A Conversation with… Scott Morin

This time A Conversation with… tracked down Scott Morin who is teaching Level Design here at VFS, Scott was from our 9th graduating class.

 

  • Tell me about what you are doing now in the Games Industry

After a few years of jumping studio to studio from the west coast of Canada to the east, I find myself back where it started – at Vancouver Film School. This time around I’m on the other side of the fence, teaching level design. I teach all of the four level design courses here at VFS; theory, practical, application and specialization. I also get to mentor and guide the students along the development of their final projects.

Read More

On the Level with Elliott Walton and Braden Bahen

We have a special holiday edition of On the Level where I had a chance to talk with not one but two former Game Design graduates, Elliott Walton of GD14 and Braden Bahen of GD09. Both of whom recently released Assassin’s Creed: Rogue working as Level Designers at Ubisoft Quebec.

Is it nerve-racking to be working on an existing franchise with such a large established fan base?

Elliott Walton: Absolutely! That being said I don’t personally tend to concentrate too much on those aspects during production and instead just focus on creating interesting gameplay and situations to put the player into. We usually have an overarching storyline to pay attention to that spans multiple titles, but one thing I love about working on the franchise is the excitement of presenting the next location and characters. For me it keeps things fresh and interesting. Of course we will always have to work with constraints but that can really be said about any title whether it is a new IP or a very established franchise such as Assassin’s Creed.  That being said, announcement dates and release dates are always exciting and nerve racking for me.

Braden Bahen: Yes and no. You certainly can feel the pressure online from the fans to provide them with the best Assassin’s Creed game possible. AC fans are an intelligent bunch who want to experience great stories and interesting historic periods inside a rewarding game. They are also vocal about what they love and what they hate in games. The pressure can sometimes get to you and you can get frustrated but its part of the job, frankly.

I frequently check out /r/assassinscreed and read through it to get a sense of what the really passionate fans have to say at the moment. There are often lots of good points I agree with and lots of good points I disagree with but you can’t please everyone.  At the end of the day we all want to make the best game possible and that’s what keeps us pushing on.
Read More

Graduation and Awards show for the 37th class of Game Design

It’s Christmastime at VFS, and what better reason to celebrate than Graduation. Our 37th class of Game Design graduated on December 18th.

It all begins with speeches from the Head of the Department, Dave Warfield, the class selected student speaker, Nicholas Romeo, and wrapped up with the student selected Instructor, Andrew Laing. Each of them looked back on the last year, and also looked ahead at the great future these alumni have in the Games Industry. Dave’s Christmas poem is included at the end of this article.

Read More

Grad Night for the 36th class of Game Design

It’s Fall in Vancouver, and once again the Game Design program has a reason to celebrate. It’s graduation night, a night to celebrate, to look back on the year, and recognize the amazing things they have done.

The Graduation and Awards show on October 23rd has a mix of parts: one part formal, and one part fun. The formal part of the evening hosted by Tanya Jensenbegan with a congratulatory speech from the Head of Game Design Dave Warfield, then the student-elected class speaker David Milne took us through stories of the past year in Game Design, and finally student selected Instructor speaker Rick Davidson closed the speeches with his advice for the class.

Each of the speakers had some deep insight into what they had just been through, and how to prepare for the coming months, but mostly it was a chance to look back on the year, and look ahead to the bright future this class has. The formalities continued with the handing out of diplomas and the embarrassingly long handshakes that make up that portion of the evening. Congratulations to James, Ian, David, James, and Matthew, all who graduated with honours.

Read More

On the Level with Sam Beliveau

In this very first session of On the Level I get the chance to chat up Sam Beliveau, a VFS Game Design graduate of class GD14 who has been keeping busy as a World Designer working on the commercially and critically successful game, Destiny.

Read More

GD38 2D Projects

GD38 2D Projects

On Wednesday, October 22, 2014 VFS held it’s 2D Projects course presentations, which consisted of 7 great 2D games from the GD38 class. All the games, along with their descriptions and a link to play them are listed below.

 

FALLEN HERO is a 2.5D side-scrolling dark fantasy exploration game where the player goes through a medieval castle collecting clues and solving puzzles to discover the origins of the curse of the main protagonist, the fallen hero. The game mixes a blend of 2D size scrolling exploration with first person interactive sequences for puzzle solving and item pickups.

