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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Mythology 101: Episode 2

In the first episode we talked about a couple of the Roman myths, and commonly known characters such as Cupid and Mars. The focus of episode 1 was to look for common stories of mythology and use them to provide a spark or an idea for story or mechanics. In episode 2 I want to go in a different direction, let’s take a look at Greek mythology, and dig a little deeper.

Greek mythology is probably some of the most well known because of the movie industry. Movies such as 300, Clash of the Titans and Wrath of the Titans took some of the most common stories and brought them to the silver screen. Oh, did you think Sam Worthington was the first Perseus?


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Why Was “Spec Ops: The Line” A Great Game But A Financial Failure?

Spec Ops: The Line poster

Spec Ops: The Line, published by 2K Games and created by Yager Development, is a recent AAA (Triple A) game, released on June 26, 2012.  It was a great game by design with a poor financial outcome. The game had a very strong narrative, told through story and gameplay, which taught players to think more critically of video games as a whole, instead of just taking them at face value.
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Armando Troisi and The Fourth Element

Armano Troisi Talks to VFS Game Design Students

On Friday, January 18, to kick off the 2013 Game Design Expo I went to a presentation by Armando Troisi at the VFS Game Design campus. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the VFS game design alumnus. I quickly learned that Armando Troisi is a “somebody” in the video game industry — he’s Narrative Director at 343 Industries, who developed Halo 4.

After he spoke about who he is and where he is in the world of video game production, he opened up the floor for questions. I have recently started learning Interactive Narrative Design in the Game Design program, so a lot of what he had to say was central to my current projects. The information he shared was so relevant and informative that I was compelled to speak to him afterwards, if only just to shake his hand and say “Thanks”. As his allotted time came to a close, I looked over my notes to recap. That’s when I noticed that I had missed something.
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VFS Game Design Summer Intensive : Level, Story, Art

UDK First-Person Shooter

The VFS Game Design Summer Intensive covered a lot of ground over days two and three, delving into Level DesignStorytelling/Interactive Narrative and Game Art.

Day 2 introduced the students to the core of game design: constructing the environment and scripting the events of the play. Game Design Instructor and 3D Environment Artist, Victor Kam, introduced students to the Unreal Development Kit (UDK), which uses the Unreal Engine (a game engine developed by Epic Games, first used in the 1998 first-person shooter game Unreal). UDK is a free download available to the general public (for non-commercial games, although, games built using the free kit can be sold according to certain relatively minor stipulations outlined in Unreal Technology’s Licensing Terms).


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2012 Women in Games Scholarship Winner : Kristina Soltvedt Wiik

2012 marks the fourth year Vancouver Film School has offered the Women in Games Scholarship, opening up more opportunities for women in Game Design, and in those four years we’ve seen an impressive roster of diverse winners. Shannon Lee, the inaugural winner, hails from Vancouver, although the prize found her in Japan; she is now at BigPark innovating with Kinect. Second-year winner Annie Dickerson is a native of Washington State, and a former elementary school teacher, and currently works for East Side Games. Larissa Baptista from Brazil was the third recipient, and was recently featured with her final project team on CBC television.

Kristin Soltvedt Wiik, winner of Women in Games Scholarship

This year’s winner, Kristina Soltvedt Wiik, hails from Norway, and arrives at VFS having worked for three years as a journalist for Gamereactor Magazine. Kristina is especially interested in the narrative possibilities of games, and has already worked as a Narrative Designer on a PC game developed in Vancouver.

Kristina says, “It is a tremendous privilege to be awarded such a coveted scholarship, and I can’t help but be excited at the possibility of realizing my dreams. I’m really looking forward to the year ahead of me, and the ensuing opportunities my year at VFS will surely offer.”

Congratulations, Kristina!