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Toy Story 3-themed game created by alumnus at Schell Games

Toy Story Midway Mania! is an interactive, carnival-style attraction that is the latest ride to open at Disney’s theme parks in California and Florida, and it has rapidly become one of the parks’ most popular rides this summer. Pittsburgh-based Schell Games has taken advantage of its popularity by developing a plug-and-play home version of the ride. The video game’s release last month, coinciding with the release of the 3-D summer film Toy Story 3, was met with positive reviews.

In the theme park version, riders rack up points using a spring-action shooter that points virtual projectiles — such as paintballs — at targets. The “4-D” effect gives players a new experience: Unsuspecting riders are hit with a puff of air, sprays of water, and even the splat of a paintball during the course of the ride. Schell’s home version does not offer the same 4-D experience, but promises a greater variety of targets to shoot in order to prepare players for the park version. According to Schell Games’ website (www.schellgames.com), the game puts players into a midway where they get to meet Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the Toy Story franchise’s crew.

Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center’s (ETC) own Jesse Schell is the CEO of the company that has become Pittsburgh’s largest video-game studio. Schell, who is author of the book The Art of Game Design, has taught game design and led research projects at ETC since 2002. Among his many distinctions, Schell was named one of the world’s Top 100 Young Innovators by MIT’s Technology Review magazine. Prior to his work at Carnegie Mellon, Schell worked as the creative director of Disney’s Virtual Reality Studio.
“The future is games that go absolutely everywhere — your phone, TV, computer,” Schell said in an interview with Pop City Media last week. “You will begin to see [gaming] elements show up in board games, creeping into things you buy in the store. People are looking for ways to gamify everything.”

“One of the biggest surprises in gaming last year was Facebook,” Schell added. “There are more Farmville players out there than Twitter accounts. The big change we’ve seen is we now have a big number of smaller projects: Facebook games, Web-based games, lots of projects that connect games to the real world in an interesting way. We are very busy indeed,” he said.

“I like the 4-D rides at Disney, so I am kind of interested in seeing what the game is like,” said sophomore electrical and computer engineering major Prakhar Dubey. “They are always a lot of fun and people who have a fear of heights can enjoy them too, but I can’t imagine this game being as good as the ride without the 4-D feel. I hope they were able to do something interesting with the game since it is based on a theme park ride.”

Schell Games’ next project is a Mummy Online game, based on the Universal Pictures film The Mummy.

“We’re excited to have the opportunity to work with the Mummy film franchise,” said Schell, according to the company’s website. “The action-packed story of Egyptian mythology and 1930s fortune hunters provides a great backdrop for our team to build an awesome online game experience.”