Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

In the Republique

The next time you are sitting in the Mahar Auditorium browsing the App Store on your iPhone searching for a game to distract you from your lecture, imagine that the app’s creator sat in the seat you are occupying.

Courtesy of This Week In Ed Tech

University of Massachusetts graduate Patrick Ascolese wants to be that app’s creator. He is currently working on, “Republique,” a new game for iPhone and iPad.

The game, scheduled for completion in the spring of next year, begins with the player receiving a distressed phone call from a young woman asking to help her navigate and escape a totalitarian state. The player, using the touch screen of the iOS devices, can hack, bug and manipulate the electronics in the authoritative government to help the protagonist escape.

With corner-of-the-room security camera point-of-views resembling the original Resident Evil, and the sneaky, stealth feel of the Metal Gear Solid series, the trailer for the not-yet-completed game gives the Big Brother, “stealth survival” atmosphere that they want for the game, said Ascolese.

The idea for the game came from the increased surveillance people face on a daily basis, according to Ascolese. He said it is a “what if” look if the Stop Online Piracy Act leads to an Orwellian state.

He added that the game’s player will be interacting with the game’s protagonist. Rather than becoming them and using them as a “puppet,” she will respond to the user’s screen-touches and commands.

“Republique” will be the first full-length project attempted by the young video game company Camouflaj that Ascolese joined in late 2011.

Ascolese, 33, graduated from UMass in 2002 with a degree in computer engineering. After graduation, he worked for Microsoft for nine years developing the Kinect peripheral for the Xbox 360 and other Xbox 360 products.

In 2011, Ascolese decided that he was done with Microsoft.  He promptly found a new gaming outlet when a mutual friend connected him with Ryan Payton, the founder of Camouflaj LLC.

When Ascolese began working at Camouflaj the company consisted of just him and Payton, who had worked at Kojima Productions, the company behind the Metal Gear series, and was the creative director of Halo 4 for Microsoft before resigning in 2011.

Camouflaj now has six employees and has partnered with Logan, the company famous for creating the 2000s silhouetted iPod commercials.

Ascolese said that his UMass education had a big impact on his work for Camouflaj and on “Republique.”

“UMass is a big driver [for me], it has prepared me for the workplace,” he said in a telephone interview from Camouflaj offices in Bellevue, Wash., just outside Seattle.

Not only has UMass helped Ascolese with finding work, he said it determines what kind of work he does. He said that UMass instills individuality in its students because of the large campus and free-thinking community.

“UMass is a place that prides itself on self-reliance and not taking orders,” he said. “It is about independence.”

In keeping with Ascolese’s independent mindset, “Republique” is not backed by a large studio or gaming company. Instead, “Republique” will try to raise money in small investments through Kickstarter, a website that is like Craigslist for investors, where a project can set up a page and ask for investments.

Camouflaj will use the small investments from Kickstarter to show interest in the game and prove that there is a market, hopefully drumming up support from larger investors. Ascolese said the company’s goal is to raise $500,000 from both Kickstarter and outside investors to total the $1 million needed to finish the game and release it for iOS consumption.

The Kickstarter page currently has $88,356 in investments, with 1,244 pledges under $10 and one over $7,500. Different ranges of pledges receive different gifts; the smaller gifts include posters or a fictional “Republique” journal, while the highest include the investor’s face and voice being animated and incorporated into the game.

Camouflaj has until May 11, 2013 at 6 p.m. to raise the $500,000 online in order to complete the game. However, if the money is not collected, Ascolese said that Camouflaj “will find a way” to complete and release the game.

The scheduled release is for the first half of next year.

Sam Hayes can be reached at [email protected].

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