“Liminus: The Silent Guard” is a new video game created by BYU animation students that tells the story of an eternal shepherd guiding lost sheep in a world between life and death. (Emily Ellis)
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PROVO — A group of BYU animation students created an award-winning video game that brought to life one student’s spin on the Grim Reaper.
BYU animation senior Emily Ellis first came up with the initial idea in 2018. The character of death always intrigued Ellis and she wanted to tell a new Grim Reaper story that incorporated her own beliefs.
After a few years of thinking about the idea, Ellis realized she could tell that story through a video game.
Ellis pitched her idea of a shepherd-like Grim Reaper to the animation program during her sophomore year. Her idea won the majority and became the foundation for a capstone project.
A group of students started working on the game in the spring of 2021, diving into the main idea of an eternal shepherd residing in a world between life and death who herds sheep, or lost souls, to the other side while protecting them from wolves. After figuring out the core game play, the team worked on several different prototypes over the summer, helping them devise the rules of the game’s world.
Ellis said one of the most important parts of the developing process was keeping the game focused on the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep, as that is the driving force and core experience of the game.
“We wanted you to feel like this eternal rescuer that had all this power,” Ellis said. “With every decision that was made, I would have to always come back and say is this helping that experience or is it hurting that experience?”
By fall, Ellis became the director of the project. The team then started experimenting with the art and design of the game while refining the game play to include battle, exploration and puzzle-solving within the storyline.
In Winter 2022, it was the time to polish the game: adding music, effects, levels and animations.
“It’s a very short developmental cycle for games. Doing it under a year is insane for a new idea,” Ellis said. The original game design was much larger, but the team only developed a slice of it with just three levels for players to enjoy.
After months of hard work, the core team of about 15 students completed the game “Liminus: The Silent Guard.” In the game you play as the shepherd Liminus guiding sheep to shrines where they will be safe to continue their journey.
Ellis said the name Liminus is Latin for in between, but it is also a play on the word luminous. Players receive light by increasing the size of the flock and can exchange light for more advanced skills, including the “ultimate ability” of turning into the Grim Reaper who is incredibly powerful against the wolves, Ellis said.
While the idea sprang from an alternate version of the Grim Reaper, Ellis said she also sees a lot of allegories to the Savior Jesus Christ in the game, who is sometimes compared to an eternal shepherd.
By the time the game was finished, more than 50 students had touched the project in some way and contributed to its development. Ellis said she is so grateful for the hard work her team did and the feat they accomplished.
“I am super proud of what all my team came together to do. They all fell in love with it, and together we were able to make the whole idea better,” Ellis said. “It was so much more than just me the whole time and I’m so grateful for that.”
Ellis and her team submitted the game to the Rookie Awards, an international board where aspiring game creatives can submit their work to. “Liminus” received a “Highly Commended” award in July 2022 which helped BYU earn the No. 5number spot in the world for game design and development.
Ellis said her team has also been invited to San Francisco in March for the 2023 Game Developers Conference. Only about 15 universities are invited to the conference to showcase games and Ellis said it’s an honor to be able to take “Liminus” to the conference.
“Liminus” is available for free to play on Steam and can be played on any Windows computer.
Ellis said she would love to see the game expanded further as a lot of people already have been connecting with the story. However, because the game was made as a capstone project, a lot of it was made through educational licenses which could make publishing the game complicated.
No matter the outcome of the game, Ellis said she is proud of what the team has made and hopes if it continues to something further, she will be involved. Witnessing the game get recognition for all of the team’s hard work has been rewarding for Ellis.
“Even though it was ultimately my idea in the beginning, it grew so much further beyond just me because of everyone’s love for it and their contributions to it,” Ellis said.
Ellis doesn’t have any new game plans quite yet, but she does have some ideas cooking in the back of her mind. She is working on this year’s capstone project which is a tower defense-type video game and she is developing a broad range of design and technology skills to prepare for the workforce after her graduation in April.
She hopes to keep using real-time technology throughout her life and is interested in working in games, the fashion industry or amusement parks. Ellis also hopes to become a professor at BYU to help future designers.
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