On Getting Into Games : Dave Warfield Inteviewed by Edge Online

Game Design HOD Dave Warfield

VFS Game Design‘s Head of Department, Dave Warfield, was interviewed recently by the online version of Edge Magazine about the Game Design program, designing games, Women in Games, and achieving success in the Game Industry. Edge Magazine is a multi-format video game magazine published by Future PLC in the UK. The online component was originally known as Next-Gen; the two properties were merged by Future PLC during a rebrand a few years ago. Edge is a leading magazine for the games industry.

The Edge contacted Dave for an interview via Skype from the UK after the success of some of the program’s students came to their attention. It’s a great piece, which also includes a shout out to Team Pixel Pi’s Pulse, which recently managed a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Here are a few highlights of the interview:

On the subject of Game Designers :

“They are the people with the creative vision who work with a team to work out what that vision is. Ultimately they are cat herders who have story skills, artistic skills and technical skills.”

On the subject of Game Design’s Community Site, Arcade:

“The Arcade is an important component of our student experience, it allows us to celebrate the work that our students have done. It allows people to look back at the types of things that have been achieved by our past students, and it allows us to bring together the game design community with interesting stories, games and information.”

On making a success in Games:

“Nowadays it’s a lot less about ‘give the guy a chance and see if he sinks or swims’. People don’t just get pulled out of QA and given a shot. It’s about making sure the next generation are prepared and have skills to shape the industry. I’d like to think I’m helping the next generation and I’m a part of that.”

You can read the full article online here.

Unity Visits VFS Game Design

Unity Presentation

Last week (Tuesday, May 21, 2013) the students of VFS Game Design got an unexpected treat when a few folks from Unity Technologies dropped by for a visit.

Carl Callewaert (Unity Evangelist), Randy Spong (Field Engineer), and Kevin Robertson (Business Development) toured the VFS Game Design campus, and had a good look at all the final project games underway by Game Design classes 28 and 29.  It was a good time for Unity to visit, because at the moment, every student final game project is being created using Unity!

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Tech Talk : Xbox One Thoughts

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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

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Question Block : Ages and Pages

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Welcome back to another edition of Question Block! Thanks to everyone who emailed in their questions. Send your questions to rdonaldson[at]vfs.com post your questions in the Comments section below. Each week, we’ll choose a few to tackle in an upcoming post.

Now, let’s get to this week’s questions.

Is it detrimental to view the game industry as young?

This is one of those questions that could easily spark a debate, but here goes…

I think it’s detrimental if it’s used as a crutch to settle for less than we could achieve. I think it’s detrimental if it’s used as an excuse to be reckless and avoid following processes. I think it’s detrimental if it’s used to explain away immature behavior or unprofessionalism.

The industry isn’t all that young, though. It certainly feels young, because it’s fairly recent that it’s become mainstream — partly thanks to the proliferation of games on mobile devices and social platforms, but also because parents are still playing games alongside their own kids. It feels young because we’re always learning how to deal with new consoles, platforms, technology, business models, and players. And it feels young because many of us are young at heart, no matter what age our bodies might betray.

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Flash Game Presentations : Game Design Class 30

students presenting their Flash Game

The Flash Game Presentations have been a long-standing tradition 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.

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Question Block

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Welcome to Question Block, a new (and hopefully regular) column where you get to choose the topic!

Submit your questions in the comments section below the latest post, or by sending them to rdonaldson[at]vfs.com  —Each week, we will choose a few questions to tackle.

Anything and everything industry-related is fair game, whether you want to know why Nintendo isn’t attending E3, what to expect as you enter the interview process after graduating, or why you need to learn about QA when all you want to do is design.

Keep in mind that the responses here are opinions, and in some cases, they may not be shared by the VFS Game Design department. You are welcome to agree, disagree, laugh, or cry as you see fit. The goal here is to get all of us thinking about and discussing the many interesting facets of our industry.

Let’s get started!

