other students moved on to different projects. Shafferman, a senior from Pittsburgh, kept working on “Colorful Life,” a cooperative maze game with simple block graphics. A classmate, Peter Kalmar – a sophomore from Cabot, Pa. – added the title art and music.
“Colorful Life” is designed for four players, each of whom has a unique power – extra speed, or the ability to heal teammates, or to cross pits, or to break through sections of the maze wall – that can help the others through each level. Cooperation is essential: No player can advance to the next maze until all four have completed the current level.
“I like the cooperative aspect of it,” Shafferman said. “You’re not just racing through a maze.
You have to have a strategy. You have to help each other along.”
Cooperative games are an addictive niche in the PC gaming world. “You don’t see a lot of them,” White said, “but they do have a lot of appeal. They’re easy to learn but difficult to master. That keeps you playing.”
Shafferman posted screen shots and a video trailer for “Colorful Life” at Steam Greenlight on March 30. Since then, more than 700 people have recommended the game. “That’s a lot better than I expected,” Shafferman said.