This year’s Toronto Film School Video Game Design Diploma students hit a home run with their capstone project.
“They really knocked it out of the park,” Rob Elsworthy, director of TFS’s Video Game Design and Animation Diploma program, said of the recently graduated team behind Tournament of the Chosen – a futuristic online sports game he characterized as “by far the best looking” of the student-produced games he’s seen come out of TFS.
Lead by Dustin Chamberlain, 30, and Anthony Richards, 36, the core team of eight students behind Tournament of the Chosen worked together over the latter nine months of their 18-month diploma to develop the game – and all their hard work paid off, Elsworthy said.
“It’s very impressive. The art style is very cohesive, as well as the colour scheme and the procedural stylized textures – that was one of the most impressive things,” he added.
“And as far as functionality goes, it’s also right up there (among the best). The students managed to do some pretty complicated things.”
Inspired by both the futuristic worlds of Blade Runner and Tron and the sporting style of the Tony Hawk series of skateboarding games, Tournament of the Chosen was described by its creative director/lead programmer as a “fast-paced, sci-fi sports game.”
“Players are equipped with high-speed hoverboards and hi-tech space suits, where they traverse a level on all surfaces to try to keep possession of the ball and score as many points as possible (on a central revolving goal),” Chamberlain explained.
The concept behind Tournament of the Chosen, he added, was the result of lots of collective brainstorming between all the students involved in the project – from both the Animation and Development streams of TFS’s Video Game Design program – and the successful fusion of all those ideas into one.
“We decided on this kind of game because we all had different preferences on what we thought would be fun for the game, so we tried to roll them all into one,” he said. “It was kind of a process of smashing a bunch of things together and then just ironing them out into what felt really good and felt really fun.”
Once the concept was decided upon, the students started putting to use all the knowledge they’d gained over the course of their studies – from programming and game design, to interface development and production, to audio and sound.
Richards said having the expertise of TFS’s slate of active-creator teachers – whose own resumes boast such games as Red Dead Redemption 2, Grand Theft Auto IV and Max Payne 3, among others – available to bounce ideas off was especially helpful during the creation of the Tournament of the Chosen world.
“The professors really helped – their experience in the industry really helped us when we got into sticky situations,” said Richards, who served as art director for Tournament of the Chosen.
“We were able to come back and ask them questions when we couldn’t find anything online to resolve any issues we ran into, and just overall direction advice…so it really helped us build what he had into the finished project.”
The Tournament of the Chosen team also enlisted the help of some of their fellow TFS classmates enrolled in other programs, such as the Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre and Writing for Film & TV diplomas, to put the finishing touches on the game.
“We worked with students from the writing side, as well as the voice side and we had a couple of sessions where we went down and the writers came up with some really colourful lines to work through, so we got to sit there and see the voice actors work their magic in the recording studio,” Chamberlain said.
“It was a really amazing experience to see these lines and picturing them in your game, and then hearing them read out in the voices and everything, and then a few months later we’ve got the audio files and we’re synching them up to actions in the game.”
The biggest highlight of the Tournament of the Chosen project for both its leads was the opportunity to showcase it to their peers up at TFS’s Steeles Campus in late March.
“It was an amazing day. It was the cherry on top, I guess, to our whole project,” Chamberlain said, noting that the finished game really came together in the last two weeks.
“On the day of the showcase, I think we were all kind of standing back and looking at what we made and just going, like, ‘Wow, this turned out really well.’ We were all really happy with it. Just a huge feeling of a weight being lifted off our shoulders on the day of the showcase.”
Added Richards: “It was fun to see everyone playing and their excitement. There wasn’t really any nitpicking, it was more just them having fun and just enjoying hovering around,” he said.
“That was the toughest thing: to make a fun game. Anybody can make a game, but to make something that people are going to enjoy playing instantaneously when they first log on, that’s the biggest joy for us.”