Video game development, artificial intelligence and a triple berry muffin from Babycakes Muffin Co. At the center of this trifecta, you will find Silas Talley, a video game developer and Invent@NMU client.
Talley first walked through the doors of Invent@NMU in December of 2018. During this time, Talley was wrapping up his senior year of college at Northern Michigan University while simultaneously leading Project Ambitious, an independent game development studio. Talley and the Project Ambitious team were hard at work developing a video game titled Revn. In early 2019, the Invent@NMU student team worked with Silas to develop a logo for Revn as well as a fundraiser campaign video. We had a blast helping develop creative content and gained experience in scriptwriting, video production, animation, marketing, graphic design and fundraising campaign strategy.
We recently met with Silas over a virtual cup of coffee to learn the origin story of Revn and discussed everything from our go-to orders at Babycakes Muffin Co. to partnering with an innovative artificial intelligence company. Our conversation went a little something like this…
Micah: When did you first become interested in video game development?
Silas: Wow! I was really young. I was in middle school and enjoyed playing video games. I took a basic programming class in 6th grade and instantly knew that is what I wanted to do. My family was not super supportive of this idea as they did not think it was a serious job. I did not officially begin pursuing video game development as a career until the year before I started college. There was a long period of time where I was interested in video game development but was not pursuing it.
Micah: That is very interesting! You are from the Upper Peninsula, correct?
Silas: I pretty much grew up here. I moved to the Upper Peninsula when I was young and lived in the Ishpeming area. I graduated from high school a year early and took the year off before attending Northern Michigan University to really think about what I wanted to pursue. I was working at Babycakes Muffin Co. in downtown Marquette and I had a lot of free time. I began taking some classes online and taught myself how to make video games. Then, some of my friends and I decided we wanted to make an RPG (role-playing game), which is massive in size and nearly impossible to create if it’s your first game. We got in way over our heads. After about six months we decided to scrap the project as it was way too big. We then took this original concept and developed it into a multiplayer game which eventually became Revn.
Micah: What is your favorite muffin at Babycakes?
Silas: Hmmm. I am a huge berry person. So probably the triple berry muffin!
Micah: Great choice! I too always go with a berry muffin.
Micah: Did you have any experiences as a student at NMU that prepared you to take on a project as large as Revn?
Silas: One of the things that surprised me the most that I didn’t realize would be so useful was learning about databases in an upper-level computer science class. I took it because my advisor told me to take it and I didn’t think about it would it could be used for. Essentially, I learned how to run a database, website, and how to connect them. A couple of months later, when working on Revn, I realized we were making a multiplayer game. It’s a competitive game and players’ stats are super important. I was instantly able to apply everything I learned about databases to build a backend system to the game for players to track and interact with game statistics. This has been one of my favorite things to build for Revn and it was really simple! This feature has made the game a community rather than a standalone experience.
Micah: How will artificial intelligence be integrated into Revn?
Silas: On the most basic level Revn incorporates artificial intelligence characters that you can play with or against. We have also been working with a company called Radical Motion, a motion company based out of New York, for the past two years. Their motion capture uses artificial intelligence to generate data. This is cutting edge, cheaper and faster. I don’t know if we were their first customer, but we were definitely one of their first customers to work with them.
We are also working with a company called the Friday gaming assistant. Essentially Fridai is like Siri or Alexa, but for video games. The way it works is you ask a question about a game that you’re playing and then it’ll find you the answer, like a recipe for crafting in Minecraft. This is a company based out of Germany. They’ve been working with us for like the last four months or so that we can have support for Revn. Pretty soon you’ll be able to use their app when it comes out in beta. And they’ll be able to ask it, “Fridai, what stats does the energy shield having? How much health does it have?” You can start asking your questions about the game while you’re playing so you don’t have to tab out of the game. You can just keep playing and ask questions and keep your head in the game, which is really cool.
Micah: What was your experience like as an Invent@NMU client?
Silas: Working with Invent@NMU has been a lot of fun! You guys always have a really awesome attitude when I come in there, which has been super motivating. I love how enthusiastic everyone at Invent@NMU is. I remember going in there with my idea and I wasn’t sure what you guys would think, or if you’d take it seriously. You were really, really encouraging and motivating. Working with Invent@NMU made us feel like we were actually starting a company rather than just a project.
Micah: What would you tell someone who is interested in working with Invent@NMU?
Silas: I would just tell them to go for it. If you’ve got an idea, spend a little bit of time writing it down and like thinking about some of the like questions that Invent@NMU is going to ask. How does it work? What is it? What do you need from us? Have a plan, but also come with questions and be open to suggestions.
In the office or on a laptop screen, our team can always bet on learning something new and exciting when talking to Silas. Thank you, Silas, for chatting with us! To learn more about Revn and Project Ambitious, visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/revn#/.
As always, if you need help with a new or existing idea, connect with our team at https://invent.nmu.edu/get-started.