Blogs

  • 01 Dec 2016

    Victoria is home to a thriving cluster of video game studios. One of the members of the Victoria gaming industry community is KANO/APPS, an independent studio founded by Tim Teh, Eric Alpini and Eric Haight back in 2008. Makers of games for mobile devices, KANO/APPS has grown into a role as one of the major game studios in our province's capital city, as well as a successful example of high tech entrepreneurship for British Columbia.

    KANO/APPS joined DigiBC over the summer. Recently I took the opportunity to reach out to CEO/Co-founder Tim Teh about doing an interview with him. I wanted to learn more about his company, his challenges with being a gaming entrepreneur, and how KANO/APPS fits into our local gaming ecosystem. Plus, maybe a bit about some old school video gaming favorites of his.

     

    DIGIBC: For those readers that aren’t familiar, tell us a little bit about KANO/APPS and the products you create.

     TIM TEH, Co-founder/CEO: KANO/APPS is an indie developer of F2P social/mobile games. We bootstrapped our start as an early developer on the Facebook platform, then extended our success there across other popular gaming destinations like Kongregate, Armor Games and more recently iOS and Android. We’re proud to say that eight years later we are still growingand remain self funded and profitable.

     While externally we have focused on building great long term gaming experiences, internally we have strived to create a studio with great culture and perks to attract A-Player talent and give them huge amounts of ownership to create great things.

     We have  http://www.kanoapps.com/games/5 successful titles including Mob Wars LCN and Viking Clan, which are MMRPGs, and Free Rider HD which is like the Minecraft of racing games. Players in Free Rider create tracks that their friends can race each other on using a stickman with lifelike physics. It’s super addicting.

     

     

     

     

    DIGIBC: What was the greatest challenge you encountered as an indie video games developer starting up in Victoria?

    TIM: When we started in Victoria, the greatest challenge was around networking and figuring out how to start and run a business. We were computer science and engineering grads who didn’t know much about running our own business and didn’t know anyone in our industry. Running payroll, taking advantage of tax credits, hiring, setting up terms of use and privacy policies, meeting industry partners... basic start-your- own-business- 101 problems were all things we learned on the job. Thank god for Google, but it really would have saved us a lot of time and effort to have people we could talk to that could help us with those things that now might seem trivial.

     This has definitely changed over time with Victoria growing to be an amazing community for startups. Tech is now the number one industry in the city, generating four billion in annual revenues. With direct flights to San Francisco, accelerator programs, the second most restaurants per capita in North America, a close proximity to nature, and excellent post secondary institutions, it’s really a great place to start and grow a business.

     

    DIGIBC: We’ve heard some cool things about the close gaming community in Victoria. What can you tell us about the Victoria video gaming industry scene? How is it different from Vancouver’s, and what could Vancouver do more of to tap into the uniqueness (or collaborate with) the Victoria hub?

    TIM: I was just over in Vancouver at an industry pub night run by our friends at ESG [East Side Games] and got a chance to “talk shop” with other founders and leaders there, so from what I have seen, Vancouver seems pretty collaborative. In Victoria, we definitely share that collaboration. A lot of the studios are 10-20 person shops, and being that we cater to a global audience, we don’t really see each other as competitors; rather we look to pool knowledge to help each other succeed. Sure, we do compete on the talent level, but looking long term, we understand that the more home grown local successes we produce, the better it will be for Victoria as a whole to attract more talent. I think this forward thinking mentality is what makes Victoria a great community to be in.

     

    DIGIBC: Growing up, what was the video game that first got you hooked?

    TIM: With the NES classic selling out so quickly this holiday season, I have really been reminded of how much my brothers and I loved playing on that system. Super Mario Bros, Zelda, Metroid… all classics that got me “hooked”.

     

    DIGIBC: Do any of the games from your childhood inform the work you create today?

    TIM: I’d say they do a little bit, but I think the idea of what a video game is has really changed over the years and if you inform your game design around a small subset of what a quote/unquote “good game” is, you may be missing out on an opportunity to reach different audiences. For example, who would have thought that with the rise of social/mobile that your mother, (yes, that same mother who told you that playing games would rot your brain) would be playing games like Candy Crush and FarmVille AND spending more money than you had for your entire gaming collection as a kid. I don’t necessarily like those games, but there is a whole audience of people who do.

    We don’t make games that cater to that specific “mom” demographic, but our games definitely appeal to an audience of players who play games socially and enjoy forging friendships and relationships globally through our games. What we have learned is not to try to inform the games we make by what we like, but to use player feedback and data to better understand what our players want and to create those experiences.

     

    DIGIBC: Browsing the KANO Community forums, it’s clear communication is central to your company ethos. Players are encouraged to share their ideas and voice their concerns directly to developers, artists and engineers. We have a similar philosophy here at DigiBC. What kind of conversations would you like to see happen within the creative digital industry of BC?

    TIM: I think open and collaborative conversation is important. There are so many great companies and bright minds and we all know that putting more heads on a problem can help you get answers faster. There are lots of problems/issues that many companies are struggling with individually, where we should all be focusing on solving some of those things together. A great example of an issue where we'd really benefit from working together on is how to counteract implicit bias. We should be actively discussing social issues in tech and changing attitudes around topics like gender and racial diversity in the workplace.

     

    Mob Wars, one of the titles that have made the company a success.

     

    DIGIBC: As CEO of KANO/APPS, what are you proudest of? What have you found most fulfilling?

    TIM: I’m most proud of the talented team that we have created who bring diverse skillsets and no ego together to create amazing games. I’m also really proud of the joy we create for our communities of players every day. We have had something like three marriages and two children born from players who met playing our games. That is pretty spectacular if you think about it.

     

    DIGIBC: Similarly, what’s the most important piece of advice you could give to someone considering opening their own games studio and being an entrepreneur?

    TIM: Prepare for the long haul and make friends with other entrepreneurs because no one else will understand you. Use your networks to meet like minded individuals, read lots of books and don’t forget to exercise.

     

    DIGIBC: Your twitter bio reads: “Social games for every platform and every player.” Can you tell us about any future projects or platforms that we should look out for?

    TIM: Well, KANO/APPS builds long lasting social games around communities. Viking Clan for example is eight years old and has players from month one still engaging daily. Using HTML5 for our games has allowed us to create communities across different platforms without boundaries and I think using our tech to easily extend our games to Steam would be a natural progression for us.

    With respect to projects, players can expect projects from KANO/APPS that focus on creating meaningful social interactions and on endless gaming experiences that we will support for years to come. Our next major release will be to bring Free Rider HD to iOS and Android so look out for that.

     

     

    DIGIBC: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about KANO/APPS?

    TIM: We’re hiring! Check out at www.kanoapps.com/careers.

     

     

    Rapid fire questions:

     

             1. Favorite movie?

    Does Game of Thrones count? Each episode now is pretty much a movie.

     

              2. Best song to get you motivated for taking on the day?

    Juicy - Notorious BIG

     

             3. Favorite video game that’s not one of your creations?

    Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and Tekken. I like fighting games :)

     

             4. Size of the Kano/Apps team:

    24

             5. One thing that you can’t get enough of in the office:

    Drumroaster Coffee

     

             6. In five years you’d like to see Kano/Apps:

    With top 10 games on the relevant platforms at that time. Five years is an eternity in our space :)

     

    Thanks to Tim Teh for carving out time from his busy day to answer our questions. To learn more about KANO/APPS, visit their website or on Facebook.

