Ask any one of the members of Crunch Time Studios what brings a smile to their face when they think about their recently released action-adventure game, Moonrise, and they’ll tell you: It was the experience of coming together as a team to make it.
“I think I see it as a representation of our time here (at Toronto Film School), and everyone working hard and coming together, even though at the beginning of all this, we didn’t even know each other,” said the game’s Creative Director, Ty Bradley.
“Not only does it look good and is it fun to play, but I look back on it as a bonding experience between us all. And I would say we were all happy to meet each other and make those connections for down the line.”
Moonrise – the capstone project for Toronto Film School’s Summer 2020 graduating classes of Video Game Design & Animation and Video Game Design & Development students – celebrated its official unveiling during a virtual showcase event recently.
Described as an “action-adventure” game, Moonrise was built in Unity 3D and sees its players assume the role of Zeev – a cybernetically-engineered wolf who has escaped from his captors at scientific compound on the edge of a sci-fi fantasy forest. Zeev’s attempts to infiltrate the compound and liberate the rest of his pack are complicated by the armed guards patrolling the surrounding area.
Daniel Mendiuk, Moonrise’s Art Director, said that over the course of the 12 weeks they had to build the game, the student team that makes up Crunch Time Studios came together to overcome a number of unforeseen challenges – the COVID-19 pandemic chief among them.
Typically, students working on their sixth-term capstone project would spend a lot of time together in the same space, bouncing ideas off each other, leaning on each other for support, and getting eyes on each other’s progress. But with coronavirus restrictions shutting down campus, students were forced to work on Moonrisefrom the isolation of their own homes.
“The most important thing we learned, I think, was team building and time management… especially in collaboration, and especially under COVID where we had to deal with communication issues,” Mendiuk said.
“It’s been real tough and it had its hurdles, for sure, but we all learned to communicate online and remotely. So, it’s kind of an extra skill we got to learn.”
One of the ways the Moonrise team were able to clear some of those communication hurdles was through the use of Discord – an app that allows people to engage in private conversations using voice, video and text features – as well as through group DMs.
Moonrise’s producer, Haydn Portwine-Allen, said such technology helped bridge the gap of physical distance and allowed the team to communicate more effectively.
“The Discord server definitely helped. I think, in that aspect, having somewhere that you can go to people and message them or just add everyone at the same time was definitely very key to our communication,” he said.
“Then, at the end, what I started doing was creating group DMS for certain tasks and having different people assigned in those group DMs. And that made a huge difference.”
Another key factor in Moonrise’s ultimate success was the fact that, despite the fact that they were all working apart, its creators were able to come together as a team so quickly.
“It was definitely really important that we all got really close really quick,” said Adrian Agius, a member of the game’s tech team.
“It was really good to work with each other really fast…and it was really, really helpful that everyone sort of cooperated as fast as we could.”
The Crunch Time Studios Team:
Ty Bradley – Creative Director
Haydn Portwine-Allen – Producer
Daniel Menduik – Art Director
Alex Demers – Technical Director
Ali Kokulu, Brad Furminger, Darrel Moen, Domenico Caronzo & Rob Elsworthy – Production Overseers (Faculty)
Adrian Agius, Ciaran Neil-Patrick Gardiner, Ruidong (Daniel) Zhang – Tech Team
Carlos Cusumano, Haydn Portwine-Allen, Leo Li, Christopher Wynn, Michaela Van Buren, Santiago Buritica, Tanner Bodwin, David Pynkoski – Art Team