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.
E3 was held at the Los Angeles Convention Centre in the South and West Hall. The West Hall had the biggest names, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, while the South Hall had EA, Bethesda, Ubisoft, and many others including of course, Zeta Busters. Our first day at the event, Justin Ostensen, the other member of the team who got to come to E3 to represent the game, and I actually misunderstood the schedule and arrived four hours too early to set up, but that gave us ample time to get settled in for the event.
While there were certainly some very well known names at E3, over the course of the three-day event, Justin and I got to know some of our fellow student developers at the College Game Competition booth. Each of the games they presented were very different from one another, but particularly so from ours. Many of them were in four-year programs, and had substantially more production time than we had at VFS and some with much larger teams than ours. It was certainly interesting to hear that some teams had upwards of 14 team members working on their game contrasted with our core four-man team. I think, however, that despite the difference in team size and development time, the core gameplay of Zeta Busters was solid and was right up there with the other games.
Once the doors had officially opened, hordes of people began rushing in. I couldn’t believe some people ran straight for certain booths! After the people had started rolling in, the energy in the air was amazing. After speaking to some E3 veterans who helped support us during the event, it sounded like this year was unlike recent years and many people attending were genuinely excited and the level of energy at the event was high.
Initially, I felt a little overwhelmed by the event. So many great developers were attending the event and at times it didn’t even seem real that we were even exhibiting alongside these giants. Fortunately, there were a few familiar faces at E3 that I could share my experience with. Jeremy Powell (GD36) was with Hinterland Studio at the Microsoft booth showing The Long Dark, and Michael Shannon (GD24) and Keilan Irvine (GD28) were both with The Coalition at the Microsoft booth showing the new Gears of War. Seeing these fellow VFS Alumni at E3 made it seem a little less intimidating and helped me enjoy the event a lot more.
While manning the booth, we experienced a variety of different people come by and show interest (or sometimes lack thereof) for Zeta Busters. There were many kinds of games industry people that would give the game a try, from associate producers to senior environment artists to indie developers. There were also some that came by that perhaps didn’t work in game development, but merely enthusiastic gamers. As a tactics game like ours caters to a niche market, there were certainly some players that enjoyed Zeta Busters more than others (a few actually stopped playing in the middle of our tutorial haha), but it was wonderful to be able to have so many people play our game.
When our team entered the Entertainment Software Association of Canada’s Student Video Game Competition, we had no real expectations. It had not been long since we had shown our game at the Pitch & Play and while feedback had been largely positive, none of us expected to show the game beyond that night let alone at one of the largest events in the games industry. Winning the competition was an overwhelming validation of our efforts and the passion our team has for video games.
Zeta Busters was created by Game Design students Melvin Kwan, Justin Ostensen, and Charles Park, along with Programming for Games, Web and Mobile student Brian Yich. If you would like to play the game you can find it HERE.