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  • NYFA Game Design Alumnus Creates His Own “Borders”

    One of the more controversial topics in recent months has been immigration and America’s stance on border control. Like other artists, New York Film Academy Game Design School alumnus Genaro Vallejo and his teammates, John DiGiacamo and Gonzalo Alvarez, created a unique gaming experience to express their point of view on the subject.

    The game was recently discussed in The Huffington Post, and the New York Film Academy spoke with alumnus Genaro Vallejo to find out more about creating “Borders.”

    Where are you from, and what brought you to NYFA?

    I was born in Acapulco, a beach town in the south of Mexico, I spent most of my life there until I moved to college to Mexico City. After completing my bachelor’s degree, I decided to pursue my lifetime dream of becoming a game designer. I looked up schools in New York, and I found NYFA was the best option for my needs at the time.

    Did you create “Borders” while at NYFA?

    “Borders” was created shortly after I graduated from the One Year Game Design Program. This project was created for a “Game Jam” event in which a game has to be developed during a weekend. Although the task seemed almost impossible at first, the skills learned at NYFA — alongside the help of my teammates John DiGiacomo and Gonzalo Alvarez — enabled us to create a polished experience in a span of three days.

    Was there a retro game that inspired “Borders”?

    Gonzalo, the main artist, took inspiration from the harsh experiences from Mexican immigrants trying to find a better life. The art-style and moral issues were inspired by games like “Papers, Please” and “Passage” (By Jason Rohrer).

    What do you hope people will get out of this game? Are you making a political statement?

    Personally, I think empathy is the key thing that I want people to take with them when they play “Borders.” If you try to understand and feel the struggle and problems of others, you will be more open and thoughtful of others’ actions and motivations.

    Can you tell us how your job at GameCo came about, and what your role is with the gaming company? 

    At first, I was hired at GameCo to write Game Design documents for upcoming games for their platform. Eventually, I began to get involved with QA, Hardware/Software installation and troubleshooting, and Translations. The skills learned at NYFA were without a doubt valuable assets that helped me to get a job at GameCo and expand my versatility in the company.

    I think one of the most important skills learned at NYFA was the whole process of creating the game. From prototyping, documenting your game idea, working in the game editor, to play-testing and fixing bugs. All of the steps you take are important, and you always have to keep focused on moving forward.

    Are you currently working on another game or project that you’d like to share?

    I’m currently working on Mama Hawk, a mobile game about a Mother Hawk trying to feed her babies. Hopefully you can give it a look!

    We certainly will! If you’re interested, please CLICK HERE to learn more about Mama Hawk!

    March 7, 2017 • Game Design, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1345

  • MFA Game Design Showcase at NYFA LA

    On Tuesday, January 24th, the Master of Fine Arts Game Design students held a showcase of their work at the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles Campus.

    The presentation was part of a fifteen-week course taught by Professor Scott Rogers, entitled Master Thesis Showcase. The goal was to help students learn how to promote the work they’ve created in their other classes.

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    The class consisted of both current students and alumni. Games were designed in teams of four to nine students. Both board game and P.C. games were set up for students to test out.

    Pirates Bay is a board game in which players try to conquer lands and protect their waters from other pirates. Another game, Copper Cage, is a two player PC game. Player A is a human inside a mech suit trying to out run Player B, a battle bot with a hacksaw and a hammer.

    Students, faculty, friends, and family filled the fourth-floor lobby. Chinese food was served buffet style and tournaments began as everyone sampled games. In the center of the floor, NYFA’s Twitch team covered the event live. They played games with the creators and took questions from the at home audience.

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    Peppered throughout the crowd were gaming professionals. Everyone from agents to game designers to producers came to see the NYFA grads. They are invited by faculty and staff to experience the students’ work first hand “We want them (students) to be proud of their achievements. This is a great opportunity for job placement and growth,” Rogers said of the experience.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank the Game Design department for putting on the showcase and the recent graduates for sharing their work. If you’d like to watch the Twitch stream you can click the link here.

    February 1, 2017 • Community Highlights, Game Design • Views: 925

  • Game Design Master’s Showcase at NYFA Los Angeles

    This past September 2016, the Game Design Department held their annual Master’s Showcase at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles campus. Students displayed games ranging from virtual reality, tabletop, side scrollers, card games, and PC games.

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    The event also played host to the second Twitch stream for NYFA. Previously, NYFA hosted a Twitch stream for the Pokémon Go Event in July. Students and professors play-tested new games so fans could see the gameplay.

