Pokemon Go similar to game students created at UW competition in 2014

Pokemon Go game sounds similar to a game created at a Hack The North competition at the University of Waterloo in 2014.

Jack Gao says their game was a 2D version of what Nintendo now offers

Jack Gao, far right, joins his team to pitch their 'Open World Pokemon' game at the Hack The North event in 2014. (University of Waterloo)

Nintendo's Pokemon Go may have sounded pretty familiar to four University of Waterloo graduates.

That's because they came up with a pretty similar Pokemon augmented reality game during a Hack The North event at the school two years ago.

"It's definitely a very similar concept," Jack Gao told CBC News.

In a YouTube video from the 2014 event, Gao explains the game he and a team of friends — dubbed The Elite Four, which included friends Edward Yang, John Liu and Kevin Nguyen — created during the 36 hour event. They called the game Open Pokemon.

"You can play in a real world with real people in real places," Gao told a crowd in 2014. The audience reacted and cheered when they were shown how their game worked.

"Imagine you're walking around the city catching Pokemon, battling wild Pokemon and find your friends and gyms."

Game in the same spirit

But is it the same?

Not quite, Gao said.

"The main difference is that, in our game we had another couple of features," said Gao.

"So, for example we had the ability to command your ​Pokemon by voice. Our game was a 2D version of the game. But they have it in 3D, so it has a whole new layer of extremes. Definitely the same spirit, the same approach."

The game they created was for an Android device. 

Gao said their game ended at the end of the Hack The North weekend. A judge at the competition expressed some interest in the game, but they weren't able to get in touch with him after the event.

Gao admitted they got busy with school and work and weren't able to work on it further.

Not his first hackathon

Gao said he and Edward Yang have been to a number of hackathons and had never won. The October 2014 event was in their home turf and they wanted to create something flashy to win.

They decided on ​Pokemon as they said it was something all four of them grew up with and it was Gao's first video game. But they wanted to enhance that experience and not recreate Pokemon.

Gao said he has played Pokemon Go and while there are a few bugs to work out, the overall the experience is very smooth and fun.