A large countdown displays the time; stark red digits against a black LED. It’s 5:45 pm on the evening of Pitch and Play. Chiptune beats blast from speakers as the audience ambles through the doors to find their seats. Stark white perforated walls and mo-cap paraphernalia line the periphery of the room, which moreover than anything else, resembles Ground Control at NASA. The air in the room is electric. And hot. The Mimic Motion Capture Studio is exceptionally warm when filled to the brim with the bustling activity of Vancouver’s many game developers. Standing room only, here.
Many kind, familiar faces fill the room. A general zeitgeist of positivity crackles throughout the crowd. Michael Hayes, seasoned industry veteran and eminent life of all parties, regales lively travel tales of game development in Brazil.
Historically Pitch and Play events have been held at the Game Design Campus on East Pender, but this year VFS tried something novel by hosting the event at our animation campus. This new venue allowed VFS to utilize the new motion capture studio to present the evening. This change in location added a level of uncertainty to the event, as it was the first time VFS has hosted such an important event somewhere other than the Pender Campus. Despite the gargantuan task of transporting computers, monitors, and networking equipment, there were no noticeable failures or issues. Everyone that I spoke to said they appreciated the change of pace, and that the bigger location offered easier access to many games.
6:00 pm rolls around, and Christopher Mitchell approaches the stage. He opens the evening with a heartfelt address that comments upon the recent change of venue and the continual upscaling of VFS’s Game Design program. He is both succinct and thoughtful in his execution.
After introductions by VFS faculty, the stage was commandeered by none other than Electric Playground’s Victor Lucas. Victor has been a part of the Vancouver video game scene for the last 20 years and has never run out of games to review. As a recent addition to the VFS Board of Advisors, Victor was the perfect person to host the highly important event: Pitch and Play. His history in journalism shone as he moderated each team and their game demonstrations.
Without further ado, the main act of the evening. Come with us on a journey as we attempt to transcribe the ‘pitch’ portion of Pitch and Play. Here are the GD45’s games, which they have spent the last four months refining:
Porcelain is a multiplayer game that pits two to four players against each other for domination of an ever-changing, nightmarish dreamscape. Each player controls a porcelain doll, and the primary means of travel in this floating world is through the use of each porcelain doll’s magical grappling hook. Players may shoot their grappling hook at any part of the map, and use it to hurl themselves to the next area. The objective in the game is to land on a specific platform and defend it from enemies until you capture it. After this, the next section of the shattered, floating world will be unlocked. Visually, Porcelain offers a delightfully unsettling theme, akin to a Tim Burton film. The grappling and swinging mechanics are hefty, interesting, and make playing Porcelain a satisfying experience.
The team behind Mach X has delivered a stylish death race combined with competitive team play. Their game blends high paced racing with turret based warfare; each vehicle is crewed by one driver and one gunner, who must cooperate to reach the finish line before their competitors. These futuristic tracks twist, turn, and loop eccentrically, providing a hectic backdrop to this high speed, pulse-pounding rally. Crisp visuals, extensive network programming, and smooth gameplay make this game one of the most polished racing experiences to ever be crafted from within VFS.
Hexastella is a 3rd person hack and slash boss fight featuring sleek combat. Players control G64, an assassin class robot equipped with a futuristic laser sword who is tasked with defeating the squidlike alien, Xenandros. Players begin the game by entering an arena covered in hexagonal tiles, which is where this title derives its namesake (we assume that the other half of the portmanteau comes from its stellar setting). Once players enter the arena, they must face Xenandros and its minions while using the floor-hex tile bonuses to their advantage. Hexastella sets out to make the player feel cool with its feedback-laden, hack n’ slash combat. Only with your help can G64 sever the gelatinous grips of Xenandros upon our world!
Compound is a four player, team based, first person shooter that pits 3 human soldiers against a savage, alien creature. The player who controls the monster stalks each of the soldiers, easily picking them off if they stray too far from the group. This scientific compound gone horribly awry exists on a hostile, ice ridden planet. Only if the soldiers are able to use their unique abilities in harmony will they stand a chance of vanquishing the alien. Compound’s booth was exceptionally busy for the entire evening of Pitch and Play, with multiple patrons returning for second and third sessions. Believe the hype regarding Compound, as this asymmetrical shooter is a tour de force.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the evening, Double W came out of nowhere, with an engaging 90’s retrowave aesthetic and refreshing gameplay. It is a stealth based platformer that doesn’t rely on broodiness to sell its theme. Kaleidoscopic enemies and unorthodox puzzles make this game highly memorable while adding to the computer-simulation aesthetic. Double W feels like an IP that you’ve experienced before, but is quite unlike anything you remember.
