GD33 Graduation & Awards Show

Spring is in the air, 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 April 24th has a mix of parts: one part formal, and one part fun. The formal part of the evening hosted by Tanya Jensenbegan with a congratulatory speech from the Head of Game Design Dave Warfield, then the student-elected class speaker Janel Jolly spoke about the strength of the bond between all of her classmates this past year in Game Design, and finally student selected Instructor speaker Dan Sochan closed the speeches with some great advice and words of wisdom for the most recent group of Game Design Alumni.

 

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 a chance to look back on the year, and look ahead to the bright future this class has. The formalities continued with the handing out of diplomas and the embarrassingly long handshakes that make up that portion of the evening. Congratulations to Alberto, Frankie, Maria and Janel, all who graduated with honours.
Read More

The Truths and Myths of Being a Level Designer

Calling yourself a level designer is tough.  It’s a soft skill that you can’t prove easily like art or programming.  It’s far more psychological and subjective than that.  That is to say, an artist creates visuals and a programmer creates gameplay.  If the game looks good and plays well, these two departments have done their job.  But what about level designers?  Sure, you can judge based on the difficulty of the level or the ability to complete it (hopefully without the use of cheats), but the goal in level design is to evoke various emotions from the player at specific times in the game – usually to line up with story elements – while using the game’s mechanics to their fullest potential.

Myth
Level design is playing with virtual Lego

Think of the Lego creations you made as a kid – the ones where you used your imagination to create something (i.e., not from an instruction book).  How many of those would you call portfolio worthy?  Probably not a whole lot of them.  Either because you were 7 years old and had a much better imagination back then, or because you were 7 years old and you had no idea what level design was.

This should go without saying, but creativity and imagination are valuable resources in the video game industry.  But they must be accompanied by humility and the ability to accept criticism.  “This is my creation, and it’s perfect!” will not help you find or keep a job.  Iteration is a constant in game design, and very much level design as well.  I’ve created levels that have gone through dozens of iterations, and still feel like they need improvement.

  Read More

Experiences with Environments: Part 2 Unreal Development Kit

Result of Experiences with Environments: Part 1 Creation

Result of Experiences with Environments: Part 1 Creation

After creating the scene in Autodesk’s Maya, I was very excited to start delving into the impressive and sophisticated program of Epic’s Unreal Development Kit to light my scene and truly make it come alive.

Welcome to the second article in the three part series of Experiences with Environments. In this article, I will discuss my process for importing my assets, creating materials for those assets, lighting, and post-processing techniques.

The first task was to create the same composition in UDK that I had in Maya. I exported my meshes as .fbx files and imported them into the Content Browser of UDK. I inserted the same meshes and then added a couple of wires to add a little more realism to the scene. I then dragged the meshes from the content browser onto the scene to create the visual below:

Meshes Placed in UDK

Meshes Placed in UDK

Read More

Graduation & Awards show for the 32nd class of Game Design

The Olympics are 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 February 27th has a mix of parts: one part formal, and one part fun. The formal part of the evening hosted by Tanya Jensenbegan with a speech from myself, then the student-elected class speaker Rony Miller spoke from the hip about his classmates past year in Game Design, and finally student selected Instructor speaker Jonathan Falkowski closed the speeches with some heart-warming words and stories about this crazy batch of students.

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 a chance to look back on the year, and look ahead to the bright future this class has. The formalities continued with the handing out of diplomas and the embarrassingly long handshakes that make up that portion of the evening. Congratulations to Miles, Melissa, Sebastian, Gui, and Karthik, all who graduated with honours.
Read More

The Graduation Ceremony of Class GD31

Class GD31 saw the end of 2013 with a bang by celebrating their Graduation from the Game Design program.  The night was a mixture of looking back at an amazing year of work accomplished, friendships forged and exciting opportunities to look forward to.

Read More

Environmental Art: Concept to Execution Part 6

Finally, it’s time to add some finishing touches to the scene.  It’s been about 8 months since I began this scene (yes, I started the original white box way back in January 2013, finished around September).  So you can imagine how good it feels to wrap this project up after such a long time.

Today we are going to add a few elements to provide even more depth to our composition.  The first is fog, and no we are not using fog in a Silent Hill kind of way where we are trying to get back framerate, we are using fog here to simulate atmosphere that would naturally occur outdoors (have a look at the mountains, the further they are the more they are in haze.)

Read More

Environmental Art: Concept to Execution Part 5

When it comes to building an environment, lighting is one of those aspects that can make or break a scene.  You can have the best looking assets, but poor lighting can destroy all the time and effort you put into your props.  On the other hand, a scene composed of mediocre  assets can look great with proper lighting.  This is because lighting will create the overall impression of your scene to the viewers’ eye at a quick glance.  Because of this you want to push your lighting to define the shapes and silhouettes as much as possible, using light and dark to give the illusion of depth.

Read More

Environmental Art: Concept to Execution Part 4

Now that most of the immediate play space is decorated, we can finally have a step back and look at the background elements.  Keep in mind that the player will never reach that area so we are going to stay fairly loose and try several layouts.  The background’s main purpose in this case is to immerse the player to make them feel as if they are part of something larger.  As a level designer you always want the player to look in the distance to reveal other parts of the world and make them want to go there.

Vistas and backgrounds should have strong silhouettes and be readable from afar.   If you squint at the backdrop you should still be able to make out the shapes.  Each of the following images has a depth pass accompanying it.  This is to show that you want to build your background in layers to give a good sense of depth and parallax.

Read More

Environmental Art: Concept to Execution Part 3

We previously ended off our scene by refining our blockout with custom meshes, and did a quick pass on integrating medium details into the level.  At this point the overall layout should be set and now it’s time for the nitty gritty.  I only get to doing finer details once all gameplay spaces and layouts are finished, that we can keep our focus on the task at hand.

After having played The Last of Us I was inspired to have an overgrowth through the level.  After all, this level takes place in the mountain tops and having some vegetation would give the sense that the area has been around for quite some time, nature slowly re-claiming its place.  Not only that, I had to find a way to break up the ground surface, since this is the player’s immediate view I did want to invest time into making it interesting.

Read More

A day in the life of a 6th term Level Designer

Hi I am Jim, the Level Designer for STARSTRUCK, and this is a summary of one day on the production floor: November 5th, 2013. The level design problem I am addressing today is a severe dip in the intensity of gameplay after our second encounter. Our game, STARSTRUCK, is a 3D twin-stick beat-em-up which demands high intensity encounters throughout the gameplay experience. The player controls Dr. Box, and he has just fought the final boss for the first time before watching him escape. The downhill interlude is immediately after this first major challenge of the game, and the beat chart shows that a slight dip in intensity is desired. However, the intensity dips too much right now, and playtesters complain that this section “feels too long,” which is the polite way of saying that it is boring.

A bird’s eye view of where I am working today

Read More