When Chris Mitchell invited me to the Pitch and Play event, I was both surprised and excited. As a student at VFS, I always envisioned the event to be a somewhat intimidating platform to show members of the games industry the projects we spend many months developing. To my surprise, though the event did provide an opportunity to present each team’s project, the presentations on stage focused largely on the many diverse and skilled students themselves. I found myself as equally enthralled by the games on the projector as I did the stories of my fellow VFS students, who like myself have sacrificed countless hours and dedicated much of their lives to their desire to be apart of the games industry.
Now I may be biased as a fellow student, but the focus and care given to presenting not just the end product of their efforts, but also the person who worked hard to make the games on screen speaks volumes. VFS is a challenging experience, and some like myself come with very little related skills or experience. It can be intimidating, overwhelming and intense, but it also is incredibly rewarding for those that wish to be in this industry. Like all forms of education, what you get out of the experience is partially based on what you give. Every game I saw on stage spoke to the fact the VFS grads presenting their games gave a lot, and can be summed up in one word: inspiring.
During the pitch and play event eight teams presented their games to a crowd of professionals in the industry. A moderator asked each student their role on the project, their future industry goals, and then a unique question. The first game to be presented was Monster Crash, a local versus multiplayer game where the player played a giant banana or a samurai with a TV head fighting it out over a city. The game reminded me of a PS2 era classic from my childhood called War of the Monsters, and was made by a team of only three people which was very impressive. It was charming, and had a fun arcade feel.
Following Monster Crash was Kitsune. The game was visually stunning, utilizing beautiful particle effects and postprocessing to make the stylized art shine. It was also quite ambitious, with four “Mythical Beasts” in levels themed on the four seasons. As an aspiring artist, I especially found it impressive when I discovered the team was made entirely by programming student’s, whom I will never underestimate in the future after seeing this project.
Monsieur Monet was presented after Kitsune. The game was a 3rd person stealth game, with a variety of challenges as the character tried to make their way to steal the Mona Lisa. Equipped with a taser and your wits the game seemed challenging and ambitious. My favorite effect from the game was the excellent and satisfying electricity particle that appeared when using it on poor unsuspecting guards.
The next game was Nova, an online fighting game for up to six players. The game was incredibly impressive given the fact it was made in Unreal. Fast paced and an artistic challenge due to the nature of fighting game systems, I was impressed by the team’s dedication and willingness to challenge themselves with an atypical game engine choice.
After Nova came Hover Ball, a futuristic network cooperative sports game. Players select from several different characters (my favorite one being the panda), and then face off on hoverboards to try and score goals with a ball that exploded after a certain amount of time. A unique take on a sports game, its neon world was quite stunning.
Leaving the world of neon lights behind the next project presented was Crystal Cannon, a 3D isometric co-op fantasy shooter. Tasked with protecting a crystal cannon and transporting it to a location, the game had ambitious scope. The six-person team was also the first in VFS to get access to Houdini, which allowed them to experiment with a variety of tools for special effects and particle systems. One of the characters attacks creates a rippling barrage of purple magical explosions in a cone, and this effect was by far my favorite effect from any of the games presented.
The last game of the evening was The Cluckening, a visually stunning but overall simple game about the odyssey of a chicken looking to destroy the evil humans and their city. As an aspiring character artist, the chicken’s animations and form absolutely amazed me. When the chicken transformed into a hulk like super chicken both the audience and I were even more excited. When it was revealed they had had to make many changes to their original game idea after preproduction, the dedication of the group became very apparent.
With The Cluckening completed the crowd began to move out to the game stations to grab food and play the games themselves. As I made my way out I found myself excited, and wanting to do more for my own project. I was inspired and impressed, and not just by the industry quality chicken transformation I had just seen. VFS accepts a diverse set of students from all sorts of backgrounds. Not everyone is an artist with many years of experience, not everyone has experience coding, but everyone who stood on that stage had passion and dedication. They had the tools to make a game, and everyone became better equipped to enter the industry afterwards. In some ways it was terrifying to compare myself to people who had created all of these unique and interesting projects, but it also was exhilarating. I have no art background, I have a very small amount of coding experience, but the pitch and play event showed me just how much you can do if you have dedication and passion. There is always room to grow and learn, but passion is what is key, and it was the student’s passion that Pitch and Play was truly presenting to the industry.