HSB launch poster

Fragile Equilibrium is a game about the imperfection and impermanence of life. It is a reflection on transience, a balancing act between progress and regrowth, a reminder to find beauty in decay and inevitable destruction. Using old-school “shmup” mechanics and forms, [FE] invites the player to explore a world of quick actions, forced decisions, and subtle strategy: but with each decision, the player falls ever out of balance.

As balance decays so does the world, eroding over time and out of space, binding the player to a smaller area, pressing in upon the mind. Built upon multi-layered interactions, a Wabi Sabi aesthetic idealism, and a rich, broken world of yesterdays fantasies, [FE] asks the player to reflect upon their play, their world, their nostalgia, and themselves. Find your balance, live a life well played.

[FE] is in active development, and is a first effort in collaboration with Microsoft as a part of the new Creators Program. It is beling developmeed simultaneously for Windows PCs and XBOX One, using Unity. Production tools include Adobe Creative Suite, Autodesk Maya, Surface Painter, Visual Studio, and more. Professor Phelps has worked with students in the fall of 2016 and again in fall of 2017 as part of a production course, and is now working with his team of students directly in studio roles, with co-creator and collaborator Aaron Cloutier at MAGIC Spell Studios. Expected release date is sometime in fall of 2018.

As a work of art, [FE] is a thinly veiled allegory for dealing with depression and anxiety: it is intended specifically to create in the player the sense of being 'squeezed', a slowly building pressure and feeling of being trapped, and to lead players to reflect on balancing their forward progress with a constant need to reconsider, rebuild, and refocus on internally facing (i.e. inward facing) issues and obstacles. It challenges players to find a Fragile Equilibrium in their own play, as a metaphor for conveying issues of instability.

It is with great pleasure that we announce that Fragile Equilibrium is an official selection for Miami@Play in December 2018, curated and organized in collaboration with Filmgate Miami, and shown in conjunction with Art Basel 2018.

Fragile Equilibrium MIAMI@PLAY banner Fragile Equilibrium art banner

 

HSB launch poster

HSB is a multi-player arcade dungeon crawler with a twist! We’ve all been there: stack ranking, team projects, student or employee evaluations on a curve – groups of people that need each other, but that are evaluated individually to the detriment of true teamwork. In Hack, Slash & Backstab, we adapt these broken models to a 2-4 player couch co-op dungeon crawler, and use a game setting to seemingly reduce the stakes. Work together as warrior, rogue, wizard and archer to survive a dangerous world. But only one player will be crowned the winner: it becomes a fight to the death, as betrayal and backstab become the tools of choice. #bewaretheknife

ESRB rating symbol

From 2015-2016 Professor Phelps served as supervising faculty to the entire HSB project, first by advising his class on game production (where the game first came to life), and later supervising students directly through additional refinement, creation, production, certification, and publication processes in part-time and full-time studio roles. In addition he served as a graphic designer, UI/UX developer. and digital artist on the game, in collaboration with other members of the design and development team. Nearly all of the students who were a part of this experience have gone on to careers in game development, at studios such as Insomniac, Activision, Darkwind Media, and more. The launch of the game was featured at Inside HigherED, Campus Technology, PBS(WXXI), and other venues, as well as by local news media. The game was also a demonstration at the Game Developer's Conference (GDC), the Imagine RIT festival for 2 years running, the ROC GameFest, and was featured in numerous events and tours of the MAGIC Center by state and local officials. Students also presented the game at the INTEL Games Showcase in 2016 and were the 3rd place winners for visual quality. The game was built in Unity, and also used Adobe and Autodesk tools in production, as well as Z-Brush, Git, Google Docs, Slack, and other tools. HSB is rated 'Everyone 10+ with Mild Fantasy Violence' by the ESRB.

