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

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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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Hat Jam

What is Hat Jam?

Hat Jam is a game jam held at the VFS Game Design campus by students, for students of VFS. Not just for GD students either, but students from all programs at VFS.

What is a Game Jam?

A game jam is a period of time where small teams make small games, according to a theme. These games can be any kind of game, be it a board game, 2D side scroller or full 3D adventure.

When is Hat Jam?

Hat Jam will be taking place this weekend, from 5pm Friday, all the way to 5pm Sunday. Students from other campuses may only stay until 9pm each night, however GD students may stay all night if they wish. Friday night will be team forming, Sunday will be the awards ceremony, where people will vote for the various games made at Hat Jam.

So, What is the Theme?

Hat Jam’s theme will be individualized for each team by drawing the themes out of a hat, hence the name Hat Jam.

Cool, What do I Need?

Nothing! ….well except for your creativity, but we are art students, so that shouldn’t really be a problem.

Awesome! How do I Sign Up?

All you have to do is contact the lovely Anna Prein at gd33anna_at_vfs.com with your interest

What are you waiting for? Come down to the Game Design campus at 88 East Pender and make a game. Come and Have fun, and don’t forget to meet some new people.

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.

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The 28th Graduation of Game Design

It’s June already, and once again the Game Design program has a reason to celebrate. Another group of amazing students has battled through the year, and has truly earned a reason to be proud. It wasn’t truly over when they finished their final projects, it’s tonight, the night they get their diplomas and learn who has won the end of year awards.

The Graduation and Awards show on June 20th has a mix of parts: one part formal, and one part fun. The formal part of the evening began with a speech from myself, then the student-elected class speaker Ornella Carolina Mastretta had a few words, and finally student selected Instructor speaker Chris Mitchell closed the speeches with some heart-warming words.

There was laughter, there were tears, but mostly there were great reflections on the friendships that have formed, the experiences that the class have all been through together, and some useful advice for being successful, as they move onto the next phase of their lives. The formalities were wrapped up with the handing out of diplomas and the embarrassingly long handshakes that make up that portion of the evening. Congratulations to Lorena, Jethro, Francisco and Harry who all graduated with honours.

Next, during a short break, parents, friends and family members were invited up to the 2nd floor production space, where they could see the area that the students’ final projects were created, play the games they made and have some snacks and refreshments.

After the break, the Awards show began… Read More

Has it been a year already?!

I can’t believe it’s been a year already. It seemed like only yesterday I started out at VFS. I know this is a common statement for all students that go to VFS. The year seems to go by just like that. And now we’re somehow at the end of the year. Pitch and Play is behind us, and all that remains is Grad Night which amazingly is tonight.

It’s been such a long year of writing long documents, coming up with new ideas for game pitches, late nights cursing myself for pressing ctrl+S in UDK and hunting down people that might have stolen my Nutella (it turned up in my backpack, but I still have no idea how it got there, I swear). And now we’re hours away from Grad Night. I’m not getting sappy here (yes, I am) but I’ve loved this year. Don’t get me wrong, there have been times I’ve hated my ideas, doubted my talent and questioned if I even have it in me to be here, but getting to the finish line proves to me that this really is what I want to do.

The Horroring came to a happy end, and Pitch and Play went so well for us and the entire class as a whole. We were all very nervous about the presentations but luckily they all went smoothly – without a hitch even. I’m so incredibly happy and proud; Yeah, who am I kidding I’m totally getting sappy.

I want to thank my entire class for being such an amazing gang of people. We all came together from different backgrounds and cultures and somehow now, it seems like we’ve known each other forever. I know I would not have gotten through the year without the support and help of all of these amazing people. I want to thank them once again for every late night spent at school, every pat on the shoulder before a presentation and all of the amazing moments we shared at the Game Design Campus.

