With defined goals, as well as creativity and teamwork, four Sagrado students created a videogame for Banco Popular de Puerto Rico.
By Marla Figueroa Ramos
Many of them have known the world of videogames since they were five. Cousins, friends, neighbors, and schoolmates became sidekicks in adventures and quests that led them to explore different universes. For this new generation of animation professionals, technology and innovation have always been an essential part of their lives.
Thus, when the opportunity arose to collaborate with Banco Popular de Puerto Rico (BPPR), one of the Island’s most renowned companies, four Sagrado 3D animation students did not hesitate to take on the challenge and create the digital game Populoso: En route to the treasure.
“Being able to participate in a real project where you are developing a reputation and working with experts and professionals in the field has been an incredible experience. I still can’t believe it,” said an excited Jediel Berríos Hernández, digital production and 3D animation student.
This prototype for mobile devices, inspired by the relationship between BPPR and Puerto Rico, stars the representative character of this banking institution, Populoso. In his new quest, Populoso searches for the route to the treasure while traveling through the coasts of Puerto Rico in a jet ski. “When you become the creator of that world, there’s a change in the dynamics. You realize how much effort goes into making people feel the emotion and the energy you felt when you played your first video game,” Berríos said.
From the creation of the Populoso digital character to the design of the shark, the garita (sentry box), the sailboat, and the mangrove, each detail of the game showcases the ability, inventiveness, and determination of these students. Despite the challenges of the process, such as dealing with deadlines and learning new techniques to use in the project, they pushed on and were able to deliver their work on time.
To achieve their goals, these youths had a mentorship team composed of students and faculty form the university’s Studio Lab.
“The professors saved our day in moments when we didn’t understand a process or when the model would make something completely different from what we had animated. They were there to teach us and lend us a hand,” said Alejandro Saavedra, 3D animation student.
They also had the advice of the innovation professionals at Popular, who shared their wisdom, provided recommendations on effective teamwork, and offered presentations on project management.
“We are very happy with this experience, spending time with the Sagrado students. Each month we would get all excited about the progress they were making. It was a very interesting exchange of ideas,” said Rachid Molinary, Banco Popular’s Senior Vice President for Digital Strategy & Innovation.
Molinary also said that they waited excitedly for every monthly meeting when the students would present the progress of their work.
“This experience was a shot of energy that has motivated us to keep on working and providing young people with a space where they can share their talent and collaborate with others. This has been a very productive exercise,” he said.
This game, which took about a semester to develop, gave the students an ideal platform to explore their talents, work together, and integrate project management skills in a scenario where the expectations and demands were real.
Fernando Montilla, executive director of the Studio Lab Animation Center, said that the members of the group have different skills and skill levels when it comes to modeling 3D objects, texturizing, illuminating, and animating characters and things. However, the challenge this time consisted of an interactive project. “Animation is not linear. The player controls it.”
“Developing a videogame is not easy, but we have the equipment, we have the software, and we have more than demonstrated that Puerto Rico has the talent. The results speak for themselves. We are extremely proud,” Montilla said.
Meanwhile, Kinedy Barreto, digital production student minoring in 3D animation, said that this experience has encouraged an exchange of ideas with colleagues within and outside Studio Lab. Moreover, the student said this project gave them an opportunity to work on something they are passionate about and that they enjoy since they were little.
“This is our first baby. Being able to say, “Wow, I did that!” is an incredible feeling. Studio Lab has turned into our home. We are here almost all day either helping each other out or sharing concepts. My teammates became my family. For example, Jediel and I are always discussing new ideas that we can develop and work on. It’s been a unique experience and we will always carry it in our hearts,” she said.
The game developers were Kinedy Barreto, Alejandro Saavedra, Rodmarie Ruiz, and Jediel Berríos Hernández. They had a diverse group of collaborators, including students and faculty. The game is a prototype and will remain so for the time being.
“We are grateful to BPPR for trusting us with this Project. By providing our youth with a space where they can practice and achieve professional maturity, we offer them a chance to experience different perspectives and to participate in mutual learning. We very much appreciate it,” Montilla said.