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Game Design Readings : The Code Book

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Two people want to exchange a secret by mail. They do not trust the mail system, and they live too far apart to meet, how can they securely send a locked box without also mailing a key?

The answer is surprisingly straightforward. Person A mails a box secured with a padlock to person B. Person B receives the box and adds their own padlock, then mails it back to Person A. Person A takes their lock off the box and mails it back to Person B, who removes their padlock, opening the box.

I credit games with granting me many interests and hobbies. One of the strongest in particular is a love of cryptography and cryptanalysis, which was started by a game series called Ultima. The Ultima games themselves contained many of the elements that we now consider axioms of role-playing games, but which were at the time considered revolutionary: Character progression, variable party members, ethical decisions, conversation choices — things that we take for granted now were strange frontiers of gameplay for me in the summer of 1986.
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SYD MEAD Presents “n2it”

Photo of Syd Mead and Roger Mitchell

I recently attended a presentation called n2it by one of my favourite artists, Syd Mead. If you’ve watched any science fiction film recently, then there is a good chance it’s been influenced by his art.

Artwork by Syd Mead

Here’s a little more info and background on Syd Mead (excerpted from sydmead.com) : Born in Minnesota in 1933, Sydney Jay Mead started drawing at an early age. He served 3 years in the U.S.ARMY, and then went onto study industrial design at the Art Center School in Los Angeles, (now the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena). He graduated with Distinction in June of 1959. He was immediately recruited by the Ford Motor Company’s Advanced Styling Studio under the management of Elwood Engel. Syd Mead left Ford after 2 years in order to accept a variety of assignments to illustrate books and catalogues for large corporate entities such as United State Steel, Celanese, Allis Chalmers and Atlas Cement. Then, in 1970, because of offers he was receiving from the likes of such companies as Philips Electronics, he launched Syd Mead Inc. in Detroit.

Films roll for Syd: Star Trek: The Motion Picture; Bladerunner, TRON 2010, Short Circuit, Aliens, Time Cop, Johnny Mnemonic and most recently, Mission Impossible 3, starring Tom Cruise for director J.J. Abrams.
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Luigi’s Mansion 2 : Interview with VFS Alumni on the Development Team

Box Art for Luigi's Mansion 2 : Dark Moon

Luigi’s Mansion 2 : Dark Moon was released March 24, 2013 and right away it took off like a rocket. It was the top selling game in Japan for three weeks in a row. We (myself, Senior Instructor Andrew Laing and Head Of Department Dave Warfield) conducted an interview with VFS Game Design graduates who helped in the creation of this very successful game.

Thanks very much to Diego Pons, Matt McTavish, Cavin Yen, and Jeffrie Wu for their time and for producing such a fun game. And thanks to Doug Tronsgard and Rob Davidson from Next Level Games (NLG) for helping to make this interview happen.

Cavin Yen, Diego Pons, Matt McTavish (behind Diego) & Jeffrie Wu
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Create a Game in 48 Hours for Ludum Dare 26!

Would you believe me if I told you it was possible to create a game in just 48 hours? If not, then you’re definitely not going to believe that there’s an online community of thousands of developers that do it tri-annually!

Meet Ludum Dare, the rapid game creation community, where developers all over the world, including myself, gather (figuratively) in a mass competition to create a game from scratch in just one weekend! The 26th official Ludum Dare runs from April 26-29, and all aspiring game developers should sign up and give it a shot! To sign up, all you have to do is create a WordPress account on the Ludum Dare compo page.

The official Theme Slaughter takes place the week before the competition starts, and all participants vote on a myriad of themes to decide what the official theme will be. Here’s the catch, though: the winning theme is not announced until the moment the 48-hour competition kicks off!

From there, you have the weekend to create your game however you like. You can use tools such as Game Maker, Flash, or Unity, or you can code from scratch in your language of choice. To keep inspired and see what everybody else is up to, you can watch the Ludum Dare blog, where competitors post screenshots of their progress, share the tools they are using, and even record timelapses of their development process!

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