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Thomas takes on Team Tempest development

Brockport student tackles solo game development

By David Specksgoor Gaming columnist
On May 2, 2012

  • Jerome Thomas (left) began Team Tempest as a solo project, aiming to develop a quality third-person shooter utilizing basic programming skills he learned at Cornell as well as from online instructional videos. Screenshot, logo and photo courtesy of Jerome Thomas
  • Jerome Thomas

Game design is a long, tedious and complicated process for game developers. It takes a team of professionals working for months, or even years on end to tie everything together, from gameplay mechanics and graphical design to story and dialogue writers. Yet, one lone Brockport student has taken it upon himself to not only create a video game on his own, but also to teach himself how to do it along the way.
Jerome Thomas is a senior at Brockport who transferred from Cornell at the beginning of the year and has been working on a personal video game during his spare time.
"I play a lot of games," Thomas said. "Like anyone else who does, I was always say stuff like 'Wouldn't it be cool if this was in the game?' or 'They should really have a game that does x, y or z.' Then I decided, screw it, I'll make my own."
Thomas said his game, titled Team Tempest, is a third-person futuristic science-fiction shooter with a few role playing game (RPG) aspects included. He said the plotline revolves around an elite squad in the Team Tempest galactic police force at a time when the galaxy has become a melting pot of sentient creatures, human and alien alike.
"The namesake 'Team Tempest' is an overarching police force, split into many squads that have jurisdiction over various parts of the galaxy," Thomas said. "The game begins with your team being initiated as one of these elite 'squads' prematurely, as your predecessors have gone missing. The rest of the game sort of spirals off of this premise with you and your team trying to figure out what happened to them, who else, friend or foe, is involved and what it proves about humanity's place in the overarching galaxy."
The most impressive part is that he was able to teach himself many aspects of designing a game by simply using online resources.
"Most of my 'game programming' experience came from whatever resources I could scrounge together," Thomas said. "Things like YouTube video tutorials, online lectures from programming classes, etc. A lot of it is truly trial and error though, as you can't plan for every circumstance or problem."
Early screens and character models show impressive work for a self-taught man. This showcases Thomas's determination to accomplish the feat of not only developing a game solo, but also in creating a game that is as well-rounded as it can be.
"Since I'm just one guy it won't be the most robust thing on the planet, but at the very least I want it to be fun to play," Thomas said. "I want someone to be able to pick it up and say 'Hey, this feels solid.' Not just something I threw together for a class with no care"
Without a team of equally talented people backing him up, it is bound to take Thomas a lengthy amount of time to complete the game - especially one that fits the lofty standards he envisions. Even so, he said he plans to get a bulk of his work done this summer, with an expected finish date sometime around January 2013.
"In terms of features, I really want the movement and combat to feel fluid and versatile," Thomas said. "Some third-person games you play nowadays feel like you're controlling a tank with legs. To sort of push that point, besides gunplay, I've been hacking away at a melee combat system completely independent from the firearms."
Thomas said he also plans on incorporating a few space-shooter segments remeniscent of the Star Fox games in order to break up the action.
"When it's done done, I'll probably just distribute it free online, have people give me feedback, revise it, etc.," Thomas said. "After that I'll look into what digital distribution platforms are most viable for an independent release, whether it be services like Steam, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, etc."
Overall, Thomas has made pretty impressive strides in his solo project. His dedication to quality is an admirable trait in an industry where shortcuts and rush jobs can ruin otherwise good games.
"If anything for me, it's my way of knowing that I can start with an idea and end up with something tangible that I can give out and say, 'Look, I did this,'" Thomas said. "'It wasn't for a grade, or for a boss, I did it because I said I wanted to and said I would.'"

Follow David on Facebook at Goor On Games
and on Twitter  @GoorOnGames

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