  • 31 Oct 2016

     

    Next year marks the 35th anniversary of the first video game made in BC. Since the release of Evolution back in 1982, hundreds of games have been created by Vancouver gaming studios (and later on, studios based in Victoria, Kelowna and elsewhere in our province). But what’s not as well-known is the number of scary video games that were made right here in BC. Our local video games studios have created spooktacular games ranging from all-out survival horror shooters to lighter-edged frightfests in colourful fantasy worlds. In many cases, these games helped build today’s thriving video games industry in British Columbia, and provided millions of hours of fun for gamers worldwide.

    With the imminent arrival of Halloween just around the corner, DigiBC would like to show you 15 of the ghoulishly greatest games ever made in British Columbia, and shine a frightlight on the creative teams that made them. Some are more recent, some are classics, but all have chills and thrills galore.

     

    The Long Dark, Hinterland Studio

     

    Our first game is a great example of danger hidden in beautiful things. Made by Raphael van Lierop and his team at Vancouver Island-based Hinterland Studio, The Long Dark leaves you stranded in the remote Canadian wilderness in the dead of winter. Don’t let the beautiful graphics and mesmerizing scenery fool you because this is a survival-based game, and death is already stalking you. Hunger, wildlife, freezing temperatures and the danger of the unknown are out to get you.

    Released two years ago, The Long Dark commands an impressive 94% positive rating on Steam. New additions are always being released, and I expect to see many more gamers succumb to the elements and isolation in the years to come.

    Buy it on Steam.

     

     

    Wick, Hellbent Games

     

    If you don’t like the dark, this title is perfect to scare you to pieces. Wick is a survival horror game by local indie publisher Hellbent Games, and they wanted to make a game that would push your fear button.

    You’re tasked with exploring a haunted woodland where legend has it young children went missing. There are reports of childlike voices emanating from the forest – but only at night and when just the dim light of a candle is present. Want to go see if there are any truth to these tales?

    Just don't play Wick with the lights off.

    Buy it on Steam.

     

     

    Dead Rising by Capcom Vancouver (formerly Blue Castle Games)

     

    Arguably the biggest horror franchise in Vancouver’s video games industry, the Dead Rising series is a worldwide bestseller for Capcom. The first game was made by Capcom in Japan, but in 2010 Burnaby-based Blue Castle Games got handed sequel duties and took the zombie beat-em-up action to a whole new level. Eventually Blue Castle was acquired by Capcom and rebranded Capcom Vancouver, producing Dead Rising 3. A Dead Rising 4 is nearing completion and scheduled for release in 2017.

    There’s two things that you can count on with a Dead Rising videogame: plenty of zombies to smash, crush, grind up and cut down, and plenty of creative ways to dispatch the legions of dead folk.

    And a head's up: Dead Rising 4 hits store shelves on December 6!

     

     

    Dying Light by Digital Scapes

     

    Another Burnaby gaming studio, Digital Scapes is comprised of veteran developers from a number of older gaming studios. In 2014 the company was approached by Warner Bros. to develop the player-versus-player campaign of Dying Light, a zombie actioner on PS3 and Xbox. Impressed by their work on this portion of the game, the studio asked Digital Scapes to go on and created and operate Dying Light’s cloud-based online service, which allows developers to collect telemetry data and tune the game in real time, as well as run a range of publicity events within the game world.

    It can’t be coincidence that two rocking zombie actioner games just happened to be made in Burnaby, can it? Just what’s happening out by Boundary and Willingdon anyway?

     

     

    Halloween & Scary Content by Disruptive Publishers

     

     

     

    One of the unsung heroes of Vancouver’s video games industry is the team at Disruptive Publishers. While other gaming studios are coding and designing console and PC games and get to bask in the glory and acclaim from releasing a title, the gang at DP create the skins, avatars and digital content that gamers purchase at online stores on Xbox Live or PlayStation Plus. And over the years they have created hundreds of scary forms of digital content.

     

     

    Along with zombie pirates, sexy witches and glowing pumpkins, Disruptive Publishers has also been creating a good chunk of the digital goods that you find on Xbox Live or PlayStation Plus. Their content is wide and diverse, from skins and avatar collectibles to show off your fan badge for triple-A titles to virtual items from movies, TV shows, your favourite bands and celebrities, as well as holiday items. There's plenty of ghoulish treats that Disruptive's team has made in the Microsoft and PlayStation stores.

    Visit the Xbox Marketplace.

    Visit the PlayStation Plus store.

     

     

     

    The Pit by Kerberos Productions

     

    “Every Colonist has heard the tales of The Pit. Some say it doesn't exist. Some say it does. All agree only a fool would go looking for it.”

    That’s the introductory preamble for this spinoff title in Kerberos’ Sword of the Stars universe. On a distant planet, your character ventures into the depths of a seemingly bottomless pit where the promise of a cure to a planetary plague awaits. Of course, it just can’t be that easy, and there are things that like to go bump in the night down in the darkness.

    Kerberos founder Christopher Stewart is a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, and there are elements from cosmic horror to be found in The Pit’s gameplay. The Pit is still a rewarding title to play, and the reviews on Steam lean towards being very favorable.

    Buy it on Steam.

     

     

    Qalupalik by Pinnguaq Technology

     

    OK, this entry is a bit of a cheat: the game isn’t out yet. Nevertheless, I’m excited by the premise and slick concept art that’s been shown.

    Based on Inuit folklore, a Qalupalik is a creature that supposedly lives under the ice. It likes to emerge from the cold water to grab Inuit children that stray too close to the ice cracks. And in the springtime, when the game takes place, the ice is breaking up. Can you find your missing brother and evade the Qalupalik that stalks beneath your bundled feet?

    Right now you can see some great concept art for the Qalupalik and the game’s atmosphere on the official website. This is one title to keep your eyes open for.

    Visit the official website.

     

     

    Gears of War 4 by The Coalition (published by Microsoft)

     

    This title is so new it’s still got its' baby bracelet on: Gears of War 4 is this season’s big Xbox title. The Coalition had big shoes to fill, stepping in to create the next chapter in the billion-dollar grossing Gears of War gaming franchise. The reviews have been pretty spectacular, with IGN giving GoW 4 a 9.2 rating out of ten in their review.

    Gears of War is known for having a lot of mayhem and carnage, but there are also elements of suspense and terror baked into gameplay. The Locust Horde that players fight against features creatures of titanic size and horrific body shapes, with bioluminescent carapaces and multisegmented eyes rushing at you like a nightmarish freight train from your subconscious mind. That’s enough to give players a good chance at producing nightmares.

     This is an impressive first release by The Coalition. I can't wait to see what else this team makes next.

     

     

    Don’t Starve by Klei Entertainment

     

    Jamie Cheng’s Don’t Starve is a dark fantasy with lighthearted elements. Released in 2013 to universal praise, the game went on to be a bestseller on both PC and PlayStation, with a sequel/spinoff released in 2015. The game’s unique character design and atmosphere have been favorably compared to Tim Burton.

    You play as Wilson, a gentleman scientist who creates a device that pulls him into another world. On the other side, Wilson needs to find items to remain alive and healthy while avoiding dangerous monsters when night falls. The game allows for crafting of items so you’ll need to use your smarts as much as your hunting skills to acquire important items if you’re to make it through each day.

    Buy it on Steam.

     

     

    Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon by Next Level Games

     

    When Nintendo selected a developer to work on a sequel to its hit videogame Luigi’s Mansion, they eventually chose Vancouver’s Next Level Games as their partner. Released in 2013 on the Nintendo 3DS, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon was a runaway bestseller; to date, Wikipedia claims that over 5 million copies of the 3DS title have been sold.

