PG07 Welcome Party

In honour of VFS’ most contemporary intake of budding programmers, PG07, the Programming and Game Design campus recently hosted a welcome party and tournaments for the students.

There was food for everyone involved, card games that encourage players to get to know each other, and video games to have fun or compete with; including two tournament brackets for Super Smash Brothers for Wii U as well as the freshly released Street Fighter V.

The events played out marvellously, with PG05 students Robert and Manuel taking first place in the Super Smash Brothers tournament and GD43 student Duncan taking the trophy for Street Fighter V.

Students also spent time bonding over a few games of Cards Against Humanity, while others competed for pole position in their next race in Beetle Adventure Racing.

This marks a great kick off for a satisfying year filled with dedication, hard work, and personal growth for the newest batch of up and coming software development professionals in PG07. This was also a fun and food fuelled break for the other student’s waist deep in their final projects and other course work. Here’s to them all!

By Dylan Jenken

Graduation & Awards for the FIRST Class of Programming for Games, Web, & Mobile

Spring has sprung at VFS! and what better way to recognize Spring than by celebrating the graduation of the first batch of students from VFS’ NEW Program. The FIRST class of Programming for Games, Web, & Mobile graduated on February 26th.

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2014 VFS Holiday-Retrospectacular and Game-Update Bonanza

Hey all, with the end of 2014 fast approaching and a new year around the corner we here at VFS thought it would be nice to look back at the year and highlight everyone’s hard work as well as look forward to 2015! (and put the spotlight on all the new games that have been updated in this websites library!)

When I consider 2014 it’s hard to believe all that has changed since I was in my second term at this time last year. Students have graduated, Staff has come and gone, Alumni have gotten exciting jobs in Vancouver and around the world, a new program that VFS is offering here at the Game Design campus has started: “Programming for Games, Web, & Mobile”, and perhaps most importantly we have made a lot of really cool and exciting games. Five Game Design classes have graduated with one more class, the GD37′s (who are notable for being the first GD class to collaborate with the new Programming program) graduating in the coming weeks.

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Wearing Many Hats

Currently I am working as a Programming TA for the VFS Game Design Program and the VFS Programming for Mobile, Webs, and Games. I am also working as a coder and a writer for Candlelight Games in Yaletown, a recent start-up in Vancouver. We’re making a game about revolutions that is extremely fascinating to me and that has a theme I think is very important to our times.

 

How can I not be enthused about working on a game that reminds me so much of one of my favourite films?

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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

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Board Game Design

I’m currently on vacation, sitting on a small laptop in a cabin in Michigan. Laptops are a new and controversial addition to the cabin and when I think back to my summers here without electronics, they always included three major activities: swimming, reading, and playing board games. I could also include sunburns, but if I start down that tangent, the list would get somewhat ridiculous. It was here that I learned spades, hearts and poker, which eventually led to summers with my cousins Patrick and Sarah playing warhammer, magic, and any new board game we could bring to each other.

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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.

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GD38 Welcome Party

It’s that time again. Here at VFS Game Design we’ve welcomed a new class into the fold, the GD38s! With the coming of this gaggle of bright eyed designers we break out games, delicious snacks, and our socializing hats for their welcome party!

Held on the second Friday of a new term, the welcome party is a chance for the new students to meet and greet their more seasoned peers in a fun/relaxed environment. With the senior students busy working on their respective projects, it can be easy to miss getting a chance to say hello.

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The Importance of Reverse Engineering

Tech Talk Banner

There are many people out there who think they have a winning game concept based on borrowing and meshing two or more concepts together. One such example that I’ve heard a lot recently is taking the combat of Dark Souls 2 and combining it with some other game feature. Whether that’s with a narrative of another game, a different type of RPG system or the platforming of another game; at face value it seems like it could be really cool, especially if you enjoy the combat of Dark Souls 2. If you were to try to make this game a reality, it would be very important to understand how exactly Dark Souls combat works as well as why it is made to be a certain way and what about that appeals to you and other players. Without it, you are likely to end up with a combat system that feels nothing like what you were hoping for. This is what we call Reverse Engineering.

Reverse Engineering is the practice of taking something that already exists and peeling away its layers to better understand exactly what makes it tick. For example, Super Mario is known for having an intuitive jump that makes sense for the player to use. If I was to make a game that revolved around platforming and jumping, it would be very important for me to take a close look at Mario’s jump to understand what about it resonates with players. How low and high can Mario jump? What is the full range of both jump height as well as horizontal movement? How long does it take for Mario to complete a jump? How long does the player have to hold the jump button for to achieve the maximum jump? How much of an impact does sprinting have on his jump? What is the rate of acceleration for his ascent and descent? How long does Mario “float” at the peak of his jump?

Mario Jump in order of input

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Into the Armoury: Antiquity

Long swords, falchions, zweihanders, scimitars, maces, flails… If you have interacted with any medieval and/or fantasy inspired media, be it books, games, movies (and honestly, who hasn’t nowadays? Thank you Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones!) there is a very large chance you have heard these terms thrown around, among hundreds of others. The development of weapons has accompanied humans since the Stone Age, and as a consequence, weapons are often crucial points to our stories, both historical and fiction, and by extension games. Where would King Arthur be without Excalibur? How much fun would Dark Souls be if all you could do is punch enemies? This series will dive into the amazingly diverse world of weapons, spanning cultures all across the globe over thousands of years of history. Each article will focus on a unique culture or time period, exploring the looks, features, uses and cultural significance of their armaments, hopefully providing useful information, reference, and inspiration to all you designers and artists out there. If all goes well, by the end of the series you will not only know the difference between an arming sword, a great sword and a long sword, but also be fluent in exotic terms such as “Maquahuitl”, “Falcata”, and “Scramaseax”, among many others.

The first section will examine the world of Antiquity and be split into two articles, taking a look at the military technologies of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, as well as the so called “Barbarians” of the era.

 

We begin our journey roughly 4000 years ago, in the lands around the Nile River. Over the course of its long history, the ancient Egyptian military was primarily composed of archers and infantry, generally unarmoured other than a light shield due to the baking desert heat. The most common armaments for these units were bows and spears, both of which were devastating against equally unarmored foes.

 

Even though not as widely used as the previous weapons, a new weapon emerged during the New Kingdom period (1550-1077 BCE), which would go on to become one of the most iconic weapons of the Egyptian time.

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