Video games aren’t what they used to be, and that’s a good thing.
While still massively entertaining years ago, these days, they are more akin to interactive movies, drawing the player into their intricate plots and detailed art to tell a story. There are a lot of fresh and exciting things being done in the interactive game world, and one of the best examples of that is the newly released “
” from Night School Studios.
The game focuses on a group of teenagers who visit an abandoned island to party, and accidently open up a supernatural rift. That’s an oversimplification of the plot, of course, and really doesn’t do the game justice, but trust me when I say you’ll want the surprises to come at you naturally. Basically, it’s like
, set firmly in 80s horror films. And it’s wonderful.
To make the game even more special, Dodge College Students Spencer Stuard (BFA/Digital Arts ‘10), Kevin Riach (BFA/Digital Arts ‘13), and Cameron Horst (BFA/Digital Arts ‘18) helped make the game a reality.
While the game itself was the brainchild of Night School Studios founders Sean Krankel and Adam Hines, Stuard met Krankel when they worked together at Disney Interactive.
“He approached me a few years before to make a ‘walking and talking game’ with a heavy focus on narrative,” said Stuard. “I joined the project when they were ramping up production on the game, and reached out to Riach to also join the team.”
Toward the end of 2015, with deadlines approaching, Riach reached out to Horst, who he knew was looking to get into game design. After meeting with him, they set him up with their game creation tools, and gave him the daunting task of animating the conversations the characters have in-game.
“The team as a whole is incredibly talented,” Stuard said. “It was Kevin and my job to help bring it all together and get it built as quickly as possible so the team could properly evaluate what was working or not working.”
However, it was a daunting task at times, with just a core team of 6 people who had to work together carefully to pull it off.
Stuard was nervous that the game wasn’t fun to play, until they got to their last bit of polishing it all together.
“That last polish really pulls the game together,” he said. “When the characters come to life with voice acting, animations, and so on. This proved challenging because we had to get the game so far along before we could really tell if a story beat would hit or not.”
The game, from start to finish, took 15 months to complete. According to Stuard, that included prototyping, building tech, finding the look, building the game, polish, and marketing.
At the end of the day, Stuard is most proud of the fact that he helped to create something new and original.
“It can be really hard in this industry to try something off the beaten path. I hope players can get excited about how original it feels. We are also really proud of its current reception,” he said. The game has been receiving rave reviews all across the internet.
Stuard also credits Dodge with helping him get to this point.
“Dodge is becoming a power house for the games and film industry,” he said. “The longer I stick around Los Angeles, the more Chapman students keep popping up. Having that network is invaluable. Every job I have had since graduation has been from word of mouth or recommendations and that feels great.”
He also says that he, and Riach, didn’t start in games.
“We were able to transition into this industry because we both had a good understanding of the tech and tools shared between the film and games industry. Adam Rote, Bill Kroyer, and Judy Kriger were great mentors while at Chapman and always got me excited to learn the next thing and dig into my next project.”