    I asked the team producing the Twitch TV stream, NYFA student Davin Tjen and Nicholas Cunha, about the response they were hoping for from their audience. “We’re very excited for it and we’re very excited to go live. We don’t know (what to expect). Our last stream was a hit, but that’s because it was Pokémon Go.”

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    Guillermo Quesada Paez, Master of Fine Arts student, had several games at the event including Identity, Fetch Through Time, and Samurai V Skeletons.

    Paez said, “Samurai V Skeletons is a tower defense game, but we also made it so you could control the main character. You can play as your tower but you can also play as a guy and help shoot the enemy. We basically mixed two different games together: tower defense and a top down shooter.”

    The hardest part about making the game was creating path finding for the enemy. “We needed an algorithm to find the shortest paths between points,” Paez explained. “The player keeps moving around and the enemy has to keep recalculating their path to get to the player.”

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    Drew Fletcher, Master of Fine Arts student and one of the developers on Fetch Through Time, told us about his game. “In Fetch Through Time, you’re a gelatin dog bouncing through the world trying to collect bones. You have to make sure you don’t run into anything otherwise you’ll pop.”

    The inspiration behind the game was simple, “…we had two ideas. One teammate had an idea for a gelatin game and another teammate had an idea for an endless bouncing ball, so we combined the two.”

    Board games were also on display. Associate of Fine Arts student Jeffery Lay told us about his game, inspired by the game Set. “I used something called the script effect. For example, here we have the word blue written in green. Your left side of the brain is trying to read the word and the right side of your brain is seeing the color. That brings a clash in your brain and it makes the game more challenging. If you do the script affect often it increases your logical brain. ”

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    Lay also showcased his game Capture, a horror game without monsters. “My main focus was environmental designs. I don’t like horror games. Well … it’s not that I don’t like them. I’m scared of them. So, I thought it might be fun as a challenge to create one. I used environmental design to make it look realistic or give it that natural feeling and I wanted something that had a scary vibe without scaring the person directly. In some of the horror games something just pops up in your face. It’s not fair to the player. I try with music and sound to give players that scary feeling.”

    New York Film Academy professor Scott Rogers (History of Video Games) had this to say about the event, “I’m really proud of all our students. They managed to do some pretty amazing things in a very short period of time. I’m always impressed with the work they do.”

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    Rogers then explained how the students learn to develop their games. “One of the things that we like to teach the students here is that paper prototyping is the foundation of good organized game design, whether it’s making maps for their level designs or actually creating a playable version of their game in paper form. We’re trying to teach them to work not only well, but smart. So paper prototyping is this great tool that’s been around since Dungeons & Dragons.”

    “The other side of this is you could just learn to make a board game. In fact, one of our students earlier tonight was talking to a fellow who’s a Creative Director at a board game company. The guy took the students card because he was so impressed with the game.”

    October 19, 2016 • Game Design, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1559

  • NYFA Game Design at Revolutionary Learning 2016

    Last week, New York Film Academy NY Chair of Animation & Game Design Phoebe Elefante hosted the first ever Pitch Contest Game for participants of Revolutionary Learning 2016. The conference, which took place at New York’s Roosevelt Hotel, focused on innovation in game-based learning – a sizable, and very profitable sector of the larger game industry.

    The conference featured a long list of influencers in the GBL space, kicking off with legendary keynote speaker Ian Livingstone (founder of Eidos, the company that created Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), and concluding with an inspirational talk by Rebecca Rufo-Tepper (game-learning evangelist and Program Director for the Institute of Play). Other featured speakers included NYC locals Nicholas Fortugno of Playmatics, Scott Brewster of Electric Funstuff, Jordan Shapiro Senior Fellow at Sesame Workshop, and Justin Leites, President of Amplify.

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    The Pitch Contest Game, designed and run by Ms. Elefante and NYFA NY Game Design alumna Nina Mirhabibi, guided participants through a game concept development process, which resulted in a short pitch presentation to the audience and an illustrious panel of judges, which included: Dr. Elena Bertozzi (founder of the Engender Games Group at Quinnipiac University), Michael Gi (Play Designer at BrainPOP), and Bert Snow (VP of Design at Muzzy Lane Software). The panel also featured a student judge, Mickell Ford Jr., member of Mouse.org and starting freshman in the Design and Technology program at Parsons. The winning team created a game called Amor Vincit Omnia, designed to teach ethics to students in middle school and up. The Crowd Favorite award was given to the team that created Pitch Deck, a game for MBA students and aspiring entrepreneurs that aims to bring humor to the high pressure investor pitch.

