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Raffles College students on what it takes to bring your game to PAX Australia 2016

Hieu Chau

Tue Nov 08 2016


GAMES about bubble tea, a Donald Trump parody and a cyberpunk dystopia by students from Sydney’s Raffles College were recently demonstrated at PAX Australia 2016. Hieu Chau chats to students Eshlie Alcantara, John Huynh and Carlo Bruzzese about their journey to PAX.

What do bubble tea, a controversial political figure and a cyberpunk sci-fi world have in common?

Amongst all the excitement within PAX Australia’s massive three-day celebration of gaming culture, three bright young students from Sydney’s Raffles College – the education provider whose campuses and institutes can also be found all across Asia – received a chance to showcase their major projects before the PAX Australia faithful.

“It’s such a privilege to know that my game would be showcased next to Xbox and Playstation and then there would just be little old me and my game,” final year student Eshlie Alcantara said.

Eshlie was joined by her classmates John Huynh and brothers Carlo and Lorenzo Bruzzese during PAX weekend recently and the games they presented certainly carried the same creative spirit that fellow independent game makers on the showroom floor had.

Lorenzo and Carlo Bruzzese with their dystopian sci-fi game, Path of Zenith. | Photo: Trinh Le

Lorenzo and Carlo Bruzzese with their dystopian sci-fi game, Path of Zenith. | Photo: Trinh Le

Path of Zenith, the Bruzzese brothers’ retro side-scroller was born out of the brothers’ shared love for all things sci-fi. Acknowledging “laser swords, laser guns and robots” as things that ultimately helped Path of Zenith settle into the sci-fi genre, Carlo Bruzzesse – who also composed the game’s original soundtrack — said it essentially came down to the fact that there was “no ceiling when it comes to science fiction”.

“You can make up whatever you want in your story and it’s mostly acceptable,” Carlo said.

John Huynh, meanwhile, had a simpler reason for wanting to make his game, Ronald Dump – a satirical first-person shooter based on a certain American Presidential candidate.

“It’s just kinda been on the news and it’s always on my Reddit feed as well so I thought ‘Why not do a game about Donald Trump and make it a parody?’,” John said.

As for Eshlie, choosing to make her game, Perfect Pearl, all about bubble tea just made sense to her.

“Growing up in Sydney’s west, my mum would pick me up from school and I’d always ask her to buy me bubble tea! And since this was my major project – where I’d basically be working on it for half a year – I thought I might as well spend it on something that I’m passionate about,” she said.

John Huynh with his satirical first-person shooter, Ronald Dump. | Photo: Trinh Le

John Huynh with his satirical first-person shooter, Ronald Dump. | Photo: Trinh Le

Indeed the journey to PAX Australia for these students would mark a culmination of more than half a year’s worth of hard work.

“There were a lot of sacrifices,” said Carlo. “We had to be at college and work jobs so finding time to work on the game was hard”.

In addition to the sacrifices made, students also learnt plenty of lessons along the way.

“I’m not a programmer myself but I’ve been learning and getting better,” John said. “I’ve had to fix bugs here and there as I go like right before day one of PAX, I was still fixing issues with my mouse!” John’s game was originally intended to be presented in virtual reality.

The Bruzzese brothers also experienced similar issues.

“Prior to PAX, like maybe three or four days [before day one], our game crashed and we were used to fixing these kinds of things but we couldn’t fix this,” Carlo said.

To curb the problem, the brothers used an older build of their game which had been submitted for assessment in previous months and had to rebuild what they had since added to the game in less than a week.

Eshlie meanwhile referred to ambition as her big stumbling block. Though her original plan for Perfect Pearl consisted of multiple levels, different locations and many variations of bubble tea, ultimately, she feels cutting her project down and making necessary sacrifices better showcased her talent.

“I’m really proud of how far I’ve come,” Eshlie said, who also received help from Chatime in researching for her game.

“This project has taught me so much in terms of time management, project management and also through [completing the project] I think I found my aim in what I want to do in the games industry and that’s maybe to become a producer; someone who overlooks a whole project.”

As demonstrated at the Raffles College booth, drive and determination clearly brought these students to PAX Australia 2016 and if their games are anything to go by, there is no doubt that these very attributes will again help set them up after PAX too, as Carlo explained.

“I know it’s a hard industry to break into but if you’re passionate enough and you love it enough [those worries] won’t matter and you may even find yourself in a good spot one day.”

John Huynh is fond of first person shooters like Rainbow Six and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. His career interests in gaming stem from an early love of video games during his childhood. To contact John or see more of his work, visit his Instagram page (@kamaji4d).

One half of the Bruzzese brothers, Carlo is a multi-talented creator. He is a graphic designer, concept artist, illustrator, composer and an all around talent. To contact Carlo or see more of his work, visit his official website, CVB Designs.

Eshlie Alcantara is a game designer and her favourite bubble tea is rose black tea with pearls and lychee jelly, half ice, half sugar. To contact Eshlie or see more of her work, visit her official website and Instagram page (@eshleelie).