Execution Labs visiting VFS

This Wednesday Jason Della Rocca from Execution Labs is coming to visit VFS, and spend some time talking about the process of going Indie.

VFS Game Design Students and Alumni are welcomed back to the Game Design Campus to hear Jason Speak.

Jason Della Rocca is the co-founder of Executions Labs, a first-of-its kind, hybrid game incubator and go-to-market accelerator that helps independent game developers produce games and bring them to market. Formerly, Jason was a game industry consultant focused on business and cluster development, working with game studios and organizations all over the world. Prior, he served as the executive director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) for nearly nine years, and was honored for his industry building efforts with the inaugural Ambassador Award at the Game Developers Conference. In 2009, Jason was named to Game Developer Magazine’s “Power 50,” a list which profiles 50 of the most important contributors to the state of the game industry.

As a sought after expert on the game industry, Jason has lectured at conferences and universities worldwide. He also serves on various advisory boards and volunteer roles, such as co-chairing IGDA-Montreal, as an advisor to the ICT Practice of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, and serving on the research management committee of the GRAND Network Center of Excellence.

The 29th Annual Game Design Awards Show

Just like that, summer is almost over, and once again the Game Design program has a reason to celebrate. It’s graduation night, a night to celebrate, to look back on the year, and recognize the amazing things they have done.

The Graduation and Awards show on August 15th has a mix of parts: one part formal, and one part fun. The formal part of the evening began with a speech from myself, then the student-elected class speaker Jordan Tame spoke about his favourite Kung Fu movie, and finally student selected Instructor speaker Andrew Laing closed the speeches with some heart-warming words and gelato.

Each of the speakers had some deep insight into what they had just been through, and how to prepare for the coming months, but mostly it was about the fact that Andrew brought Gelato. The formalities continued with the handing out of diplomas and the embarrassingly long handshakes that make up that portion of the evening. Congratulations to Pedro and Peter who both graduated with honours.
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Mythology 101: a quick recap

Some people believe that as the Head of Game Design, I never get to take a break, that is truly a myth. A sound mind equals a sound body, so now that the Pitch & Play event is over, I am taking a short summer break. Rather than leaving all of you wanting for more Mythology, I thought it would be a good idea to give you a recap of the different areas I have already covered… Just in case you missed something good.

We’ll start with some of the most common mythologies; Greek, Roman, Celtic, and Norse. In later episodes we’ll look into some of the less known areas… African, Native American, Inca, Mayan, Asian and Aboriginal. Why? Well you only have to look at games such as God of War to realize how much Mythology can influence our games, but there’s a lot more stories to be told.

 

EPISODE 1: Roman Mythology

In the first episiode we took a look at Mars and Cupid, some unique stories there, and unknown to me, there was a link between them.

After spending some time looking at different cultures, you will see that there can be a lot of crossover and similarities between their myths. This is especially noticeable between the Roman Mythology and Greek Mythology, so next time we will take a look at a couple more key figures in Greek Mythology.

With a little bit of historical research, you can find some great elements that can become foundations for a game concept, a story, or even a unique mechanic like the spear shake. So the next time you are having writers block or can’t come up with a spark for a new game concept, look back in time, somewhere between the dinosaurs and the Dragons… you never know what you might find.

- See more at: Mythology 101: Episode 1

 

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Mythology 101: Episode 8

In Episode 7 I looked at a variety of weapons and objects from Celtic mythology, what kind of powers and uses can the objects of mythology hold, and do those fit my game design, or can I use those to inspire different objects? This week I thought we would go back to Mother Nature, and look at some of the mythology of the Native American and First Nations people. There is a huge variety of tribes, each with their own unique myths, but almost all of them are focused around nature and creation.

The stories, myths, and religions of the First Nations and Native Americans are deeply entrenched in symbolism and spirits. Their stories and mythology provide insight into weather, flora, fauna, and earth & sky. Through dance, songs, and rituals passed down by their ancestors, they share these stories and provide meaning and guidance for each generation.

Before you read any further, I think it is important to state that these are the stories that I have heard, and stories that I have discovered when researching mythology. By re-telling these stories in my own way, I in no way mean to disrespect the heritage of the people who have passed these stories down, and I highly encourage you the reader, to research and discover more about their history and beliefs. It is a fascinating culture, and by learning more about it, perhaps people will treat the Native American and First Nations people with the respect that they deserve. They were here first.

Let’s take a deeper look into some of the mythology from a variety of tribes…

 

Cherokee mythology

- The Cherokee tribe was found in Oklahoma and the southeastern United States.

In Cherokee mythology the earth was simply a suspended island on a giant sea, it was formed when a little water beetle named Dâyuni’sï came from the sky and explored below the water. Having nowhere to rest, he dove down and brought up mud which quickly expanded to become the earth. Buzzard was sent down to make sure the mud was dry, but it wasn’t, as he tired, his wings and feet dragged in the mud and created valleys and mountains. When the mud finally dried the animals came down from the sky, but it was dark and they were cold. The animals took the sun and created a path for it to move east to west, but the sun was too close and many animals burned their skin. Several times they raised it higher to prevent it from being too hot, until they found the distance that was just right.

All the plants and animals were told to stay awake for 7 days to keep watch over their new land, but only the owl and panther could, so they were given night vision. Only the Fir trees, like cedar and pines, stayed awake, so the others were made to lose their leaves when it got cold.

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Mythology 101: Episode 7

In Episode 6 I talked about the inclusion of animals in Egyptian mythology, how by looking at Mother Nature we could come up with ideas for characters, their backgrounds, meaning and abilities. This week I wanted to step away from characters and start thinking about the objects and weapons that might be a core part of your game designs. What better to look at for this than the Celtic mythologies, a wide range of myths that included Irish, Scottish, and Welsh stories.