What can I say, this is a special year. For anyone thinking about doing Game Design; it’s the ride of a lifetime and truly an amazing opportunity to learn and fail, and then learn from that again. To all future Game Designers: Work hard, be creative, learn that it’s totally okay to fail and then pick yourself up and try again. It’s an amazing industry and I’m really excited for the future.

This is me signing out. A final thank you to all the instructors and mentors for helping all of us become game designers fit for the industry. None of us could have done it without your amazing guidance. Thank you again.



Kristina Soltvedt Wiik graduates and joins the VFS Game Design Alumni today, she was our 2012 Women in Games Scholarship winner

Her final project The Horroring, can be played by CLICKING HERE

Fragment Gets the Attention of Online Magazines

A scientist's body is ripped apart as he is assimilated.

Over the last week, three significant online game magazines (IndiegamesPCGamer & Rock Paper Shotgun) picked up on the final project of VFS Game Design students from the 27th graduating class: Nick LuitenLawrence MathesJordan Lang and Garrett Metcalf (with collaborators, Saul Solis and Beso Ben Kacharava). The game is called Fragment and we agree, it is definitely worthy of the attention.

To find out what the excitement is all about check out Fragment’s Games Page, where you can download it and play it yourself.

Flash From The Past

Arcade's Browser Games

One goal of being a game designer is to reach as many people as possible with your creative vision. Adobe Flash is a wonderful vehicle for this. With a large install base across various browsers and devices, it allows students to quickly prototype, implement and distribute their games to a large audience. In turn, students receive direct feedback from their players, allowing them to learn, improve and iterate on their concepts.

Today, we present three unique offerings from VFS Game Design’s past that definitely still hold up today!

First, from Game Design’s 9th class (2008) we offer Vertical Slice : Play as the Black Ninja, slicing his way through waves of demons in the bamboo forest

Vertical Slice

Click here to play Vertical Slice

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Robots Robots Robots Robots! : New Robot Games on Arcade

Cover of Isaac Asimov's I, Robot

What is it with robots? Why are so many people fascinated by them?

Isaac Asimov first introduced the beginnings of a comprehensively detailed world of robots, along with his idea about the Three Laws of Robotics in his 1942 short story Runaround, and with the series of short stories and novels he wrote over the next few decades, he forged a world and cultural sensibility that have influenced stories about Robots in films, comics, novels, TV shows and games right up to the present.

These days, there’s lots of effort to make robots a reality, and there’s a lot of different ideas about what they should look like, what they should be tasked to do and when, and whether they deserve rights — but that’s robots in the real world, and what we’re interested in here is robots in the game world, where robots are definitely cool, don’t necessarily obey Asimov’s Three Laws, but are definitely fun!

Just check out these four great examples of robot based games developed by Game Design students from the 14th, 23rd and 25th graduating classes.

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VFS @ SXSW : The Best of Both Worlds

Setting up the VFS Game Design Booth at SXSW

Last week, Vancouver Film School visited Austin, Texas to attend South by Southwest (SXSW), Austin’s annual mega-festival, which celebrates film, music and interactive media on both a local and international scale. Consider this a case of testing the waters — since it was VFS’s first visit — but it demonstrates that VFS shows well on any stage, and we really enjoyed meeting, greeting and eating amongst the city’s finest and friendliest.

First of all, full disclosure that I’m an alumnus (yes, I Googled the grammar), and a very recent one at that, of the VFS Game Design program. SXSW was a real thrill for its size and bustle, and it’s officially the first event that I’ve got to visit as a full-blown industry professional. While there, I met developers from Unity, Nintendo, the new Xi3 Piston computer, and of games like Hawken, Tomb Raider (the new one!) and World of Tanks. I even sat in on a discussion featuring one of my favourite designers, Jenova Chen, the creator of Journey, Flower and Flow, and found myself building Lego creations at a random table, sitting beside the legendary Cliff Bleszinski, the creator of Gears of War. I helped him look for fence pieces.

A crowd of interest in the Game Design Booth

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