Category Archives: travel

UAT Student Survives Hurricane Katrina

(Here is an interview from late-2005.)

UAT Student Survives Hurricane Katrina

By Trevor Green

New UAT student Vince Lutton was one of many that fled New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The former Tulane University student relocated to pursue his education in game design, and found a new opportunity in the face of adversity.

We talked with Vince about his experiences, evacuating his college home and his future plans.

UAT: Where are you from?

Vince Lutton: I’m actually originally from Texas (Uvalde-right near San Antonio and an hour away from Mexico). I’ve been going to school at Tulane in New Orleans for the last four years. I was getting ready to start my senior year there, and our classes got cancelled.

I heard about UAT a year ago and I was really interested in joining the video game programming [program]. I had already applied here, so I was like, “You know, it’s the perfect opportunity to go check it out.” I looked at it as more of an opportunity than a detriment.

UAT: When you were at Tulane, were you thinking about the same program?

VL: There’s a brand-new program that they started, video game development. Since I’ve gotten involved in this program [at UAT], I’ve realized how it [the Tulane program] was really just a computer science program-nothing else. They call edit video game programming-I’m pretty sure-just to attract more technology students. So I’m glad that I’m here and it ended up working out pretty well in that respect.

UAT: When the evacuations were going on, what was going through your head?

VL: I’ve been going to school there for four years, so we’ve had several hurricanes come and go. When we heard that they were coming, we would evacuate; then we would come back and everything would be perfect. It almost became like a vacation for a little while there.

You forget how serious they really are. The first few times, we boarded up windows and put tape on them. This time, we didn’t do much to prepare. We heard that it was coming, and we had to evacuate. My little sister just started school there-this was going to be her freshman year-so I had to get her out of there as well. We just piled up everybody that I could fit in my car and drove to Texas [Vince was born in Houston]. I had two changes of clothes and that’s it- everything was left behind. My roommate left his car in front of our house down the street; somebody e-mailed me a picture of our street [after the hurricane] and his car is not there-it’s gone and just washed away somewhere. I don’t know if my stuff’s gone (my guitars, my computer and everything); I have no idea.

It’s crazy, but I keep reminding myself that it’s just stuff and that I’m okay and so are my friends. I had some friends that were staying behind, but they left at the last minute.

UAT: What was it like watching the footage on CNN and the other news stations?

VL: It was awful-there’s really no word to describe it. Even though I’m not originally from New Orleans, it became my home. I was planning on staying there, and I was going to try to get a job there after I graduated. I love the city; it’s an amazing, amazing place.

I can’t even describe it; seeing everything that you love, underwater… I had friends that evacuated with me in New Orleans; one of them was so depressed, we couldn’t bounce him out of the depression. Watching that kind of devastation happen to your home was just awful. It was just a shame.

UAT: How are you keeping in touch with everyone there?

VL: Cell phones still aren’t working, and of course there are no landlines. All of my friends got evacuated out to other colleges, so wee-mail. Everyone had to set up new e-mail accounts because our Tulane accounts are still down, so everybody e-mails around or borrows somebody’s cell phone from wherever they’re at. It’s good to know that everyone’s okay. It’s a tough situation; everyone had to be scattered. It’s our senior year, so it was the worst possible moment [for this to happen].

UAT: What are your thoughts right now?

VL: Honestly, I’m still confused about what I want to do. I do like the program here a lot, so I’m not sure that I’m going to end up staying here at UAT until I graduate, or if trying to go back; I don’t even know if I’ll have a place to go back to-it just really depends. I do like this school a lot; it would be nice if there were a few more girls here. Other than that, it’s a really good school.

Mainly, I’m just hoping that everything gets worked out there. I hear that they’re pumping out up to billions of gallons of water daily, and they’ve pumped out three-quarters of a trillion gallons of water so far out of the city. So it’s all about rebuilding. I would love to go back and see the city back up to its glory; I don’t know if you could call New Orleans majestic, but [I’d like to see it back to] it’s former glory.

