How a capstone project led BYU to be named No. 5 school in the world for game design

BYU students cite prayer, inspiration, ‘great professors’ for success in creating internationally recognized game

What started as a capstone project for Brigham Young University animation students was recently recognized by an international board as one of the top games of the year and earned the Church school a top-five ranking in the world for game design and development.

The interactive computer gameLiminus: The Silent Guard” — directed and produced by BYU students Emily Ellis and Gabe Reed — received a “Highly Commended” award from the 2022 Rookie Awards, which utilizes a panel of more than 150 industry experts to judge and rank based on criteria such as creativity, technical skills, story, production quality and originality.

Ellis and Reed and about 50 other students spent thousands of hours completing the game, from concept art to 3D modeling to computer programming to music and more during the last year.

In a BYU news release, Ellis noted that they often began their meetings with prayer and felt guidance and inspiration as they collaborated. “There’s a lot of heart and soul that went into the game, and I hope that people can see that,” Ellis said.

BYU students produced a new video game, “Liminus: The Silent Guard,” which received a “Highly Commendable” award from the Rookie Awards in 2022. | Cameron Unson

In the game, users play an eternal being called the Shepherd, who rescues and protects lost sheep in a mythical land called the Inbetween. Game players use strategy and puzzle solving skills to guide the sheep to safe spaces and fend off vicious wolves and other dangers.

The production process required managing many moving parts. “The concept art had to be done before the models and the models had to be done before the animation. Scheduling everything and keeping us on track was my responsibility,” said Reed, who worked as the producer.

After being recognized by the Rookie Awards, BYU was also named the No. 5 school in the world for game design, joining institutions such as France’s New3dge and the United Kingdom’s University of Hertfordshire, which specialize in animation.

“It’s really cool to see BYU up there with these very specialized schools that are focused on animation and game design,” said Reed. “Knowing that we can compete with them and hold our own is cool.”

The Rookies co-founder Andrew McDonald said on its website, “We believe that schools that replicate a production studio experience provide a great advantage to students because it encourages team work, a strong understanding of pipelines, scheduling experience, resource management and problem solving.”

Both Reed and Ellis expressed their gratitude for having a real-world experience in a studio-like format at BYU.

“The real value comes because of the great professors who have worked in the industry and who give us the space to develop our skills and give us the confidence that we can solve problems,” said Ellis. “Allowing us to launch and lead huge projects like this is humbling. We learned so much on the job.”

BYU students pose with art of a new video game they produced, “Liminus: The Silent Guard,” which received a “Highly Commendable” award from the Rookie Awards in 2022. | Emily Ellis
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