Two-man game dev team, Digital Interactive Games (DIG), will compete at this year’s Imagine Cup finals being held in Seattle, Washington, at Microsoft’s global headquarters.

The Imagine Cup, which is held by Microsoft every year, challenges students around the globe to create interesting, innovative or just plain fun applications using Microsoft’s huge suite of software creation tools. Each year, regional legs are held and the winners of those meet up in Seattle in July for a four-day face-off to determine the overall winners.

There’s a fair amount of cash up for grabs; teams can win their share of a $50 000 prize pool and support from Microsoft to commercialise their projects.

This isn’t the first time the pair made it to the final – they were SA’s entry in 2015 after winning last year’s local leg of the Imagine Cup with their game, a platform-puzzler called PYA Maze of Gods.

Lessons learned

DIG, made up of Jason Cross and Nicolaas Jordaan from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in the Eastern Cape, said that last year’s project served as a very good lesson. The pair say they fell into the trap of trying to cram every idea they had into a final product, resulting in a rather unfocused game that didn’t wow the judges.

“Last year, we viewed our entry as purely a technical achievement, but quickly realised that fun also had a tremendous part to play. So we had to start from scratch this year,” Cross explained in a press statement.

“A key ingredient in bringing apps and mobile games to market sooner, at a lower cost and at a higher quality is simplicity. If you are creating a mobile game for instance, you have to focus on making it really entertaining and simple for users to understand – provide it with that pick-up-and-play functionality. This will ensure that it appeals to the widest audience.”

Second chance

This year’s contest takes place from the 26th to the 29th of July at Microsoft Headquarters in Redmond, Washington. Jordaan and Cross will show off their new game to a new panel of judges, and hopefully pull off a more impressive showing after pouring their learning into the making of their new game, a fast-paced but simple side-scroller in the same vein as Ori And The Blind Forest.

It’s called Of Dragons And Sheep, and in it the hero must save his beloved sheep from vicious dragons.

The pair will be escorted by Professor Johan van Niekerk from the university’s Department of Information Technology, who will provide support and feedback.

“The vast amount of learning that Nicolaas and Jason experienced last year have been ploughed straight back into their attempt at glory this year,” says Prof Van Niekerk. “Moreover, the lessons learned are being used as a blueprint for NMMU students to apply to their own programming projects. I think that the team have a much more complete end-product this year.”

We will be following DIG’s progress closely this week; we wish them well and look forward to seeing them do well in the competition.

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.