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Great Falls Tribune (MT) - June 7, 2010
Author: Rich Ecke

Local video game developers land $40,000 contract

Great Falls-based video game developers have gained their biggest break so far, a $40,000 contract to develop 10 new levels for the popular Sony PlayStation game "LittleBigPlanet" or its successor, "LittleBigPlanet2."

Team Kaizen, founded by brothers Josh and Trevor Hughes of Great Falls, competed in a Digital Media Learning Competition, in which members created an amusement park setting for "LittleBigPlanet."

Team members created thrill rides in a fantasy amusement park to teach game users critical principles of physics and engineering.

"Players can then use what they have learned to design and build their own fully rendered and animated amusement park rides," the group's project description explained.

In the competition, "we ended up being one of the winning teams," finishing tops in the physics category, Josh Hughes said last week. The cash award comes courtesy of the MacArthur Foundation and HASTAC, a technology consortium.

Team members received their award last month from President Barack Obama's chief technology officer, Aneesh Chopra, at Parson's The New School of Design in New York City.

This is the first time Team Kaizen and the firm founded by the Hughes brothers, Add-A-Tudez Entertainment Co., will be paid a hefty sum to develop computer games. Josh is the lead game designer for the group. Other collaborators on the award-winning project are Trevor Hughes, James Scharmack, Tommy Bush, Charles Elum, Ben Saltzman, Colin Martin, Brandon Miller, Gene Oliver and Caleb Gray.

These video-game whizzes won't be resting on their laurels, either.

Josh and Trevor Hughes attended an international gaming event called E3 in Los Angeles last year, and camped out for hours so they could take part in a Sony news conference.

A photograph of the brothers from last year can be found on a Web site promoting this year's E3 conference in Los Angeles. Check out the photo of the Hugheses at http://blog.us.playstation.com/2010/06/02/get-a-grip-on-e3-at-our-playstation-blog-meetup/

The Hugheses again will attend E3 this year, as will other team members, hoping to compare notes with other video game developers and renew contacts with representatives of Sony Entertainment. Team Kaizen hopes to develop its own video game for Sony someday.

Josh Hughes hopes Great Falls eventually can become a video-game Mecca, and the recent big prize earned by his team shows he is not just blowing smoke.

In fact, he said he is getting excited about the group's chances.

"We can't wait for people to see our work so they know this crazy team based in Montana can bring the wow factor," Josh said.

All's well in the land of peanuts.

More specifically, at 3518 3rd Ave. N. in Great Falls.

That's where someone had absconded with a Mr. Peanut figure from the northside yard in September 2008, then returned it 10 months later. That was the second time the Charpentier family's yard art had been swiped.

That's no small feat, since Mr. Peanut is painted on a rock that weighs a hefty 250 pounds.

Mr. Peanut remains on display today, but now he has a glint in his eye.

"He's got a girlfriend now," homeowner Jane Charpentier said with a chortle.

Mrs. Peanut once was a duplicate Mr. Peanut, but she underwent a gender change to create a very attractive couple.

Bob and Jane Charpentier's daughter, Monica Richie of Elko, Nev., painted both boulders. One, painted for Bob's sister, stayed out on a ranch, but is now in town at the Charpentiers' place.

That would have given the Charpentiers two Mr. Peanuts.

"Bob had to give her some red lips," said Jane, who bought Mrs. Peanut a hat at Goodwill.

Voila! A couple with charisma.

"He was gone for 10 months and he returned with a wife," Jane Charpentier said.

 

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