Computer Games course continues growth, experimentation

EECS 494’s final group project requires the students to cover all phases of game development.

Showcase attendees gather around a screen Enlarge

Students in EECS 494, Computer Game Design and Development, showcased their homegrown creations for a vibrant crowd at the 2019 Computer Games Showcase. The developers, adorned with neon lights and VR headsets, packed Tishman Hall full of competitive players eager to try their polished multiplayer adventures.

494 uses game design to teach its students broader lessons about iteration in software development. The course includes visiting lectures from game industry experts and two team projects and a solo project. This year, course instructor Austin Yarger emphasized that industry connection in an effort to give students a sense of connection to the broader gaming industry.

To accomplish this, Yarger took the class’s playtesting sessions out of the library and into Ann Arbor Spark, a startup cultivator that offers a network of business and manufacturing leaders. In the second half of the semester, students playtest their games once a week to get feedback from the community outside the course. At Spark that community could include members of the local gamedev economy.

“We said, why aren’t the students getting feedback from people who are in the know?” says Yarger. “We wanted them to be exposed to people who are constantly innovating and creating awesome products and experiences for other people.”

Among the entrepreneurs who participated in 494’s playtest sessions were executives at Spellbound, an augmented reality platform for healthcare settings that has hired four of Yarger’s former students.

“We’re getting the game development and visualization companies to interact and engage more with the students,” Yarger says. “Suddenly it makes the whole idea of working in this field much more real for students.”

The final group project requires the students to cover all phases of game development, including system conceptualization, specification, design, implementation, and evaluation, as well as audience-building and marketing. The students developed the games over six weeks using the Unity game engine. In the end, each group should finish a game that is accessible and fun to a wide audience. As the students developed their games, they submitted development blogs to The popular site is a platform for small studios to promote their work and report on progress, and gave the class the opportunity to treat their project like a serious design undertaking for an audience.

Going forward, Yarger hopes to continue refining the course in ways that both streamline the process of feedback and make the course more scalable to growth. In the Fall 2019 semester, he’ll transition from a system of written feedback on game submissions to a real-time video recording of graders playing and interacting with each game. With this strategy, students will receive feedback tied to specific moments in their game, and determine the context to advice more easily.

Students interested in continuing their work on game design can sign up for Yarger’s independent study on the subject, EECS 499. Recent students in the course have developed a number of gaming-related projects beyond simply designing their own, such as a machine learning AI that automatically plays popular platformer Celeste or a modification of Nintendo’s Rhythm Heaven that teaches the player Japanese kanji.

Read more about the students’ games from Winter 2019 EECS 494:

Self-Love: The Thrivening Official Trailer – Indie DB

Self-Love: The Thrivening
by 94.4 KJMC

A cooperative experience where a college student must listen to their heart to survive and succeed through a school year. Thriving will be easy if you just know what your heart is asking for!

Equinox: Security Breach – Trailer – Indie DB

Equinox: Security Breach
by Badger Labs

A 2v2 asymmetric action stealth game where a team of defenders must stop a team of infiltrators from finding and hacking into a lab terminal to escape with secret intelligence. We are developing this game as part of our EECS 494 video game development course.

Poseidon’s Hidden Treasure Official Trailer – Indie DB

Poseidon’s Hidden Treasure
by Sashimi

A co-op, asymmetric exploration game where 4 players have to find the hidden treasure in the deep underwater caverns using nothing but an old submarine.

Blast from the Pass Trailer – Indie DB

Blast from the Pass
by ticck

A cyber-punk theme sports game. Players have to work in teams of two and blow up all the columns of the opposing team.

XENON Trailer Final – Indie DB

by LairWT

A competitive sports game derived from dodgeball.

Junkyard Brawl
by Cowardly Wraith Studios

Outposition your opponents – Do damage by knocking into your enemy – Throw items you find – Gain advantage using the environment – And defeat the evil Polluticants!

Marketing video – Indie DB

Off the Deep End
by DEWD Studios

When a deep-ocean explorer is suddenly taken by a giant crab, their 4 friends must cooperatively venture into the depths of the sea on a rescue mission. Their high tech submarine allows them to bust through rock and fend off dangerous fish, but remains vulnerable to running out of air.

Rats Gone Rogue Trailer – Indie DB

Rats Gone Rogue
by Pickup Group

A 3v1 asymmetrical local multiplayer game where a powerful boss tries to prevent 3 other players from reaching an exit door

Evacuation Protocol Trailer Final – Indie DB

Evacuation Protocol
by Studio KAIUS

A game where players must explore an exploding spaceship and defeat various alien enemies, finding new weapons and improving their skills along the way. After time has run out, the players must fight each other with their customized character in order to get the last escape pod!

Farmer Feud Trailer OFFICIAL – Indie DB

Farmer Feud
by Hurricane

A multiplayer game where the goal of the game is to get as many crops as fast as you can for your team. The first team that reaches the goal amount wins the game.

Download Final Game Trailer – Indie DB

Forest Fight
by The History Channel

A 2v2 arcade game where the two teams battle to grow their trees and destroy the opponents’.

Download Friend&Foe; Final Trailer – Indie DB

Friend & Foe

A 2 vs. 2 fighting game where two players in each team cooperate to control a submarine and fight the other team. Players enjoy the competition and cooperation at the same time.

GeomCraft – Indie DB

by Buggy

Each player controls a hero, summoning their troops, and fighting on the chessboard. To destroy enemies’ base, plan carefully and become a supreme general in the chess-like world!

Myosotis Trailer – Indie DB

by Fluquor

A single-player Rhythm game. You will help the main character to piece her lost memory together by matching the rhythm.

Flag Frenzy Trailer – Indie DB

Flag Frenzy
by Monday

A 2 vs 2 party game. Knock out your enemies and capture the flag!

Wizard’s Fury Release Trailer – Indie DB

Wizard’s Fury
by 4 Hour Productions

Players compete in an arena-based pvp game. Wizards shoot orbs that grab all objects that come into contact. Players must use the orb in addition to powerups to shove their enemies into pits to achieve glorious victory.

Chaos Fishing Club
by Marinia

An action game where players play as fish or humans. The goal of humans is to shoot fish to get score and the goal of fish is to prevent humans from getting score.

Medieval Footrace
by Mad Animations

Race against your friends in this 2-D platformer. Avoid traps and be the fastest to reach the finish line first.

by DJL Studios

A food fighting game taking place in a school cafeteria. Audience is for ages 10-14 but it’s fun for all ages.

Coastal Defense
by Yin Yang Studios

A single-player arcade experience. Protect your island’s coastline from the barrage of an enemy nation!

by ABC Studios

A cute adventure game where you are a painter transported into the world of his paintings. Your job is to defeat enemies known as the mistakes, and escape back to your own world.

Coaster Shooter
by JDB Studios

Ride through as you fight off robots and stop them from taking over in a futuristic world. (Vr fps)

by Alien Hex Studio

A fast paced physics based 2-4 Multi Player First Person Shooter with a dynamic electric art style, and 3 unique maps.