Don’t Panic Labs intern Mike Varilek makes developer challenge finals
Voting for the Asus Xtion PRO Developer Challenge runs until Aug. 7. Screenshot from event.asus.com
An internship at Don't Panic Labs certainly isn't all fun and games. But a summer gig with the Lincoln-based software development shop has helped Mike Varilek create those two things — although not necessarily in that order.
Varilek, a 20-year-old junior-to-be studying computer science and economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was named a finalist recently in this year's Asus Xtion PRO Developer Challenge, which has a $20,000 grand prize. For the challenge, developers created programs that utilize the Asus Xtion, an Xbox-compatible camera similar to the Kinect. Varilek became a finalist with Pose Roll, a puzzle game in which a player uses his or her body to control a puppet body in a 2-dimensional environment, attempting to direct a ball through different obstacles and into a bucket.
"It sounds simple in premise," Varilek said in an email, "but results in interesting and fun gameplay."
That second element of the game — the fun — wasn't always as prominent a part of the equation as Varilek would have liked. His entry for the challenge started as a game based on building 2D structures on the screen, which was a fine idea, but ...
"The problem was," Varilek said, "it wasn’t very fun. So I kept experimenting with different ideas until I came up with what the game turned into."
Varilek got involved with the challenge thanks to his internship at Don't Panic Labs, a software development business funded by Nebraska Global and housed in the venture capital fund's Haymarket headquarters. Varilek is currently working for Don't Panic Labs on a project that utilizes the Kinect and Kinect SDK, and this summer he's developed several games, starting with Pong and Breakout before moving on to a four-player "Don’t Panic Labs-themed Space Invaders game."
"After making these games, I decided I wanted to make something larger to make use of more of the features of motion cameras," Varilek said. "I learned about the contest in mid-June and started work on Pose Roll immediately."
After about two and a half weeks of work, he had produced a game fit to be named a finalist. But if you ask Varilek, that was only half the battle. "I was excited to be a finalist," Varilek said, "but my entry was already falling behind in voting."
That's where Varilek hopes the good folks of the Silicon Prairie will come into play. Voting, which began Friday, is open the public. Votes can be cast by visiting the Asus event page and logging in.
"Voting is open until Aug. 7," Varilek said. "Every vote will be a huge amount of help to me."
To learn more about Pose Roll, see the video below. To cast a vote for Pose Roll, visit event.asus.com.