MAGIC video game incubator at RIT provides opportunity, community for local video game developers

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — When the topic of gaming and RIT comes up, most would probably think of the wunderkinds who create Minecraft recreations of campus, craft fun and simple games in an incredible time crunch, or as mavens of the new communication culture around video games.

But one part of RIT is targeting a different crowd.

MAGIC Community Incubator is part of the MAGIC Spell Studios and the MAGIC Center at RIT. In short, it’s a multimedia hub that helps creates a wide variety of content. For this community incubator program, they focuses on giving those resources to local developers.

The financial benefit is obvious; with support from Empire State Development, they help keep money from the sprawling and growing gaming community in Rochester. But more than that, it’s about allowing ideas to flourish, by giving local developers tool they never would had access to.

“We had a similar program for our students funded through a different avenue,” Rob Mostyn, digital games hub coordinator for MAGIC Spell Studio. He is also in charge of running the incubator. “We wanted to model that for our local indie developers as well… Our students are lucky enough to have these resources, but indie devs don’t. It can be tough to get into this industry.”

The incubator helps with a number of elements when it comes to developing a game: providing software (that often comes with expensive subscriptions) hardware, publishing for different consoles, providing funding and investments, mentorship for music, marketing, and code (to name a few), through faculty or industry professionals.

“As an indie dev, you’re working in a vacuum,” he said. “So working (with those professionals) can be really helpful.”

Two of those who received this funding and assistance from incubator — Dennis McCorry, one of half Possum House Games, a small indie developer, and David Kilmer, a hobbyist developer — both were able to access something different from the incubator.

McCorry & “Shot In the Dark”

Shot in the Dark is a 2D pixel platformer game where players take on the role of a bandit chasing after someone to get revenge. The game uses a black, white, and red color palette that makes enemies blend into the background.

“When I was getting started, I didn’t really have this gaming school option.” McCorry said. “It opened the door for people for people like me, but didn’t he resources or connections.”

He started working as an illsutrator; that experience is certainly evident in the simple color schemes and use of negative space in “Shot in the Dark.” Other than, he is self-taught, while he admits that a lot can be accomplished this way, having a hands on incubator helps “bridge the gap.”

“This is very experimental and different,” McCorry said, discussing his game. “I was trying to work with the simplest tools possible, to do a lot with a little.

“I haven’t seen anything else like out there: ‘Mario’ plus ‘Duck Hunt,'” he continued. “But everything is hard to see… Normally if you have a weird and different idea, it doesn’t get picked up by publishers. They like safe bets. With MAGIC, I had a playable demo, and they were able to take it, whereas other corporations say: ‘That’s not Call of Duty.'”

Shot in the Dark will be released in mid-January.

Kilmer & “Tengam”

Tengam is modeled on the Sokoban puzzle video game genre, where players must move boxes around a map and put them in the correct place. In Tengam, players take on the role of a little warehouse robot with broken magnets that repel and attract certain objects.

Kilmer, unlike McCorry and Possum House Games, is a true hobbyist, and isn’t looking to make a big splash in the gaming world, or turn this into his livelihood.

“Hobbyists are in a weird spot,” Kilmer said. “I take my hobby very seriously, but I’m not going to take out a loan to make a video game, and I’m too old to be asking my friends to do things for no money.”

Specifically for Kilmer, creating a game for the Nintendo Switch is especially difficult. Unlike other platforms, Nintendo doesn’t just hand out developer kits for the Switch. Having access to MAGIC Spell allowed him to create on this console.

“I very quickly came to a set of design pillars that were about doing something small,” he said. “And that’s a movement in games right now to do something small; smaller things that are intentionally small, bite-sized.

“It’s playable on the subway, you can play it in bite-sized pieces, so it’s perfect for the Switch,” he said. “It’s small, cozy, intellectually challenging, and good.”

The money from the incubator even allowed him to hire an artist for the game.

The game has 50 levels and is available for $2.99 on the Nintendo eShop.

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