    You control the green-suited brother of Mario, Luigi, as he travels through five different spooky areas of Evershade Valley to recover the Dark Moon and defeat a nefarious Professor. There are loads of cute ghost creatures to overcome, and the game’s all-ages approach to its content isn’t sacrificed for its gameplay or replayability. Plus, any game that has a ghostly cute dog called a Polterpup gets bonus marks from me.

     

     

    Darkest Dungeon by Red Hook Games

     

    There seems to be a million games that are dungeon crawlers but there’s just one where the character’s sanity is an important point to the gameplay. Darkest Dungeon asks gamers to think about the mental trauma that adventurers face when descending into the dark and facing unspeakable horrors in close-quarter combat.

    Sure, there’s gold and loot to be won in the dungeons you traverse, but there’s an unsettling story also being uncovered with every step forward that you take. Why are the monsters inhabiting this dungeon beneath your family’s lands? What sort of nightmare lies awaiting you in the final chamber, and why does defeating it not bode well for the future of everyone on the planet? Those sort of big picture questions face your character as you make your way through the torchlighted catacombs towards your ultimate destiny. It's spooky, scary and addictively fun.

    Buy it from Steam.

     

     

    Slayaway Camp by Blue Wizard Games

     

    Minecraft meets Friday the 13th. If that pitch doesn’t getcha, you don’t have a soul.

    Slayaway Camp is the newly released title from Vancouver Island indie studio Blue Wizard. If you’ve ever wanted to play as a masked killer terrorizing teens in a remote location, Slayaway Camp wants to be your new BFF.

    You become a masked maniac by the name of Skullface, and your job is dead simple: catch and dispatch those pesky blockheaded teens running around your turf and do it with extreme prejudice. Done in a tongue-in-the-cheek manner and with excellent command of all that cheesy goodness found in early 1980s slasher movies, Slayaway Camp is an excellent way to spend a couple of hours on a dark night.

     

     

    Buy it on Steam.

     

     

    Jaws Revenge by Hothead Games

     

    Before the time of Sharknado (but after the rise of Shark Week) there was Jaws Revenge, an iOS game developed by Hothead Games. Universal’s Jaws movie franchise had already been run into the ground by the movie called Jaws: The Revenge, so a mobile game was actually a step up for the tarnished IP.

    While it may not have won any awards for its storyline, what Jaws Revenge does offer is some unabashed fun playing as a great white shark to the nth degree. No one is safe in the water as you munch and gobble people, boats, and eventually, aircraft. Look, if SyFy Channel can get away with 4 Sharknado movies (and counting), don’t disrespect an iOS game that lets you eat gunships in the air. The shark’s gotta do what the shark’s gotta do.

     

     

    Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City by Slant Six Games

     

    This spinoff of Capcom’s immensely popular Resident Evil franchise was a third-person shooter for PS3, Xbox and PC released in 2012. You play as the soldiers assigned to go in and contain the rapidly spreading zombie infestation in Raccoon City. Along the way you encounter characters from the main Resident Evil storyline.

    Though the game received mixed reviews, it was a decent seller and embraced by fans of the Resident Evil franchise wanting to explore more of that world. Plenty of jumpscares, grossed-out monsters and action kept the storyline moving along at a quick pace. Over two million copies of Operation Raccoon City were sold.

    Unfortunately, Slant Six shut down its operations but is fondly remembered amongst the pros working in Vancouver's gaming industry.

    Buy it from Steam.

     

    The Walking Dead: Road to Survival by iUGO Mobile Entertainment

     

    One of the biggest IPs in entertainment today, The Walking Dead has a Vancouver connection by way of Road to Survival, the hit mobile videogame. Released in the summer of 2015 to Android and iOS devices, Road to Survival features characters from the Walking Dead comic book/TV series fighting walkers and advancing in missions. Daily unique missions and special tournaments also enhance gameplay.

    Road to Survival hit #1 on Apple’s iTunes store, cementing it as another bona fide hit video game made in Vancouver. In an interview shortly after the release of the game, one of the publisher’s VP said that more people had killed walkers than the entire population of Australia (that being 23 million folk down under.)

     

    If you're in the mood for something to play on Halloween night, think about downloading or dusting off one of these great titles. Which ones are among your favorites to play, or did I miss one from the list? Or did you happen to work on one of these back in the day?

    Share your thoughts about these locally made video games in the comments below and let's hear from the local BC gaming community!

     

  • 29 Jul 2016

    It's been one year since Sony Imageworks had the grand opening of their new downtown Vancouver location, and in that time, a lot has happened for the studio. Two major animated movies that Imageworks Vancouver worked on were released (autumn 2015's Hotel Transylvania 2 and this summer's Angry Birds), and the visual effects for many other Hollywood blockbusters were also crafted inside the mammoth 70,000 sq. ft. studio space.

    I was at the grand opening event last summer, and touring the Imageworks space was impressive. In addition to hundreds of workstations for the digital artists, there are also 11 theaters where teams can meet and go over sequences that they are working on. On display in the central hallway are movie costumes and props from Sony's first, second and third live-action Spider-Man movies. There are also rooms where the workers can kick back and recharge in-between animating their next sequence, soaking in downtown Vancouver's natural beauty from floor-to-ceiling windows while sitting in a beanbag chair.

     

    Yeah, I thought that this guy looked familiar...

     

    Props and a Green Goblin mask from Sony's Spider-Man movie released in 2002 and weapons/gadgets from a Men in Black movie.

     

    Now you can see what the inside of Sony Imageworks' HQ is like for yourself in a newly released video. While there isn't any shots of the Spider-Man movie swag, you'll definitely get to see the clusters of compositors, rotoscopers, environmental and character artists working hard on the big screen releases you'll be seeing at theaters soon.

     

     

     

    If what you see interests you, DigiBC is always posting new openings at Imageworks  on our Jobs Board. You can also learn the craft and get started pursuing a career as a visual effects artist by taking a program at one of several highly-ranked media schools right here in town.

     

  • 21 Jul 2016

    If you visit the Metropolis Mall at Metrotown before September 5 you can experience a one-of-a-kind immersive video and audio experience partially designed by Vancouver-based Go2 Productions. Called MIRAGE, this art installation gives mall visitors a 2-minute experience where their senses of depth are blown away using cutting-edge projection technology.

    Adrian Scott is the President and Executive Creative Director for Go2. He took a few moments from his day to speak with DigiBC about MIRAGE and its creation, as well as the kind of cutting edge tech that Go2 is using to dazzle spectators and impress their clients.

     

    DIGIBC: How did the MIRAGE project get its start?

    ADRIAN: The concept and engineering for the room came from BOLD Event Creative. They worked with Metropolis last year on a different project called the Infinite Light Room. Both BOLD and Metropolis were really happy with the success of it, they had over 1,000 people coming through that event when it was up last year.

    So BOLD contacted us about taking it a step further. We immediately thought about incorporating our latest work with projection and making this new experience a little more immersive. Our team was responsible for developing the technology solution and designing and producing the projected content and soundscape. A perfect partnership.

    We wanted to develop a concept that would be ambient enough for all ages and not scary for younger people. It would be a 2-minute experience where people can experience illusion in a way that they haven’t before.

     

     

     

    Two looks inside the #METMIRAGE installation at Metropolis at Metrotown Mall.

     

    DIGIBC: Describe what MIRAGE is like to someone stepping inside of it.

    ADRIAN: When you see it from the outside, it’s a 20-foot square box. When you walk in, the person takes a journey of light and dark, into a colorful expansive geometric illusion. What they get to experience is an expansive feeling.

    I’m a fan of Doctor Who, so I like using the way that they describe the Doctor’s TARDIS. From outside METMirage looks like a big cube, but once you are inside your brain thinks that it’s a lot bigger. Just like the TARDIS!

