Competitive Gaming: A Twist


VFS Level Design Instructor Lanh Doan received bad news last year, due to health reasons he was going to have to take a break from teaching. Lanh was going to be spending a lot of time recovering and getting himself healthy again, and this meant a lot of quality time watching TV and Movies… more importantly it meant  he would be spending a lot of time on his computer. A lot of people (like me) would spend most of that time just playing games and connecting with friends, but Lanh wanted to continue to develop his skills, and there was no better way than competitive gaming.

This was not what most people would expect from competitive gaming, as  a Level Design expert Lanh had a different idea, enter competitions in Level Design. The Gnomon Workshop, an online training site for Artists, was running a monthly contest with a different theme, and awarding prizes to the best entries.

“I came across it when I was researching, development tools for UDK and noticed a familiar name in the industry, Alex Alvarez, an amazing 3D artist that I’d been following for a while.  He is now the founder of the site which is very popular and produces the best educational Dvd sets out there.”

“Since being ill for a while and recovering from my first major surgery for my kidney, I started asking myself if I was able to still do the stuff I used to do, and one of the best ways to really put your skills to the challenge is to put them up against the art/gaming community they have there.  The talent on their site is unbelievable and winning first place or even placing in the top 3 would be an amazing feat, plus it keeps my skills sharp and I love creating 3D scenes whether it be environments, creatures etc.”

The First Contest… “create a Lava Creature whose body incorporates molten lava and rock”. Doan spent a lot of time planning the creature, the setting, the lighting, and all the effects that he wanted to layer. To his surprise, but not ours, he came in first place.

“Definitely my education contributed to me winning, and being around other artists while working at VFS. I’ve met a ton of other game industry people that have inspired me, taught me, gave me tips on a lot of occasions, and working with the VFS 3D campus which required me to have a very in depth knowledge of 3D and gaming.”

The Second Contest… “create a room in a winter based ice hotel”. Doan took a different approach to this contest, and really focused on a theme that worked well with the snow and ice textures. Once again he was recognized for his work and came in 3rd place.

The Third Contest… “create an isometric environment in the style of Diablo”. This was definitely something Lanh could sink his teeth into, and his passion and effort showed with him being named the winner.

“If I could give the VFS Students advice about how to show off their work or levels, it would be simple; create levels, scenes, art on a daily basis, practice is the key.  You must know your tools inside out to be able to create the levels you want, and when I say inside out, it should be second nature.  Give yourself a goal and work towards it, the goals could be the best looking level, a level that flows perfectly with the intended gameplay etc and work towards that.  The biggest advice I can give is when you start out, don’t get stuck with the details right away, work with the big picture, and experiment early on, and as I always tell all my students “Go big or Go home”.  There are many levels and scenes out there, and to be noticed you need to do something that is amazing and stands out. “

Not only did Lanh develop his skills, but in this world of competitive gaming he won, and our students won… because Lanh donated his prizes to the Game Design students. A massive collection of instructional DVD’s. Congratulations Lanh, and thanks! Get well soon, we look forward to you coming back.

Lanh Doan is a Level Design Instructor in the Game Design Program at VFS