UAT: What do you think of the relief efforts?

VL: I really can’t commend the relief efforts for Louisiana. They were so slow on the uptake there and the National Guard wasn’t ready. It really was a disaster-I think everyone agrees on that. It’s awful; if you look at those images, it didn’t look like the United States of America at all-it looked like a third-world country. [They] simply didn’t have the resources to be prepared for that kind of disaster.

Like I said, with Houston I think they’re going to be a lot more prepared [and] a lot more efficient if it hits the area-which hopefully It veers off.

UAT: Now you’re here a UAT. Are you helping with any of the donating efforts?

VL: I went to the first Student Government meeting with that expressed desire, and it was already on the agenda. I suggested some sort of LAN party, but I’m really happy with what the organization is doing; the dollar-for-dollar to $15,000 is really incredible. FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] is sending money to a lot of the Katrina victims, and if I do end up getting money from that, I can contribute a few hundred bucks to this effort. If there’s more I can do, I’d do more.

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UAT: UAT Student Earns Karrlin Field Scholarship

(Here is a UAT article from 2007.)

UAT Student Earns Karrlin Field Scholarship

Story by Trevor Green

A passion for technology, a love of creative arts and an unbridled drive toward a career in video games: prospective UAT student Karrlin Field had that in spades.

When the 17-year-old passed away in 2004 from cystic fibrosis, her family connected with Admissions and created a scholarship honoring the young woman. They were looking for female students excited about gaming and pursuing fruitful careers.

The 2007 spring semester recipient, senior Game Design student Erin Ali, was the spitting image of what they were looking for. Erin received $1,000 towards her tuition, which she planned to use to further her education.

“I’m really excited that I won, and I’m really happy that this is going to help towards my last semester here,” she said.

Her zeal for video games as a lifestyle and career were the subject of her essay, a two-page composition presented in a magazine-style format.

“I sat down and went through a whole biography on myself and how that experience had got me to where I am today, and with more help I could do more,” she recalled. “And then because I’m so graphically oriented, I made it look better so I didn’t just send in a Word doc – I actually sent in a layout with the text in it, somehow revolving around my life.”

Erin was awestruck after reading Karrlin’s website, viewing the games, stories and writings made in her brief life. She was inspired by Karrlin’s achievements despite her physical ailment.

“You could tell she didn’t do it because she had to or that she did it because she felt she should, but it was something she really wanted to do,” she enthused. “She did a ton of stuff, and it’s like to me small things that affect me every day to me no longer mattered when I was reading her stuff.”

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MyGamer.com: What Defines a Classic Game?

(Here is an editorial I wrote for MyGamer.com in 2004. Enjoy!)

What Defines a Classic Game?
By Trevor Green at 2004-05-04 15:11:19

Every so often, I happen to stumble into an old-school gamer moment. For me, it often involves glassy-eyed reflection or wistful longing for the gaming days of yore. Ignorant gaming fanboys and shoddy sequels tend to evoke the bitter old man within with disastrous results. Lately though, it has been marketers and brainwashed kids claiming the newest mega-hyped game to be the next big thing. When I see how similar those games are to everything else, I yearn for the times where no one rushed to proclaim a game as the offering from the divine gods of digital entertainment.

Recently I had such a moment, but it wasn’t the usual heady rush of reminiscence. I was watching my 10-year old cousin play I-Ninja, and it was about two minutes in that the gears started turning. The borrowing of ideas from better games like Super Mario 64, the bonus games of the Sonic series, and the “pull the switch” tedium of every by-the-numbers adventure game reared their head. Now wide awake, Grandpa Old-Timer was mighty upset! “How can anyone like this durn game? It’s rehash! There’s no way it can be a classic! I’m tired and gassy.” True, the warmed-over escapades of bland ninja-platforming were a stretch, but I somehow snapped out of my tirade. The next-to-last sentence struck a nerve. Why did I care if this game could be compared to the gaming greats? Why would it matter?

