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

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.
Read More

A Mini Ludum Dare Postmortem

A screenshot of Jumpstarter, my MiniLD 44 submission

Mini Ludum Dare 44

Ludum Dare is a fairly well-known game development competition in which the goal is for single developers to make a game in 48 hours, based on a given theme.  There have been 26 Ludum Dare competitions so far, and a number of smaller events have sprung up around the main event, including both a game jam and Ludum Dare’s little cousin, Mini Ludum Dare.

A few weeks ago (from July 22 to 29), I participated in the 44th Mini Ludum Dare, and my game was one of 99 submitted to the competition.  The hashtag for the competition perfectly encapsulates its theme – #7DRTS.  We were to make an RTS (Real Time Strategy) game in 7 days.  Because we were allowed to reuse code and assets we had the rights to, I felt I was able to participate, since I had a decent code base on hand for managing a window, user input and art assets; and because RTS games are a huge part of both, why I became a gamer in the first place, and why I want to become a game developer, I felt I had to participate.  The result was Jumpstarter (submission page here), a space RTS game that I created in 7 days.

In this post, I’d like to do a postmortem of the development of Jumpstarter, by laying out three things that I could improve upon, and three things that went well.

What Went Wrong

Read More

Tech Talk: The Voronoi Diagram

Tech Talk Banner

Procedural generation is an umbrella term for various ways of using algorithms to create game content that might otherwise be hand-crafted – things like levels, music, and game content.  One tool that can be useful in procedural level and art generation is the Voronoi diagram.  In this post I’d like to tell you a little about the Voronoi diagram, what it can be used for, and how you might go about using Voronoi diagrams in your own code.

A portion of a Voronoi diagram

What is a Voronoi diagram?

Read More

Iamagamer Game Jam and Begeisterung

Recently several VFS students including Anna Prein, Alberto Mastretta, Michelangelo Huezo, Marcus Lembi and myself attended a local game jam hosted by iamagamer and supported by a myriad of local companies including East Side Games, Silicon Sisters, Radial Games, Indie House, and many others. Several VFS grads, many now working in the industry, also attended including Mario Gonz, Jess Garcia, Kramer Solinsky, Carl Graves, and TJ McLain.

All the teams got 48 hours to reach the same goal, to create a game with a strong female protagonist. The Centre for Digital Media was kind enough to provide the gymnasium where teams set up not just laptops and tablets, but computer towers, doubled monitors, speakers, and recording equipment. Across the table from Marcus and I, another team had a cello and a ukulele. The passion that the teams brought to this event was just as inspiring as the weight of the props they carried.

Read More

Flash Game Presentations : Game Design Class 31

The tradition continues with the 31st class of Game Design (GD31) hosting the Flash Game Presentations here at VFS Game Design.

Working in a small team, the students develop a Flash game over a 14-week period in Terms 2 and 3. While learning the intricacies of the Flash engine, the students write code, create art and produce audio for their games. The whole process culminates in a presentation to the entire Game Design student body, faculty and staff.

Read More

The Game Design Summer Intensive Experience 2013

During the week of July 8 to 12, 2013, the Game Design program at Vancouver Film School, located in Vancouver’s Chinatown district, welcomed 15 brave explorers to its Game Design Summer Intensive experience. These explorers may have come from different lands and backgrounds, but they had one thing in common – a passion for creating video games. It is thanks to this passion that they found themselves enrolled in a week-long intensive experience of All Things Video Game Design.

DAY I

The students’ initiation began with a welcome from the Head of the Game Design program Dave Warfield, after which they were off to their first class of Game Theory taught by Instructor Chris Mitchell and Senior Instructor Andrew Laing. During the course of the day students became immersed in the roles of the game designer and analyzed the basic rules and mechanics of gaming.

One of the hardest things to do is to come up with an idea… and by idea, I mean a ‘good’ idea.  There is a fine art to making a game challenging yet entertaining – the motto: if a segment of the game or level is not fun to play, then it needs to be cut, no matter how much you love it. Chris and Andrew shared useful advice, suggestions, techniques and approaches on how to keep the creative process fresh and flourishing, as well where to find inspiration.

Right off the bat, students were divided into teams and asked to brainstorm unique game ideas, keeping in mind 5 essential questions:
1. What is the game?
2. What is the core mechanic?
3. What is the core challenge?
4. Why make the game?
5. Why would you enjoy making the game?

Read More

Tech Talk – Entering the Scary World of Coding

Tech Talk Banner

When students first come to VFS one of their major worries is often: will they be able to handle the coding?  The answer to me is obvious – and it’s almost always a resounding yes!  That is because the curriculum at VFS has been designed to teach everything you need without prior knowledge of coding.

People also ask me a lot – don’t you get bored teaching introductory programming in term 1?  The answer is definitely not.  The more advanced classes are great fun too, but for me my favorite class is week 7 of Programming 1.  Seven weeks earlier, twenty or so students start my class; most with no experience coding.  And seven weeks later they are producing group projects with thousands of lines of code.  Seeing that transformation and their confidence developing never gets old.

Coding is not for everyone though and some students decide in the end it is not a career they want to pursue – so does that mean they can’t make games?  Absolutely not – there are so many different disciplines that go into making games, from art to design, audio to production.  However even if you choose one of these other great avenues, you will benefit from the knowledge you gained about what programmers do and how they work.  That is why it’s a core part of the curriculum that everyone learns in their first term.  If you want to learn more then you can choose to go deeper in later stream choices.

But I’m biased – don’t take my word for it!  Here are the thoughts of three students from last term that have just finished Programming 1:

Juan Carlos Perezcruz Pintos

Read More

Term 2 Approaches Like a Storm

Term 2! Term 2! So much to do!

If you know what I’m cheering about, congratulations, because I don’t (yet). After the happy-fun-bonding times of Term 1, where we had relatively few assignments and spent hours playing Super Mario Bros. WiiU (which, by the way, is fabulous, and I encourage everyone to check it out from the Resources room… if our class hasn’t taken it already), Term 2 is like a road into darkness.

I don’t mean to be ominous or anything, but when there are instructors approaching you with warnings about the increased workload, you start to worry. We’ve seen first-hand what Term 2 does to people, too. The class before us, Game Design class 32, started it off cheerily enough, popping into our room to say hi on a near-daily basis. Then they began to disappear. We’d pack up to leave at 10 pm, and find them in the kitchen, preparing for an all-nighter — and that was only half-way through! Spottings of Moustafa grew fewer. The circles under their eyes grew darker. (But we love you, GD32!)

GD33

Read More

HTML5 – The Future of Online Gaming


HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is the scripting language of the internet. Anything you see in your browser window starts with HTML.

One of the biggest challenges of being an educator is to continually evolve your curriculum to stay one step ahead of the curve. We caught wind of HTML5 a while back and have been keeping a close eye on its evolution. It has not taken off as fast as we expected, however, there are a lot of great features that show promise. For example, the ability to be supported on many platforms including mobile, recognition that it is the new online standard, and faster performance than previous versions of HTML.

What does it look like?

One way to see HTML is to right-click on this blog posting and choose “View Page Source” from the context menu. Below is a code snippet of a simple HTML5 page:

Read More