    “We designed the Pitch Contest Game to bring conference participants together, encourage collaboration, have fun, and design games. None of the players knew each other at the beginning, and all of the teams have plans to continue development of their concepts into playable games,” said Ms. Elefante. “That’s a big win.” All of the activities and design documentation used to help participants design their games are now available on the Revolutionary Learning Blog.

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    The educational games market in the US is estimated at $1.5 billion. According to Ms. Elefante, NYFA students aren’t required to make learning games, but “I always encourage our students to consider the marketplace — there are countless opportunities for game designers and developers if you know where to look.”

    Unlike other top game design schools, NYFA’s Game Design School offers a course that challenges students to lead their own Game Studio with two other classmates. Throughout the semester, students receive coding support and mentorship from professional game programmers, developers, and instructors. This focused effort and unique approach of pairing students with professionals allows students to create their own digital game by the end of the semester.

    August 25, 2016 • Community Highlights, Game Design • Views: 1164

  • Pokémon Go Hunt with Creative Director and NYFA Instructor John Zuur Platten

    New York Film Academy hosted its first ever Pokémon Go hunt this month at the Los Angeles campus. About one hundred students, faculty, and fans joined Creative Director at Niantic Labs and Game Design Instructor at New York Film Academy, John Zuur Platten, to try and catch ‘em all.

    pokemon hunt

    Throughout the evening shouts of, “I leveled up,” “I just took this gym,” and “Oh my god, it’s *insert favorite Pokémon here*” filled the air. In the end, someone took over two gyms, several eggs were hatched, and a Bulbasaur made a surprise appearance just as the event wound down.

    The event then moved inside for an industry meet and greet. Game Design students snacked on Poke Ball pizza while talking shop. Ideas for future games were exchanged as well as talk about whether virtual reality or augmented reality would be a better sell to the gaming community.

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    Finally, it was time for the main event. Platten threw away the traditional Q & A process and instead decided to have an open forum, allowing anyone to ask a question as it came up. An excited buzz ran through the audience as Platten began to break down the ins and outs of Niantic.

    The majority of the talk was focused on Niantic’s breakout game, Ingress. Ingress shares many similarities with Pokémon Go, but instead of three teams, there are two: The Enlightened and The Resistance. Each team is trying to own portals that pop up all over the world. The Resistance wants to keep whatever’s trying to come through the portal out of their world. The Enlightened believe there’s something to be gained from whatever’s trying to come through.

    pokemon go creative director

    There’s no violence within the game and, like Pokémon Go, the players don’t have to interact with one another to play. In fact, many fans of Ingress don’t play the game. Instead, they head online, where Niantic has created a wide series of gaming extras. This includes YouTube videos, comics, and short stories that tell extra parts of the story. This media is often cryptic mysteries that participants can solve, netting their team extra points.

    Like Pokémon Go, Ingress has lots of fanatics. People make flags, costumes, and pins with the team’s sigils and show up for mass real world meet ups. Fans also have a civil service side. Many have seen encouraging memes asking players to drop lures outside of children’s hospitals so the very ill can play. Platten recalled a story where a famous Ingress player in need of a wheelchair received one through community donations and support. He recalled another story of an autistic teen who was barely able to leave his room until Pokémon Go was released. That teen’s mother said she felt as if she had gotten part of her son back. “That’s a pretty great magic trip,” Platten stated.

    August 22, 2016 • Community Highlights, Game Design, Guest Speakers • Views: 2224

  • Game Design and 3D Animation Graduation

    The New York Film Academy’s 26 Broadway transformed into a miniature arcade last week as Game Design and 3D Animation students showcased their final games and thesis films to peers, friends and family.

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    “I am immensely proud of our graduates,” said Game Design and 3D Animation Chair Phoebe Elefante. “They have stretched themselves beyond what they thought possible, and they have achieved so much in such a short time.”

    Visitors had the chance to play student-made games like Kramacus 2 and Climaniacs while 3D Animation student films were shown both during a screening showcase and on a rear projection at the graduation reception. It was quite remarkable seeing what each student had accomplished in just a year’s time.

    game design graduates

    “They have acquired all of the skills they will need to pursue their passions in the fields of animation and game design, and they have demonstrated the dedication to succeed,” added Elefante. “It has been my honor to help them on their way, and I wish them all good hunting.”