Additional Resources:

bullet_imageVisit the HSB Website to learn more
bullet_imagePlay the game on XBOX One
bullet_imagePlay the game on Steam
bullet_imagePurchase the game at the Humble Store
bullet_imageSee the video of the launch event and associated interviews
bullet_imageRead the RIT University News article on the launch
bullet_imageWatch the HSB Post-Mortem Talk [~1hr presentation, 500MB streaming video]
bullet_imageGet the HSB Post-Mortem Presenation Slides [MS Powerpoint, 35MB]

 

splattershmup poster

Splattershmup is a game that explores the intersection of the classic shoot-em-up (or "shmup") arcade game and gesturalized abstraction or "action painting" (a term coined by critic Harold Rosenburg in 1952 and often used to describe the work of American artist Jackson Pollock). It is intended to allow the player to reflect on their in-game actions and strategy through visual record, and to approach the creation of art as an arena of action. Art can thus be created, shared and discussed that comes "from inside the moment" of game-based decision.

Splattershmup was featured in the Blank Arcade at the Digital Games Research Association (DIGRA) 2016 conference in Germany, was one of five finalists for Best Learning Game at the Games + Learning + Socity eleventh annual conference and showcase (GLS11), and was featured at the Indie Arcade in 2016 at the Smithsonian American Museum of Art. In addition, it was presented publicly at the Game Developer's Conference, Imagine RIT, and was chosen to represent the entire campus (in combination with live music, orchestra, and conductor) for the first-ever RIT West Coast Board of Trustees meeting.

The game is written in Javascript/HTML5/WebGL, and was written primarly by Professor Phelps and Aaron Cloutier, in collaboration with their game production class from fall of 2014. In addition, Sara Cometto, from the Alden Central School District in Alden, NY, has created 'An Interdisciplinary Teacher's Guide' for the game to help classroom teachers use Splattershmup in units exploring the work of Jackson Pollock, gestural abstraction, and modern art. The guide is intended for grades 3-8, and is adaptable for grades 2-12. The guide also grounds the classroom activity in National Core Arts Standards, and ISTE standards for students. Splattershmup is rated 'E for Everyone' by the ESRB.

Additional Resources:

bullet_imageVisit the Splattershmup Website to learn more
bullet_imageDownload Splattershmup for Windows 7/8 32-bit [59.8 MB]
bullet_imageDownload Splattershmup for Windows 7/8 64-bit [61.8MB]
bullet_imageGet Splattershmup for Windows 8|10 at the Windows Store
bullet_imageGet Splattershmup for Maverics / Yosimite [71.1MB]
bullet_imageGet Splattershmup as a Node-Webkit package [30.3MB]
bullet_image bullet_image Play online in Chrome, IE11, or Edge
bullet_imageDownload the Splattershmup Teacher's Guide [PDF]
bullet_imageGet the Splattershmup Post Mortem Slides [MS PowerPoint 23.9MB]
bullet_imageRead the Splattershmup review on Kill Screen

 

Over the years at RIT, Professor Phelps has been responsible for numerous designs, collages, postcards, posters, and visual designs representing the academic units he was associated with. This is generally because there was not a budget for graphic design and branding initiatives, but also because the brand and visual aesthetic of the Game Design & Development program, the School of Interactive Games & Media, and perhaps most critically the MAGIC Center and associated studio often stood apart from the collective visual design of the university. The designs here are an assortment of the kinds of pieces, materials, and visual work that has been ongoing during his various posts in leadership and administration. Several of these, such as the IGM logo, the desktop posters, and promotional postcards feature elements of other games, projects or designs created in collaboration with colleagues and students. Nonetheless, the compositions and ultimate designs are original.

 

This section of the gallery features several works by Phelps spanning time spent in residence at Bowling Green State University, time teaching and practicing in the Information Sciences & Technologies faculty at RIT, and time at IGM, MAGIC, and more. Pieces include casual sketches, favorite paintings in oils, acrylics, and watercolors, digital 2D and 3D graphics, pen and pencil, pastels, and other media. Also of note is his personal favorite Splattershmup painting, which was produced during personal development and game engine testing.

 

This section of the gallery features several small watercolors that were daily work during Phelps' sabbatical from 2018-2019. They are intended to be short, quick works capturing moments in the world during that time.