Developed by Daniel Alcivia Smith, Vitor Castanheira, Alain Marchino, and Jean-Paul Peschard.

Read More

Grad Night for the 35th class of Game Design

Summer is finally here, and once again the Game Design program has a reason to celebrate. It’s graduation night, a night to celebrate, to look back on the year, and recognize the amazing things they have done.

The Graduation and Awards show on August 21st has a mix of parts: one part formal, and one part fun. The formal part of the evening hosted by Tanya Jensenbegan with a congratulatory speech from the Head of Game Design Dave Warfield, then the student-elected class speaker Jamie Thompson took us through an emotion filled story of the past year in Game Design, and finally student selected Instructor speaker Paul Jensen closed the speeches with his insights into the members of this graduating class.

Each of the speakers had some deep insight into what they had just been through, and how to prepare for the coming months, but mostly it was a chance to look back on the year, and look ahead to the bright future this class has. The formalities continued with the handing out of diplomas and the embarrassingly long handshakes that make up that portion of the evening. Congratulations to Marlon, Dustin, Mark and Dylan, all who graduated with honours.

Read More

Teaching the Player


Months ago when working on our final student project in term 5 and 6, one of the difficulties of our core mechanic was how to actually teach it to the player. If we told the player verbally how to play while they were experimenting, they were able to take what we told them and what they were experiencing to figure out exactly what was going on. When we got to the point where we were having blind playtests without talking to the players, it became a very different story.

Even if we typed out the exact words that we would verbally tell the player, “When your pack is the opposite colour of the surface, you will bounce. When it is the same color, you will slide.” It took players a long time to figure out exactly what that meant. We tried to simplify it down by introducing the inter-workings of these mechanics down, and trying fancy word graphics that were colored to match what color we wanted you to be, but it still wasn’t enough. Too many player’s still were not able to understand what we were trying to teach them by the end of our tutorial to set them up for the rest of the game.

Pre Alpha Tutorial

Read More

GD34 Graduation & Awards Show

Summer is finally here, and once again the Game Design program has a reason to celebrate. It’s graduation night, a night to celebrate, to look back on the year, and recognize the amazing things they have done.

The Graduation and Awards show on June 27th has a mix of parts: one part formal, and one part fun. The formal part of the evening hosted by Tanya Jensenbegan with a congratulatory speech from the Head of Game Design Dave Warfield, then the student-elected class speaker Daniel Garma took us back through a timeline of  this past year in Game Design, and finally student selected Instructor speaker Calder Archinuk closed the speeches with an overview of the 34 iterations of his grad speech.

 

 

Each of the speakers had some deep insight into what they had just been through, and how to prepare for the coming months, but mostly it was a chance to look back on the year, and look ahead to the bright future this class has. The formalities continued with the handing out of diplomas and the embarrassingly long handshakes that make up that portion of the evening. Congratulations to Guerric, Nicha, Jeremy, Rafe, Jakobsen, Spencer, and Jaymee, all who graduated with honours.

 
Read More

Massive Multiplayer Map Design and the Level Designers Ever Changing Role

Level Up

Recently, several co-workers and I have been working on a pet project tentatively entitled Boot Camp.  Mechanically, it is a tactical team based military shooter which can handle up to 120 concurrent users per match.  With that amount of people running around shooting each other, how do we ensure that it doesn’t start to feel overcrowded?  Well, by building a 4 km2 map.  As the level designer on this project, this is a somewhat colossal task.  The map is currently a work in progress, but the following is how I got to where I am, and what my next planned steps are.

Height Maps – the broad strokes

What is a height map?  Well, when you look at a map on a piece of paper, elevation is communicated with lines at certain height intervals.  The closer together the lines are, the steeper the incline.  A height map is similar to this, but uses values of grey instead.

You start with a blank canvas, and simply paint where you want elevation to be.  It works in greyscale; white is low, black is high.  Using these, along with shades of grey, a broad stroke overview can be created.

An example of a rough height map

After the height map is created, it can be imported into the game engine of choice (in our case, Unity) where it is then converted into a terrain asset.  In the engine, the maximum height value (black) can be modified and tweaked.  Once that’s done, we get into touching up the terrain and smoothing out the odd pixels so the terrain looks natural and flowing.

Read More