Feb 17, 2009

A Look Back at the VFS Game Design Expo - Part 2

The Vancouver Film School opened its doors to the public on February 8th as part of its annual Game Design Expo. The event felt a bit more disjointed here compared to the structured lectures and panels held at the Vancouver International Film Centre the day before.

A lot of that was due to my late arrival and subsequent hopping around between interview appointments. I missed a large chunk of the game design presentations and demo classes and insisted on hanging out in the corner room where past VFS alumni were showing off their old class projects. More on that in just a bit.

What I did catch of the presentations was fairly basic stuff. There was a large showing of youngsters with their parents in tow, so the discussions leaned towards a broader overview of game design principles. Nick Newhard and Jake Birkett of Big Fish Games hosted a talk called, "10 Secrets to Designing Instantly Enjoyable and Addictive Games" and it was a pitch-perfect primer to game development. Light-hearted enough to appeal to gaming neophytes yet substantial enough to show that games development as a serious discipline and a justifiable investment for education.

As for the alumni showcase, three teams of recent VFS grads were in attendance to demo their class projects. What's remarkable in all three games was the strong influence of popular puzzle games, most notably Portal and Braid. One game in particular, Synchrony, was built on the Unreal engine and looked stunning. It didn't occur to me to ask but the similarities were probably not a coincidence and the result of an overt project theme set out by the instructors.

The Open House concluded with the Women in Games panel. Composed of five women (four of them based in Vancouver) working in the industry, it was an intimate and eye-opening discussion on the current state of women in games and all the work that still needs to be done to promote the field as a viable career path for young women.

I was able to speak to three of the panelists: Brenda Bailey (Deep Fried Entertainment, Tara Mustapha (Electronic Arts) and Noelle Hunt Bennett (Big Fish Games). Their interviews will be featured on the site as we continue our coverage of the Game Design Expo this week.


Wg said...

The instructors don't set any theme for the student games. However, if you look at all the games produced by each graduating class (the games on display were a sample taken from several graduating classes) the common elements become even more obvious. I think this is most likely due to just working together in such a close space, lending and hyping up games together etc.

Portal was indeed the game we drew a lot of inspiration from for Synchrony (everyone on the team was a big big fan), along with Prince of Perisa (for the lush visuals and contrast) and a bunch of others I forget about lol. Braid wasn't out at the time :(

Clinton said...

Hi Wg, thanks for stopping by. I had a lot of fun checking out the game demos and speaking to all the VFS grads. My mention of Braid may have been pushing it, with only the platforming elements being the real common thread.

I could definitely feel the Portal love though. Working in such a close environment, a lot of great design ideas are bound to rub off between students. In this case, much exploration was done with manipulating polarities and physics-based puzzles. All in all, great work.

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