2 June 2016
Alumnus Jason Free has recently seen a game he designed launched on Steam, the world’s largest distributor for PC games. The game, titled Bipolar Game, is available for gamers in 237 countries to download directly to their computers, and has received positive reviews.
Bipolar Game, released April 2016, began in the Game Design Studio subject at Monash University. It was a group project between lead designer Jason Free, lead programmer Tom Parry, lead artist Tadgh Dinnage, and project manager Sasha Simonov.
Under the guidance of staff from the Faculty of Information Technology, including Derrick Martin and Dr Matthew Butler, the Game Design Studio subject focused the programming and design skills the students had learnt in their first two years of study towards the fundamentals of game design and development.
“I went into the subject wanting to learn what it was to be a game designer,” Jason said, adding he “wanted to focus on a 2D type game.”
The initial concept for Bipolar came from artist Tadgh, who proposed a character with polarised boots. That character would later become the magnetised cube the player now controls in the finished game.
Jason found the development process a fantastic experience. “We well and truly went beyond it being just an assignment. This was ours. Our creation.” Brainstorming with the team was a continuous process that took them from paper prototypes and mock ups to working levels within first semester.
The group were so motivated that they ended up way ahead of schedule, which gave them time to include extra features such as music, 30 additional levels, a game trailer, and the ability for users to create their own levels. Jason gives particular credit to Tom, who sadly passed away earlier this year. As lead programmer, Tom was responsible for much of Bipolar’s functionality, as the group wrote the code for their own engine to control aspects of the game such as its physics.
Jason, Tom, Tadgh and Sasha’s group were winners of Most Outstanding Student in Third Year Studio 2010, and had other students approaching them wanting to play the game. “I knew that we were onto something,” Jason said of his desire to promote Bipolar. After an opportunity to work on the game with a local developer didn’t eventuate, Tom got the game released through Apple’s Mac App Store and Jason made it available on PC through distribution platform Desura.
In 2012, Steam launched Steam Greenlight, which allows users to rate submitted games during development and determine which ones become available for sale. Jason submitted Bipolar to this new distribution process and it was approved and launched in 2016.
While much of Jason’s recent work has been in IT help desk positions, he said he “would leave all of that in a heartbeat for a job in the games industry”.
Unfortunately, such jobs are scarce, but Jason has done some games development work for Monash and puts his video game knowledge to use in the online sales of retro video games and consoles.
Jason majored in Game Development while studying a Bachelor of Information Technology at Monash University.