ECHO Project

Login ScreenRole: Programmer

Project Type: Work at the Emergent Media Center for a local client

Client: ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center

Team Size: 5 (3 programmers, 2 artists, 1 producer)

Languages: Java using AndEngine, C#

Time: September 2013 – April 2014

Project Description:

The ECHO project was a project started at the Emergent Media Center at Champlain College for an external local client, the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center. The goal of the project was to create an application for an android device (Nexus 10) which could be used in their aquarium and science center as part of an interactive exhibit. These tablets would have a journal which people could sign into using RFID tags or as a guest and play games meant to teach them about a particular topic. In total, we had three games but the system was designed to be expanded if needed. The project began in roughly May of 2013 and had been in progress for several months when I joined on in September of 2013. The final product was released to the client in April of 2014 and is currently in use at their Aquarium and Science Center in downtown Burlington, VT.


The Games

Lake Invaders

Lake Invaders is the first game created for the project. The game is a basic infinite runner style game which scrolls indefinitely and can be played for as long as the player is capable. The goal of the game was to collect the species that were invasive to Lake Champlain with the correct tool (the tools being a scraper and a net). Catching the native species too many times would result in losing the game. This game teaches the players about species which are invasive to Lake Champlain and how they negatively impact the ecosystem in the lake. This game was completed over the Summer of 2013 and I had no part in its creation.

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Algae Officer

Algae Officer is a tile based strategy game in which the player must use resources available to them to prevent algae blooms in the region (which is representative of the Lake Champlain region). The levels are procedurally generated and contain rivers, forests, towns and farms. The goal is to control the phosphorus and nitrogen to prevent it from traveling into the lake, causing an algae bloom. This game teaches the players about algae blooms and the harm they bring to the lake and its ecosystem. This game was mostly completely over the Summer of 2013 and I only did minor fixes to the game towards the end of its development.

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The journal also contained a section where the player could answer trivia style questions about several topics to see how much they know. This game was developed to help provide small facts about various topics such as ecology, history and the lake basin. I was the programmer tasked with the trivia system, however, there were also contributions from one of the other programmers.

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My Role

When I joined the project, I worked on small features and fixes for Algae Officer as it was nearing completion. Not long after I was tasked with creating the trivia system to be used in the journal. I worked on this for a small amount of time while also providing some work in the journal interface. After winter break of 2013 when we returned in January of 2014, we began planning massive changes to the journal interface. It was currently in the process of a visual upgrade, but the underlying code structure was quite poorly done and was causing a lot of problems so we decided that we wanted to scrap it and redo the whole system in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I was working on the badge system used in the game. There was already a system for awarding badges and most of the badges existed. However, there was no good way to display these badges, how to earn them and other information. There was also no system for adding more in the future. I created a system for viewing the badges for each of the 3 games. Around the time I completed most of this, it was spring break. This offered a good time to begin the large scale changes need in the journal. During spring break around March, large changes were made to the journal, greatly improving the code base for it. This meant updates to every system except the two games (Lake Invaders and Algae Officer). By the time we hit April, most of the product was complete and our time was centered around fixing known bugs.

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My Thoughts

This was the first time I had worked in a group larger than 3 people on a project and it was also my first time working for an actual client to create a product that was going to be used. The experience I gained working on this project greatly helped me moving forward into my Junior and Senior years of college when I would be working with teams often to make games (for classes). It also helped provide me with a better perspective on the game development cycle which I would use on the Make A Change Project and in my classes.