Mercer County Community College students develop iOS game
Mercer County College game design students John-Paul Yunque, left, and Matt Guido have developed a game for iOS devices called Lunch War.
By Andrew Sondern
Two game design students at Mercer County Community College are going commercial with a game they designed for one of their classes.
John-Paul Yunque, a graduate of Princeton High School, and Matt Guido, a graduate of Bordentown Regional High School, have formed the game studio called the Automatic Gentlemen LLC, which in June released Lunch War, a retro-inspired game for iOS.
In Lunch War, gamers play as a sadistic but health-conscious lunch lady, whose task is to toss apples at a hoard of unhealthy students to keep them from a freezer of fudgesicles. She can also call a janitor for backup and use her slushie machine to give students brain freezes.
Lunch War started as a project for the duo’s game design class at the college. The two said that Ric Giantisco, the college’s game design coordinator, told the class to pitch a shooting game with a unique setting. Guido and Yunque thought of a cafeteria-themed shooter, which later turned into their final project and now a full-fledged commercial product.
Guido and Yunque said that, to their knowledge, Lunch War is the only commercial product to come out of MCCC’s game design program, which began in 2009. Giantisco did not respond to a request for comment.
“We had discussed it (Lunch War) outside of class a few times, and we realized that we both had an interest in getting into mobile game development because of how accessible it is,” said Guido.
Both students were interested in game design since childhood. For Guido, programming was a boyhood fascination, while Yunque enjoyed logic and sought to work on aspects that users interact with.
Lunch War looks and feels like it came straight out of their childhood, too. The graphics are retro-inspired, and the simple gameplay mechanic would not be unfamiliar in an arcade. The game is also scored with electronic music composed by Swedish producer FantomenK, who modified his previously released chiptune songs for the game.
Turning the game into a commercial product was not as easy as their class project at MCCC. Guido and Yunque spent over a year developing the game, and an Android version has been delayed for months.
Some of the delays can be traced to Stencyl, the game creation software that underpins Lunch War. Stencyl allows developers to publish games across multiple platforms without recoding from scratch.
“Stencyl was working on a new version that was going into beta in August  and it added Android support and all these other platforms,” explained Guido. “He had a projected date of finishing that version by November .”
Guido and Yunque wanted to release the Android and iOS versions of Lunch War simultaneously, so they waited for the software update, which seemed only a few months away. Almost a year later, the new version of Stencyl remains in development, but Guido and Yunque are still optimistic.
“In the time that it took him to work on the engine, we were fortunate enough to be able to take the game to conferences, and get a ton of feedback, and it’s a much better game because of it,” Yunque said.
They took Lunch War to the Two5Six gaming conference in May and had a booth at TooManyGames in June. While Lunch War got feedback at conferences, it also received valuable promotion when it caught the attention of Game Informer Magazine’s Mike Futter, who later reviewed the game.
For Guido and Yunque, this is the start of what will hopefully be a career in game development. Though Yunque is transferring to Drexel University and Guido is returning to MCCC in the fall, the duo plan to stick together as a game studio.
“The dream goal is that we can do this forever and make a living off of it, but the beauty of starting so early is that we have a few years to get it off the ground,” said Guido. “If anything, we’ll find more people to collaborate with at Drexel,” Yunque added.
Lunch War is available for $0.99 on the iOS App Store, and an Android version is coming soon. More information about the game and its developers is available online at theautomaticgentlemen.com.