  • Lee Sheldon on Writing for Games

    Last week, New York Film Academy Game Design Chair Phoebe Elefante welcomed guest speaker Lee Sheldon to the classroom. Sheldon is a professional game writer and designer currently working on his 43rd game. Prior to writing for games, Sheldon was a television writer-producer with over 200 produced shows ranging from Charlie’s Angels to Star Trek: The Next Generation. One of his first writing jobs was for a 1976 Hanna-Barbera series called Clue Club, which Sheldon jokingly admitted was essentially another Scooby Doo knock-off.

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    Sheldon wrote the bestselling book The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game (2011); his book Character Development and Storytelling for Games (Second Edition, 2013) is the standard text in the gaming field.

    His recent applied game projects include two games at Rensselaer: The Lost Manuscript 2: The Summer Palace Cipher, a virtual reality game teaching Mandarin and Chinese culture; and These Far Hills, a video game teaching engineering and science for an NSF proposal. He wrote Crimson Dilemma, a business ethics video game for Indiana University that debuted Fall 2014; and wrote and designed Secrets: A Cyberculture Mystery Game, an online class designed as a game teaching culture and identity on the Internet for Excelsior College that went live Fall 2015.

    His most recent entertainment games are the AAA Kinect title Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved (2014) for Harmonix and Suburbia 2, a Facebook game for MegaZebra upcoming in 2016.

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    Sheldon felt the urge to move into gaming after years of churning out episodic television series. It was time for a change.

    He now feels that he is much more capable of giving his characters depth in his games, as opposed to the characters in his television scripts. Having worked on games for twenty years, Sheldon says, “In order for me to work on something new, there has to be an interesting idea behind the game. It has to have a different approach [than your average game].”

    As to where his ideas derive, Sheldon says it all comes from his own life and experience. “Don’t limit the scope of your interests, ” he said. “Go see plays you normally wouldn’t see, read books, and travel!”

    One interesting exercise that Sheldon says he brings to his own classroom is to eavesdrop on strangers. He believes ideas and interesting dialogue can develop by simply listening in on strangers’ conversations. We’re pretty sure that our students in New York City, Los Angeles, and South Beach, amongst others, will hear some pretty enticing conversations.

    May 11, 2016 • Game Design, Guest Speakers • Views: 3377

  • ‘Blair Witch’ Producer Michael Monello Discusses TV Marketing Through Storytelling

    New York Film Academy Game Design Chair Phoebe Elefante invited Michael Monello, a pioneer in digital marketing and storytelling. As one of the creators of the cult classic The Blair Witch Project, Monello and his film forever changed how audiences engage with story, and how marketers approach the Internet.

    After Blair Witch began opening doors for Monello, he founded Campfire—where he currently leads the creative team—working with some of the world’s biggest and most prestigious brands including HBO, Cinemax, Harley Davidson, Infiniti, National Geographic, FX, Verizon and more. His work has been awarded top honors at the One Show, Clio, Mixx, ad:Tech, Effies and Cannes Lions Festival.

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    Still a staunch storyteller at heart, Mike was a charismatic and highly informative speaker, who understands the future of storytelling and the rapidly shifting media landscape. As a creative entrepreneur who has landed major work with shows like Game of Thrones and True Blood, Monello advised students interested in acquiring similar clients to have a tight pitch with a focus.

    “You must understand what the investor or the specific company wants,” said Monello. “You have to know who you are selling to. What’s the organization like? Where are they going? Is there a statement about the future of the company? Then, pitch through that lens.”

    As an example, Monello recalled his initial pitch to HBO in order to promote their first season of True Blood. Not only did Monello and his team have to discover who their audience is and what they want, but they also had to learn and truly understand the overall internal landscape of HBO—the creators, executives, marketing team, on-air promo team, etc. Once he and his team had a firm grasp on the duties and needs of each team, they were able to secure the job with a “capabilities pitch” that fit the needs for everyone.

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    Michael Monello and NYFA Game Design Chair Phoebe Elefante

    In terms of continuing to work and maintain relationships with networks like HBO, Monello says it’s all about delivering quality work and always knowing your audience. “Never get cynical about your audience,” says Monello. Just as gamers don’t want to be typecast as teenage boys who live in their parents’ basement, other audiences do not appreciate being pigeonholed in terms of the marketing approach to gain their interest.