    But that feeling we wanted people to have when they are standing in the mall looking at the outside of it is: what’s inside that big box? And what’s happening inside of it?

     

    DIGIBC: What kind of technologies did Go2 work on for the MIRAGE experience?

    ADRIAN: We use four Optoma DLP projector ultra-short throw projectors inside the installation. These create the 360-degree visuals that people experience once inside. Just getting the projectors to pull of the ideas we had was quite a challenge in itself.

    For example, we came up with a unique arrangement for the projectors in the room, what I would call a “jigsaw puzzle” solution. You can’t have the projectors throwing the images overlapping with the other projector’s image. That meant the positioning of the projectors was especially crucial. We knew that it would be very tight.

    In the end it worked out to be 8-degree tilt on the projectors that worked and gave us the effect we needed, to make sure that there was never a gap between the floor and ceiling. In doing that, we’re turning a rectangular image into an inverted trapezoid. Limitations of the lenses, the equipment, the whole science behind how projection works was put to test.

    Go2 also created all of the graphics that you see inside the experience, as well as the sound and music that goes with it.

     

    Last year Go2 Productions created a 10-storey 3D animated outdoor projection show on the Boeing Pavilion at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

     

     

     

    DIGIBC: Go2 has been working in this space for a while now. Where do you see the future of interactive and immersive real world experiences like this headed?

    ADRIAN: Go2 has to be very agile and reactive in the experiential world. Where were going is more of an interactive collaboration. We’ve gone from producing animated pieces to combining art and technology to create some truly unique experiences.

    Over the last 6 years we’ve gone from creating massive building projections to using newer technologies that make what we do more interactive. We’re creating sound installations, movement based installations, installations that adapt and are influenced by the visitors.

    Also, over the last year we’ve sent up an in-house development department. Now we build our own systems, develop our own systems, so we can create our own assets and use the data to make a more interactive experience.

    What we’re trying to do is move more into an interactive entertainment realm, where the show and experience is everything. That’s gotten a little lost in recent years. It needs to be more about the experience, and wanting people to go back and re-experience it again. The tech coming out now is really making it an exciting time in that space.

     

    DIGIBC: What is some of that new tech that you’re seeing?

    ADRIAN: With the speed the technology is changing right now, there are so many avenues where it could do. It’s really a case of being able to adapt on the fly, and take new technologies and integrating it into what we do.

    For example, the OLED screens are looking really great. That allows us to turn any surface into a video screen the size of a sheet of paper. Suddenly you don’t need projectors.

    There’s also a company in Japan called Aerial Burton that has some amazing new ideas on technology. They have developed a way that ionizes air particles that then creates the effect of pixels in the air. It’s primitive right now but I see the potential in five years and how full color, full motion images can be delivered that would truly be holographic, creating images in 3D space in real life.

     

    For Southwest Airlines, Go2 created a projection map against an indoors wall, giving spectators an impressive visual experience.

     

    DIGIBC: Over the years Go2 has created projection displays for the Vancouver Canucks, the walk-in 4D Portal that was at this year’s BC Tech Summit, and other immersive or animated displays. Is there a typical sort of client that comes to Go2, or a variety?

    ADRIAN: We’re the people that companies go to when they want something amazing. If they want to pull something off that’s not been done before, to be memorable, that’s us. It’s all wrapped up in art and design to create an amazing experience.

    I think that there’s a big interest in creating activations like MIRAGE. For something so big and impressive, I think that it would surprise people to know how easy it is to run. It shuts down automatically, starts automatically, takes pictures and uploads them automatically. It literally takes just one person to operate MIRAGE. One person pushes a green button and off it goes.

    One new area that I can talk a little about is creating on camera visual effects for film productions. This is when a movie production needs or wants to have an effect happen on the set and be experienced by the actors. The work could be done in post digitally by visual effects but there’s an added benefit by doing it on the day the scene is shot. That seems to be a growing industry for us.

     

     

    If you want to see more about the visual and immersive creations that Go2 Productions has made for Hyundai, Jimmy Kimmel Live, the Vancouver Canucks, Sports Illustrated and more brands, check out their portfolio.

    You can check out MIRAGE at Metropolis until September 7. The installation is open seven days a week, from 12pm to 7pm.

    As well, there is a $1,000 prize being given away as a promotion. Visit MIRAGE and share a photo or video to your followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat for a chance to win a weekly gift card or the grand prize of a $1,000 shopping spree. Tag your photo #METMIRAGE and use @MetropolisatMet to enter the contest.

  • 13 Jul 2016

    Augmented reality is leaping to the top of the public's consciousness in a big way. Look no further than the huge success of Pokemon Go and how it's rapidly become a six-o-clock news story in less than one week from its' launch.

    Microsoft's entry into the augmented reality (AR) space is the HoloLens, a compact headset that allows its' user to manipulate items as if they existed side-by-side with real world objects.

    One of the first agency partners to work with the HoloLens is Coquitlam-based Finger Food Studios. After making a name for themselves as a video games content and solutions provider, Finger Food is now developing custom solutions for some of the world's biggest brands. At DigiBC's recent Made in BC event, Finger Food reps showed off some of the amazing creations they have been working on in AR.

     

    Students from Victoria & Vancouver got to try out Microsoft's HoloLens and the AR creations of Finger Food Studios.

     

    Ryan Peterson (left), the CEO of Finger Food Studios, at DigiBC's Made in BC Victoria event. Llama Zoo's Charles Lavigne is wearing the HoloLens.

     

    Finger Food's office manager Samantha Sayer shows a student how to manipulate augmented reality tech.

     

    Furthermore, last month Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Vancouver's Microsoft Center for Excellence to try on the HoloLens himself and experience what living inside augmented reality is like.

     

    Now Microsoft's official HoloLens YouTube channel has released a new video showing the work of the first crop of HoloLens developers -- and Finger Food Studios gets some on air time. Starting at 0:51, check out how FFS has made it possible for people to customize semi-truck rigs with the swipe of their fingers for truck manufacturer Paccar:

     

     

     

    There is undoubtedly more cool, cutting-edge AR work being developed by Finger Food Studios. Keep your eyes and ears open, because I'm certain that you'll hear about it soon.

    Congrats to the Ryan Peterson and his Finger Food Studio team for showing another example of a BC-based tech company raising the bar.

     

  • 14 Jun 2016

     

    Last Friday I had the opportunity to speak about the provincial government's announcement for $6 million dollars to help BC students learn to code, bring in new computers and resources to classrooms and train teachers to teach programming in classrooms. The announcement was made by Premier Christy Clark at Taylor Park Elementary School in Burnaby, with Minister of Education Mike Bernier in attendance. At Taylor Park there is already a coding class, with robotics and 3D printing being used by the students, and they want to learn more.

     

     

    With this announcement the province is taking an important step forward to open doors of opportunity for all BC students. Technology is now an integrated part of modern society. The more that young minds can be exposed to all applications of technology, from coding a computer to understanding how digital functionality helps us make the world a better place, the wider the possibilities are for their future careers.

    BC needs more people working in technology, and making new companies that will become tomorrow's tech superstars. Yes, coding can create those bright entrepreneurs that could go on to make the next Facebook or Microsoft, but there's an important part of learning to code that sometimes get overlooked.

     

    Critical Thinking is for Everyone

    (Left: Minister of Education Mike Bernier watches a coding demo from a Taylor Park student.)

    Discovering how you can "teach" a machine to do tasks with a robot, or in a video game, builds critical thinking skills. These skills are essential if one goes down a career path as a computer engineer or some sort, but even if that individual does not pursue a job in technology, the mind skills learned by way of coding pays off in several ways.

