Games, Stories, and Game Stories

This post is an excerpt from the Foreword to “Side Stories: Short Fiction by Game Developers”.

 

What’s the story of Tetris?

Success disappears, and failure piles up.

 

Game developers are unique creatures, just as games are a unique art form.

And games definitely are an art form.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

Game developers tend to be voracious consumers of media, especially entertainment media.  Most game developers I know are also rabid readers, cinephiles, comic book nuts, music lovers, and news junkies.  They are cultural sponges, soaking up everything that modern media has to offer, and letting it all simmer in a dynamic mix of references, influences, information, trivia, memes, styles, and themes.

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Unite 2013

The annual conference by Unity Technologies was held August 28-30, this time in VFS Game Design’s home city. For three days, the Vancouver Convention Centre was swarmed by hundreds of Unity developers, from all over the world – four days, if you count the August 27 Training day, a bonus for those new to the technology.

Again, the Unite conference showed what a great piece of software Unity is, and will become.

The opening keynotes by CEO David Hegalson and CTO Joachim Ante described the evolving technical and philosophical direction of the company, with the expected amount of touchy feely about democratizing game development, and changing the world, both of which appear to be going according to plan.

David’s new announcements included Unity Cloud, a mobile ad service going into closed beta, and Unity Games, which sounds like an evolution of Union, Unity’s publishing platform. Joachim primarily talked about improvements to Unity’s GUI and 2D systems in version 4.3, both a long time coming, as well as some great improvements to the Mecanim animation system. No firm date on the next version, though. Understandable, given 4.2 shipped shortly before the conference.

Then, legendary game designer Richard Garriott, back from Earth orbit, gave a guest keynote that was a nostalgic stroll through his three decades of game development. The perspective made one appreciate how far game development has come, and the remarkable tool that Unity is.

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Game Design Robot Demo for Foundation

On July 1 three instructors from the game design program visited the Foundation program to give the students an overview of the wonderful world of games that they could create if they enroll. Those instructors were Bren Lynn, Andrew Laing & Roger Mitchell.

The talk consisted of three parts; Introduction to Game Design, Creation of Art, and Empowering your Game Code.

The Introduction to Game Design.

The game demo we showed is of two types of battling robots, who are trying to destroy each other. They both have start positions or spawn points, which are locations that generate the robots at the beginning. These spawn points also allow more robots to be created from the same location.   Each robot comes with a rapid fire gun and grenade launcher.  The students will be able to alter the parameters for weapons range and fire rate, robots speed, stamina and shield abilities, as well as adjusting spawn damage range. The win state will be when the boss robot is destroyed.

To help the students understand the game demo, we gave them a copy of the basic game to use.

Rules of the Design.

The ideas for this Robot Game demo is born in design… How will the gameplay work? Do the enemies attack patterns change? Can you introduce new elements that will alter the game play? How will the win or lose conditions be satisfied? Will it all evolve? These were the types of questions that were proposed, and discussed as part of this segment.
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Things You Wish You Knew About Unity v4 Before You Went To The Dev Floor

So there you are, you’re sitting downstairs on the Dev Floor sweating bullets over your final project and the line of code or prefab that you’re staring at just isn’t working and all you can think is “WTF is going on — I know I’m doing everything right… it must be Unity‘s fault.” So you take the next logical course of action; you wander over to Bren Lynne and Peter Walsh‘s office. No dice; they are off helping someone else or teaching… What now?

Sadly, for those of you who fit the above scenario, this article may have come a little bit too late. But for the rest of you, this article may give you a hand with some of the stickier points that you may encounter, as well as with some common problems that my class had a hard time with. As of my writing this I believe that VFS Game Design has upgraded to the newest Unity (4.1) but all or almost all of this is relevant, regardless.

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VFS @ SXSW : The Best of Both Worlds

Setting up the VFS Game Design Booth at SXSW

Last week, Vancouver Film School visited Austin, Texas to attend South by Southwest (SXSW), Austin’s annual mega-festival, which celebrates film, music and interactive media on both a local and international scale. Consider this a case of testing the waters — since it was VFS’s first visit — but it demonstrates that VFS shows well on any stage, and we really enjoyed meeting, greeting and eating amongst the city’s finest and friendliest.

First of all, full disclosure that I’m an alumnus (yes, I Googled the grammar), and a very recent one at that, of the VFS Game Design program. SXSW was a real thrill for its size and bustle, and it’s officially the first event that I’ve got to visit as a full-blown industry professional. While there, I met developers from Unity, Nintendo, the new Xi3 Piston computer, and of games like Hawken, Tomb Raider (the new one!) and World of Tanks. I even sat in on a discussion featuring one of my favourite designers, Jenova Chen, the creator of Journey, Flower and Flow, and found myself building Lego creations at a random table, sitting beside the legendary Cliff Bleszinski, the creator of Gears of War. I helped him look for fence pieces.

A crowd of interest in the Game Design Booth

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Game Design Summer Intensive: Flash Games & Graduation!

Starting Screen for Pogo Man Flash Bounce Game

The Game Design Summer Intensive finished up on Friday (Aug 17, 2012) with a full day dedicated to creating a Flash Game. The day was split into two parts, with the first part providing a quick hands-on tutorial in Flash, using a Bounce Game Template that each student customized to their own (sometimes hilarious) specifications. (View the Flash Bounce Game Template) Senior Instructor Jacob Tran, Instructor Chevy Johnston and Teaching Assistants Crystal Lau (Game Audio) and Benjamin Stern were all on hand to guide the students through the process.

Instructors helping with flash class

The overall concept and introduction was presented by Jacob Tran, providing some historical background and a discussion about the value of creating Flash Games in the larger context of game development for the Game Design Program. It’s a great tool for prototyping, and it became apparent that the entire process throughout the day served as a mini-model of the full program year. It’s a perfect way to understand how all the separate elements of the full program necessarily depend upon each other to make a great and successful game.

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