Term 2 Approaches Like a Storm

Term 2! Term 2! So much to do!

If you know what I’m cheering about, congratulations, because I don’t (yet). After the happy-fun-bonding times of Term 1, where we had relatively few assignments and spent hours playing Super Mario Bros. WiiU (which, by the way, is fabulous, and I encourage everyone to check it out from the Resources room… if our class hasn’t taken it already), Term 2 is like a road into darkness.

I don’t mean to be ominous or anything, but when there are instructors approaching you with warnings about the increased workload, you start to worry. We’ve seen first-hand what Term 2 does to people, too. The class before us, Game Design class 32, started it off cheerily enough, popping into our room to say hi on a near-daily basis. Then they began to disappear. We’d pack up to leave at 10 pm, and find them in the kitchen, preparing for an all-nighter — and that was only half-way through! Spottings of Moustafa grew fewer. The circles under their eyes grew darker. (But we love you, GD32!)

GD33

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Term 1 Reflections & Practices

Term 1 is over? … Really?

It’s hard to believe that two months have flown past, and that a new journey in term 2 is about to start. Right away it became clear that this wasn’t just an educational facility teaching game design. It was more like a Colosseum where game designer wannabes are pitted against tough challenges that must be conquered. The school gives you the tools to succeed, but they won’t fight your battles. You and your classmates must unite to overcome what is thrown at you. If you do, then we may have what it takes to be game designers.

I certainly had my fair share of ‘beasts’ to slay in term 1. It wasn’t just the homework that dictated the term’s difficulty. Class dynamic, organization, and changing old habits were all tough walls to climb. Now is a great time to stop and reflect on what challenges term 1 presented, and the practices that were used to overcome those challenges. First off, lets start with the class…

 

The GD33 Team

We quickly discovered that our team’s strength lies in our differences, and that created an interest in each other that brought us together. People truly tried to befriend one another, and that kind of international unity is what aided our progression through term 1. They are my mentors, coworkers, and friends. I’m very fortunate to have a team that I am excited to see everyday.
Our team is small, but the 13 of us represent 8 countries (Canada, America, Mexico, Brazil, Nicaragua, India, Russia, South Korea) and speak over 5 languages. I’m honoured to be their class representative, and I’m eager to see what kind of games we’ll make.

Top 3 Practices:

1. Create a calendar: In the first week I made a Google form to share with the rest of the team to keep track of our assignments and the dates they were due. It worked fine, then we discovered we could use the class’s whiteboard. So I created a calendar there, and as a team we all made sure to maintain it. It was incredibly helpful and it felt great when we could erase an assignment off the board.

2. Have playtest parties: Creating your board game in term 1 is the biggest time investment. Two team members, Nicholas Plouffe & Maria Lee, had an excellent idea of hosting playtest parties at their place. They opened their homes and everyone else brought food, drinks and their games. It was not only a great way to get feedback, but it was also a good milestone to make your game playable.

3. Get out of your shell: Okay, this one was tricky. I’m an introvert, so my natural response when I have finished my work is to go home and unwind. Then I noticed I was missing out on some great opportunities to know my team better. After all, I’ll be spending a year with them. I made sure to go out more, even if its just a walk or out to lunch. Every bit helps.

 

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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.

PEACE AND LOVE,

Kris


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

Class Spotlight: What is Juicy?

When you walk around Vancouver’s Chinatown, a few descriptive words may come to mind: Beautiful, historical, colourful, dirty, old, eroded… but would the word ‘Juicy’ come to mind? It certainly does for Rupert Morris, a Visual Design Principles instructor at the Vancouver Film School Game Design program. Rupert dedicates an entire class to define what is juicy, and how students should use it to create visually interesting environments in games. Game Design class 33 was fortunate to have this class, so here is a spotlight of what took place.

Fist off, what is the Juice? Rupert describes it as, “signs of age, wear and tear in an environment. Stickiness, slime, moss, graffiti tags, back splashed mud, pigeon excrement, automotive oil, milky puddles with wet garbage, etc. Juice is the difference between a brand new bus stop and an old, filthy gross one. Juice is almost everywhere to some degree, but the older the neighbourhood, the more decades of urban decay, and the more Juice. Chinatown has loads of it, as does Gastown, due to being over 100 years old and largely unchanged. The Juice collects in corners and under hangs, streaks down from window ledges and balconies, collects at curbs and where sidewalks meet buildings.”

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Meet Women in Games Scholarship Winners Anna Prein & Janel Jolly

Women in Games Scholarship Winners Anna Prein and Janel Jolly

It’s Week 5 of Term 1, and we thought it was about time for us to sit down and have a chat – “we” being Janel Jolly and Anna Prein, from VFS Game Design‘s Class 33. Being both recipients of the Women in Games Scholarship, we wanted to learn more about each other, and what we thought of the program. So, let’s start!

Janel Jolly : Hey Anna! I’ll go ahead and start with the first question. What attracted you to the Game Design program at the Vancouver Film School?

