Game Design Minor students publish ‘Samira: Taken From Time’ on Steam

The narrative-driven, puzzle-solving adventure game was developed by a team of students over two semesters in the minor’s capstone courses.

Students in Elon’s Game Design Minor recently published “Samira: Taken From Time” on the gaming platform Steam.

The third-person, narrative-driven adventure game takes users through diverse and colorful landscapes as they solve puzzles and attempt to avert the apocalypse. It was developed by a team of six students in a two-semester minor capstone project. Students on the team included those majoring in computer science, communication design and music production.

John Spitznagel '23 at a white board in front of a group of four students
John Spitznagel ’23 leads discussion on the narrative design of “Samira: Taken From Time” during a pre-production meeting

“Working on ‘Samira’ presented several challenges, and I can confidently say that nothing came easily,” said Henry Agyemang ’24, an engineering major with a computer science concentration. Agyemang was the game’s narrative and environment designer.

“As the game incorporated exploration elements, I faced the dilemma of filling vast spaces in a way that felt organic and cohesive while delivering the desired player experience,” Agyemang said.

“Samira: Taken From Time” is the fourth game created by students in Elon’s Game Design Minor Program to be published on Steam. The program fosters multidisciplinary collaboration and encourages a holistic and hands-on approach to game development while building professional skills needed in the gaming industry.

a screenshot of a video game with a person's silhouette in front of a statue
Still from the game “Samira: Taken From Time,” which students in the Game Design Minor created.

Pratheep Paranthaman, assistant professor of computer science and coordinator of the Game Design Minor, refers to its two capstone courses as “studio courses” that enable students to hone specific skill sets in the game development process while working as a member of a cross-disciplinary team.

“A simulation of a real-world work environment is a perfect way to apply concepts taught in the game design program in action,” Paranthaman said. “This capstone project played a pivotal role in exposing students to real-world challenges like collaboration, project management, teamwork and resource management.”

Two students in front of a computer screen showing an animated character's face
Morgan Chisholm ‘23, left, and Henry Agyemang ’24 test facial motion capture with a character model for “Samira: Taken From Time” during the project’s early development.

The capstone courses go beyond conventional game development tools, introducing industry-standard frameworks and techniques, such as Scrum project management and work culture and motion capture systems. Marcus Rich ’24, a computer science major and game design minor, reflected on the value of learning Agile methodology through the courses.

“So many companies are using similar practices to help tackle big projects,” Rich said, underscoring the program’s practicality.

The road to the game’s release on Steam wasn’t without its share of obstacles. The team encountered unexpected technical issues in merging work from different team members. As lead gameplay programmer, Ged Fuller ’24 was responsible for game mechanics and interactions and for managing the overall vision of the project.

“The biggest challenge I encountered during Samira was the process of taking all the changes other people made and bringing them all together. Whenever a new change was made, it had to be tested to make sure everything else worked seamlessly with it,” Fuller said.

A student in a black motion-capture suit as a professor watches movement on a nearby computer
Assistant Professor of Computer Science Pratheep Paranthaman, left, and Marcus Rich ’24 record animations for the player character using a motion capture suit.he team persevered through rounds of iterations, playtesting and bug fixes to release “Samira” on Steam in May. Paranthaman applauded their commitment and resilience.

The team persevered through rounds of iterations, playtesting and bug fixes to release “Samira” on Steam in May. Paranthaman applauded their commitment and resilience.

“Despite all the challenges in the development process, the students were determined to publish their game on Steam,” he said. “They were consistent and diligent in meeting the specified requirements and maintaining production quality in the game.”

Fuller said that publishing the game on Steam — a platform he’s played other games on — was surreal.

“Seeing something I made published to such a popular platform is insane to me,” Fuller marveled.

Six students in front of a projector screen in a classroom
The development team of “Samira: Taken From Time” from GAM4200 in spring 2023. From left: Mason Brown ’23, Ged Fuller ‘24, Marcus Rich ‘24, John Spitznagel ‘23, Henry Agyemang ‘24 and Morgan Chisholm ‘23.

Agyemang echoed that and reflected on the gratification of seeing the team’s creation come to life.

“I feel a great sense of accomplishment seeing how a few initial sketches on paper and a few pages on a Google Docs document transformed into a fully-fledged game. I continuously check the game’s status, eagerly seeking feedback from new players and reading reviews,” Agyemang said.