Brittney does GDC

The Anticipation

When I had first been offered an all-access pass by my friends at DMG (Dames Making Games Toronto), I was beyond ecstatic. It almost didn’t feel real. I was going to an event that I had been dreaming about for 10 years. Having the pass covered made it accessible and made my trip to GDC 2015 a reality. So, with that said, I’d like to thank my DMG friends from the bottom of my heart; thank you for making this dream come true.

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Now came the planning. What will I see. What will I do. Who will I meet. I planned it all. If you had looked at my calendar, it would be jammed up completely the week of march 1st-7th. Little did I know how much of that would end up changing. More of that later.

The GDC app was handy in that it let me figure out which talks I wanted to attend. After going through ALL the options and selecting ALL the ones I liked — I went back to the schedule, and realized that more often than not, there were 5 talks happening at the same time. This was the first time during this process that I started to panic. I didn’t want to miss out on anything. Was I going to pick the right talks? What if I’m wrong and wasted that precious time slot? GDC costs a lot of $$$, and I can’t be wasting anything. At least, that was my mindset at the time.

MY GDC GOALS:

  • Immerse myself into the environment and surround myself with like-minded individuals
  • Meet other game developers (outside of the Toronto crowd)
  • Play new & upcoming games (especially alt. controller ones)
  • Learn some nuggets of wisdom that I can take back into my own work

My goals were solid and I felt confident going into the experience. A lot of that changed. I wouldn’t say for better or for worse, it just changed.

Hello San Fransisco

Upon arriving, I got my first look at San Fransisco and the excitement only grew. It felt like Toronto’s older, more experienced cousin… who is a bit unpredictable, with a wildcard side.

I jumped into the Game Design Workshop the very next day. I had such a good time making a game within the span of 3 hours with people I had just met. We reskinned an existing game called “Sissy Fight” with our own theme: “The Evillest of Disney Villains” and added new game mechanics. The iteration process was super effective and really drove the idea home of the need to constantly be testing our design before investing too much time & effort into it. After a few playthroughs, sometimes we realized a newly added mechanic slowed down the game too much — and therefore had to chuck it. But without testing right away, that mechanic could have sat there causing problems, and we wouldn’t have had anyway to pinpoint it because we would have already moved on.

Game Design Workshop

I purposefully tried to separate myself from people that I knew during the workshop in order to challenge my collaborative & leadership skills. It was a bit daunting to be in a room with over 100 people, 90% of whom were guys. I surprised myself with not caring about that aspect, and I became a leader in my group just like I would be back home.

After a long day at the game design workshop, I was looking forward to a quiet dinner with my fellow travel buddies from Toronto. I quickly found out that they had something entirely different in store for me back at the Hotel! I dashed – yes, dashed – back to Hotel, in order to catch them before they left to go to an exclusive Kiip partyAnd so my night began.

Kiip

With barely any food in my belly, a highly alcoholic drink in hand — I perused the trendy restaurant/bar with my game friends to meet other really cool devs. The night seemed to go on and on and on…moving to the Sky Lounge for more mingling & drinks, until we all crashed in our hotel beds around 3am.

I woke up surprisingly chipper the next morning, ready to seize day 2 of the Game Design Workshop. Little did I know that my midnight shenanigans were going to creep up on me in a few hours. Excited to be outside in the warm San Fransisco streets, I filled up on delicious breakfast food at The Grove and gulped down what seemed to be a 1 litre glass of orange juice. I was ready.

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Day 2 of the Game Design Workshop was all about taking popular digital games and creating an analogue paper prototype. My new team was tasked with converting Harvest Moon to analogue.

I helped a lot with maintaining scope of the assignment and making sure there was a clear way to win. Some of my teammates had very elaborate point systems they wanted to implement… and I knew that if I couldn’t understand his explanation in under a minute, then it probably wasn’t the right move for this particular task.

We completed in time, and had a pretty cool prototype that others play tested for the rest of the session. It was around this point that I started to feel woozy, and had to dip out of the workshop day early … and simply pass out for the next 2 hours. I learned a lesson that day: pace yourself at GDC. It was an amateur move, I know, but then again, it is my first time going.

Halfway through, and so much to do!

It was on Day 3 that I decided to forgo any lectures that were going to be taped & available in the GDC vault. It was the best move I could have done. I spent a lot of my time exploring the Expo floor, playing AAA games that were going to be released, talking to really cool people… and mostly just soaking in the energy that was GDC.

There were times when I questioned if I was doing things right, if I was presenting myself correctly, if I was asking the right questions – and I’m still not sure if I did. But I do know that I had a great time.

