Student Creates Survival Horror Game "Frostbite: Deadly Climate"
Growing up with autism, Alex Olinkiewicz spent a lot of time in his own world. His imagination was constantly active. One day, he thought, he’d be a writer or a cartoonist or a producer for tv or film. He wasn’t far off.
Today, Alex is preparing for a career in the entertainment industry, but instead of movies or shows, he’s focused on gaming. He’s working toward a Bachelor of Science in Game Art & Design at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division. Recently, he even built and launched his own first-person, survival horror game "Frostbite: Deadly Climate."
Since first encountering the game "BioShock" in 2007, Alex has had a self-described obsession with gaming. “That game changed my life,” he recalls. “I was blown away. It really showed me what was possible with video games.”
With his passion for storytelling and gaming, studying game design in college seemed like a natural next step, and Alex has excelled in his bachelor’s program so far, even at tough tasks like 3D modeling and programming. Despite his initial fear that he might struggle in those areas, today he is confident in his skills with both, including his ability to figure out new programming techniques as he takes on more challenging work.
“My experience is that college can be a stepping stone that pushes you to do the things you’re capable of,” he reflects. “It has really motivated me and introduced me to a lot of things I wasn’t expecting to be good at.”
In the "Frostbite" game that Alex recently designed, players control a biologist lost in an Arctic snowstorm. Forced to take refuge at an abandoned research base that lacks heats and is home to dangerous creatures, players must keep the biologist warm, as well as safe, with gameplay that includes combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving. If the researcher’s body temperature drops too low, the character will lose physical stamina, as well as weapon accuracy, and can eventually freeze to death.
To create this game, Alex drew inspiration from other video games he has played throughout the years, focusing on the environment as one of the game’s most important elements. Along the way, not only did he select what the game should include, he also carefully considered what to leave out.
“I read a lot of reviews and criticisms, and I looked at how to avoid the issues that people point out in other games,” he says. “I play bad games too, because sometimes experiencing a bad game helps you see what not what to do and also to see where there’s potential that you can pull from or rework into your own game.”
As he thinks about what’s next after school, Alex hopes that he’ll eventually work his way into a role as a creative director or lead game designer at a game development company. For now, he’s continuing to grow and learn as a student.
“Alex is successful because of his drive and the amount of time that he puts into his work. He is determined in his endeavors and is more than willing to rework things several times in order to get it done right,” says lead Game Art & Design faculty member, Richard Blumenstein. “He is always looking for critical feedback.”
Another instructor, Kevin Lee, added, “When I had Alex in my class, he was very dedicated to completing his project. He had the basic game prototype finished in no time. I encouraged him to add more functionality and showed him some of what he could do with his prototype. By the end of the class, not only did he have a good 2D game prototype, but he had gone beyond all requirements for the class. I still continue talking to Alex and helping him with his other classes.”
Throughout his program, Alex says faculty like Blumenstein and Lee have played an important role in facilitating his growth. “I’ve come across a lot of good, dedicated teachers who saw my creativity,” he says. “They saw what I was could do and rather than letting me get by with the minimum, they decided to push me, to take time to point out where I could improve, even when my work already met the requirements. They go above and beyond to motivate you to do better and experiment with new ideas and techniques.”
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division is excited to congratulate Alex on his game, and we can’t wait to see what he and the rest our students will create in the years to come!
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