Bowdoin Students Develop Fantasy Game App

The loading page for Hatcher, which depicts the landscapes found on the map: forest, fireland, nightland, tundra and plains.

Samantha Broccoli ’15, a visual arts major, designs fantasy creatures, drawing on myths and on her imagination to dream up intricate and strange beings. Computer science and math major Rob Visentin ’14 likes to program alternative worlds, creating lands where people can move away from real life and be absorbed by another set of rules.

So the two friends teamed up last summer to mix their talents and devise their first fantasy game for the iPhone and iPad.

After working for nine months on their game Hatcher, Visentin and Broccoli are ready to release it to the App Store in March. It will be free for all players, with the option for some players to purchase extra tools if they want.

Hatcher can handle thousands of simultaneous players. “It’s a massively multiplayer game,” Visentin said. “Everyone’s interacting at the same time.”

To handle the complexity of the game, Visentin wrote “1000s of lines of code,” according to Broccoli. “I wrote all the server and client software,” explained Visentin, who is from Cumberland, Maine. Last summer he also programmed a campus guide app for Bowdoin. (Broccoli grew up in Zurich, Switzerland.)

According to the Hatcher website, "The goal is to hatch eggs into fighting creatures while leveling up buildings and capturing land to generate resources. The more intricate aspects such as ‘fusion’, a process by which creatures are leveled up and improved, player interaction, and managing expenses make this game a source of constant discovery."

The goal of Hatcher is for players to breed powerful creatures that can battle other players’ creatures for control of land. The game’s challenge derives from how strategically players fuse their creatures and their creatures’ separate skills to make a better fighter. Players also must lead their army of creatures across a vast landscape to hunt for eggs of unhatched creatures, to discover territories to capture from other players, and to collect, or steal, five gem-like eggs called shards. If they choose, they can team up with other players to make stronger guilds.

To create the game’s graphics, Broccoli taught herself how to use a graphics tablet. So far she’s drawn almost 50 creatures for Hatcher, as well as the user interface, landscapes and other images in the game. “I really like fantasy art,” Broccoli said. “Visually I find it inspirational and exciting — there are no limits.”

Some of the creatures in Hatcher are fictional; others are drawn from mythology, world religions, or today’s gaming culture. One of Broccoli’s favorite Hatcher creatures is Shiva, a popular figure in fantasy games who is “kind of an ice goddess.” In Hatcher, Shiva is armed with a frosty lance that can overcome a target’s defense. “I put a lot of care into her,” Broccoli said.

Visentin said he had to learn how to program complex code that would allow players to fuse two different creatures, or two Shivas, for example, to create an egg that hatches into an even stronger creature. Up to five generations of fused creatures are possible before the creature becomes “transcendent” and very powerful, Visentin said.

Broccoli said she has enjoyed collaborating with Visentin because it’s unusual to work so closely with a student from another academic department. And, she added, it’s even more unusual to find a use for art beyond hanging it on a wall. “He’s put my art to new use,” she noted.

Now that beta testing is underway, Visentin said he feels gratified seeing the game’s back-end materialize into his and Broccoli’s vision. (The beta testers range in age from an eight-year-old boy to Visentin’s grandmother.) “It’s really cool for me to create this world through code,” he said.

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