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  • (a)Mazing: How an experimental GPS game came to life

    - staff
  •  [In this interview, a pair of students break down the design, production, and development challenges they faced with their new GPS-based Android title, (a)Mazing.]

    In November 2011, Alexander Hermans, a student at RWTH Aachen University in Germany participated in GameCareerGuide's GPS-based Game Design Challenge, and was selected as one of the best entries for his competitive multiplayer app, (a)Mazing.

    In the game, two players run the game on their smartphones, and attempt to build a maze around the other player by travelling around actual city streets. Players trace a digital line behind them as they move, and whichever player traps the other within their trail wins.

    The design was so interesting, in fact, that Hermans and his partner, Tianjiao Wang, decided to actually develop (a)Mazing as part of a game lab at Fraunhofer FIT. The duo created the game for Android by leveraging the location-based ZebroGamQ middleware developed by the German and French research group TOTEM.

    Both Hermans and Wang encountered plenty of challenges and triumphs while developing (a)Mazing, and GameCareerGuide recently spoke with them to learn more about how they brought this Game Design Challenge winner to life.

    Let's start by talking about the origin of the game. I understand it was at least partially inspired by our Game Design Challenge, but what's the full story behind the game's inception?

    (a)Mazing team: We both attended the lab at the Fraunhofer FIT in Bonn, Germany. While we do study in Aachen, we hadn't met until the lab. We formed a team so that we could easily collaborate in Aachen. Every member of the lab had to hand in a game design in your challenge and since (a)Mazing got to the third place we decided to develop (a)Mazing.

    Soon we noticed though that the game idea was flawed. There is no way to really trap another player using your maze, without crossing his or her maze. Because of this we decided to incorporate parts of Tian's game idea, which resulted in crowns you need to claim. So the maze still is an important game element, but the goal of the game shifted a bit. During the development process, we also came up with some ideas for different items to add more fun to the game. And that is pretty much how (a)Mazing was created.

    Can you talk a bit about your studies at Fraunhofer FIT? Was (a)Mazing developed as part of a student project?

    Tianjiao Wang (developer, co-creator): The program, Mixed Reality Game Design, is actually a lab offered by FIT. The word 'lab' in Informatics in our university refers to some research conducted by students on a given range of topics. Therefore it's more similar to a big project or students' group work rather than a course.

    As our instructors, Lisa and Richard introduced us the conception of mixed reality and showed us some example games. Then we were inspired to design our own games. During the whole designing and implementation process, we were encouraged to manage the ideas by ourselves, and our lovely instructors gave us a lot of helpful suggestion and instructions about technology, programming and user feedbacks.

    Alexander Hermans (developer, co-creator): For me, it was the first time I had a lab at the FIT. A friend of mine had attended the lab one year earlier and told me how much fun it was. So even though I had to get up really early to be there on time, I figured it would be a great opportunity to learn something.

    The lab consisted of three main parts, during the first weeks we did a lot of brainstorming and designed game some ideas. After that we started the implementation and in our final meeting we played all the results. So during the lab we went through the whole development of a game, which in our case was (a)Mazing. Even though this probably cannot be compared to the creation of a big commercial game, it was still very nice to get a feeling of what needs to be done to create a game from scratch.

    Outside of (a)Mazing, what other experience do you two have working on games?

    Tianjiao: I attended another lab in FIT about a virtual reality tennis game. The game used the camera view of an android phone to recognize a specified paper as the tennis court, and players could play a virtual tennis on it. It was implemented halfway because that lab focused more on user studies.

    Alexander: In an earlier lab at the RWTH University, I created a little game for Android devices. You could collect points by checking in at certain locations in the university based on Wi-Fi hotspots and develop your character with these points. It was very similar to many of today's browser games, but with a location based touch.


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