    No one doubts that critical thinking allows a person to be more subjective about decision points in one's life. From thinking about how to successfully plan for one's retirement to choosing where your children should go during summer vacation, critical thinking development provides mechanisms that train your brain to solve difficult problems successfully. That's something I believe should be instilled into the next generation of our society because it will benefit the individual and society as a whole.

     

    Where We Go Next

    While announcing the $6 million in funding, Premier Clark mentioned that BC needs more tech savvy young people working in digital visual effects or creating video games. While these are both tech industries that are at the heart of the digital creative industries that DigiBC represents, these tech skills are easily be transported to other industries.

    For example, BC's traditional business sectors like foresty, mining and tourism can all benefit from technological advancements in software, hardware and data analysis. The skills acquired being a community manager or data analyst at a video gaming company like Electronic Arts or Capcom can be transposed to a tech business ike Hootsuite, Build Direct or Elastic Path, or a life sciences / ICT / mobile startup. These are just a couple of examples that can be replicated ten thousand-fold, and spillover into BC's broad tech sector and beyond.

    We're just at the start of figuring out how to best implement a province wide tech and coding strategy for education, but in many ways BC already has a head start.  DigiBC member companies like EA Vancouver, Finger Food Studios, Roadhouse Interactive and Codename Entertainment have already dipped their feet into this area, helping their local schools and students discover how to learn to code (like our recent "Made in BC" event showed.) Our organization and member companies are eager to do more work with all students and educational disctricts across the province. Let's build on this $6 million investment in coding education to propel British Columbia into the 2020s and beyond.

     

     

  • 16 May 2016

    This past weekend Archiact Interactive held CVR 2016, a consumer virtual reality showcase at the Vancouver Convention Centre. I was there from start to finish, and what struck me the most was the heavy interest from the public and industry about this event. CVR 2016 was sold out, and the line-up to get in if you were there in the morning was daunting, but once you were inside, it was a sight to see.

     

    The floor was full with people seeking VR to experience.

     

    Over 25 companies were there showing off their hardware, software or interest in virtual reality. Among the exhibitors were a number of BC-based VR companies such as Archiact, Cloudhead Games (creators of the hit game "The Gallery: Six Elements"), Wavesine (who have developed a modular VR headset), uForis, cognitiveVR and others.

     

    Cloudhead had four booths going for people to experience their VR video game, and the line-up never shrank.

     

    But from an event perspective, what's more impressive was the international representation at CVR 2016. VR companies from around North America and Asia were on hand showing off their creations such as Bellview WA's VRCade and their western shooter; Idealens and their forthcoming VR headset; Chinese-based Ximmerse; and many others. That so many VR companies from outside Canada were exhibitors at CVR 2016 told me that this is an event of interest to the international virtual reality community, and a good sign that Vancouver can emerge as a destination for an annual consumer VR-focused event.

     

    Another big line-up was for VRcade's western shooter.

     

    I presented a panel about the present, near future and 10-years-out look on eCommerce in VR. With only 35 minutes to ask my four panelists questions, the time flew by quickly. The world of VR eCommerce (vcommerce?) is changing rapidly, and my panel gave great insight into what brands and storefronts need to be thinking about 2-4 years from today, if they want to attract VR platform customers. Their insights into the emerging narrative experience, hardware and software challenges, and the science of future VR conversion point thinking made it a fascinating talk.

    My thanks to Dora from uForis, Steve from Invoke, Adrian from Aequilibrium and Tony from cognitiveVR, all four Vancouver leaders in the VR space, for being such great panelists.

     

     

    David Clement from Wavesine talks about the hardware he's building for VR.

     

    Walk aways:

    • There's definitely huge interest in VR from the public. They want to feel, experience and try it out now.
    • CVR should become an annual event, and grow from this.
    • The panels were great and covered a wide spectrum of topics. The downside was that the noise from the exhibitor portion of the room made it hard to sometimes hear the speakers.
    • Great mix of hardware & software applications.
    • Invite more international speakers in VR to make this a big international event for the industry.

     

    CVR 2016 was an outstanding event thanks to Derek Chen, Robyn Gummer and their team at Architact Interactive. Vancouver's tech community, and our budding VR industry, thanks you for putting this on. You're helping to draw international attention to the great creative and technical work being done right now across BC in VR. I'm looking forward to CVR 2017 and beyond!

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • 04 May 2016

    Check out the new announcement trailer for Dawn of War III, the next chapter in the Warhammer 40K universe of video games!

    Dawn of War III is being developed by Relic Entertainment, headquartered in the heart of Yaletown. Relic has a long history in Vancouver's video game community, dating back to the creation of the first Homeworld game back in 1999.  Relic also developed the first Dawn of War: Warhammer 40K game, as well as the bestselling RTS (real-time strategy) game Company of Heroes.

    The Dawn of War III announcement trailer is certainly cinematic, and raises the bar on graphics and the promise of intense futuristic fighting. After watching this early preview that sets the tone for the game, I'm really looking forward to seeing more details emerge about Dawn of War III in the coming months.

     

     

  • 11 Apr 2016

    One of 2016's most anticipated video game releases is Microsoft's Gears of War 4. An exclusive title on the company's Xbox One next gen platform, GOW4 is being developed by The Coalition (formerly Black Tusk Games). This team of 200 programmers, artists, writers and executives have been working in secret from their downtown Vancouver Microsoft office, not letting anything slip out until very recently.

    Set 25 years after the end of the battle between Marcus Fenix and the human survivors of Sera and the suberranean evil race of the Locust Horde, Gears of War 4 picks up with the now-adult son of Marcus learning about mysterious disappearances. Before long, the young Fenix discovers that the Locust enemies have returned, and the battle for survival resumes.

    Here is the first trailer for Gears of War 4 and what The Coalition team has been up to. Look for GOW4 to roll out in retail late in 2016 (perhaps around the date of the release of the very first Gears of War on November 7, 2006.)

     

     

     

  • 07 Apr 2016

     AMPD Game Technologies may be a new player into Vancouver's video game sector, but the founders are veterans with a long track record working in the industry.

    I've gotten to know the three founders well when they introduced themselves to me last summer, as they were setting up their brand new company. By November 2015, mere weeks after they had become official DigiBC members, AMPD had sponsored an exclusive screening of the new James Bond movie "Spectre" for game, VFX and animation companies. I wish all new members were like that!

    One of the ways that I want to utilize the DigiBC blog is to dive deeper into the companies that make up DigiBC membership. When I get to speak to a company founder or executive, I often walk away with new insights into this industry, from how they are growing their business to the reasons why they care about building something great for their fans or customers.

    From my discussions with AMPD's leadership team, I found that they were showing me a whole other side to the challenges of operating a world-class video game, visual effects or digital animation studio: how to get the most from your IT infrastructure, your bandwidth and your computing power. These are the big level challenges the C-level folk need to concern themselves with when their studios compete with rivals around the world. AMPD Game Technologies is addressing those concerns, and they seem to be filling an important gap for our local interactive entertainment companies.

    I asked Mark Taylor, AMPD's President and one of its founders, to chat with me about his company and his reasons for jumping into this space. Here's our conversation:

     

    DIGIBC: Let’s start off with a brief intro about what AMPD Game Technologies is about.

    MARK: AMPD is a technology infrastructure and hosting provider focused on the Video Game and Digital Media industry.  We design, build and host infrastructure for video game and digital media studios and publishers.

     

    DIGIBC: What’s your background? Where do the AMPD founders come from?

