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[February 01, 2009]

Gamers rejoice! 'Altitude' has classsic style

LAS CRUCES, Feb 01, 2009 (Las Cruces Sun-News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --

Antique bi-planes and fantasy sci-fi aircraft share the skies in a new online game called "Altitude" that is reportedly already attracting hundreds of players during its test phase.

"Altitude" is the artistic brainchild of Erik Measure, 25, and Karl Sabo, 28, who grew up as Las Cruces neighbors and attended the same schools, including Hillrise, Lynn, Onate, and New Mexico State University.

"It's kind of an old school game. It started with a friend of mine who told me about a classic video game from back in the 1980s. Creating a multi-player Internet game has always interested me," said Measure, who has a B.S. degree in physics from California Institute of Technology. Sabo has a B.S. degree in computer science from NMSU.

They hired artist Steve Canniff of Boston to help do graphics, "but all the programming and concept and design has been done by us. Right now, in the Beta stage, it's free for people who want to help us test it," Measure said.

Sabo said nearly 1,000 people have been playing "Altitude" to date and up to 200 are logging on every day.

"If they like it, they can pay $20 and get all the content, including all five planes and perks. We hope it will grow very rapidly after it's released," Measure said.

The aircraft include a bi-plane, and "weird fantasy cartoon planes. There's X Esplodet. The players call him The Flying Cow. There is a huge Bomber with tailgun grenades and the Miranda plane from an alternative universe, that's

hi-tech and very cheesy sci-fi, and Loopy, a fast, nimble dogfighter."
The game appeals to players "of all ages and skill levels, including children and their grandparents who can play together without the blood and gore of many popular games," said Erik's mom, Rorie Measure, a Mesilla Park Elementary School teacher.

"It's designed for fast-paced, team-based action. Players advance in level as they become proficient, making the fun accessible to all, even those born too early to enjoy the quick hand-eye coordination of the Nintendo generation," she said.

Long-time game fan Shawn Frison said "Altitude," is "a game that's genuinely innovative while still being fun, which you don't see much of these days. It fuses classic gameplay ideas with modern technology and tastes. Budgets in games have been rising throughout the years, and so the companies that fund them have gotten more and more risk averse. Since "Altitude' was a self-funded independent project, there weren't any of those restrictions, and I think it really shows. At its heart it's a pretty hardcore multi-player game, but with 2D physics-based gameplay and this light, cartoony aesthetic."

Frison raves about "powerup designs" and "hilarious moments" inspired by navigating surprises like floating walls and defector shields.

"The game is just full of moments like this -- little emergent bits of gameplay where unexpected and really fun things are popping out at you constantly. It's great. It's just plain fun."

Sabo and Measure have been working on the project for two years.
"There are couple of game modes," Measure said. "Once you log on, you pop into tutorial mode which shows you the basic hops and you fly through a little course that explains how everything works and you can jump into free-for-all crazy dogfighting."

Despite all the mayhem, he maintains the game isn't violent, "because it's very far divorced from reality. This game plays more like Saturday morning cartoons. You see little planes flying around exploding. There are no little people that you're shooting down or chasing or killing."

The team quit their jobs to form Nimby Games and are now working full-time on what they consider their "dream" jobs.

"This is my first real game, though it's always been a hobby and I designed a couple of little Web games. I worked for a year for cell phone game producers," Measure said.

Sabo worked in software for Lockheed Martin in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"I just dabbled in (creating) games in high school and college. To design a game was our first goal and now we'd like to make enough to design the next game. We've thought about a couple of other games. Our target demographic is middle school to college but surprisingly, we've found it appeals to older people if they give it a shot," Sabo said.

For a free trial and to join the "Altitude" test group, visit online at altitudegame.com.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com
To see more of the Las Cruces Sun-News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to
http://www.lcsun-news.com. Copyright (c) 2009, Las Cruces Sun-News, N.M.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email
tmsreprints@permissionsgroup.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax
to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave.,
Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

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