ATLAS PhD students Peter Gyory and Clement Zheng took home the "Innovation in Interaction Design" award from the International Festival of Independent Games this weekend for their cooperative arcade survival game, HOT SWAP: All Hands On Deck. Considered the Sundance Film Festival of the videogame industry, the juried event known as IndieCade was held in Santa Monica, California, Oct. 10-12. HOT SWAP is a project of ATLAS Institute's THING and ACME Labs, directed by Daniel Leithinger and Ellen Do, respectively.
The object of the game is to survive a relentless onslaught of hostile pirate ships, which requires collaboration and efficient use of resources. These resources correspond to five available actions, actuated with separate physical input devices: a crank to raise and lower sails, a wheel for turning the rudder, a hatch for loading the cannons, a wick for firing the cannons and a pump for dousing fires. Each player has two slots on their controller for inputs; the five controllers are shared, so players must swap and trade devices to counter impending threats. "It's a noisy, fun, chaotic scramble for survival.... unlike any game I've ever played," said one player, after trying the game for the first time.
The interchangeable controllers were designed with Mechamagnets, an innovative design platform developed by Clement Zheng for rapidly prototyping haptic and functional physical interfaces through desktop 3D printing and embedded static magnets.
Earlier this year, Gyory and Zheng received the coveted alt.ctrl.GDC award for HOT SWAP, from the Independent Games Festival, held during the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The game was also featured in Gamasutra, a popular website reporting on the game industry.