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The alternate controller section was AMAZING. I was really looking forward to seeing what people were making all over the world, and I was not disappointed! My favourite game was “Butt Sniffin Pugs”, a super adorable game, where you play as a pug, digitally chasing around anooother pug, while putting your entire face into the butt of a pug plushie …in order to ….well, play. Every time you managed to make contact, a bonus activity appeared on screen that the pugs could interact with. There was no winning or losing, just butt sniffin fun!

The indie section was also very cool and I had such a good time playing games with my friends. A game that really stood out for me was “How do you do it?”; a girl waits for her parents to leave the house, and then begins to put her dolls in compromising positions. It’s hilarious and so on-point with my childhood that I couldn’t help but play multiple times.

Walking the various halls of GDC was inspiring, to say the least. Had me thinking about exhibiting my own creations. One day. Soon.

Evening rolled around and it was time to attend the Wild Rumpus Party. Had an o-kay time. Enjoyed the sim footage that was on the projector during one of the DJ sets. That was fun. But all in all, it just ended up being a bunch of awkward kids in an awkwardly lit room. I couldn’t really get my hands on any of the games since they were crowded 100% of the time. Having come and conquered, my friends & I decided to leave and move on to another party.

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Day 4 brings us to the XBOX Women in Games luncheon. I was SUPER pumped about this event that I managed to get invited to (thanks to my DMG friends!!!). After having spent the past few days completely surrounded by testosterone, it was hella nice to be around the fairer  sex again.

It seemed like all the women at GDC were at this event, and that was really cool. I sat at the DMG-filled table and felt really proud to be there. The food came; I ate an obscene amount of cheese, and luckily none of my friends judged me. Then it was time for the panel. It was an incredible assortment of women in the games industry, and I felt incredibly motivated by hearing them speak about their personal journeys and where they are today.

Robin Hunicke was especially inspiring to me. To hear that she was personally recruited by Will Wright (my hero) and has worked on the Sims titles (my childhood dreams), and hearing her talk so openly about her ups & downs really made my day. I made it my personal mission to approach her that day. If only to thank her for being so awesome. I accomplished that mission.

The rest of day included sushi in the park with the DMG crowd, a talk on “The Art of Monument Valley”, and the premiere screening of “Game Loading: The Rise of the Indies“. So great.

The Final Stretch

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I split day 5 into two. Spent the morning and early afternoon walking around and playing games. Particularly, checked out the staged demo that Campo Santo had put on for “Fire Watch“. It’s a game that I am really looking forward to, so I was pumped to play the demo for myself.

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My excitement was doubled after completing the demo (which is awesome), and I was exhilarated to have found a significant bug in the game that completely stopped the character from communicating with the operator. They had me fill out a bug report and everything… it was the best.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent galavanting around San Fransisco. Since it was my first time, I had to do the classics. Eat amazing ice cream, hang out with “free spirits” in the park, visit Fisherman’s Wharf, peer at Alcatraz Island, see the Golden Gate bridge (from a great distance) & eat some real good salt water taffy.

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The evening brought the final event for me at GDC. A swanky dinner with the Ontario gaming crowd. It was delicious, filled with great company, and the perfect way to end the trip. Thank you to my friends at XMG for including me. I had such an incredible time at GDC, because of my friends at DMG, XMG and others… and this memorable week in my life happened because I let myself enjoy it. Instead of over-planning and worrying about missing out, I just enjoyed it. Whatever came my way, I let it be. If I missed a rad party, it’s okay – because I was off doing something else rad. This trip has helped me come closer to just being present – and not be worried about what I “should” be doing instead.

 

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National Girls Learn to Code Day!!

I am thrilled to have been a part of this amazing day. November 8th, 2014, was the very first annual Girls Learning Code Day in Canada!! I volunteered to mentor at this amazing event that was being held at the Learning Labs here in Toronto. Sponsored by Mastercard, 700+ girls across Canada got a FREE workshop for HTML & CSS. This number doesn’t include the hundreds of girls that logged in online for the brand new video workshop made specially for this day. 

I participated in creating this online video workshop for HTML/CSS that anybody can access for FREE as part of this amazing day! 

Click the image below to access the online workshop!!

Girls Learning Code Day Workshop

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Ad Hoctober DMG Game Jam

Just coming off a fun & intense weekend of jamming at Bento Miso for DMG’s (Dames Making Games) October game jam.

I feel so lucky to have worked with such talented people; Lee Tran, our amazing programmer (and also my fellow co-worker at Good World Games) and Kim Koronya, our super talented artist.