    As a final piece of advice for NYFA game design students, Monello encouraged them to look for ideas outside of gaming. Do not draw inspiration solely from other games. Considering the surrounding landscape of our campuses and the diverse background of our students, we’re feeling pretty confident that our students will be able to develop truly original content.

    April 21, 2016 • 3D Animation, Filmmaking, Game Design, Guest Speakers • Views: 1681

  • 3D Animation Alumni Highlight: Yukari Akaba

    yukariAfter graduating from New York Film Academy’s One-Year 3D Animation & Visual FX Conservatory, Yukari Akaba created a reel to showcase her talent and capabilities in the craft. From her reel, which NYFA Animation and Game Design Chair Phoebe Elefante says is “excellent,” Akaba was able to secure a position at a New York based production company called The Brigade.

    The project she’s currently working on, Hair Guitar, is a short animated film created by the digital artists at The Brigade for the purpose of refining their craft as storytellers and promoting their technical abilities in the space of advertising and entertainment.

    “We have taken the story from inception to completion, involving every step of the character animation pipeline from character development to motion capture and post production,” said Akaba. “We are excited to finish in early summer, and grateful for all of the help from our talented team!”

    Akaba admits she didn’t have any art background prior to attending NYFA, and learned everything she knows from the Animation program at NYFA.

    Her goal is to become a senior modeler and texture artist at a studio and work on feature films and high-end commercials. Though, she is also considering working with major game companies such as Blur or Blizzard studios, particularly on game cinematics.

    You too can see Yukari’s talent by having a look at her animation reel below!

    Yukari Akaba CG Artist Demo Reel 2016 from Yukari Akaba on Vimeo.

    April 7, 2016 • 3D Animation, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1985

  • MFA Filmmakers Collaborate to Develop Klaus for PS4 and PS VITA

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    In addition to film and television, games have become one of the most prominent platforms for artists and writers to tell their story. We’ve seen films adapted into games and games adapted into films. Either way, the multi-billion dollar gaming business continues to grow and allow filmmakers another avenue to reach their audience.

    We recently heard from MFA Filmmaking students, Victor Velasco, Aleksandar Cuk and Kshitij Bal, who are currently all studying at New York Film Academy Los Angeles. The team is in the process of developing a 2D puzzle based platformer for Playstation 4 and PSvita. The game, Klaus, which was the brainchild of game designer and creative director Victor Velasco, aims to provide an experience that is narratively innovative and extremely self aware. Klaus is an office worker who wakes in his basement with no recollection of who or where he is. Almost reminds us of the classic Chris Nolan film Memento.

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    His only clue is the word Klaus tattooed on his arm — forcing him to find his way out of the mechanical and constructivist world that he finds himself imprisoned in. It his search for these answers of where and who that lead him to the larger question, Why.

    During the course of the journey, Klaus encounters a second playable character – K1, a friendly brute who has been damaged by his prolonged imprisonment. Together the two embark on an existentially definitive journey that explores the idea of the 4th wall and a self awareness of the player playing the game. Will Klaus discover his truth? Will he find a way out? These are questions that are at the core of the narrative that the game presents.

    In terms of gameplay, Klaus is an organic and reflexive 2D platformer, with 2 playable characters, Boss fights and interactive environments. The focus of the gameplay will be on tight controls, environmental puzzles, exploration and a complex yet accessible interaction of the player with not only the characters, but also movement and rotation of objects, jump pads, platforms etc. The game is best designed for the PS4 and uses the touch pad as an integral part of the gameplay.

    “It is an extremely exciting game that allows us to bring our passions and our talents together to collaborate to create a cohesive, creative yet marketable product,” says Bal. “This is a project that is extremely close to our heart.”

    Klaus was awarded the 2012 Square Enix Excellence Prize and was recently showcased at the PS Dev Summit 2014 where it received a lot of welcome attention for its unique approach and narrative techniques. It is also the first game to be developed out of Venezuela for the PS4 and PSVita platforms and has received positive media reception from Media outlets within the country. However, it is targeted to audiences worldwide, as it has a universal feel and story.

    Bal and Klaus have already been featured on the PlayStation blog, as well as HardcoreGamer, GeekBinge, and other gaming publications.

    Klaus is set for release on the Sony Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita platforms that is releasing in August – September 2015. For more information, visit www.klausgame.com.

    April 14, 2015 • Filmmaking, Game Design, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3174