Life at VFS is challenging.
I’m sure you have all heard it. One year. Six terms. Seven to nine courses each term during the first four terms. Say goodbye to your social life, because you’ll be spending weekends working on assignments. It takes somewhat of a superhuman to find the time and energy to make a project as huge and as polished as the ones that come out of VFS every few months.
The GD53s did a great job confirming what we keep hearing from students and instructors alike: with each new GD, final projects look consistently better and more polished than previous ones.
The night began with Chris Mitchell, head of the School of Creative Technologies at VFS, delivering his opening lines to a crowd of people from the game industry in Vancouver.
He soon passed the microphone to Victor Lucas, Emmy and Telly-awards winner, and legendary producer and writer behind ‘The Electric Playground’. Chris welcomed him, praised his immense charisma and teased the fact that, no matter the circumstances, Victor always smells great.
Victor Lucas has so much experience as a host that you can almost touch it. Not only did he know all the students’ names by heart, he knew their projects in depth, as well as any special situations that happened during production. He mentioned, for example, that the GD53s do not have a sibling class of programmers, and had to do all the coding by themselves.
The first team on stage was actually not a team. Tides of Ragnarok, a 3d rhythm game where you control a viking rowing to the beat of the music, was a project designed and developed by student Ion Sebastian Rodriguez Lara. Sebastian wanted to make a game which mainly supported his art skills, but was surprised to realize he was falling in love with programming as he was learning it. The other student on stage was River Chick, who plans to have a life on the run as a 3d artist freelancer. He started his year from scratch, then, as a final project, he offered help to build assets to the other games on the production floor. River had to convince the VFS instructors to get approval for his vision, learned different art styles for each game, and actually used contracts with the teams in order to gain experience as a contractor.
The Erebus Incident was next. It is a 1st person survival horror game, where the player needs to use stealth in order to survive the mutants inhabiting an abandoned facility. Zishen Liang, the team’s project manager, mentioned that Erebus is the personification of darkness in Greek mythology. He also explained how leadership is important to him and saluted his team members for showing proactivity during development. Jason Thiessen, environment and lighting artist for the game, noted how much he loved building the props. Kevin Dapila was the character artist and animator for the team, and mentioned that he always acts from the heart. Todd Weber, also a prop / environment artist, explained that he wanted to design levels, and he likes creating 3d models which are as realistic as possible.
Following that, the team who made Life of Pigeon went on stage. This 3d stealth-based pigeon simulator game with cute graphics drew laughs from the audience, as its main character performed antics in a coffee shop full of human NPCs. Ryan Tzu, the team’s project manager who wishes to become a UX/UI designer in the industry, noted that the idea came from Guilherme Toda, the team’s programmer, who had two pigeons living on his balcony over the course of the year. John Pangan was the team’s environment artist, who built the lovely scenery, and Karina Lay was the team’s character and texture artist, responsible for giving the pigeon such a charming personality.
Next on stage was the team behind Isoun – The Hunt, a 3d, third-person camera, action adventure game with a cool dash mechanic to emphasize the fast-paced of the gameplay. Leonardo Hayasida, the game’s project manager, mentioned that he loved giving specifications that his teammates could work with, and said his ultimate goal is to be a producer in the industry. Dhiraj Agrawal, also known as DJ, had some programming background which allowed him to work as a programmer in the game, although he says his passion lies in design. Kav Golka, the game’s 3d artist and animator, took Anthropology in UBC before he found out his love for games and desire to work in the industry. Lawson Coleman, who knew he wanted to be a game designer since he was 10 years old, has been building levels for Unreal Tournament and Doom since he was in high school. Mirena McLean, the gameplay programmer, said she fell in love with building the AI. “The NPCs are my pets,” she said during their presentation, also mentioning that bugs with the AI are endearing “surprising moments” with her pets.
Moving on, the Zenith team came to stage. It is a beautiful 3d, third-person camera, action adventure game where the main mechanic lies on the main character’s hookshot. Deny Senesouma, project manager who already has a game on Steam, introduced their game, mentioning the inspiration the team got from Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and other From Software titles. Arvin You, gameplay/AI programmer, noted his love for music and design, wanting to be a technical designer or a programmer in the industry. Zhengrong Xie, level designer on the team, plans to be a level designer or a producer in the industry. Kelly Zhou was the team’s sole artist, having built all art, all animation and all the textures in the game. Kelly assumed that she set an excessively high bar for herself as an artist, “because I’m crazy,” she affirmed many times.
A Chilling Adventure – Starring Icebert & Spice Girl was the next team on stage. It is an endearing 2d platformer with local co-op multiplayer, where players control a living ice cube and a living flame trying to escape from a life-sized restaurant. Jadir Mendoza, Project Manager of the game, said he was planning to go solo. He was drinking in a bar and saw a waitress serving ice cubes, and he imagined a game about ice cubes trying to escape. When he approached the other members of the team, they jumped on board. Adrian Hui, the team’s gameplay and UI programmer, said she plans to be a programmer in the industry. Andre Coelho was the lead artist and animator, said his inspiration came mostly from the 90’s and 60’s cartoons. Cuthbert Tse was level designer and environmental artist, and desires to design interesting and meaningful games in the industry.
Lastly, the team behind Octoforce went on stage. It is a gorgeous and amusing multiplayer competitive 3rd person shooter game where players have to fight one another controlling octopi in the ocean. Caylie Williams, project manager on the team and VFX artist on the team, emphasized that they wanted a silly vibe with the octopi. Calvin Quan was the team’s 3d artist, responsible for all the rest of the art in game. He was happy that the octopi didn’t require animation, as all their movement was caused by in-game physics. Dustin Pham was the game’s programmer and system designer, and aspires to pursue a career either as a programmer or a system designer. Zachary Hutchinson was the game’s level designer and game designer. Zach mentioned they had to cut an entire gamemode they spent days working in because they simply wouldn’t have time to polish. His goal is to work as a level designer or a game designer in the industry.
After the last team left the stage, Victor Lucas thanked the audience for attending the show. The industry people then followed the students to the reception area, where they spent a few hours playing the students’ games, socializing, and simply having a good time.
Personally, as a student from the GD54s, I feel grateful for having witnessed their presentations, and I have shared my insights with my classmates. It’s a great dose of motivation and inspiration, knowing that our Pitch N’ Play night is right around the corner.
Good luck to all GD53s in this next step in their video game careers.