Topper Saves the Day
A Student’s Videogame Design Promises to Make Players hill(Topper) Heroes
An animated Topper runs through campus. His mission? Defeat grackles and win back stolen acorns for guitar-playing squirrels. In Topper Goat, a mobile game created by Connor Gill ’16, an Interactive Games Studies major, players can be heroes, alongside the university’s beloved mascot.
For an assignment in his Business of Gaming class, Gill created the first digital image of Topper in 2014, inspired by the Topper mural he saw near the softball field when he walked to class. He then launched a GoFundMe page in 2015, asking for donations to cover equipment and software costs, and received audio and programming help from his fellow classmates, Lance Jasper ’18 and Alexis Abesamis ’17.
Gill has worked on completing the game in his spare time, with a goal of it being available to download on iOS and Android phones soon. “I want to show the beauty of St. Edward’s through one of my favorite mediums: videogames,” he says.
Topper Goat is an infinite-runner game, which means that to advance the action, Topper must gallop and jump onto grackles and acorns as he moves through campus (think Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros. and Flappy Bird rolled into one). Since the backdrop of Topper Goat is St. Edward’s, players also learn about the university.
“Each time someone plays, a fact about the university pops up,” Gill says. “I want someone who has never heard of St. Edward’s to learn about it or, if they know about the university, come to appreciate it through another medium.”
One of the challenges, Gill says, was learning to program the gameplay because he wanted to capture the look and feel of St. Edward’s. “The game is fairly simple, but I have more experience in art, music and business than programming,” Gill says. Because of that, Gill focused on giving the digital buildings a huge level of detail.
Gill says he explored campus and took photos to help him accurately draw the buildings, foliage (and squirrels), while still adding his own style. He also spent time in the Munday Library archives, researching historical photos to each building’s architecture so he could create an authentic digital version of it for Topper Goat. He turned to Game Maker and Reddit forums to get help with the programming.
Another challenge, Gill says, will be testing how the game functions on an iPhone, Android and desktop computer. Plus, he wants to make sure the game is fun. That’s why he’s focused the game on Topper defeating his bird-enemies, while jumping onto the roofs of Main Building, Andre Hall and Holy Cross Hall, among others.
Building Topper Goat has helped Gill gain experience creating digital media and integrating art, animation and music. After graduation, he plans to use his business and digital design skills to develop games in Austin. “There’s a growing community of indie gamers here, and the opportunities are amazing,” Gill says.
By Erica Quiroz