Though the jam theme was a no-theme.. don’t plan… I couldn’t resist and planned anyway! Would you really take me any other way?! 😀 I am a compulsive planner. Sorry. Not Sorry.

The game concept was inspired by David, my boyfriend, who has been attending (now frequently) all my Russian family-related events.

Backstory:

A Russian dinner party is a unique experience that takes you to another dimension where all social expectations and rules are put to the test. Attending these parties my whole life, I became nearly immune to the social pressures. Once my partner began attending these parties with me, I started seeing them in a whole new light, through his eyes.

Each party was a series of tests to see if you were good enough to join the clan. From saying the right things, drinking to each toast, trying each dish of food & pulling out all the 90s moves on the dance floor… it was a 5-hour endurance test.

By the end of the party, you have a stuffed belly, a tipsy swagger, an achy head & a desperate desire for approval. The moment you walk out of those Banquet doors, squinting at the daylight, realizing you have been in an alternate dimension… the fog from the past 5 hours begins to clear, and you snap out of your Russian party trance.

The team got super excited when I told them I wanted to make a game about a Russian dinner party and all its wacky family glory that we set out to do just that. The result is even better than I imagined because my talented teammates are just too good for words to describe!!

So here are some pictures of the game, titled “Za Vas”:

Za Vas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kim had the genius idea to have the characters be Matroshka dolls — and OF COURSE they had to be. I can’t help but laugh and adore these doll-like characters that are my family… they are just too perfect.

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Each family member has expectations of your behaviour! And your job is to try and make everybody happy… while making sure you survive the party and don’t collapse from tiredness, drunkenness, fullness and/or from an exploded bladder (Ah!!). It’s a lot to manage… and you must do it all for family approval!

Za Vas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The name “Za Vas” means “to you” in Russian. It is a classic thing to say during a toast and it is said OFTEN. And the irony of it all is when you say a toast during a Russian party (to a parent, grandparent, child, ect.) they are said in vain, because all the toaster wants, is to get a toast back. And that is the purpose of a toast at a Russian party. It is the old fashioned “tweet”, hoping that somebody is listening and will tweet you back. So, when the toaster says “Za Vas”, they are really saying “to me”. Please Note: Don’t mean to offend any fellow Russians out there. This is purely my own experience and I am expressing this in a game. 

Can you handle the pressure? Come join the party and see for yourself.

 

We will be working on “Za Vas” for the next few weeks to get it more polished for DMG’s October social. Stay tuned for more!

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Party Like It’s 19 #TOJam9

ToJam9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The weekend I had anticipated for a few months has come and gone in a whirlwind! With over 450+ participants, this has been the most awesome and intense game jam I’ve ever been a part of! Our uber talented team of 4 worked relentlessly (especially Ben, our programmer, who barely slept at all in the 48 hour period).

Beth created the beautiful pixel art assets for the characters, plants and animals. She created super cute characters that brought us all back to the good ol’ tamogotchi days. Kim, even with a baby attached to her, whipped up some beautiful game backgrounds for each of the environment biomes. Ben kicked major butt in getting the whole game created and ready for consumption. I can’t say enough about how hard he worked to make sure we finished and I’m super proud of him and the entire team!

What did I do you might ask? Well, a lot of my work happened pre-jam in concept design, fleshing out the game systems, altering the scope, pumping out a wicked GDD and game flow mockup. I also did all the fun User Interface elements you see & interact with on the evolution screens.

The whole weekend was such a blast! From designing and getting team tshirts done, running around seeing what friends are working on, to eating (constantly) and keeping energy levels up — it has gone down as one of the best weekends of the year so far!

Play the game here!

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#ESOBETA

Elder Scrolls Online Beta Testing – First Taste!

I am not a MMORPG player. Never got into WOW, never really had any interest in an online multiplayer game.

I am a HUGE elder scrolls fan. My love for the game started late in the series, when I became completely consumed by Skryim. By the time Skyrim came out, Oblivion felt outdated (though I played a bit & owned a version), and I just decided to pull forward instead of backwards. I did my fair share of lore research, and I felt confident enough about the history and politics to play Skyrim!

This is why I said, Okay… I’ll try Elder Scrolls Online.

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I had signed up for the beta a few months ago, and was super pleased to have received an invite for the beta last weekend!

Creating the character was definitely fun. I felt like I was back in Sims, where I was able to customize everything, from body weight, musculature amount, tons of facial sliders, hairstyles, tattoos… and all of that differed a bit between the various species.

I chose to be a high elf, who looked pretty bad ass if I say so myself. Truthfully, I went against my personal Skryim politics and chose the side who’s vision I didn’t agree with. But if I had gone with my politics, I would have been exploring the area of Skyrim, which I’ve already done in the original ps3 game — so I was very interested in seeing a new area! In my heart, I’m still a bad ass dark elf.