    MARK: AMPD is made up of technology industry veterans with a unique combination of experience in digital media technology infrastructure and game publishing.  Our CEO, Anthony Brown and COO, Paul Mari started a company called Seven Group in 2001, pioneering the Digital Media infrastructure technology space.  They then founded Infinite Game Publishing (IGP) and along with our CTO, Don Bustin published MechWarrior Online.

     

    Screenshot of Mechwarrior Online, a game that 3 of the 4 AMPD co-founders published while at IGP.

     

    DIGIBC: Why the decision to offer your services to BC game developers and visual effects/animation studios?

    MARK: We saw a specific need in the industry for a company to provide industry focused infrastructure solutions.  We take a vertical approach to providing a complete solution set; studio designs and deployments, our Online Development Environment (ODE) and our Online Game Platform as a Service (OG-PaaS).  No other company in the world provides this vertically aligned approach, specific to the video game and digital media industry.

    Designing, procuring, and deploying hardware such as servers, storage and networking is an onerous and time consuming task, that demands vast amounts of an IT team’s time and energy. We support the IT team by providing knowledge and efficiencies to enhance their efforts.  Our goal is to make the entire studio more productive, more efficient and more cost effective; all at no cost to the client.

    Then we have our Online Development Environment or ODE™ which is specifically designed for developers to be able to simulate a live online environment during the development of the game, and for the purposes of testing reliability and performance before moving into closed beta.  This is our “special sauce” and was developed as a direct result of our experience with publishing MechWarrior Online.  It decreases the risk of a game crashing on launch and increases productivity within the Development  and QA cycles.

    Finally, our Online Game Platform as a Service (OG-PaaS) is a custom designed and built hosting environment for online gaming.  Built specifically for the demands of the game and the online audience, no other hosting provider in the world can offer such a tailored, custom architected, cost-effective hosted environment.

     

    Workers & management from dozens of Vancouver's game studios came out for AMPD's exclusive screening of "Spectre".

     

    DIGIBC: About that last bit you mentioned, the online gaming portion of your business. Is there major distinctions between game companies that choose to run their online servers inside Canada or somewhere else, like in America?

    MARK: It’s amazing to us how many Canadian and foreign owned companies run their games on servers hosted in the U.S.    Regardless of the exchange rate cost differentials, they now need to adhere to the Freedom Act privacy laws, and U.S. Tax Nexus.  The Canadian data and telecom infrastructure is world class, our energy rates are low and the expertise and knowledge base second to none.  Why would you run your game anywhere else?

     

    DIGIBC: Why do you think Canada has become such a big player in game development?

    MARK: I know the first things that tend to come to mind are the tax incentives and low Canadian dollar, but I really feel that it comes down to the incredible talent pool we have here in Canada, especially in Vancouver and Montreal. With anchor studios like EA, Ubisoft, and Eidos we have been able to foster other developers like Piranha, Behavior and BBI with incredible levels of talent and expertise. From the artists and designers, to coders and IT teams, Canada is second to none for amazing talent. As it turns out, we also have the best infrastructure for technology and hosting in North America, and we see the huge opportunity for new publishers and developers to take advantage of everything we have here in Canada.

     

    Speakers from both Blackbird Interactive & RBC 's Technology division addressed the "Spectre" crowd.

     

    DIGIBC: What technology challenges do new developers face in the videogame developers space?

    MARK: There are certainly advantages for new developers that have come about in the last few years with more comprehensive engines and various third party software packages that make development more streamlined and come with more resources out of the box. That being said, since developers can now ship their games digitally (for example through Steam), there is a trend towards self publishing. We think this is a great trend and that the industry will be able to see more diverse content from indie developers. However, there are significant technology challenges around this especially when it comes to getting comprehensive Q&A, and testing as well as building a robust back end for hosting the game. Of course we see this as an opportunity for AMPD to come in and help address these challenges.

     

    DIGIBC: What about the move towards creating virtual reality games? How much of an impact will VR gaming have on the gaming industry and its' infrastructure needs?

    MARK: It's pretty hard to tell at this point as it is still early. In our opinion it is definitely coming to the point that VR will be a real facet of the industry starting pretty much this year. Some of the obvious challenges will come from being able to stream larger amounts of data that the GPU will then have to render while still keeping the latency low enough to avoid the "motion sickness" that can be experienced when the latency is too high or the frame rate is too low. Something else we are very interested in seeing is how multi player experiences could be dealt with in a VR environment. Dealing with latency reaches a whole new level in a multi-player experience, so we are curious to see how that will be addressed. Exciting times!

     

    DIGIBC: AMPD held a screening of the James Bond movie “Spectre” last November for people in the BC games and VFX industry. How was that?

    MARK: The turn-out and feedback on this event was beyond our expectations.  Everyone had a wonderful time and it gave everyone an opportunity to network and connect with old and new friends.  It was wonderful and we’re going to host another one very soon.

     

    "Spectre" guests enjoyed free drinks & food before the start of the show. See more photos from AMPD's screening on their website.

     

    DIGIBC:  Your company is a new member with DigiBC, not even for half-a-year. What value have you gotten so far from being a DigiBC member?

    MARK: Honestly, DigiBC has been the best partner we could hope for.  Launching a new company is not easy and the support and enthusiasm provided by the DigiBC team and executive has been fantastic.  We have been recommending membership to all of our vendor partners, clients and colleagues.  The best membership money we’ve ever spent.  

     

    DIGIBC:  Alright, it's now the fun question time of the interview. What's your favorite old school video game?

    MARK: Street Fighter by Capcom

     

    DIGIBC: Favorite game that you’ve played in the past 12 months?

    MARK: "Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak” developed by our very own Blackbird Interactive.

     

    DIGIBC: And where would you like to see AMPD in five years?

    MARK: We want to be to the world’s #1 provider of technology, infrastructure and hosting to the Game and VFX industry.

     

     

    If you want to be on the list for the next DigiBC event that AMPD Game Technologies bring you, sign up for the Digi newsletter.

    Read more about AMPD and their approach to helping VFX and game studios on the company's website.

  • 29 Mar 2016

    If you've spent enough time watching content on YouTube you'll know what a web series is. This form of video content has exploded in popularity, showing off the professional level skills of hundreds of content creators dying to show the world the stories living inside their heads.

    With access to professional grade camera equipment and software, web shows are only limited by the imagination of their creators (and spreading word about the show's existence to as many folk as possible.) And that's where the Vancouver Web Fest steps in; an annual gathering and recognition of the very best original video content being created exclusively for online.

    Since its inception just three years ago, the Vancouver Web Fest (VWF) has grown to attract not just the filmmakers and their fans, but the next generation of budding talent seeking insight into how to put their best foot forward, as well as a growing body of international buyers seeking fresh new content for their consumers.

    After wrapping up the third annual Vancouver Web Fest, I spoke with Executive Director and Founder of the VWF, Suzette Laqua, for a recap and a look ahead into what the future holds for web series creators.

     

    DIGIBC:  How did this year’s Web Fest work out? Did you surpass any milestones from the previous two years?

    SUZETTE: Vancouver Web Fest 2016 was absolutely phenomenal.  It far exceeded our expectations. With hundreds of submissions from 22 countries, Vancouver Web Fest 2016 proved to be an international success.  The caliber of content screened at this year's event was outstanding.

    Attendance over the past couple years, since our inaugural year in 2014, has increased significantly attracting international and local attendees.

     

    DIGIBC: Why did you decide to create the Vancouver Web Fest? What is its’ purpose and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

    SUZETTE: When I decided to do a Vancouver Web Fest in April 2013 it was truly because there were only 5 web fests in the world and none of them were in Canada. There are now over 45 worldwide. I felt that it was really important to bring attention to local and Canadian web series creators.

