MagnosphereVermont's burgeoning video game development scene got another boost over the weekend — students from the Champlain College Game Studio in Burlington won top honors at GameFest, a regional game development competition hosted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.

Twenty teams from Champlain, Becker College, Rochester Institute of Technology and RPI vied for prizes. Instructor Jonathan Ferguson shared the results in a post on his game studio blog. The Champlain winners were:

The photo above shows members of the Magnosphere team watching as another contestant plays their game. From left to right, they are: Scott Gilman, Christina Aceves, Andrew Gould and Ian Cubin. All are graduating seniors.

Ferguson explains that GameFest was both a competition and a showcase. There were 45 teams of students participating in the showcase, but each school was allowed to enter just five teams in the competition. Both tracks took place in RPI's swanky EMPAC performing arts center. "Last year it was in a gym," quips Ferguson. "It was a big upgrade."

How does a video game competition work? Ferguson says the kids had two hours to set up their displays before the judges from New York-based game studio Vicarious Vision circulated through carrying clipboards. Each team had eight minutes to present their game, which included time for judges to play.

Ferguson notes that this was Champlain's third year participating in GameFest, though only its second year in the competition; in 2012, the school's teams won first and second place, as well.

Ferguson attributes Champlain's success to student effort — "Our students work very, very hard to make the games" — but also to the collaborative nature of its gaming program: Each student team has at least one programmer, one designer, one artist and one producer. And the games that emerge from the program endure design and usability testing in a quality-assurance lab. "All of our games are very extensively tested," Ferguson says.

Quibly-ballThis isn't Champlain's first victory this year: Quibly Ball, which placed second at GameFest, won three awards at the UbiSoft Game Lab Competition in Montréal earlier this month. This photo shows members of the Quibly Ball team at GameFest. From left to right, they are: Dave Mahoney, Travis Constantino, Roy Baron and Andrew Auclair.

I was excited to hear about Quibly Ball's success — its creators were among the game developers who attended the gaming showcase at the Statehouse in January. Quibly Ball designer Roy Baron took a break from the action that day to explain his project to me in this brief video interview. The game wasn't finished then, but I guess they got it done. 

The Champlain students may be heading to one more competition this spring — they've applied to compete in the upcoming E3 College Game Competition.  

Assistant professor John Pile Jr. points out that the students competing in all of these contests are seniors, and all recently presented their work at the annual Senior Show. That event drew representatives from 11 gaming companies to campus; the keynote speaker was the vice president of production at Turbine, an online game company owned by Warner Bros.

Pile, who teaches programming, confirms that at least three of his students have jobs lined up in the industry, for Microsoft, Square Enix and Sledgehammer Games. "There's always demand for programmers," he says.

Images courtsey of Jonathan Ferguson.