VFS Students show strong presence at Unite 2013

Kiley Giguere GD18 Alumni made the trip from GameHouse in Victoria for Unite

This year, Unity’s big conference, Unite 2013 was held in Vancouver. The VFS Game Design students and alumni were all over this conference. Everywhere I turned I was delighted to see past and current students learning about all the cool stuff going on with Unity right now. I checked in with some of the attendees and here are some of their highlights. This post is mainly to reflect the student experiences of those in attendance from our program.

from left: Kay Chan, Omar Chapa , Richard Harrison, Michael Cooper and Maxwell Hannaman all from game design class GD22.

It was a great chance to mingle with vendors of world class software like Photon, a multiplayer plugin available for Unity, made by Exit Games. There were also plenty of actual Unity developers in attendance chatting about their experiences with Unity. One VFS student, Wes Bassett (GD31) was not disappointed: “The Post Mortems were the most informative for me, because they shed light on the actual Process.” Read More

Game Design Campus Sneak Peek!

Helloooo! This is a great time.

Regularly, we do not allow any strangers to come into our campus.

However, today I am going to take you on a tour!

Come on! Let’s go in!

First of all, to get into the building, we have to pass this double security door. It needs a VFS key card and password.

In order to access each area in the school, it requires keycards at almost every door!

(Sometimes, when I go off the campus to buy some food, I forget my keycard.
Then, I cannot get back into the building. LOL That was a great lesson for me.)

Anyway, Let’s start at the 3rd floor!

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Small Studio, Big Decisions: Betting Big on a Free Demo

Let Us Start With Poker

I won a poker tournament one time. There were 30 or so people in it, some of which were better and had played much more poker than me, but after some momentum and a dose of confidence, I cleaned out the second place player with back-to-back all-in hands. It was sweet!

There I was, just three hands into my next poker tournament. I had a great hand, but when I put in a big bet, one of my opponents put in a bigger one. Much too late, it occurred to me that I might not have the best hand at the table. I had a dilemma. I was not all-in yet, but if I lost all the money in the pot, I would be so far behind that I could never catch up.

What should I do? I felt helpless and trapped. I knew what I had to do and I resented it.

My odds of recovering that pile of chips on the table if I folded were less than the odds that my opponent was bluffing and I was going to clean him out. It was a long shot, but I called his all-in, lost the hand and was the first player eliminated from second tournament.

I’ll always remember how I felt when I was faced with the terrible situation of having to go through with a bet because I’d invested so much in it already.. Then when I felt it again, staring at the contract for a game my studio had won by building an excellent demo, I knew the mistake I had made.

In this article I am going to explain to you how over investing in a game demo for a publisher limits your options just like making a bad bet in poker.

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Small Studio, Big Decisions – OPM – Opium


I was driving down Hastings St. in Vancouver.  I had just passed Main St., headed east, and was looking at the people on the sidewalk.  If you know the area, you know it is not a nice part of town.  It is the skid row where all the drug-addicted members of society come together.

I could see all these people at various points in their decline and I wondered, “How does someone end up here? Do they know when they take their first ‘hit’ that this is where they are headed?”

Then I had a shocking realization.  This was me.  This was my company.  My company had become an addict and didn’t even know it.  We were not hooked on any amphetamine or opium products.  We were addicted to OPM.  OPM is an acronym for “Other People’s Money”.  Any time you spend money you don’t control, that’s OPM.  In the video game industry it usually refers to publisher money.

When making decisions for a young game development studio, the decision to take Other People’s Money is one of the most important decisions you make.  It is more important than most people realize at first.  It may set the direction of your enterprise forever, just like drugs can set the direction of a human life.

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GD29 Pitch & Play

Dave Warfield introduces the 29th pitch and play, excited again to see what VFS students can do with 4-5 months of creative control.

VFS recently hosted the Pitch & Play event for GD 29 and we were fortunate enough to be invited in order to write this article. The games that were presented tonight were The Banishing, Draka, Sneakpunk, Infinite Spectrum, and Nuts for Gems. As members of student teams currently in pre-production on our final projects, it was really interesting and inspiring to see the final result of these five months of work.

Sean Smillie acts as master of ceremonies and gives a personal introduction for each team and their game and explains that student teams get an industry mentor.

