Pop-Up Books, Doodle Worlds, Alien Hordes, and More!

Six teams of soon-to-graduate Game Design students took the stage last night in VFS’s 88 East Pender Street studio. One by one, they pitched the games they’ve worked on collaboratively for almost four months.

Hosted by Instructor Zoe Curnoe, a packed room of pro game designers and industry recruiters offered feedback and some on-the-spot questions that allowed students to explain their choices, and explore possible futures for their projects.

First up was Tai Ji, a martial arts action RPG for the iPad 2. Developed using the Unity engine, Tai Ji makes use of the iPad’s touchscreen for navigation, combat, and conversation as the player explores a world inspired Chinese watercolour-style art. The team also expanded upon a standard RPG’s three-response conversation tree by introducing a wider array of player responses in an analog dialogue system.

Next came Hot Frank Cool Beans. Before this team went too far into development, they asked Game Design alumni what makes a great student game. Answer: It’s got to be fun, unique, and it can’t take itself too seriously.

They followed that advice in this 3D side-scrolling puzzle platformer, in which you play both Frank and Beans who are on a mission to destroy an alien planet on a collision course with Earth.

Check out the game’s theme music on SoundCloud.

Armada, a top-down action defense space shooter, was up next. The team combined their love for old school arcade graphics and tower defense challenges, testing a player’s ability to hold off a horde of alien attackers from destroying your mother ship.

To keep things interesting, these students crafted six different AI behaviours — meaning your enemies don’t all attack in the same way. To help you out, players can create turrets that fire at incoming threats.

The fourth game presented was Emoticon. A side-scrolling action platformer, you have an arsenal of three emotions at your disposal — each one representing a different special ability: anger allows you to throw fireballs; joy gives you jolts of speed; and sadness allows you see hidden objects.

As you progress in a fight to defeat an evil alien queen, the levels adjust to the emotions you choose to use most, which influences what kind of boss you’ll face at the end.

Opus Pocus came next, dropping us into a pop-up storybook world. A 3D puzzle platformer, you play a wizard’s apprentice named Flip who is trapped inside a pop-up book and must use its physics to solve each level.

The core game mechanic is flipping a page from one side of the book 90 degrees, which allows the player to use the landscape in a different way to progress through the game. (Think Inception, when the city was folded in on itself.)

The final game presented last night was Sketch Quest, a doodle-styled 2D platformer created in Flash and made to play in every browser this team could test it inside. With sounds created only by sketching instruments — pencils, rulers, paper, etc — the player is embedded in a sketchbook world with frequent opportunities to draw colourful tools and weapons to fight off enemies.

In each level, the player is given an “exploration area” where they can add their own graffiti tag or a giant smiley face. The game has been played nearly 40,000 times on Kongregate — though the team mentioned it’s getting closer to 110,000 in total plays combined with other game sites, like NewGrounds.com and SilverGames.com.

The evening wrapped with an open invitation for the audience to join students upstairs in the Game Design campus, where they discovered more about each project and — most importantly — had a chance to play them!

Congrats to all teams on an impressive night of presentations!

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