Pi Jam 2014: Microsoft, Math, and Madness

Microsoft and Vancouver Film School’s Hat Jam worked together to bring Vancouver a special way to celebrate Pi Day on March 14 – a Pi Game Jam. Over the course of 48 hours, participants worked together in small teams to create games celebrating the mathematical constant pi (π). The event took place at the Microsoft Vancouver Development Center, from March 14-16, 2014.

The Microsoft Developer Center was a great location for the jam, with an awesome rec room (a pool table that turns into a ping pong table!) and tons of big offices for developers to brainstorm and have meetings in. There was a lot of blank paper to scribble on, and big huge whiteboards to draw on. For a whole weekend, Microsoft let over 40 developers run wild in their offices, with never-ending pizza, coffee, and pie.

Read More

Interview: Anna Prein, Pi Jam Organizer and Time-Travelling Unicorn

 

With Pi Jam coming up this Friday, I sat down with organizer Anna Prein, a fellow 2013 Women in Games Scholarship recipient and current Vancouver Film School student to find out more about the jam, as well as the history of Hat Jam.

 

So what’s this thing you’re organizing?

It’s called Pi Jam. It’s a 48-hour game jam. It used to be called Hat Jam, VFS Hat Jam, but now we’re doing this with Microsoft so we wanted to change the name.

Read More

Imagine Cup 2014 – Global student technology competition is started now!

Imagine Cup is the world premier student technology competition held by Microsoft every year, since 2003.

This year’s Worldwide Final  is going be at Microsoft headquarters, Seattle, WashingtonLet’s bring your imagination, passion and creativity, and step up to challenge!

This year, there are 3 main competition categories.

  • Game - Great games come from anywhere‚ and people play them everywhere. Build one and you could win big!
  • Innovation - Develop software or integrated solution that change the way we live.
  • World Citizenship - Develop software or integrated solution that help solve the world’s toughest problem.

Read More

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.

Read More

Question Block : Xbox One and Going Indie

Welcome to this edition of Question Block. As always, send your questions to rdonaldson@vfs.com or post them in the Comments section below. Thanks for reading!

 

Why do you think so many people are upset with Microsoft’s announcement of Xbox One?

In general, I think there are two main reasons:

  1. Scattered and confusing messaging;
  2. Disappointing business and design decisions.

Leading up to the event, there were rumors swirling. Microsoft responded in various ways, generally just creating more confusion. The announcement event could have gone a long way to clearing up some of these concerns, but unfortunately just served to fan the flames among most gamers.

Always On. Sometimes On? Once a day On? Huh?

Perhaps the biggest backlash has been around the ‘always on’ requirement. Although this was one of the top issues on gamers’ minds before the reveal, Microsoft ignored the point entirely during the conference. When journalists asked executives point blank following the conference, Microsoft’s messaging was all over the map. Some said it was absolutely untrue, others said it required a connection once every 24 hours, and still others said that the requirement was up to third party developers. This served to make matters worse, leaving gamers feeling that at best the console required a connection once a day to play even single-player games. In any case, this kind of roughshod communication is disappointing from such a revered company as Microsoft.

All Used Up

The second biggest issue revolves around used games. On every previous console, gamers have been able to lend games to friends, sell them secondhand, or take them for trade-in to popular stores like EB Games, GameStop, and even Best Buy. For some players, this is the only way they can afford to buy a new game: get a $30 credit for the last game they bought, and apply it to the $60 price tag on the new game they want. Microsoft announced that games will need to be installed to the Xbox One hard drive. Once installed, the game will be locked to that particular account. If you were to lend that game to a friend, your friend would simply be given the option to purchase the game – the disc would be a coaster to anyone but you. There’s a system that lets you play the game if you, the owner, are at a friend’s house, but only if you’re signed in with your profile. If we look at the messaging around this issue, again the water was muddy, with comments to the effect that Microsoft is still investigating different approaches.

