Intel Continues Quest for New Talent, as SMU Guildhall Dazzles With Fire and Ice

Guildhall team creates the award-winning Inua, an action-packed game in which players use ice and fire to confound enemies.


Imagine that you are Kaya, a young woman of the northern tribe. Your people worship the nature goddess but, having fallen out of favor with this celestial being, are now denied the sacred knowledge of fire and ice. Your task: traverse an ancient temple to learn the power of these elemental forces and show your people the ways of balance. You achieve this by reaching the highest terrace, the Elemental Temple.

The Ice Trail, showcasing Inua’s amazing graphical environment.

This is Inua, an action-packed, first-person 3D puzzler in which players use ice and fire to manipulate their environment and confound enemies in order to progress through a mysterious sacred structure. Developed by a dedicated team of students at Southern Methodist University (SMU) Guildhall, Inua recently scooped up First Place for Best Visuals at the 2016 Intel® University Games Showcase (IUGS), highlighting the awe-inspiring possibilities when developers combine state-of-the-art hardware, stunning graphics, and some amazing creative talent.

This article details the challenging yet rewarding journey that Inua’s developers faced from concept to completion, and, eventually, the winner’s podium.

Held in conjunction with the Game Developers Conference (GDC), the IUGS invites representatives from the top ten academic game-developer programs to present their feats of magic to an enthusiastic audience consisting of industry professionals, fellow students, the press, and media influencers. The third annual showcase, in 2016, saw schools including Carnegie Mellon University, Drexel University, and UC Santa Cruz, among others, compete for $35,000 in hardware prizes. A panel of judges consisting of game industry luminaries picked the winners.

Led by game producer Matt Worrell, SMU Guildhall was looking to build on past triumphs, including two top-prize wins at the first IUGS in 2014. “As a team, we had several goals with Inua, but competing in the Intel University Games Showcase was our top objective,” said Worrell.

Located in Plano, Texas, SMU Guildhall features a leading-edge digital game-development program, offering specializations in art creation, level design, production, and programming. Established in 2003, the school has seen over 600 students graduate, with alumni working at more than 250 video game studios around the world.

Most years, SMU Guildhall has class sizes ranging from 40 to 50 students. But Worrell’s cohort had only twelve students, which persuaded him to augment the core group with artists from earlier cohorts. Rounding out the SMU Guildhall team was a set of talented programmers, designers, and an audio developer, together with lead designer Jon Clark. “We were Batman and Robin, me as producer and Jon as game designer,” joked Worrell.

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