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Third Annual Armed Forces Jam: The Future of the MetaCenter Looks Bright
TOPICS & CATEGORIES
The third annual Armed Forces Jam took place over the Patriot Day weekend, showcasing what the Orlando MetaCenter has to offer. With almost a decade’s experience of running Game Jams, Indienomicon’s Armed Forces Jam is a weekend challenge for developers to meet the needs of the armed forces. Target areas include artificial intelligence (AI), digital twins, electromagnetic spectrum, gaming, and cybersecurity.
Additionally, representatives from Magic Leap attended the Armed Forces Jam for the first time, bringing Magic Leap devices and software developers for the competing teams to utilize throughout the challenge. According to Joseph Nolan, senior business development manager at Magic Leap, the goal was to expose developers to the power of see-through augmented reality.
“Being able to see synthetic content in the real world, it gets exciting, and you can actually interact with the world around you instead of only being limited to what’s virtually rendered,” states Nolan. “I’m super excited having seen what the contestants came up with this weekend; there’s no other way to describe it besides it being really cool!”
After pitching their ideas, developers developed teams on the first evening of the event.
On the first night of the jam, many ideas were pitched, twelve teams were formed, and the first steps toward making these games were completed. By 8:00 the next morning, the event was in full swing.
In addition to prizes awarded for first, second, and third place, the teams were competing for Best Original Artwork, Best Sound/Music/FX, and Best Narrative Experience. There was also a bounty awarded to all teams who partook in an additional special challenge offered by the Central Florida Tech Grove, which requested teams develop an escape room experience that takes place in the Tech Grove.
Escape the Grove 1985
Team “Unpaid and Proud”, made up of Chris Trenary, Chris Pineyro, Joey Sena, Sophie Schenk, Zach Sally, and James Williams, developed Escape the Grove. Built using Unity, Escape the Grove is an escape game that utilizes the digital twin of real life puzzles to build a unique, immersive experience as the player attempts to escape the Tech Grove. Not all of the team is experienced in Unity, and according to Pineyro, the team spent a good portion of their time Saturday morning learning how to use a new set of shaders for this project.
Escape of the Killer Orange
Escape of the Killer Orange is another game themed around escaping the Tech Grove. Made up of Brendan St. Esprit, Michael Rosario, Joslyn Parchman, and Kendra Kennedy, the team utilized Unity and a digital twin of the Tech Grove to build the experience. In Escape of the Killer Orange, the player is a scientist whose science experiment gains sentience. This mutated orange triggers a security lockdown of the Tech Grove, “Code Orange, of course,” states St. Esprit, and the player must work to escape before they’re killed by the killer fruit.
Jose Neto, Jeremiah Garcia, Jay Rosen, Danny Tapia, Frederick Elia, and Noah Sherkow are the minds behind EX-Ray Vision, an augmented reality game that imagines each player as a superhero able to visually process the electromagnetic spectrum. Utilizing the HoloLens 2 and Unity, the player is able to visualize, evaluate, and monitor electromagnetic signals in gameplay.
Eyes in the Sky
Team Dignitas, made up of Mike Bianchini, Doug Brozek, Brendan Howard, Ron Hyatt, Melody Hyatt, Ruby McDonald, Andy Darby, Connor Darby, and Logan Darby are the minds behind Eyes in the Sky. Team Dignitas is made up of a group of Dignitas employees who are experienced jammers, running “one hour game jam” exercises on a regular basis. Eyes in the Sky takes on the challenge of making a game focused on modeling, simulation, and training. This MS&T game is a 2 to 3 player experience. While one player’s goal is to navigate a minefield, the other’s is planting mines in an attempt to defeat his opponent. The optional third player is able to see where mines are being planted, and is tasked with telling the first player how to avoid the planted mines.
On My Command RTVST
Attending virtually for the majority of the event, Adrian Lannon, Austin Pinzon, Chris Perry, Kevin Davis, Joel Arroyo, Dylan Dew, Jeff Munuis, and Michael Fiorello developed On My Command RTVST, or Real Time Verbal Skirmish Trainer. Utilizing Unity and C#, On My Command RTVST tasks the player with finding a weapon of mass destruction whilst fighting through enemy territory and dealing with an influx of information. Players don the Magic Leap 2 for this immersive experience, and will instruct a trained AI model on how to direct their units.
