A night full of creativity and dedication – that was the impression we got from the Industry Night Pitch N Play on April 4, 2013, as the 27th graduating class of the VFS Game Design program showed off their final projects to an audience of industry professionals.
For the students, this was the high point of their year as they presented the result of four months of hard work. For the visiting industry professionals, it was the chance to get a glimpse at the new talent and their fresh and creative ideas. Even by VFS standards, the turnout was quite extraordinary. Relic Entertainment, Capcom and Fathom Interactive were only a few of the local companies present at this event.
Senior Instructor Andrew Laing set the tone for the evening when he opened by referring to the recent controversy about Richard Garriott, who, in an interview with Gamasutra, claimed that all the game designers he worked with “just really sucked.” But instead of letting this spoil the evening, Andrew concluded: “Well, he must have never met any of our game design students!”
And indeed, the five shown projects were quite impressive. Since the 27th graduating class was relatively small, one of the teams from the 28th Class, term five, was given the opportunity to present an early version of their project as a preview of their own industry night Pitch N Play coming up in June.
Chromeras is an online multiplayer game for the PC, and it provided a brilliant demonstration of what can be accomplished after little more than a month of development. The team had set up a match with their classmates on the production floor in order to demonstrate the multiplayer capabilities of their game.
Next up was the first GD27 game, Glob the Blob — a 3D platformer developed in the Unity Engine, in which the player controls a gelatinous blob. It caused instant laughter from the audience when the blob character appeared on screen. The creative approach to communicating direction and threat to the player, through the clever use of colors in an otherwise monochrome environment, was fairly remarkable.
The next game, Teenage Medusa – Bad Hair day presented a nice change in pace and style, as it was developed for the iPad 2 with a multi-touch interface. This proved to be a big challenge for development, especially with regards to hardware restrictions, and even special demands concerning the art of the game. Yet they handled it gracefully, and presented a game that was surprising and fun to watch.
The science fiction themed stealth action game Fragment (Play Fragment!) captured the audience’s attention with an interesting set of mechanics and environmental narrative cues.
The player has to escape an ominous research facility by deploying the titular fragments in order to distract hostiles, survey an area or even teleport to the fragment’s location. The game stood out as being well polished, professionally presented and overall very impressive.
The supernatural Hack ‘n Slash is set in an enchanted forest that was inspired by the beautiful British Columbia fauna, as well as by First Nations’ cultural heritage. With its mixture of well-designed gameplay, an intense atmosphere and style, it marked an excellent conclusion for this part of the evening.
After this, everyone moved upstairs for refreshments and the opportunity to get a hands-on impression of the games shown.
For the young game designers this was the perfect moment to get into detail about their design, and to show off their skills to the industry professionals.
The variety of companies present ranged from the big local studios, such as EA and DeNa to smaller studios like Eastside Games — and even fresh startups were represented and actively looking for fresh talent.
“The games are always so creative,” said Kelly Gies, Senior Recruiter at Relic Entertainment, who was especially impressed with the way the students approached new territory in developing games for different platforms.
Brenda Bailey Gershkovitch from Silicon Sisters, with regards to the quality and presentation of the GD27’s final projects, said, “My expectations were definitely exceeded”.
It was also very interesting to hear how many attendees were as interested in the students’ process of taking an idea from concept to a playable build, as they were in the final, polished version of the game. Overall, the GD 27’s games earned a lot of praise from the industry representatives, who even had some advice for them “on their way out.”
Scott Johnston from Fathom Interactive found the right words:
“To always keep on learning is a must in this creative industry. Find what you love, and run with that.”