Singaporean undergraduate wins international game design contest

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SINGAPORE: Singaporean Timothi Lim has won the Game of The Year award in the Web and Mobile Category at this year’s The Rookies international competition, hosted by software developer Autodesk.

The five-month long competition – which ended on Jul 7 – showcased outstanding talent emerging from higher education facilities. It brought in a total of 2,752 entrants from 81 countries.

Currently an undergraduate at the University of Southern California (USC), Mr Lim, 23, designed the game TILTOFF, which he described as a colourful balancing game “inspired by Tai Chi”.

FACING QUALITY OPPONENTS

Commenting on the level of competition, co-founder of The Rookies, Andrew McDonald, said in a media release: “The task of selecting winners hit a new level of complexity this year. Not only did our judges review our largest amount of entries to date, but they also reviewed full portfolios of work, not just individual projects like other awards.”

The winners were selected by an official judging panel which included Academy Award winner Joe Letteri from Weta Digital and 60 other influential and respected industry veterans.

The judges scored entries based on criteria such as creativity, technical skills, presentation, complexity and employment potential.

THE DESIGN PROCESS

Inspired by his daily struggles for work-life balance, Mr Lim took to designing TILTOFF based on his experiences handling stress in his daily life. “I wanted to illustrate (through the game) that work-life balance isn’t about being static but rather about constantly moving,” said the former Anglo-Chinese School student.

“(The game) was further inspired by the flowing movements in Tai Chi exercises and a quote from Albert Einstein – ‘Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving,’” he told Channel NewsAsia.

Gamers will have to balance a ball on the surface of ‘TILTOFF’, which will soon be available on smartphone platforms. (Photo: The Rookies website)

Currently in development for use in mobile devices, the game is fully playable in its web version on Mac and Windows. “In future, the controls (for the mobile version) will work via the built-in gyroscope found in smartphones,” said the student, who is working on its final version.

He added: “I am also planning to put TILTOFF into either Mobile Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR), as one of the biggest pieces of feedback was that players wanted to be able to look around the whole board.”

The game was a solo endeavour for the third-year USC student, who took three weeks to conceptualise and publish it. “The project was developed in the downtime in April after stressful mid-term exams and during the study break before finals in May,” said Mr Lim.

“I chose the name TILTOFF as the ball starts in the center of the platform and rolls around because of the player. However, the platform ’tilts’ to one side due to the mass of the ball and the falling objects. If you tilt too much, you fall off.”

CHASING HIS PASSION

Having initially been rejected for a place on USC’s Bachelor in Fine Arts in Animation course, Mr Lim had to make do with being placed in a general programme with a focus towards economics.

But that did not work out as planned. “During my first semester, which for me was the middle intake of the academic year, all the economics classes were full by the time I tried to apply.

“So I was asked to take an Information Technology course, which was one of the requirements for the economics degree,” he said.

“I then chose the introduction to games production module, which the advisor warned me not to take because it was hard,” said the undergraduate. “But I took it anyway because I had always wanted to make games.”

He added: “The course hit the ground running really fast and I … remade a classic game within the first month of being there. It was also taught by Professor Anthony Borquez, who is CEO of Grab Games. He’s a key influence and mentor on my journey into the games industry.”

The winning entry by University of Southern California Timothi Lim, that won the ‘Game of The Year’ accolade at ‘The Rookies’ competition hosted by Autodesk. (Photo: The Rookies website)

He hopes that his win at The Rookies will springboard him to more achievements in the field of game design. “The win feels less of a victory and more of an accomplishment, as I’ve finally managed to move past a milestone that I’ve been trying to conquer since I was a kid,” said the avid gamer.

Timothi Lim (right), with Deck Head Games startup colleagues Aimee Zhang (centre) and James Collins (left). (Photo: Timothi Lim)

“From August to November this year, I’ll be working on project teams that will see experiences deployed to the Advanced Games Project in USC and the Oculus Rift Launchpad.”

The budding tech entrepreneur also hopes to take his abilities back to Singapore once he graduates in 2019. “I (plan) to return home to eventually set up an interactive entertainment incubator and studio to help support local talent and grow the interactive entertainment industry in Southeast Asia,” he said. 

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