Bournemouth University students working on PS4 game

mendelsfarm

Mendel’s Farm is Static Games‘ entry for pan-European development competition Make Something Unreal Live 2013. Project lead Ryan Pinfield and his colleagues are down to the final four of the contest, which sees them demoing their game to crowds at UK technology event The Gadget Show Live in April.

The contest – which earns the winner a UDK 4 commercial licence – could propel Static into full production of the game as a console title, according to 21-year-old Pinfield. “We are working with a next-gen engine and therefore we are developing a next-gen game. We can release it for PS4, but it can easily be made multiplatform and would also make sense on PC,” he says. “The iOS market is saturated. But the PlayStation 4 is a brand new console, which is exciting. We believe Mendel’s Farm can be a launch title. That’s a feasible target if we win Make Something Unreal.”

Pinfield’s ambitions are laudable and far from unrealistic, according to the team’s mentor Jim Walker, an executive producer at UK developer Climax Studios. “There are things I can say and can’t say about PS4,” he explains. “Certainly I see nothing wrong with what Ryan is suggesting there. The timing is good and it may well touch on a number of things.

“Mendel’s Farm is an interesting idea. And we did talk about whether there was any mileage in social mobile. But I think Hay Day touches on too many similar specifics and it’s important Mendel’s Farm has an identity of its own. And, besides, without shooting for the stars you are never going to get to the moon.”

Mendel’s Farm is described by the team as a combination of Theme Hospital, Farmville and Viva Piñata which involves a central breeding mechanic and resource management elements. It began life as a one-word brainwave from Brett Whitehead, another member of the team which comprises six Games Technology and one Music and Audio Technology undergraduates studying at Bournemouth University’s School of Design, Engineering and Computing. “The idea was born when Brett said ‘farm’ without thinking about too much beyond that,” explains Pinfield. “He absolutely deserves full credit for the idea.”

The team was responding to a brief from Epic Games and The Wellcome Trust to build a game around the theme ‘Mendelian inheritance: genetics and genomics’, which references Gregor Mendel’s pioneering research into genetically inherited characteristics.

“At the beginning we put together a document for our entry which outlined that our concept was focused on genetics and gives people a chance to be in charge of genetics in breeding animals,” explains Pinfield.

It was Static’s decision to make the terms of the brief central to their proposal which alerted Jim Walker and his colleagues at Climax to the students’ potential. But it was the team’s belief in their core idea which has impacted most on their mentor. “They have impressed me hugely,” says Walker. “They are a lot more aware of what you can do and entrenched in their design than I expected and they are not just ‘yes’ men. I like to be challenged and I was very impressed with their drive. They were unwavering in their answers to my questions. Plus, the guys are really cool.”

This is the first time Walker has been involved in the Make Something Unreal competition as a mentor, though Climax has a strong record of supporting students at the likes of Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Southampton Solent universities. And one thing that has struck him, he says, is the unfettered creativity of those at the start of their dev career.

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