Anna Prein : I’ve been living in Vancouver for about 5 years now, and a former roommate actually applied for the same Women in Games Scholarship a few years back. Once I had finished having my existential crisis about doing an unrelated undergraduate degree and then committed to pursuing game design, VFS was the first school I thought of.

In the past year, I started actively going to events in the community here, like Full Indie, and I kept meeting VFS Game Design graduates who were all intensely positive about their experience and who urged me to apply. I think that was definitely the biggest push! What about you?

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On Getting Into Games : Dave Warfield Inteviewed by Edge Online

Game Design HOD Dave Warfield

VFS Game Design‘s Head of Department, Dave Warfield, was interviewed recently by the online version of Edge Magazine about the Game Design program, designing games, Women in Games, and achieving success in the Game Industry. Edge Magazine is a multi-format video game magazine published by Future PLC in the UK. The online component was originally known as Next-Gen; the two properties were merged by Future PLC during a rebrand a few years ago. Edge is a leading magazine for the games industry.

The Edge contacted Dave for an interview via Skype from the UK after the success of some of the program’s students came to their attention. It’s a great piece, which also includes a shout out to Team Pixel Pi’s Pulse, which recently managed a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Here are a few highlights of the interview:

On the subject of Game Designers :

“They are the people with the creative vision who work with a team to work out what that vision is. Ultimately they are cat herders who have story skills, artistic skills and technical skills.”

On the subject of Game Design’s Community Site, Arcade:

“The Arcade is an important component of our student experience, it allows us to celebrate the work that our students have done. It allows people to look back at the types of things that have been achieved by our past students, and it allows us to bring together the game design community with interesting stories, games and information.”

On making a success in Games:

“Nowadays it’s a lot less about ‘give the guy a chance and see if he sinks or swims’. People don’t just get pulled out of QA and given a shot. It’s about making sure the next generation are prepared and have skills to shape the industry. I’d like to think I’m helping the next generation and I’m a part of that.”

You can read the full article online here.

Hasty update : The Horroring

Women In Games Scholarship winner Kristina Wiik

Updates are in order. Trust me, I have not been lazy in updating my blog; I have just been extremely busy. That sounds like an excuse, but at VFS it’s actually true. Ask anyone. I’m not being funny. I am a shell of my former self.

Anywhooooo, crippling exhaustion aside, the game is coming along beautifully. I’m absolutely thrilled with our progress. Being a team of four, we’ve all had to take time out of our day to learn new tools, methods and plugins to get this game to the level we wanted it to be at — And I couldn’t be happier with where we’re at right now. Yeah, we’ve got minor issues, but they are all fixable within the time we have left.

Without getting too sappy I just want to thank my team for their amazing efforts. I’ve loved being a part of this project and this team. Team Horroring go! Here’s a picture of us (from left to right: Me, Olivia Veras, Pavel Tomasik and Alejandro Borjas) looking awkward and stiff.

Team Horroring: Me, Olivia, Pavel and Alejandro

So, what’s happened on the project since my last blog? Everything, really. The village looks like a village now. I’ve been set dressing and playing with new ground textures to give the areas some flavour. I’ve also been working a lot in uScript to set up all the tutorials and the hints for the player, as well as cut cameras. In addition, I’ve been working with the strumpy shader editor. Finally managed to create a shader with a working alpha channel so the ghost looks pretty damn good right now.

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Lonely ghost is lonely

Kristina Soltvedt Women in Games Scholarship Winner

As if to emphasize how lonely our ghost protagonist is, the villagers are falling in love all over the village. Sadly, this only serves to strengthen our protagonist’s loneliness. Poor ghost lady. Sad smileys all over the place. Here are a couple of diary entries from the lady in question.

Day 1

I’m so lonely. Ever since I embarked on my quest to kill my three friends, I’ve become more discouraged and more lonely. All I see is happy villagers in love. I can’t get to my friends cause…my designers are too preoccupied making the village look nice. Who gives a shh- what the village looks like — I’M LONELY!

Lonely Ghost image

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The Oarering

Pfffff. KC Irvine of Big Jet has put on his maximum trollololol face and made us the gorgeous poster you see below. The Oarering… Really?

The Oarering

Well, joke’s on him. The Horroring is not gonna take this lying down. I’m already planning a meeting where we’re gonna go over how to get him back. Stay tuned!

In other news I’ve been struggling with Unity lighting. Unfortunately, I was not in the art stream and missed out on the amazing lighting class, apart from a few sessions I sat in on. Therefore, I am trying to learn as I go. I have a relative amount of experience creating decent lighting in UDK but Unity is very different, so it’s a bit of an adjustment.

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The Haunting

Women in Games Scholarship winner 2012 Kristina Soltvedt

This is getting weirder now. Ever since I took down my lucky charm (a picture of some garlic I printed), our workstations have gone from odd to crazy. The light at our work station is flashing and giving us all seizures.

Yes, it’s only going on in our space, and No, it’s not an indication that the light bulb needs changing. It’s appropriately a haunting!

Production is trudging along. We just passed Milestone 1 and have all the stuff in we want for that. So, thus far, we are feeling very good about the project.

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