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.
The first game of the night was The Banishing made by Shawn Newsom (programmer), Sebastian Reyes (writer/artist), Colin Scheibelhut (Project manager), and Ulrika Tegtmeier (Level Designer/Artist). This game is a 2d platformer about a magic lemur who must collect the souls of his fallen fellows.
Next up was Draka, a two player, monster brawling game set in a fully destructible city developed by Jordan Duncan (programmer), Matt Harper, (Programmer), and Justus Bloy (artist).
Next up was Sneakpunk, a first person stealth game where players fly through an Artificial Intelligence infested tower. The team consisted of Peter Smith (Level Designer), Ipek Ikbal (Project Manager), Jong Lee (Artist), and Swapan Shah (Programmer).
Afterwards, an impressed Dave Warfield said, “One of the key skills of a designer is the ability to continue to pitch when encountering technical difficulties.”
Presentations don’t always go down without a hitch! Sometimes unexpected challenges pop up, requiring presenters to think on their feet. When the Sneakpunk team walked on stage to find technical difficulties with the pc on stage, they kept right on presenting. We spoke with Ipek Ikbal, the project manager, about how the team managed these unexpected challenges. She said that one should “Acknowledge the problem and show that you are aware of how something is going wrong to the audience. But do it calmly without exaggeration; otherwise the audience will take this problem seriously as well and their focus will be diverted,” she continued with useful advice to upcoming students to remember that “it is a technical problem. There is no reason to think that you failed or made a mistake. Stay positive and keep talking.” She also said that talking about the challenges you faced is a good way to keep your audience engaged.
And with that, let’s put some attention back on Sneakpunk, whose team poured so much effort and passion into it:
Infinite Spectrum took the stage wearing the symbol of their 3d puzzle platformer with gravity jumping reorientation where the player takes on the role of a space archer traversing a ruin on the moon of their planet. Jordan Tame (Project Manager and 2d Artist), Nathan Tipper (Programmer), Tyson Sawatzki (Level Design/Sound), Bernard Lopez (3d artist), and Victor Del Costillo (Artist) said they would like to thank NASA for their Hubble Space Telescope photography, which they integrated into the skyline.
Bringing the presentations to a close was Nuts for Gems, a 3d flying game where you play as a squirrel piloting a mechanical bird made by Kristine Tilos (Technical Artist/Project Manager), Liam Semeniuk (Programmer), Luciana Abe (Artist), and Pedro Cardial (Programmer/Level Design).
See it to believe it!
Following the presentations there was a mingler event where everyone could play the games… Also on display was Vic Valdes’ Project Sharp demo, a Flash game that uses musical choices to influence the outcome in a battle with critters.
Afterwards, we spoke with some members of the audience and industry to gather their thoughts and impressions of tonight’s presentations. Here is some of what they said!
Q: What brought you to tonight’s VFS Pitch & Play event?
Warren Zaharia, artist at EA and GD25 alum, told us that he likes to attend to support the graduating classes and see the new up and comers to the game industry. As a new member of the industry himself, he mentioned that he also likes staying in touch in case his own studio has openings for which new graduates would make a good fit.
When asked what he enjoys most about Pitch & Play in general, Warren told us that he loves being surprised by new and unique ideas. As students, he told us, we have a unique opportunity to make a game that’s not restricted in terms of target market and saleability, and he loves when teams really take advantage of that.
Q: What stood out to you at tonight’s Pitch & Play?
Rishi Paktar, Technical Artist at Nine Tail Studios and VFS Game Design alum, was keen to point out that the visual quality of games has gone up, all around.
Alijah Ladd, a Game Designer at IUGO Mobile Entertainment, was impressed with Nuts for Gems for visual style, strong work on control, and dedication to the team’s original vision. He went on to say that he very much enjoys seeing a team that inspired and that a key part of game design is staying true to the vision as Nuts for Gems’ team did.
Grey Jenkins, an Associate Product Manager at DeNA, said that he was impressed with the amount of variety in gameplay and visual style of all the games presented. He and Ryan Donaldson, the Business of Games Instructor at VFS, along with Victor Kam all said that what they enjoy most about Industry night is seeing such small teams come together and dig into the work of making a game they want to make.
Each of them also separately said that they were impressed with how much the students got done in such a small amount of time. Ryan went on to say that he is also impressed at how quickly students learn to adapt to a new industry, especially when many come with no previous experience.
To everyone who participated or attended tonight, thank you for coming; to the GD 29s, thank you for sharing your games, hard work, and passion. Here’s hoping for years of awesome VFS games to come!
Evan Yates and Shad Miller are Game Design students at VFS