A new video game lab opened Thursday in the Louisiana Technology Park.
The Level Up Lab will give fledging companies in the local digital media industry a place to work on games, apps and other content. The lab includes a recording studio and a motion capture studio, where actors can be filmed and have their actions digitized to animate computer characters. There also are classic video game systems and a vintage Dungeon & Dragons arcade game.
The Level Up Lab was partially funded by a $75,000 grant from the Delta Regional Authority, a federal-state partnership that provides economic development opportunities across the Mississippi River Delta.
Christopher Masingill, co-chairman of the DRA, said the Level Up Lab fits in with the organization’s mission of encouraging small businesses.
“This is a huge tool for entrepreneurs,” he said.
The lab will allow local startups to compete with companies in video game hotbeds like Seattle, Austin, Texas, and California, Masingill said.
Along with paying for hardware in the lab, the money will be used to bring in video game experts to serve as mentors for the local companies.
Stephen Loy, executive director of the Tech Park, said the mentors will be people with ties to Baton Rouge.
Although the grant is only for 18 months, the Level Up Lab will be a permanent part of the Tech Park on Florida Boulevard, said Jesse Hoggard, a spokesman for the facility. Hoggard said the tenants pay rent to the Tech Park and agree to turn over a share of their royalties in exchange for space in the facility. The recording and motion capture studios may eventually be opened for other businesses in order to generate money for Level Up.
So far, three businesses have moved into Level Up: BitFinity, DiegoRivera.tv and Stasis Soft.
Mayor-President Kip Holden gave special attention to DiegoRivera.tv, which is developing an educational video game called “Puzzling Adventures.”
Puzzling Adventures teaches young children how to read and write. Holden said the lessons taught by the game could “change lives” since it could be used for adults. After all, there is a link between crime and illiteracy, he said.
“This can make a difference in our community,” he said.
Diego Rivera, who founded the company, said he created “Puzzling Adventures” as a way of teaching his 5-year-old daughter, Adalee. The characters in the game have to complete simple tasks that involve reading.
Rivera hopes to have the game out in six months as a download for Apple and Android devices. He’s also working on another game, which allows players to compete in dominos games online.
“We’re all about family games,” Rivera said.
On a different end of the gaming spectrum is Stasis Soft, a company co-founded by Alex LaPlace. Stasis Soft is developing “Revelations: The Outbreak,” a first-person shooter game that takes place before and during a zombie apocalypse. Stasis Soft has been working with the Tech Park for several months.
LaPlace said he’s pleased to get into the Level Up Lab. He’s looking to work with a number of Tech Park businesses and outside companies, like New Orleans-based TurboSquid, which supplies 3D computer models, in order to enhance Revelations.
Michael and Matthew Taranto, of BitFinity, said the lab will help them develop “Tadpole Treble,” an adventure game that teaches children and adults about music. In the game, players guide a tadpole upstream, touching musical notes. Unlike other video games, such as Guitar Hero, where the icons players touch don’t really fit the music, the Tarantos say the notes correspond to what would be on a musical staff.
“Before, we were working out of our home and using our dad’s music studio,” Michael Taranto said. “We’re looking forward to using the recording studio here.”