    Additionally, I wanted to support them by having a festival that would hopefully not only feature their series but also give them opportunities to network with other creators, attend panels, workshops and keynotes speakers that would help them go further with their web series.

     

     

    Watch episode 1 of  Riftwar Chronicles a Toronto-made web series starring Tahmoh Penikett ("Battlestar Galactica") and Erin Karpluk ("Making Erica").

     

    DIGIBC: So is it a variety of folk that attend your festival -- content creators, buyers? What about people from the world of traditional film/television?

    SUZETTE: We have a really great variety of attendees.  From the creators to buyers as well as those interested in the future of where digital content is going.  We also strive to have the public involved in the Vancouver Web Fest.  Much of the public is not yet familiar with the concept of web series, and the more people we can introduce to new digital content, the better it will be for the creators.   

     

    DIGIBC: Has there been a breakout success story that comes to mind?

    SUZETTE: Absolutely, we have not only had the winners of the festival, but also Official Selections, approached and their series picked up by buyers and/or distributors.  We’ve made a lot ofpeople very happy. And we look forward to continuing to do just that.

    At this year’s festival we had ‘Speed Dating’, run by Vancouver Economic Commission, where 20 top industry professionals, including CBC, Dailymotion, IPF (Independent Production Fund), Brightlight Studios, dotstudioPRO, New Form Digital (Ron Howard’s company), OUTtv, Swiss Social TB channel jolz (Switzerland), Really Real Films and many more, met with web series creators from around the world and made connections to get in touch after the festival.  It was a huge success and we’ll definitely do it again next year.

     

     

    Suzette Laqua, Founder & Executive Director of the Vancouver Web Fest

     

    DIGIBC: What are the greatest challenges for creators of web content?

    SUZETTE: I think getting funding would be fairly high on the list of challenges.  And another issue that comes up constantly is getting their web series watched.  Marketing comes up constantly at the festival and we’ve had panels on it.  It’s something that we will continue to have at future festivals because it will always be an issue.

     

    DIGIBC: Have there been inroads to build revenue driven models for web creators or is it still a labour of love?  

    SUZETTE: Yes, definitely there have been advances in revenue models. We are constantly connecting the web series creators to the possibility of getting their web series making money by bring buyers and distributors to the festival.

     

    DIGIBC: Is support for the financial model coming from a particular area, like a YouTube or a Netflix?

    SUZETTE: While YouTube is an option, there are more distribution platforms coming online on a regular basis.  This, is in addition to production companies who are looking for fresh digital content and can help market the web series to attract the right audience and start creating revenue.  The thing about Netflix is they make their own web series now and that of course makes it difficult for the independents to get picked up by them.  It’s something that we will continue to bring up at our festival so we can hopefully be part of connecting the independents with these companies.

     

    The VWF took place over three days in 2016, with breakout sessions, keynotes & roundtable discussions to talk about the business model. And, of course, parties.

     

    DIGIBC: “Sanctuary” started off as a Vancouver-produced web series and then made the move to being a SyFy Channel program. Does Vancouver stand out in particular as a generator of web series?

    SUZETTE: Absolutely, we have many top web series that are being filmed here throughout the year and have had many ‘Vancouver’ web series as winners at Vancouver Web Fest.

     

    DIGIBC: Where do you see this industry in five years?

    SUZETTE: The industry will explode in the next five years.  Because creators don’t have to follow any rules and they can either fund their web series or find funding, it gives these filmmakers an open door to do whatever they see fit.  There are so many opportunities when creating a web series that it has attracted more famous people like Jerry Seinfeld, Lisa Kudrow, John Stamos.

    When you think about it Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards it essentially a web series.  When your only access to a show is on the web or through digital streaming, it’s a web series or digital series as we like to call them now.

     

     

    Manic Pixie Dream Wife, a Seattle-based web series, won the Dailymotion Choice Award this year. Watch the first episode above.

     

    DIGIBC: How would the role of the VWF change to accommodate the evolution of this industry?  

    SUZETTE: We have expanded enormously in the past couple years accommodating studio web series from CBC, RTE (Ireland), Fusion and many more.  We have been named the most prestigious web fest in world and are extremely proud of that.

    One of the top highlights of the festival was the unveiling of the Vancouver Web Fest 2016 Trophy, a one of a kind SWOROVSKI Design, courtesy of Sparkling Hills Resort & Spa and its owner Mr. Gernot Langes-Swarovski privately. And because of these trophies being unveiled at this year’s festival it made for an unforgettable awards ceremony.  Additionally, we want ensure that Vancouver Web Fest builds on its reputation as a Festival where series come to get picked up by distributors, in addition to being recognized for their excellence.

     

    DIGIBC: Are there any standout web series from 2016’s Fest that come to mind? 

    SUZETTE: To be honest the Official Selections this year were outstanding. In fact, there were many web series that didn’t make it as an Official Selection (because we only accepted 65) that were amazing.  The winners of this year’s festival would be a good place to start on standing out.  

     

    Stuart Gillies won Best Director category for his work on The Drive.

    Watch all episodes on the show's website or free on demand on TELUS Optik TV.

     

    With 27 categories in play, see the complete list of 2016 winners at the Vancouver Web Festival and where they hail from around the world. It's an amazing collection of talent, and when you start watching a couple of shows, you'll quickly discover how entertaining they all are.

    The Vancouver Web Fest will return in 2017 for its fourth year. Sign up to receive the VWF newsletter on the website and follow them on Facebook.

     

  • 14 Mar 2016

     

    Today is the first day of GDC 2016, or for those not working in the video games industry, the Games Developer Conference. GDC, which takes place in San Francisco in March every year, is one of the big events for the games industry. If you're an established international publisher or a up-and-coming indie studio seeking to advance to the next level, not only do you know what GDC is, you have to be there.

    In 40 years the video gaming industry has become a huge industry worldwide. Worldwide video game revenues for 2015 are estimated to be in the neighbourhood of $91 billion dollars -- that's more than double the size of the global film box office. And next year new technologies and double-digit growth in China are expected to drive the global revenue of games up to a staggering $111 billion dollars.

    That's a lot of money swirling around the games industry now -- and so the importance of having a developer focused event on the business of making and marketing video games makes a lot of sense.

     

    Where BC Video Game Companies Fit In

    DigiBC keeps a close eye on our province's video game community. Thanks to the deep layer of talent and healthy climate for this kind of business, there are new studios popping up all the time, all across BC. Some of the new studios we're seeing emerge are around the growing field of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) games. That's not to say there aren't new companies opening shop developing mobile games, or browser/PC games, or even new console games studios announcing their presence.

    With nearly 170 interactive entertainment companies spread across our province, there have also been fantastic success stories taking place in the past twelve months:

     

     

    And these are just the results of 6 gaming studios based here in British Columbia. There are dozens and dozens more, all producing some of the world's most popular games across every platform.

    Building these titles is an important part of these companies' business strategy, but an equally important part is telling the world about these games. That's where having a presence in GDC comes in.

     

    BC Game Studios at GDC

    According to the BC Government website, more than two dozen BC gaming studios will be at GDC 2016. I know that more BC gaming individuals that than will be attending GDC this year, whether to check out the convention on their own or as a representative for their studio.

    The BC government recognizes the importance of having made in BC video games and their creators at GDC. "The Game Developers Conference provides a fantastic opportunity for B.C. game developers to catch the eye of investors from all over the world, making important business connections with the help of the B.C. government and partner associations like DigiBC and Creative BC," said Minister of International Trade Teresa Wat. "Each new connection has the potential to translate into new jobs for British Columbians, boosting B.C.’s already thriving video game sector."