Noa Baggs, Maxwell Moolchan, Jordan Diaz, Joseph DeMartini, Whyllouex Rachel, Dhruv Yadav, Cole Montrose, Dylan Pereira, Dana Merry, and Meesa Manley make up the largest team of the weekend, building the game Ozone Annihilators. According to Baggs, the name originated as “Sky Fighters,” but the team turned to a thesaurus to come up with something that seemed more exciting. In Ozone Annihilators, four players use virtual reality to become sky pirates, shooting cannons at their opponents from flying pirate ships. There is also an option for a fifth player to play a “master hand,” which floats in the sky and shoots lightning at the other players from its fingertips.
Olga Collazo Perez, Joshuah Wolf, Jeremy Dandeneau, Brandon Burkey, and Nevin Whitlock make up the Bean Team, which spent their weekend developing a close quarters combat simulation trainer titled Project Barca. The team utilized Emerald AI to help develop unique NPC actions in the game, giving players a unique experience every time they play the game.
Aidan Panter and Jaidon White are the developers behind Spaceport Tycoon. This duo took the unique approach of developing in Roblox, building a game that is designed to grow exponentially. According to Panter, players allocate resources to missions to expand and grow the spaceport with an ever-expanding spaceport to develop. With greater risk comes even greater reward, but players run the risk of dooming their space station if they make the wrong choices in this game.
One of our virtual teams, made up of Ali Mahvan, TJ Ashby, Preston Checkan, Kayde, Alex Jordan, Daniel Ridge, and Bo Layer, used Unreal Engine to develop Space Yams. According to Mahvan, Space Yams is “the Tech Grove if it was teleported into Star Wars,” where players must use their knowledge of the Tech Grove and the people inside in order to escape and return to earth. This is the team’s first foray into using AI, and they utilized Open AI to develop their game.
Tech Grove Voyager Project
Alexis Tjarks, Rylan Celentano, Juan Rivera, James Furniss-Roe, and Joseph Gallup are the creators of the Tech Grove Voyager Project, another submission that takes on the challenge of developing a Tech Grove escape game. However, according to Tjarks, this experience is more grounded in scientific reality than science fiction. Players are greeted with a piece of interstellar history, as the key to the puzzle lies in decoding the golden record sent on the 1977 Voyager mission.
Two Truths and a Battleship
Valor is a combat medic scenario designed by Steve Grady, Balen Walker, Brenden Glazner, Tony Newsome, Blake Olhmier, Bobby Dabbs, Abdel Cotto, Hung Le, and Jerimiah Potts in Unity. Utilizing the Oculus, players are put into a scenario where a teammate is taken out by an IED, and are tasked with evaluating, stabilizing, and recovering the injured soldier before going back on the field. This team mostly consists of experienced jammers from i3.
The audience was filled with spectators, competitors, and volunteers during final presentations.
Deliberation between judges was no easy task. There was some close competition, however, after heavy debate, the winners were decided.
The winners for each category are as follows:
Best XR: EX-Ray Vision
Best Tech Grove Escape Room: Escape the Grove 1895
Best Original Artwork: Ozone Annihilators
Best Soundtrack/Music/FX: Eye in the Sky
Best Narrative Experience: Tech Grove Voyager Project
Third Place: Tech Grove Voyager Project
Second Place: Escape the Grove 1985
First Place: Two Truths and a Battleship
The team behind Two Truths and a Battleship
This event would not have been possible without Indienomicon, the Tech Grove, and the wonderful volunteers who kept this show running throughout the weekend. The community in the MetaCenter is unlike anything else in the world.
The amazing team behind the Armed Forces Jam
Congratulations to all of the teams who put their hearts and souls into developing this weekend, and thank you for choosing to spend your time developing to help the warfighter. You all did a fantastic job. All Armed Forces Jam 2023 submissions may be viewed at https://itch.io/jam/armed-forces-jam-2023 for readers to test.
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