A new video game created and produced by BYU students recently received the “Highly Commended” award from the Rookie Awards – an international board that evaluates and ranks top video game design schools around the world. 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 roughly 50 other students to bring the game to life – an arduous project that began in the summer of 2021. They estimate thousands of hours went into the game from concept art, 3D modeling, computer programming, special effects, and music.
“There’s a lot of moving parts, and there’s an order to designing a game like this,” said Reed, who noted that his role as producer was to keep everyone moving in the right direction. “The concept art had to be done before the models and the models had to be done before the animation. Scheduling everything and keeping us on track was my responsibility.”
In the game, users play as the Shepherd, an eternal being that rescues and protects lost sheep in a mythical land called the Inbetween. The Shepherd guides the sheep to safe spaces, fending off vicious wolves and other dangers that lurk in the dark. Game players leverage strategy and simple puzzle solving skills to guide the sheep to safety. 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’d 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 wondered whether it could be a book or a TV show or some short animation,” she said. “When the animation program started asking for ideas for a video game, I decided to pitch it and other students really liked the idea and it started taking off from there.”
Ellis said designing a video game requires laser-like focus on the core experiences of the game and forced her and her team to think creatively about how the game would progress, how to equip the main character with tools to ward off attackers, and ultimately, how a user could succeed in the game.
“We spent a lot of time watching how people would interact with the game and learning how different people would play it,” she said. “It’s not a combat game, but there are defense moves the Shepherd uses so finding the balance in creating the game 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 top 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,” said Reed. “Knowing that we can compete with them and hold our own is cool.”
Both Reed and Ellis credit their professors and say they’re grateful for the opportunity to be part of the animation program at BYU and to have 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. Allowing us to launch and lead huge 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 that people can see that.”
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