I’m sure that it didn’t matter to my young cousin, who hopped and slashed away happily. But it got me to thinking. Somewhere along the line, it did begin to make a difference. I started grouping the newer games in their own category. Subconsciously, I was comparing the recent generation as if they were challenging the gaming throne. I was putting an unnecessary asterisk next to their accomplishments. Of course I played and liked most of the current greats, but the question still festered beneath the surface: “Can these games be considered classics?” And I knew that I had to find the answer.

Before I started my quest, I consulted my dictionary for the definition of the word “classic”. Webster’s “Wal-Mart 97-cent special” defines the word as: belonging in a certain category of excellence, or having a lasting artistic worth. Not much, (after all, it is a Wal-Mart edition) but it was a good place to start. Both definitions contain the idea of esteem and merit; something that you won’t find in the millionth ad-blurb of big-name magazines. We tend to value something that holds special meaning to us, or stir up a fond memory. More often than not, we deem an item of quality to be of merit. After all, there is a reason that few people loved Superman 64 (and those who did should book a few sessions with a therapist).

Now is a good time to really grasp what is worthy of being classic. We are often bombarded with the word, to the point where it has lost the discriminating nature of its definition. Those magnificent (or malevolent) marketing ad-wizards of the media somehow managed to put the word in our daily vocabulary. Networks like “ESPN Classic” market recently played thrillers as “instant classics”. Everything from movies to food products and computer programs carries the word somewhere in its advertising. Someone wisely figured out that the word “classic” carries prestige, so why not use it to promote pork rinds or “You Got Served”? With all the hype surrounding nearly everything with money riding on it nowadays, it takes something truly special to earn the title.

The first definition, belonging in a certain category of excellence, holds up well. If we were to compare games to cars, would you want the gaming equivalent of a Kia Rio or a Lamborghini? Would you rather have the game that was crafted with love and care, or the economy model that does everything poorly? Any sane person would want the best gaming for their dollar, and games are a pretty penny. So then a classic game would embody the qualities that people seek out in a game. It might have great graphics, a good soundtrack, involving storyline and a healthy challenge. More than that, though, it would be fun to play. And above all else, it would rank up there with the best years down the road. Not many Kia’s could claim to compete with sports cars (not that they do), but a Lamborghini is a lasting favorite that does most things well.

The second definition, having lasting artistic worth, is a little iffier. Art carries a different meaning to different people. There are fans of horrifically-bad movies, giving them gratuitous cult-status. Therefore, artistic can be interpreted in numerous ways. When it comes to games, an extraordinary work is one that pushes the envelope in its aesthetics. Games like Yoshi’s Island obliterated the notion of 2D games, with a living and breathing storybook world that still amazes today. The Final Fantasy series offers warm, enveloping soundtracks that are timeless, as is their engrossing storylines. Super Mario Bros. 3 forever changed the way we view and play plaforming games, with a captivating adventure, dozens of helpful items and powers, secrets upon secrets, and loads of imagination. These games are often ahead of their time, and do not get their due until years later.

A great game a few years back may look and feel dated now. This is often the case with sports game franchises, in which the sequel often outclasses the previous model. For example, try playing Madden Football ’93 after a few quarters of Madden 2004. Meanwhile, another might play as well as back in the day because of the tried-and-true game play that launched a thousand copycats. A classic game is one that stays true to the age-old credo: simple enough to pick up, difficult to master. The true sign of a classic game, or any great game for that matter, is one that you can pick up and play years later.

The main key a game becoming a classic, like anything else, is time. In life, there are few greats and even fewer legends. Eventually, most only remember the true icons from past generations. The greats that are outstanding in their prospective qualities are those remembered down the line. The games that we love as kids are the ones that we wax the nostalgic about years later. They’re the ones that we drag out and dust off the old system to play. Out of thousands of potential options to choose from, the ones that brought us joy are those that we hold dear. As kids, we don’t find ourselves hung up on defining a great game, but we remember having fun playing it. The little things add up. And those rare games that deliver the complete package are the crowning achievements.

