There’s something in the water at VFS Game Design, and it’s producing battle ready graduates.
First it was grad Nick Yonge being nominated in four categories at the Canadian Video Game Awards for Prior, a game he created in 48 hours for the Ludum Dare competition. Now it’s Game Design grad Pieter Parker, as part of Team Masheen, winning the Great Canadian Appathon to the tune of $25,000. Their winning entry, Super Punch, also made in 48 hours, puts players in the role of a villain-punching superhero – power-up enough and you can launch your nemesis into space.
Pieter has run the game design gamut, from AAA titles like Dragon Age for BioWare to time-crunched, contest games like Round Boy, also created by Team Masheen. He currently works in web development for a multimedia company, although the four game designers have already opened their own studio with their winnings, Bit Shift Games.
So why are Game Design grads always ready to answer the bell?
“Making two fully realized games, within the course of 4 months at VFS, helped to prepare me to make [one] in 48 hours for the contest,” Pieter says. “The program really forces you to learn how to make games fast and within rapid development cycles.”
One of the biggest challenges with tight time-constraints in contests isn’t not having an idea, but rather having way too many. Pieter says Game Design helped him with that, too. “Another valuable skill that VFS taught me is to scope your game appropriately for the development timelines that you have set for yourself, and don’t be afraid to eliminate features or ideas that you may love but aren’t the best for the core of the game. It’s all about focusing on the core aspect of the game. Everything after that is icing on the cake.”
During the day Pieter designs websites, an activity he doesn’t see as all that different from game design. “Game design is about creativity and energy,” he says, “which are essential for developing strong websites and projects that people enjoy viewing. Websites are about user experience, and you can’t get much more involving for the user then in game development.”
The game design community is incredibly close, with game developers offering tutorials, information, and even entire game engines to each other for free. It’s also an industry that’s very good at identifying talent early on, something that has plagued other, more established media such as film and music. ”I think it comes from the market itself,” Pieter says. “There’s a lot of great young talent out there, and the indie community is essential for people getting involved and spreading the word. The attention we received from this competition is so valuable, and it would have taken a lot to generate that without the assistance of groups willing to support indie design.”
“I can’t speak for every game developer out there, but for me personally it’s all about being part of a rather tight-knit community when you’re a part of the game industry. Nothing can really describe what it feels like to see a complete stranger enjoying something you’ve created. It’s really one of the best feelings in the world.”
Congratulations to Pieter and all the members of Team Masheen!
UPDATE: Foundation Visual Art & Design grad Matthew Miner competed as well, and his game Trajectory won the Wild Card category.