Student Spotlight: Outside the Fox thinking outside of the box
By Noel Painter
In 2018 two roommates began a Computer Graphics and Game Development degree at Charles University in Prague with no prior game development experience. They dove headfirst into the world of game development because their first assignment was to create a game, end-to-end, in only 6 months. As a part of this assignment the student team who created the best game would win the opportunity to attend the White Nights conference in Berlin to present their game at the Big Indie Game Pitch and pitch their game on stage before an audience. Armed with their engineering skills and a desire to push creative bounds Jan Holan (team lead, lead design, programming) and Mikuláš Hrdlička (lead programmer) formed a multidisciplinary team with other students across the Czech Republic, Štěpánka Kološová (UI artist), Jakub Eremiáš (lead artist), and Jan Knot (sound and music). “We wanted to create something that was not created already. I think it’s hard to be original in this field and studios are not experimenting as much as they once did. As students we can create whatever we want as we aren’t a business, so we decided to create something unique.”
From zero to… Robots
It was during their first brainstorming session as a team they decided that their game would ultimately encompass three things, 1. be local multiplayer, 2. be absurd and wacky in some way, and 3. finally it would be unique not only in terms of art but also in terms of mechanics. After an evening of whiteboarding they settled on what would ultimately be their final game product- “two not-very-high-quality-robots fighting against bureaucracy” called Silicomrades. Silicomrades is a cooperative game where two players control poorly built robots that are constantly breaking down during game play. While this might be frustrating in a single player mode it is hilarious in a couch coop game where it is guaranteed that your friend’s robot will always be unfairly better than your own. Working together you must play your way through several short episodic stories and survive in a kafkaesque world filled with robo-bureaucrats.
Using the right tools for the right job
As a team they decided that while they might not be the most skilled group their dedication and game concept were enough to win the competition. Jan and Mikuláš were the programmers behind Silicomrades and at the start of their journey, they only had some minor .NET experience and a little Unity background. They had never used C# or Unity in any intense way until they were accepted into the Masters gamedev program. In order to get up to speed they started with some exhausting self-learning during the holidays before the start of the project and used their previous gaming and programming experiences during this learning period.
Through the development process the team used the 2017 Community version of Visual Studio. “The features we use most of the time is probably IntelliSense for Unity specific functions and event handlers. Also, automatic formatting (we are lazy and we like our code clean) and comment/uncomment shortcuts. The alt + enter quick action menu is vastly useful too. But the best thing was certainly how we managed to build our game and run in through VS on our Xbox One console.”
Keeping their eye on the prize
After 6 long months of development using the Unity engine and Visual Studio they completed a playable demo of their game and were ultimately selected as the winners of the school competition. Silicomrades was held in such high regard by the judges that they were awarded an even greater prize, the opportunity to showcase their game at gamescom, one of the biggest gaming conventions in the world. At gamescom, Outside the Fox had the opportunity to present their game to a variety of publishers and investors and are now waiting to hear back and further refining their game. “We believe that we will be signed in the end. It would be really huge leap for game development [for our school] because we would be an example for future students and that it is possible to really create something professional.”
In less than a year, The Outside the Fox team managed to work their way to learning C# and Unity to presenting their game at one of the biggest gaming conventions in the world. The future of game development is in the hands of today’s students like The Outside the Fox team and their story is an example of how hard work, dedication towards one’s passion can lead to accomplishing great things in a short amount of time.
Check out more information on the team and their story on their website. If you are interested in learning more about their funky robot game, take a look at their Steam page. And if you feel inspired and want to create your own game, make sure to download Visual Studio or Visual Studio for Mac today and use the great resources we’ve put together to help you get off the ground as quickly as possible.