Game Design Grads On Making Pulse-Pounding Frocket!

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From Left to Right, it's Tyler Hebenton, Dave Crisp & Brad Keys

Frocket is a an arcade-style game for all ages (named after its star character), where the player controls a dopey swamp creature strapped to a malfunctioning jet-pack. His mission is to find and eat every delicious cupcake he can. It’s now available for iPhone and iPad as a download through iTunes, and there is the possibility of it being released on other platforms at a later date. Frocket is produced by Ganz Studios, which is located in Toronto, and was developed with the help of three VFS Game Design grads: Brad KeysDave Crisp and Tyler Hebenton.

We caught up with them to talk about the game, their involvement in it and their time as students in the Game Design program.


Frocket Opening Screen

First of all, Frocket looks like a lot of fun, what can you tell us about the game, your role/s in developing it, and what you think is unique about it? 

Brad Keys: Frocket is a game I’ve wanted to make for a few years now, and I was recently given the opportunity to do so with Ganz Studios. I had always thought it would have a great potential for success because it is a one-button game that’s based on a very fun mechanic many people are familiar with, barrel shooting. So we’ve taken that mechanic and put it into a physics-based game that had its world completely designed by our talented concept artist, Paul Chou. The game looks and feels fantastic, and the level design will certainly provide a good amount of challenge. We started development in September, 2012 with a target of releasing in December, 2012, which we’ve met.

As for our roles, well, for this game our studio (of about 200 people) decided to try an indie approach. So all team members (we’re about 5 full time) were wearing multiple hats.

I was busy as the Game DesignerProgrammer, and Producer for the project. I designed the mechanic, systems, obstacles, power ups, and UI flow. The programming was all done in the Unity game engine. And for production I did a lot of running around, making sure everyone had what they needed, the budgets were all on track, and all the right departments, such as marketing and business intelligence, were kept on track.

Avoid Treacherous Traps!

Tyler Hebenton: I took on the roles of Lead Level Designer and Technical Artist. The majority of my time was spent making sure the game looked great, performed well, and that every single component (there are hundreds) in every level was set up correctly. I managed another Level Designer and helped ensure his levels met my criteria of fun. I also provided technical support for our game engine, Unity. And of course, I completely designed and created several of the levels too!

Dave Crisp: I wasn’t a full time member of the Frocket team, but when they were able to get some of my time, I helped define the level design direction and provided the team with paper prototype ideas for new puzzles using existing mechanics.

Brad: After a few meetings with Dave, making levels certainly became a lot easier.

Work Through Puzzles Screenshot

It’s interesting to know what it’s like for VFS graduates to work together, later down the road. Did you feel a bond as a result of your shared experience — particularly since you, Brad & Dave, were in the same year, and Tyler was just a year later? Have you maintained a relationship with one another, and with other students since you graduated?

Brad: Dave and I have been good friends since the start of our program at VFS. We were roommates in Vancouver for a while after graduating. So working with him is very comfortable and natural for me. I would certainly say he’s one of the easiest people to work with here, thanks to our history at VFS. I think anyone from our GD13 class would agree that we all get along easily with each other. And we’re all still looking out for each other when it comes to finding jobs.

Knowing that Tyler went to VFS also made it pretty easy for us to become friends. We had similar experiences and both just moved from Vancouver to Toronto. We know a lot of the same people and it’s nice to have a part of Vancouver still here in Toronto.

Find The Hidden Stars screenshot

Would you say, then, that being at VFS has helped you in your careers?

Tyler: For us, the most valuable part of the VFS experience was the gigantic networking opportunity. We met a lot of people, many of whom we still keep in touch with. It’s extremely valuable when looking for a job or looking for professional advice. I can’t think of a better way to get introduced to the industry.

Collect the Cupcake to Win! screenshot

What can you tell us about working with Ganz Studio? 

Brad: Ganz is a gift company of over 2000 employees. Ganz Studios is a division of about 200 people. Their fame mostly comes from the popular game Webkinz. Kids can buy a plush toy which comes with a unique code, they can then register that code on webkinz.com and play with their “pet” online.

I applied to Ganz because I wanted to experience life in a large company, and they’re a Unity studio, which is one of my strongest areas of expertise. At the time I was applying for work, it was difficult to find that combination, so it was a relief finding Ganz.

Tyler: I was recommended for this job by Dave Warfield, the head of the Game Design program at VFS. I had just graduated and was looking for my first job in the industry. Dave knew one of the directors here and helped make it happen.

Dave: I was working at Microsoft Big Park doing QA and localization. I wanted to move into a design position and Brad recommended a job at Ganz. I grew up in the Toronto area, so that made the job that much more appealing.

Thanks very much for your time Brad, Tyler and Dave – and congratulations on Frocket!

Here is a trailer for the game:

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