GD45 Pitch and Play Review

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.

            

Composure is a narrative focused point and click adventure. Players assume the role of Michelle, a woman overcoming a recently ended, abusive relationship. For a game with a setting as emotionally sensitive as this, it manages to intrigue players by slowly revealing the trajectory of their relationship from start to finish, via memories. Visually, the game possesses a subdued minimalistic style. This dash of visual spice helps lend a dreamlike quality to the story, which strengthens the player’s connection to the narrative at hand. Composure is a daring, bold choice for a student project.

 

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.

Pitch and Play – The Road Ahead


Presentations

On April 6th, the GD44 and PG08 classes brought their final projects to members of Vancouver’s game industry. The program hosted over a hundred members to present their projects as well as give the opportunity to play the games as well. This allows both students and industry members to chat one-on-one. It was an electric night and some of the students were walking out that evening with interview and job opportunities.

 

Dan Sochan, an instructor at VFS opened the night with humour. Each game was given a witty and warm opening, and one-by-one teams came up to present. When asked the staff’s favourite part of the process, one replied with “How well the games came together. The students moved from being terrified to coming up after their presentations ecstatic celebrating their success.” Before the teams presented we also had the opportunity to chat with industry members who were excited to see what new things the students came up with and meet the students behind the games. “It is impressive seeing the quality of work that students achieve in such a short period of time,” said one excited industry member. There is much for industry members to keep coming back to, from variety to such a large feat in a compressed amount of time.

The students themselves explained they were filled with nerves, but when it came down to it they all stole the show on stage. All the hard work paid off and was worth it for the teams. “It was fun to watch them be pitched,” said instructor Mike Hayes, “The coolest part of the evening is seeing students appreciating their games, and recognizing their achievements.” Soon after the presentations were done, guests were invited up for food and drink and a chance to play. Below are the games that were pitched.

 

The Games of Pitch and Play

SpotAlex opened the night with his Augmented Reality app, Spot. He built it entirely by himself for others to use.  It gives people who use it the ability to find nearby events and navigate to them with ease. It has many side features like profile customization and access to email, LinkedIn, and more, to allow for easy networking with the people who host the events you attend. Perhaps the most intuitive feature is the map feature, which shows events near you on a Google Maps-style layout, right on your device, giving users the spatial awareness of how connected their city really is. Additionally, through the use of Bluetooth beacon devices, 3D models, signifying locations or event content can be viewed via augmented reality in real space using your device’s camera; it’s pretty slick! Despite Alex choosing to create a non-game based project, it was incredibly well received as he spent the night introducing people to his app, who were as impressed as they were interested.

 

Paragons of the Prism: This team created a fun couch co-op game with personality bursting from the seams. The goal of the game was to bounce projectiles into the enemy team’s goal post thus destroying their orb. The team presented well, and had a lot of fun on stage with their game. The team mentioned that some inspirations for the game included favorites like Pong and even Dodgeball; these inspirations shined through with their playful and chaotic gameplay.

 

Kuroma: The team created a race track with interesting hazards and jumps to create a unique racing experience. They handled everything from rubber banding players who had fallen behind to creating a networked experience for up to six players. The art style was realistic meeting retro, to make a visual target that was refreshing and original Their UI complimented the game’s overall visual style.

 

Scope: This game is a single-player sniper game set in a post-apocalyptic world. The game boasts a clean UI with unique enemies. Their presentation was led by their enthusiasm which also reflected the theme they created in the world of Scope. The environment was refreshing and the gameplay was as unique twist on sniper games where players control the bullets.

 

4 of Us: Two game genres came together to make 4 of Us. It was a unique cross between one RTS player fighting against four 3rd person shooter players. The team led with showing off the RTS in presentation as well as having a fellow student also demo the game at the same time. The team was on stage with high energy and enthusiasm for their final game.