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The world was fairly easy to navigate and I felt like I had several quest lines on the go – so I was never bored. The area did feel a little bare, and I found the enemies to be flat. They were too predictable, which isn’t that fun when you just start a game.

I didn’t really talk to anybody in the game. Everybody was running around frantically, so I never felt like they were approachable. Joining groups didn’t really occur to me, but that could be my non-MMO player in me.

The AI characters were pretty awesome. They were full of witty commentary, and I felt like each one was pretty different. I liked interacting with them — even more so than interacting with real players in the game (hah).

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The AI characters were pretty awesome. They were full of witty commentary, and I felt like each one was pretty different. I liked interacting with them — even more so than interacting with real players in the game (hah). Just when I was wrapping up with the beta, I started getting into weapon creation. I didn’t have any materials necessary! I think that the player should have gathered or been able to purchase materials within a few hours of gameplay – which I hadn’t been able to do. It felt like I had a new toy to play with, but the batteries weren’t included. Damn those pesky triple A’s.

 

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I got to level 5 during this beta test and managed to complete several quests. I really enjoyed the multiple choice endings to the quests. It really gave me pause and made me think which direction I wanted to take… do I help the crazed elf who wanted to take a book with secrets to a socerer? Or do I destroy those secrets, as per a daedra’s wish, because those secrets would end up destroying the lives of those that learn them? SO GOOD.

Elder Scrolls narratives didn’t fail me. I really enjoyed that aspect! As for the other parts: combat, p2p interaction & weapon creation could use improvement.

All in all, I enjoyed having a first taste of the ESO! I just got invited to the next beta this weekend, so I look forward to seeing the changes they’ve implemented!

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A Very Fancy Video Game Party

It all started friday night as I stepped excitedly into the AGO, joining the other eager party goers waiting for the doors to the Fancy Video Game Party to open.

After getting my ID checked, ticket scanned, coat checked, I was finally able to get down to some serious indie gaming. The first room I checked out took me straight back to my days at OCADU, where psychedelic video that is affected directly by user manipulation (in this case, by some super analogue knobs) was right at home. Beanbag chairs were strewn about, and people quickly got comfortable to enjoy and ponder the curious happenings on the big screens.

Needing an energy boost, I went next door to where Johann Sebastian Joust  (a no-graphics, digitally-enabled playground game designed for motion controllers) was quickly gathering a crowd. I seriously got hooked. I played 11 rounds over the course of the night — and I just couldn’t get enough. I finally got my WIN… and that made everything worth it. Playing Joust with strangers created an interesting gameplay effect. Since they aren’t your friends, the usual behaviour was more cautious, actions more calculated. I can see games ending a LOT faster if played with friends… as my good friend playfully noted “I wouldn’t mind shoving you to win”. How nice eh.

Downstairs, the dance party had commenced! As the DJ (wearing a gas mask right out of Fallout) made the gamers fanatic, people were enjoying indie titles:  The Yawhg by Damian Sommer (Toronto) and Emily Carroll (Stratford), Tenya Wanya Teens by Uvula (San Francisco), Wild Rumpus (London), Venus Patrol (Austin), Nidhogg by Messhof (Los Angeles) & Pole Riders by Bennett Foddy. <— AWESOME (more info on the lineup)

 

 

At some point in the night, I managed to have my fun at the Interstellar Selfie Station. With several knobs to tweak, you can mess around with your image for a whiiiiile to perfect it’s interstellar-ness. I got printed stickers to show its awesomeness…now I just need to find a good place to stick ’em.

 

 

The night was a blast! I got to meet some wicked people & connect with some familiar faces (probably met you at Torontaru last month). A fabulous event to be had and I can only hope for more like it in the future!

 

 

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Getting Out There

I told myself that 2014 would be a year of getting myself out there.

  • Meeting new, awesome people in the game dev community
  • Participating in game jams (1 down!)
  • Attending socials (Torontaru!)
  • Frequenting more game-related events (Fancy Video Game Party @ AGO & Vector Fest @ Bento Miso)

Heading into February… I’ve already plunged head first and I’m loving every minute of it.

February 22nd is Vector Game & Art Festival at Bento Miso. My Feb Fatale Game Jam Game will be showcased there for people to play. Very excited about that!

I Love Donna

Top down, third-person pac-mac-inspired game where you are a 50s housewife figuring out what you’d like to with 60 precious seconds.

Game Screen

Start screen from “I Love Donna”

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