York College Alum Launches Board Game
Travis Jones ’19 has wanted to be an inventor since he was a kid.
“I wanted to be like Edison and Tesla, who I read about in books,” he says.
Now, along with friend and fellow co-creator Andrew White, the York College Computer Engineering grad who currently works for Lockheed Martin as a Senior Software Engineer has launched Alynthia.
Alynthia is a “fast-paced kingdom-building and dragon-battling game where 1-5 players cooperate or compete to save their homeland from vicious swarms of dragons,” Jones explains.
Building the right foundation
Jones, who grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, came to York College in 2015 in search of a smaller college that offered a hands-on approach to education. He was also looking for an institution that would allow him to be close to his now-wife, who lived in Lancaster.
“And I found that approach in the YCP Engineering program,” he says, citing easy access to his professors and projects that had practical applications.
Some of the projects Jones worked on included his participation in two YCP hackathons. At his first hackathon, he created a prototype of an audition website. He even received a grant to continue his work, which he did in the J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship.
During his second hackathon, he worked with two other classmates to create a smart quadcopter battery charger, which won Best Hardware Hack. Both hackathons, he says, helped him understand how to manage and work with teammates on a complex project.
“It was a great learning experience to work closely with my classmates, and I learned how to manage a hectic project,” he adds.
His favorite project was working on the radio telescope as part of his senior capstone project in Engineering. According to Professor Donald J. Hake, Instructor of Computer Science at the College, the project was conceived in 2017 alongside Kerry Smith, then-president of the York County Astronomical Society.
The project is set to be completed in the summer of 2023, Professor Hake says, and when completed, will be installed in John C. Rudy County Park. The telescope is 15 feet in diameter and will have auto-tracking capabilities designed to track a pre-specified celestial body for a designated period of time.
“The Radio Telescope senior capstone project was probably the highlight of my experience, because of the groundbreaking nature of the project and the ability to work with an actual client,” he says. “It was also a great team of classmates to work with, and we made some great progress.”
Developing the product
In the summer of 2016, Jones and White began brainstorming ideas for games. One of those ideas became Alynthia.
“Later that day, we created a Google Doc and started writing down ideas,” Jones says. “And now we’re off to the races.”
The process hasn’t been without its challenges, but Jones and White persevered.
“The game has come a very long way since we started—the first versions were very difficult to play, but we kept iterating,” Jones says. “We also kept on playing more and more sophisticated games. Initially the game was called Chasm, but then it evolved into Alynthia.”
In 2019, the two were selected to present Alynthia at BostonFIG, a board game convention. The game won Best Hobby Game, and convinced the two that they were ready to take Alynthia to the next level.
“That was the biggest catalyst that told us we were ready to move toward publishing,” Jones explains. “We decided to go the self-publishing route instead of going to an existing board game publisher, because both Andrew and I had always been interested in entrepreneurship. We also found that our skill sets complemented each other, so we decided to give self-publishing a try.”
Jones and White decided to self-publish on Kickstarter, to get an idea of general interest in the game before making a large investment in it.
“We decided to self-publish on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding site that allows creators to get funding before ordering games,” Jones says. “If the audience isn’t there, we will know before ordering games, and no one who backed us is then out any money if we don’t fund.”
Jones’s biggest goal with launching Alynthia is providing the same kind of experience he’s had with board games to others.
“My goal is to be able to create amazing games that bring fun and community to the lives of people who play them, just like other games have for us,” he explains. “Board games have been a big part of our lives as entertainment, but also as something we can do with others that fosters relationships.”
He’s grateful for the progress Alynthia has made so far, and is looking forward to new events on the horizon.
“I’m so thankful to have a passion project that I enjoy so much,” he says. “It would mean the world if we could bring Alynthia to others.”