 

The Lighting Guy: There is no game quite like the Lighting Guy. Your mission is to play as, you guessed it, the lighting guy at a local theatre. During pre-production in Term 4 teams are tasked to create four ideas, three promising, and one throwaway. This game was originally that, but it came together as something fun and unique in production. Voice actors who collaborated had fun saying garbled voice lines and laughing through it all. This game had a well-executed theme and passionate team that came together to make a great game.

 


Bijou & Big: This single-player puzzle game thrived in a living world in which you could use two robots to interact with anything. Lifting trees, punching enemies, the world was full of things to do and puzzles to solve. You went on the adventure with two robots with unique personalities. The team worked together to create a living world that players were eager to hop into to play as Bijou and Big.

 


It’s About Time: This team came in with an enthusiastic intro to their game. It is in a world where the player had to manipulate time and the environment to succeed and survive. Playing as sibling robots stuck out of time led to a game filled with time puns and interesting encounters to have. There is much gameplay to be found and fun interactions to have in wonderfully crafted world.

 

On the Floor

As a Game Design student at VFS, Pitch and Play night becomes something mythological, a monumental event that gives us an opportunity to make a splash with people from the industry. We have been through a number of Pitch and Play nights at the school for classes ahead of ours, and the Production Floor during these nights was always deemed strictly “Off Limits!!” An opportunity to get a sneak peek on this formerly sacred ground was a fantastic opportunity to see what goes on during the most important evening of the year for us. We were able to get some great insight and reactions from both the proud teams presenting their games, and the industry professionals who attended.

 

If Pitch and Play night on the production floor can be summed up in one word, it’s “Electric!” Over a hundred people crammed in with the teams for drinks, game playing and networking. The excitement in the air was palpable! People were lining up to play the games, and lots of introductions were being made to individuals from every team; just being in the room was exciting! Not only that but such a sense of pride be found. These were students we knew who worked tirelessly day in and out, who were all learning how to make a game with one another. What they were left with at the end of the night were products that impressed members at the industry level.

 

In the Future

At the end of the day so much was to be taken away: we got priceless advice on being on the floor ourselves, not to mention how to treasure our time going into production.

 

Some of the best advice we got were from the instructors who run the program.

“It’s all about the team. Games are a collaboration.” We really want to focus on treasuring our time with the team. Whether that is the Project Manager making us pancakes or playing Rock Band together as Game Design students do, in the rare moments we have time. Writing and keeping up a journal with the journey so far has helped the team capture funny stories and remember the great times.  This goes straight into instructor Glenn Hamilton’s advice, “Take pictures, it is such a short amount of time and you want to look back on those times.” Team pictures have already went into the game as Easter Eggs and as a sign of happy we are to be working on the project.

 

Several GD44’s I’ve talked to since graduation have all echoed this sentiment, saying that the time will just fly by, and to make sure to enjoy every second. I’d extend this to the entire program in general – at the time of writing, we’ve been at VFS for almost 9 months, and it’s been a crazy blur of late nights, great friends, and lots of pizza. Terms 1-4 have flown by.

 

Although we have only been on the floor for a few short weeks, we already are starting to get a real sense of appreciation for all the hard work our predecessors put into their games. Before undertaking a project of this size, there are a lot of components of this kind of monumental task that one may take for granted, down to just knowing how to efficiently add custom art assets into a game for other people to use, or making sure that a bullet fired from a gun goes where the player is looking. Each day is full of opportunities to learn, and since we’re still early in our stint on the production floor, it’s inspiring to think about how many of these little tricks and techniques the GD44’s picked up on their journey making the awesome games we saw on Pitch and Play Night.

 

The game industry is so unique in that it allows you to have a level of teamwork seldom seen elsewhere; it is hard not to love what I do every single day. We are both excited to reach Pitch and Play and what it holds for the future of all game design students.

 

Zeta Busters at E3 2015

Never did I imagine when I started the Game Design program at VFS over a year ago that my final project, Zeta Busters, would end up on display at E3 alongside the biggest names in the industry. Of course, our booth wasn’t nearly as big as the heavy hitters, but needless to say I was astounded by the opportunity. To be counted among the likes of EA, Square-Enix, Bethesda, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony was almost unbelievable.
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