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By Mike Rigert | June 26, 2013
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Sam Sawyer and Joe Albrethsen, developers of the game DubWars, pose for a portrait at the Daily Herald in Provo on Friday, June 28, 2013. DubWars is a multi-platform video game that uses its dubstep soundtrack as a trigger for various game actions. SPENSER HEAPS/Daily Herald

A team of five digital media students at Utah Valley University have successfully created and published the university’s first video game that is also currently trending online with fans and CEOs in the industry. Completing a hat trick, their product is also a featured game on a new video game console launching today on the U.S. retail market.

“DubWars,” a twin-stick shooter with weapons that fire to the beat of bass-thumping, original tracks composed by known artists in the “dub step” music genre’s industry, is already available for download on PC, Mac and Linux devices. But beginning today, the title is one of select number of featured games available on a newly released indie video game console (called OUYA) now available at major retailers and e-tailers.

Kellee Santiago, Ouya’s head of developer relations and formerly with the studio that produced “Flow, Flower and Journey,” raves about DubWars’ infectious mass appeal that led to the company selecting the game to kickoff the console’s launch.

“I wish there were more levels of it right now. … I have thoroughly enjoyed the audiovisual stimulation from ‘DubWars,’” Santiago previously told the reviews editor for Joystiq, a popular online source for news and information on the video game industry.

Sam Sawyer, left, and Joe Albrethsen, right, developers of the game DubWars, pose for a portrait with their UVU professor, Rodayne Esmay, at the Daily Herald in Provo on Friday, June 28, 2013. DubWars is a multi-platform video game that uses its dubstep soundtrack as a trigger for various game actions. SPENSER HEAPS/Daily Herald

Sam Sawyer, left, and Joe Albrethsen, right, developers of the game DubWars, pose for a portrait with their UVU professor, Rodayne Esmay, at the Daily Herald in Provo on Friday, June 28, 2013. DubWars is a multi-platform video game that uses its dubstep soundtrack as a trigger for various game actions. SPENSER HEAPS/Daily Herald

Julie Urhman, Ouya’s CEO, who along with Santiago are considered to be among the top five female power brokers in the video game industry today, was equally impressed with the UVU students’ product. “Is this featured? This needs to be featured!,” Urhman said when demoing the beta version of the game.

More amazing still is the fact that the UVU team — comprised of digital media juniors Joe Albrethsen, Michael Chugg, Sam Sawyer, Evan Phillips and Ben Hale — conceptualized, designed and formed their business, MURA Interactive LLC, around DubWars in less than four months.

Other companies in the video game industry began taking notice of DubWars’ thunder and the students reached an agreement with peripheral controller manufacturer Nyko to demo the game at E3, a major industry trade fair of computer and video game related businesses held earlier this month in Los Angeles. Since Nyko was an official E3 sponsor, DubWars received critical national exposure to E3 vendors and participants.

The marketing coupe didn’t come without a marathon effort by the students the week prior to E3 as they raced against the clock to make DubWars Nyko-compatible and finalize preparations for the Ouya launch.

“I probably worked a 141-hour week prior to E3 and these guys were right up there, too,” said Albrethsen, MURA’s business manager.

Sam Sawyer and Joe Albrethsen, developers of the game DubWars, pose for a portrait at the Daily Herald in Provo on Friday, June 28, 2013. DubWars is a multi-platform video game that uses its dubstep soundtrack as a trigger for various game actions. SPENSER HEAPS/Daily Herald

Sam Sawyer and Joe Albrethsen, developers of the game DubWars, pose for a portrait at the Daily Herald in Provo on Friday, June 28, 2013. DubWars is a multi-platform video game that uses its dubstep soundtrack as a trigger for various game actions. SPENSER HEAPS/Daily Herald

Now, the key to keeping the DubWars snowball rolling is to obtain investment funding for the game to develop versions for mobile apps, and hopefully, other major platforms, such as Xbox and PlayStation 3. DubWars created a page on Kickstarter to drum up some financial support, with current pledges totaling $7,178. However the students only have 25 days to generate their target figure of $30,000. At the Kickstarter link, dubwarsgame.com/kickstarter, visitors’ can view a DubWars trailer, play four demo levels of the game and make a voluntary contribution.

The students’ efforts with their game and business epitomize the hands-on learning that is a key point of emphasis at UVU, said Rodayne Esmay, a UVU professor of digital media, and MURA’s guide and adviser. Esmay and Kent Millington, director of UVU’s Technology Commercialization Office, assisted the students in acquiring the property rights to the game in order for them to form MURA and take DubWars to market.

“We’ve built an in-house internship that compliments the senior capstone experience,” Esmay said.

The students hope to produce at least one or two more games prior to completing their senior year at UVU.

“Our goal is to have the company take off, and then we can move right into running it full-time upon graduation,” Albrethsen said.

Written by: Mike Rigert