And that’s when it all came together for me. A classic game is one that stacks up well against those in its genre and its generation. The pieces of the puzzle- graphics, sound, play control, challenge, and replay value- work together in such a way to deliver a fun experience every time you pick up the controller. A classic game might not have the best visuals or tightest controls in comparison to others, but the combination of all the little details make it well worth playing. It is a game that makes a bold statement that sings to your soul. There is at least one aspect that always, and I mean always, brings a smile to your face when you play it. And that is worth more than its weight in hype.

So as I watched my cousin flip another switch in I-Ninja, I sat back and watched his intensity as he played the game. Maybe this will be his classic game, and maybe it won’t. If he’s still playing it five years from now, then that is cool. But as long as he is having fun with it, then that is all that should matter. That’s what gaming is all about, right? “You’re darn right, you crybaby!” the old-timing gamer shrieked.

At least I can agree on that.

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UAT Student’s Car Stolen, Starts Over

(This was originally posted in 2008.)

UAT Student’s Car Stolen, Starts Over

Story by Trevor Green

Imagine that you’ve traveled cross-country, ready to start your first semester at UAT. But the day you’re about to move in, you walk out of the motel to find your car – and all of your belongings – gone.

That was the plight of incoming student Jacob Lanthier. UAT and Student Government (USG) are setting up a donation bucket outside during Free Food Day to aid the Albany, N.Y. native.

About to move into his housing, Lanthier left his Phoenix motel room to the surprise of a vacant parking space his car once occupied.

“I put our bags into the car, locked the car up, [went] back to the room, made sure we got everything, sat down for about 20 minutes, stood up, turned around … car’s missing,” Lanthier said. “Funny thing is that I wanted to leave a half-hour before I did, before I found out that the car was stolen – when my car was still there.”

Lanthier’s initial reaction was to dial 911 on his cell phone, alerting the police of the problem. Now without transportation, Lanthier and his father called a rental car service, moved the younger Lanthier into housing and attended orientation.

“There’s no need to go around and cry like a baby,” Lanthier said. “Some people would, but I have to be as strong as I can and deal with it. New Yorkers – gotta love them.”

Once on campus, Enrollment Coordinator Robert Marshall told Lanthier that USG was discussing his situation in their meeting. The group decided to assist in replenishing Lanthier’s items. According to USG Vice-President Erin McKinney, UAT and USG are securing a computer on loan; others are encouraged to donate items to help out.

When the car was recovered, a mere smidgen of Lanthier’s belongings – including all of his clothing, a laptop, two computer towers, monitor, and television – were found: a spare tire, bubble wrap, a pair of socks and a demo disc.

“They would still be looking for it if the [hotel] security guard, who saw the car for three days straight, didn’t call it in,” Lanthier said. “The police didn’t find it – the security guard did.”

Though faced with adversity, Lanthier is rolling with the punches, making the most of his time at UAT thus far.

“So far, from what I see, it’s going to be a really good college,” Lanthier said. “I was meant to be here, completely bare-ass naked except for the clothes on my back, and start completely over. I said I wanted to come to Arizona and start over – I didn’t want it to be taken literally!”

(During the Free Food Day, $93.07 was raised. Cuban Pete’s donated $.25 per pastry sold, raising an additional $80 for a total of $173.07. The IT Department also donated a dual-monitor computer.)

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UAT: Armed Forces Student Profile: Benjamin Dauber

Here is a profile I did on a UAT student that served in the military.

Armed Forces Student Profile: Benjamin Dauber

Story by Trevor Green

Digital Video student Benjamin Dauber is facing a new challenge at University of Advancing Technology: creativity. The former Network Security student is trying his hand at filmmaking after enjoying his introductory class, DVA101 (Digital Video Fundamentals), and the chance to stretch his imagination.

“I get a chance to really be creative, and I’ve never, never done that before,” he said.

