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The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

TXTPED debuts ‘Final Exam: Campus Conquest’ immersive board game experience

Atahan Koksoy
Campus Conquest Players discuss game strategy during an 8 p.m. session of the game at the WCP Black Box Theater on Wednesday March 27, 2024.

On Thursday evening, a large crowd of students patiently waited outside the William C. Powers Student Activity Center’s Black Box Theater. After viewing a short video and dividing into teams, the group was finally allowed into the theater, where they encountered an intricate medieval set: Texas Theme Park Engineering and Design’s new interactive game experience.

“Final Exam: Campus Conquest” is the next addition of immersive experiences by TXTPED, a UT organization focused on the themed entertainment industry. Set in a medieval version of UT and partly based on the strategy game “Risk,” “Campus Conquest” places students in a classroom where they must complete quests and conquer territory to pass their final exam. 

An idea initially conceived by mechanical engineering junior Emily Regner, the organization wanted to keep the immersive game experience at the core of their design, mechanical engineering senior Katie Kohutek said. 

“We were very much drawn to Emily’s idea because it was something new and something we hadn’t done before,” said Kohutek, the project’s technical co-manager.

Sandhya Iyer, an arts and entertainment technologies sophomore, said the challenging process of designing “Campus Conquest,” including building sets and advertising the game, took months of collaboration.

“We developed the (quests) beforehand. We spent three months planning this project,” said Iyer, who was the project’s director. “(As for) building the set itself, we (got) two days at the WCP, so they were two very crazy days.”

Over those three months of planning, four puzzle teams crafted the various quests and puzzles players had to finish to conquer territory.

“The quests are ‘Minute to Win It’ kind of things, they’re very fast. They can either be an escape room-like puzzle … a scavenger hunt … or they can be silly ones where you have to make the other team laugh with rubber chickens,” Iyer said. “It was fun because we just had so many puzzles and quests that everyone got to pour their heart into.”

To build the set in just two days, the set designers created a plan and organized the materials beforehand, working with other organizations and platforms like Texas Performing Arts, UT Surplus, Austin Creative Reuse and Facebook Marketplace to secure props and design elements. 

“We had some absolutely amazing fabricators,” said Regner. “Like the alchemy table out there, (the team) made that from spare parts. (We have) insanely talented people.”

Kohutek said “Campus Conquest” proved accessible to students and provided an opportunity to relax and learn about a new industry. 

“(It’s) knee-deep in midterm season,” Kohutek said. “It’s hard to schedule a night out to go downtown to go do something, but hey, this is only an hour and it’s at the WCP.” 

Nate Vutpakdi, mechanical engineering and Plan II junior and TXTPED’s outreach chair, said that TXTPED can also help students meet people, gain new experiences and develop skills they can apply in their careers. 

“Everyone who works on this project is a student,” Vutpakdi said. “Especially for engineers and designers … getting actual hands-on project experience … building a project like that, and coming together as a group to create something new is massively rewarding.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to fix the spelling of a source’s name. The Texan regrets this error.

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