UnincrediBall is a 3 versus 3 sports brawl arena game that pits two teams against each other in a soccer-like field. Players control reject superheroes who compete to hit a giant soccer ball into an equally large goal. Each of the six unique reject superheroes is equipped with multiple unique abilities and must work with their teammates to secure domination of the pitch. Benefitting from a cartoon-like art style, UnincrediBall takes a lighthearted approach to both sports games and the superhero genre. Being one of the most polished games on the floor, this game is sure to wow gamers and industry executives alike with its style and incrediball execution.
Post presentations, patrons proceeded to the upstairs plaza of the 100 Cordova Campus, where plenty of people partook in the poignant playing portion of Pitch and Play, pointedly proclaimed a panoply of proper prosperity, as opposed to a proverbial pageant of pure pandemonium.
In plain prose: it was perfectly pleasant.
During the ‘play’ portion of Pitch and Play, Victor took several students and teachers aside for mini interviews; asking about the event, the games, and most importantly the students. Everyone recognized the hard work that each student put into their games. It was clear that perseverance and determination on the part of the students mattered just as much as the results. The footage of the event and the interviews was edited together and highlighted on Victor’s show “Electric Playground.”
Aside from the copious quantities of free alcohol (of which we were unable to imbibe, as student writers covering the event) and troughfuls of carrots and hummus, the upstairs plaza also hosted each of the projects’ booths, including the booths of the individual/duo projects of the GD45’s, as described below:
Sandstorm is a single player, first person, base defence game produced in Unity which takes place in a vast, apocalyptic desert inhabited by Sand Goblins. In this unforgiving land, the only weapons at the player’s disposal are the grains of sand itself, an ammunition used to pepper foes into submission. The UI is especially interesting, as it shows the specific grains of sand which are accumulated and then fired at the inhospitable goblins. Blake went to great lengths to include modifiable sand-terrain which allows players to create varieties of environmental traps in the ensuing battle between Man and Sand Goblin. Only through strategic use of these unconventional weapons will players survive the Sandstorm!
In the Cave is a four-player free-for-all racing game created in Unity, where players compete to be the first caveman to reach the top of a treacherous mountaintop. Though very little of the game takes place inside of a cave, the game showcases a strong aesthetic with its dynamic camera and well-crafted toon shader. Players collect multitudes of powerups, such as comically oversized hams, which allow them to meddle with and disrupt their opponents during the race. Wuttipat provided a humorous anecdote that the original inspiration for In the Cave was spawned from a lunch-trip where he jogged to Caveman Cafe, the nearby paleo restaurant whose mascot is a small, bearded neanderthal. After the experiences you shall witness on your quest to the mountain’s peak, will any of your fellow cavemen believe your adventurous allegories when you go back In the Cave?
Caladan is an online, two-player, first person, gladiatorial melee game. Players hack, slash, and block their way to victory. Chock full of beautiful environments, the snowy battlefield that is dyed red throughout the course of a fight is truly an asset to behold. A great deal of thought, time, and effort went into Caladan’s usage of Unreal’s Inverse Kinematics system– which is thoroughly on display in the core combat loop. The game takes advantage of a unique sword input, and allows players to experience the inherent challenges of wielding a hefty blade. Caladan is an ambitious project that takes the concept of chivalristic battles to Unreal places.
A 3rd person, on-rails, eagle arcade-experience built in Unity, Feather is a game where an eagle must race against the setting sun. Jacc took great care when including the Tsuut’ina language within the game, and his respect for his ancestry shows in the simple, elegant narrative that unfolds throughout the course of Feather. To craft a game by oneself is no easy feat, and Feather is a singularly focused labor of enthusiasm. The crisp, minimalistic visuals combined with a compelling monologue offers an emotional experience that transcends mere bits and bytes.
The GD45’s Pitch and Play was a thorough success. Many fantastic games and the hard-working developers that crafted them were on display. Both Devan and I feel grateful for the opportunity to partake in this evening dedicated to the 45’s. The lense that we view this evening through, though highly subjective, is undoubtedly one of positivity. And we hope that you, dear reader, have the opportunity to come and visit a Pitch and Play in person, sometime in the near future.