Dauber’s previous trials were not as relaxed. An U.S. Army veteran, he suffered memory problems after a landmine accident in Iraq. He enrolled at the University after going into the reserves from 2006-2008 (and in 2008, Inactive Ready Reserve), intrigued by the Network Security program.

Trying new classes and interests helped him to find a major in his wheelhouse:

“It’s hard to grasp new material in the NetSec field, so I’m going to go with more of a liberal arts [major]. Plus, I love that class [DVA101].”

He served 4 years of active duty in the Army (2002-2006, the majority of his time in Iraq), with his Military Occupational Specialty (92 Fox ASI H7) being a petroleum supply specialist and a commercial truck driver.

The time spent in the Armed Forces turned the formerly-timid Dauber into a more assured and take-charge person in all aspects of life – the latter coming from leadership development training while in the Army.

“Even if I know that I don’t have the skill set required to do a task, I’ll still give it a good effort… I’m not afraid of failing in front of people.”

This confidence extends to the classroom and helps absorb knowledge – though his self-awareness and desire to include his classmates keeps his eagerness in check:

“I’ve actually had to tone down trying to take the lead, because so far, every project we’ve done I’ve been the force behind it – this is what we’re going to do, we should do this, we should do that – and everyone kind of follows in line a little bit [laughs]. I’ve been having to stand back and be like, ‘No, you guys, come up with an idea.'”

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UAT-Online Student Creating Super Game

(This is a piece I wrote for University of Advancing Technology, my former employer.)

UAT-Online Student Creating Super Game

Story by Trevor Green

University of Advancing Technology master’s student Justin Woodward was a year out of college working as a graphic designer and ready for a change. Craving a return to video game development, he enrolled in UAT-Online’s Game Production and Management program to gain training as a supervisor. The project management and marketing knowledge he is gaining is influencing his education and his outside projects.

Woodward fused his love of fighting games and old-school beat-’em-ups with his administrative experience as co-founder of game developer Interabang Entertainment into his latest project,Super Comboman: Struggles Adventures. The genre-bending side-scroller, in development for the PC, is a labor of love for Woodward and his team.

“We’ve always liked beat-em-ups, so we decided that ‘Why not make a beat-em-up for the people who like fighting games?'” said Woodward.

The brawler stars the socially inept hero Struggles, unable to hold onto a job partly because of his obsession with comic book hero Super Comboman. The creators’ love of fighting games can be seen in the game’s combat, influenced by fighters like Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and the Tekken series with juggle combos and destructible environments – useful in opening new paths. Each level represents one of Struggles’ many jobs.

(Watch the making-of video at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/interabangent/super-comboman-struggles-adventures.)

Super Comboman has more than novel influences and gameplay mechanics; the developers are using project-funding website Kickstarter to recruit financers for the demo. A friend turned Woodward – looking for fiscal backing as the developers toiled for months on “sweat equity” – onto the site and he and the team created a pitch to garner support from the Kickstarter community, with the goal being $15,000 to secure economic support.

“It was a process… it’s not like something instantaneous where you just send them something and they’re like, ‘Ok.’ You have to kind of make them believe in your project first, so it took a few months to get on there.”

Donating on Kickstarter for the game’s production gives access to beta testing and feedback. He anticipates demo development to be about 4-5 months with funding, and about 7 months without. The completed game may see release on other platforms via digital distribution.

Woodward and the team wanted to distance themselves from recent downloadable games with a retro feel (like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game) with a modern take on two-dimensional games. The developers, friends and peers living and working in San Diego, blended anime-style exaggeration, iconic Capcom and Sega characters and their goofy sense of humor into the sharp, high-resolution art.

“We wanted to make sure that we created, not a retro feel like a lot of games are doing now, but have everything look really crisp to take advantage of the technology that’s available now but still have the gameplay mechanics from the past,” Woodward stated.

Super Comboman is the second game from Interabang Entertainment. Their first title, retro-flavored Brooklyn to Babylon: Shinobi Ninja Attacks!, is available for purchase on iTunes.

(Check out the Interabang Entertainment’s website athttp://www.interabangent.com/.)

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