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A Pirate’s Tale

Students in computer science and industrial design at NC State have developed a game that lets kids experience history anew in “Blackbeard’s Escape.”

The game is fun way for kids to learn about the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard’s flagship which ran aground off the North Carolina coast in 1718. Players of “Blackbeard’s Escape” are able to experience the action of interactive ship battles through flashbacks to the 1700s, learn about good diving practices, and explore artifact recovery and conservation.

The students of Dr. R. Michael Young, associate professor of computer science, and Timothy Buie, assistant professor of industrial design, formed teams to develop the game. The game was designed using the Unreal 3 engine, developed by Cary-based Epic Games, and targeted at a middle school audience.

Players of “Blackbeard’s Escape” take on the role of a junior archaeologist who uses a pneumatic chisel to clean shipwreck-recovered objects, and also visits the time period when the recovered item was in use. The game is based on the work of state archaeologists, who have been working in the Beaufort Inlet since 1996 to excavate and study what is thought to be the wreck of the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

After wrapping up production of the game, the students were able to test the completed game with kids at the end-of-semester project presentations at NC State. The student designers were delighted that the game was a hit.

“We were surprised at how well they took to it,” recalled computer science student Mike Winters, team leader. “In some cases they were better than us.”

“Some of the kids referred to other games they had, like “Halo” and “Call of Duty,” explained computer science student Tyler Arehart, who worked on artificial intelligence. “They quickly figured it out.”

“Blackbeard’s Escape” comes with instructions and explanations on how it works, as well as insight into the research and design process. The game is downloadable here, and requires the full version of Unreal Tournament 3 and the 2.0 patch to run. Downloading instructions are available through the website.