Watch It

We’ve all known that Microsoft wanted to make a big play for the center of the living room for some time now. But we didn’t expect them to push games to the backseat. Now that they’ve held their E3 press conference, we’ve seen a taste of the games they have in store, which should alleviate some of the pain. But gamers should still be concerned about the balance of Microsoft’s efforts on the games vs. TV front. Personally, I don’t think Microsoft has a shot at winning the living room. If you look at most peoples’ living rooms, Sony is actually in a better position, already supplying many of the TVs, stereos, and Blu-Ray/DVD players around. I think it’s more likely that the mainstream would buy a Sony product as a living room hub than an Xbox One. Does that mean I think Sony will win (or even really try to fight in) the war for the living room? My answer is no, but that topic is better left for another day…

Xbox ONE, with mandatory Kinect.

Read More

Tech Talk : Xbox One Thoughts

Tech Talk Banner

Microsoft finally revealed its much anticipated new console to the world on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 and decided to go with the interesting name of Xbox One. The name is pretty apt as Microsoft made clear they are not just creating a gaming device but are attempting to replace every entertainment unit in your living room with one device to rule them all. In fact, it seemed that Microsoft’s event was not really aimed at Sony as the main competition – but rather at Apple.

For me, the presentation was very good and a welcome return to reality after Sony’s PR event for the PlayStation 4, which was widely panned for not actually having any hardware to show. As a software engineer, I worked on both the Playstation 2 and 3 and the original Xbox 1 and 360 on engine development. Without a doubt, Microsoft products were always much easier to develop for. The tools worked perfectly, the development environment between PC and console was seamless, and the documentation and support were superb. Playstation hardware however was often exceptionally difficult to work with – particularly the Cell architecture in the PS3. This frequently led to PS3 games having less features and a lesser performance than 360 games – simply because they were so difficult to fully exploit.

Xbox One Console

Read More

Game Review : Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider Poster Release March 5 2013

Release Date: March 05, 2013

Developer: Crystal Dynamics / Eidos Studios – Montreal
Publisher: Square-Enix
Genre:
 Action
Platform: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 / Microsoft Windows

Lara Croft has become iconic for a number of people around the world since she first appeared 17 years ago. Often we hear of a woman with a strong personality being compared with the famous Lara Croft. And at some point, some women actually started trying to achieve that. Lara is the whole package: intelligent, strong, sexy, rich and powerful; so why wouldn’t women want to be like her? And for men, she was more than strong, she also was a sex symbol, which was cultivated for generations, from the digital world until Angelina Jolie donned the famous persona. (By the way, was the blood river scene in the game supposed to be a reference to Angelina Jolie in Beowulf? LOL.)

Read More

Interview with Game Design Grad Cory Hasselbach On Halo 4

Cory Hasselbach Mission Designer

Halo 4 launched on November 6, 2012, and quickly became the number one selling game in North American, receiving great reviews, with IGN declaring it “a bar-raising triumph for the entire first-person shooter genre.”

We’re certainly proud of the many VFS grads from different departments who worked on the project, including Game Design alumni Armando Troisi (Narrative Director), who we featured recently, and Cory Hasselbach, who we are featuring today.

Cory Hasselbach graduated from VFS back in 2005, winning the award for Best Multiplayer Game (for First Light), and now works as Mission Designer for 343 Industries, the producers of Halo 4. Cory talked to us about his experience at VFS, his role as Mission Designer and what makes Halo 4 such a great game.

Read More

UFG’s Sleeping Dogs : The VFS Connection

Cover for Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs is an open world action-adventure video game developed by United Front Games (UFG) and published by Square Enix for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Since it’s release on August 14, it’s been flying off the shelves, and it’s had some great reviews — with GameRankings and Metacritic, giving it an aggregate score of 85 and 82 percent, respectively. This is also some source of pride for VFS, given that a range of some 30 people (students and faculty), including Game Design Instructor Victor Kam, who was Senior World Artist at UFG, Game Design Industry Mentor Dan Sochan, who has also been a Producer at UFG since 2007, and alumnus Jeffrie Wu, who was Technical Designer at UFG, and is currently Technical Level Designer at Next Level Games.

We spoke recently with Jeffrie Wu about his experience working on the game (starting back in 2009) and present our inteview with him here:

Sleeping Dogs Screenshot
Read More