Blowing stuff up in outer space

By Andrew Edwards
Staff Writer

SAN BERNARDINO – The art and science of video game design is part of the curriculum at Cal State San Bernardino.

“Vector Force,” for sale as an indie game to XBox Live users, is the first video game to be designed at the campus.

Computer science professors and the student who led Vector Force’s design said the process is a way to learn the principals of “computational thinking.”

“It’s learning how to program and what to program,” student and lead “Vector Force” designer Mark Chapman said. “It’s taking those concepts and applying them to any field.”

“Vector Force” is a shooter in the mold of games like “Raiden,” “Ikaruga” or just about any of the pizza-parlor classics that have involved spacecraft and explosions since the days of “Space Invaders.”

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Players take control of a star fighter and view the action from an overhead perspective while they try to survive attacks from wave after wave of enemy craft.

Vector Force’s graphics are comparable to those of games offered for the Nintendo 64 or original PlayStation. The game contains the traditional elements of its genre: an insane amount of enemy fire, power-up after power-up and massive boss enemies.

Computer science and engineering professors Arturo Concepcion and David Turner observed that the kind of thinking that goes into “Vector Force” can be applied to game design – Chapman’s career objective – or other applications in the universe of computer programming.

But whichever fields future graduates enter, the campus’ computer science and engineering is not done with gaming.

The more ambitious follow-up to “Vector Force” is currently titled “Mythic.” The plan is to craft a massive online world similar to games like “World of Warcraft.”

The new project’s premise is a world where three rival nations must confront something called “The Mythic” in the aftermath of what Chapman called an “atomic bomb of magic.”

There’s also the part about using games, which have evolved from childhood diversions into a mass entertainment force on the level of movies and television – to train a new generation of programmers.

“What we want is to use the ‘Mythic’ game to attract young kids to computing,” Concepcion said.