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Question Block : Focusing on Kickstarter Eh?

As always people, submit questions to rdonaldson@vfs.com and we’ll answer them in upcoming editions of Question Block!

 

What do you think the announcement of Kickstarter being available in Canada means?

It’s great news! Kickstarter has emerged as a viable funding source for creative projects of all kinds, including games. We’ve seen a number of games (and hardware, like Ouya) being successfully funded through Kickstarter, with some projects reaching very impressive funding targets.

Canada has had access to crowdfunding for some time in the form of Indiegogo, but Kickstarter is a better-known platform for game-related projects. Having access to Kickstarter could help a lot of Canada’s studios get the funding they need to get their dream projects off the ground. With the growth of social, mobile, and free-to-play, we’ve seen a lot of new startups on the Canadian gaming scene.

Kickstarter comes to Canada later this summer.

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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:

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Things You Wish You Knew About Unity v4 Before You Went To The Dev Floor

So there you are, you’re sitting downstairs on the Dev Floor sweating bullets over your final project and the line of code or prefab that you’re staring at just isn’t working and all you can think is “WTF is going on — I know I’m doing everything right… it must be Unity‘s fault.” So you take the next logical course of action; you wander over to Bren Lynne and Peter Walsh‘s office. No dice; they are off helping someone else or teaching… What now?

Sadly, for those of you who fit the above scenario, this article may have come a little bit too late. But for the rest of you, this article may give you a hand with some of the stickier points that you may encounter, as well as with some common problems that my class had a hard time with. As of my writing this I believe that VFS Game Design has upgraded to the newest Unity (4.1) but all or almost all of this is relevant, regardless.

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Halbjorn’s Wrath Post Mortem

Halbjorn's Wrath Logo and Post Mortem

“Success is not final, failure isn’t fatal: it’s the courage to continue that counts.”
—Sir Winston Churchill

Halbjorn’s Wrath was an extremely challenging game, trying to get solid ranged and melee combat into a game in 13 weeks with an inexperienced four-person team is an imposing task. None of us had ever done a combat game before, or for that matter gone though a full-blown production cycle. We had communication breakdowns, we left bugs unfixed a little long, and we had some design issues when it came to the enemies.

Yet despite our shortcomings, we had the courage to continue. We managed to create a unique combat experience by closely tracking our progress, play testing at any chance we got and, of course, it also took a lot of hard work. This hard work and dedication earned us GD27′s Best Final Project Award at graduation, and we have a heck of a portfolio piece.


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An Interview with Game Design Instructor Chris Mitchell

Instructor Christopher Mitchell trains his body and his mind

Winning the Best Instructor and Best Course award in his first year of teaching at Vancouver Film School’s Game Design program, Chris Mitchell became an idol amongst students very quickly. Currently, he teaches Game Theory, Pre-Production Techniques and Project Design. I interviewed him him recently for my Game Journalism class assignment. All in all, it was a very nice interview. I got to know him better, and also got some good advice, which I would now like to share with all of you.

Hi Chris! First of all, I really appreciate your time, so thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Hopefully, this will be an opportunity for everyone to get to know you better, and we can steal some of your super powers to become very good game designers in the future.

So, why don’t you start by introducing yourself to our readers, ignoring the fact that you are well known in our school?

Chris Mitchell: Okay. Alright. I am Chris Mitchell. I am the guy who did quite a lot of design work in the game industry, and then also quite a lot of writing and voice direction as well. I suppose my first big success was Simpsons Hit and Run, where I got to do quite a lot of writing and worked with just tons of really cool people. I worked on things like Crash Bandicoot games after that. I also was lucky to be part of the group who made the DeathSpank franchise — I worked on all three of those games.

There is a quote I really like, which is, “the only thing that doesn’t change, is change itself.” Going from that, I would like to ask you: As the industry evolves, does the background of the Game Design students at VFS change as well? And if so, in what way?

Chris: Oh, that’s an interesting question. One thing I have noticed is that the students are much more technically savvy. I remember when I entered the industry, it was quite unusual to find people who already knew all the skills and tools that were required. Quite a lot of “on the job” learning happened back then. I am sure that’s still true to an extent today, but I keep meeting 18/19 year old students here who already know Maya, who are already programming, and what not. That was essentially unheard of when I first joined the game industry.

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