A lot of the mythology from that time period may have been lost due to the Romans destruction of  most of the Celtic writings, but there was still a lot of very interesting stories that survived in secret forms hidden from the Romans, or handed down generation to generation. When people are asked about myths and magical objects, the first things that come to mind are King Arthur’s Sword in the stone, the Stone of Scone (aka Stone of Destiny) from Scotland, and the infamous and lipstick covered Blarney stone in Ireland… but there is a lot more to Celtic mythology than a bunch of rocks.

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Mythology 101: Episode 6

In Episode 5 I took a deeper look at Dragons, the various types of dragons, the interesting stories and backgrounds of dragons, and ultimately just how embedded dragons are in so many different cultures. The purpose of this deeper look, was to think about how we can take one element of mythology and find many different ways of presenting it or altering it to best suit our game designs. In last weeks article I made reference to an Egyptian god by the name of Ra, let’s go back into a specific culture and examine some of the other gods of the Egyptians and see how that might help us to create interesting stories or characters.

When talking to people about Egyptian history, I always find it interesting  that they have heard of the pyramids, but beyond Cleopatra and King Tut they really aren’t familiar with some of the most common Egyptian mythological characters. Let’s take a deeper look into some of those other gods and goddesses, and in particular look at the influence that animals had in Egyptian mythology.

Cats

It is widely known that the Egyptians treated cats as gods, just ask any cat owner and they will tell you that. The cat was a sacred animal in Egypt, appearing many times in hieroglyphs, and shown as a human-cat hybrid for the goddess Bastet. Early studies of Egyptian mythology showed her to be a lioness, and later a cat, that was both a fierce hunter and protector, a goddess of warfare, however later studies have deemed her to be a goddess of perfume… perfume needs a god?

Another of the cat gods is Sekhmet, she was the lion headed goddess of retribution, vengeance, and conquest. Her responsibilities included doling out punishment to those that were enemies of Ra (see below). As part of Egyptian beliefs, there was even  a Sekhmet cult centre, and when one of the Pharaoh’s moved the capital, he moved the cult center too, believing she would protect him.

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Game Design Summer Intensives

All this week it’s the Summer Intensive sessions here at Game Design, a chance for aspiring Game Designers to get a sneak peek at the types of things we do here at the Game Design campus. Starting with some Game Theory, and wrapping up with creating games in Flash, our 1 week students have been very busy. Yesterday they spent the day understanding Level Design, and using the same tools that Level Designers in the games industry use. More details on the Summer Intensives next week.

Level Design instructor Calder Archinuk tries to figure out how to help one student,
while another student has just blown her mind with her creation in UDK (Unreal Development Kit)

Mythology 101: Episode 5

Last week in Episode 4 we talked about the creatures of Chinese mythology, the focus was on the multitude of creatures that weren’t dragons. By looking at the wide variety of different beasts, we could use them to inspire better characters and enemies, or find one that fits inside of our games. This time I wanted to be very specific, let’s look at one type of creature, and see that by doing some research there is actually a ton of options of back story, abilities, and variations that you can bring to your games. The dragon… kind of limiting right?

The most common image that comes to mind when you think of Chinese Mythology is the dragon. It has influenced many cultures to a point where it is almost considered history instead of mythology. In movies such as Dragonheart, Eragon, and Reign of Fire, in TV shows such as H.R. Pufnstuf and Game of Thrones, dragons have become common place. Of course games have also had their share of dragons; from Spyro the Dragon, the Dragon Age series, Panzer Dragoon, Dragon Up and even Dragon’s Lair. Of course we can’t forget the Fantasy role playing games, starting with Dungeons & Dragons and more recently World of Warcraft which feature dragons.

If there is one thing that we can learn from this wide array of movies, games, and myths, it is that there is a lot of variation in the stories of dragons, and what those dragons are… if you are really interested in seeing how someone has used that variety effectively, just watch DreamWorks How to Train Your Dragon.

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Mythology 101: Episode 4

Last week in Episode 3 we talked about the Australian Aboriginal mythology. The core of that episode was how their myths are focused around creation and how things came to be, if you think about the origins of your game world, that might help build your story. In Episode 4 I want to go in a different direction again, let’s take a look at Chinese mythology, and see how that might help your designs.

The most common image that comes to mind when you think of Chinese Mythology is the dragon. I’m going to save the dragons for next episode, and instead focus on the other creatures of Chinese Mythology.  Let’s look outside the common place and discover the types of creatures that we might be able to use to influence our characters and enemies. What craziness exists in the myths that date back to 2000 BC, and inside of those myths can I find some creatures that could make my game better or different?

An A to Z of Chinese Characters

Ao-Kuang

Ao-Kuang is the most powerful of the ocean dragon kings, I said I wouldn’t talk about dragons, but they are the only ones that start with the letter A.
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Mythology 101: Episode 3

In the second episode we talked about some of the lesser known Greek myths such as Theseus and Thanatos. The focus of episode 2 was to look for lesser know characters and stories of mythology and use them to provide a spark. In episode 3 I want to go in a different direction again, let’s take a look at Australian/Aboriginal mythology, and dig a little deeper.

In Australia there is a culture that has existed for around 50,000 years, the Aborigines are a unique people steeped in Mythology. The stories that they tell today have truly been passed down generation to generation, in their homes, or around their campfires, for thousands and thousands of years. Their stories of mythology are based on what they refer to as Dreamtime, the Dreamtime stories help to explain how things came to be, or provide guidance or morals for the children. Effectively the Mythology is created as a form of education in Aboriginal culture. As those children grow, they become responsible for telling the stories.

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