    And the  help is appreciated from the owners of BC's video game companies. "As a rising B.C. tech start-up developing cutting-edge tools for the global video game production industry, having an expo booth at the Game Developers Conference is essential for finding new clients and partners," says Agog Labs' co-founder Conan Reis. Conan and his team have built a gaming programming language that streamlines the development of complex games in systems such as the Unreal Engine. Today Conan's Skookum Script is used in 44 countries around the world. Conan and his team of mad scientists (that's them in the photo above) will be one of a number of BC game companies with a booth at GDC, and we're hoping that after this year's GDC, the number of gaming studios using Skookum Script will go up.

    There's so much deep talent in BC's game industry, from development of great next gen games to the middleware and backend technology that enables these games to compete with the world's best tech. Our hope for GDC 2016 is that more opportunity will arise from the conference for all the great BC companies working on games, and that more international studios will be drawn to opening a studio somewhere in our province. After all, this has been and continues to be one of the world's best hubs for video game development, and I would expect it to remain that way into the 2020s.

    Look for DigiBC to share more great stories about our local video game companies throughout 2016!

     

  • 08 Mar 2016

    [Note: This is a guest post from a DigiBC community member about a video game-related event they are putting on. Want to go? You can still purchase your tickets here.]

     

    The Game Developers Conference (GDC) happens every year in March in San Francisco ranging from a broad audience of game developers in the industry. This year there’s lots of hype around Virtual Reality (VR) and next gen consoles have returned to record sales. The video game industry is exciting to say the least.

     

    Our team wanted to host a game expo to showcase games developed in our community and enjoy them in the presence of friends. With the involvement of The Profile Co-Working Club, we decided to host VanCG Game Expo 2016, and host the event in the Million Dollar View Room which looks out into the Ocean Harbour and Mountains. These are great memories of growing up as a kid and inviting your friends over to share the video game experience. We have a great gaming community in Vancouver and excited to see all the innovation happening in the sector.

     

     

    We have a number of Indie Game Studios showcased at the expo and I’m very impressed with the talent base in our city. I had the opportunity to attend the Indie Game Developers Meetup with a full attendance and meet some great developers. There quite a bit of activity happening in the VR space, mobile games, and Indie console games. We’re working with a few of them to customize a video game developers shared office in our co-working space.

     

     

    In the spirit of Game Nation Canada Reception @ GDC, we’ll be providing poutine and Canadian themed gourmet pizza. We look forward to seeing you at our event  and enjoying a weekend with some new friends.

     

    Get tickets to VanCG Game Expo 2016!

     

    About the Author:

    Peter Luong is the Managing Director of Caskadia Technology Labs and Board of Advisors at the Profile Co-Working Club. Peter is a serial entrepreneur and active member in the Vancouver Tech Community.

  • 05 Feb 2016

    Earlier this week DHX Studios announced plans to bring together its two Vancouver production studios under one new roof, bringing together hundreds of animation and support staff working on numerous animated shows.

    Intrigued, I reached out to Ace Fipke, the Creative Content Officer for DHX, to gain more detail on the announcement. How would this new production facility play out in Vancouver’s animation ecosystem? What is the vision for DHX in Vancouver, and how will this new move positon the company for its growth and plans?

    Along the way I also learned that DHX Vancouver’s new building will actually be larger than what’s been mentioned.

     

    DIGIBC: What can you tell me about why DHX decided to bring together its content creation under one banner, DHX Studios?

    ACE: Since content creation is the foremost activity that DHX Media does, the idea of dedicating a business unit to DHX Studios to the creation of IP across all of its studios was the idea of why we rebranded our activities. We wanted to put it all under one roof, so to speak, with creativity in mind first. I’ve come in as the CCO running that division. The objective is to tap into the creators around the world and make some of the best television for families and children through our animation studio.

     

    Scene from "Dr. Dimensionpants", a DHX Studios series now in its second season.

     

    DIGIBC: How does the new Vancouver studio play into that vision?

    ACE: Our studios in Vancouver is where the majority of our animation is produced. Currently, the work is split between two studios, one in 2D and the other in 3D. We think that it’s important to place those people together where they can share culture, in the Cambie corridor.

    We want to encourage the best work possible. We’re in the middle of building a 75,000 sq ft production studio that will produce both 2D and 3D animation, including proprietary shows of ours and some for our amazing clients.

     

    DIGIBC: Up to now it’s been reported that the new building would be 60,000 sq. ft. So it’s going to be bigger than that?

    ACE: Yes. 75,000 square feet is the right number. There will be a lovely rooftop garden for people to enjoy on the sunny days, when we have them.

     

    Ace Fipke, Chief Content Officer at DHX Studios.

     

    DIGIBC: Will there be new staff hired?

    ACE: We will have more capacity that we currently have. We expect to house 700 people there. It’s fitting to our projected slate of business. We’re almost there now.

     

    DIGIBC: What is the vision for DHX Studios once the new Vancouver studio gets up and running?

    ACE: It’s important to note that DHX is both live action and animation, with a concentration on kids and family. Our expectation is to create excellent entertainment of the highest quality. The animation produced specifically in Vancouver is going to fit into that, from preschool to boys and girls action shows to it all.

    Our goal ultimately is to grow our slate of proprietary IP and then to be the genesis of creation that will then go to the other business units that are DHX media, like the Family Channel in Canada, as well as our brand merchandise division CPLG, and our international distribution unit.

    You can kind of think of DHX Studios as the creation and production of all these kids and family brand entertainment.

     

    "The Deep", one of DHX Media's programs.

     

    DIGIBC: Will there be more shows produced here?

    ACE: We have an internal development submission process that we just launched that allows artists to put their ideas up. That’s one of the ideas we’re doing. Already there are 18 to 20 shows being produced. We also have ongoing education with the DHX University which allows people to continue enhancing their skills while working.

     

     

    DIGIBC: What went into the decision to relocate to the Mount Pleasant region of the city, and not downtown or elsewhere?

    ACE: The Cambie corridor is wonderful because there’s more space for us and it’s very easily accessible. The Canada Line goes right through it. It also has a real growing culture in it with similar companies: young, kind of digital artists who appreciate going to funky places for a beer after work or for lunch. We’re excited to put roots in that.

     

    DIGIBC: DHX originated in Halifax and continues to have a studio there. What is it about Vancouver that makes it relevant to build a larger animation presence here?

    ACE: First and foremost, the creative talent that resides here is the biggest draw. Second are tax credits and the lower dollar, and that will only increase the talent that will need to come here.

    I think that Vancouver itself has always been a hub for animation. There’s never been a downtime for the companies that have laid roots here. There’s been a few ups and downs, but it’s become the place in North America to produce animation.

     

    DIGIBC: What’s the future look like from your perspective on the animation industry in Vancouver? Do you think other players will be seeking to set up here or ramp up their presence?

    ACE: I suspect that this companies will spring up where there’s talent. We welcome the idea of continuing to build the really best animation community in the world.

     

    Cast of "Slugterra", another of DHX Studios' creations.

     

    DIGIBC: Final question: what’s the biggest thing that excites you about DHX Studios and your role in it?

    ACE: That DHX is a Canadian company, one of the few that’s fully vertically integrated specifically in kids and animation. It’s a really great opportunity that could only have happened in Canada. The bench strength that they have in this area, and that they’re so dedicated to, is quality animation. It’s what drew me to be their CCO. It’s great business to be in, from the ability to have fun and a business perspective as well.

     

    You can keep an eye on DHX Studios on their website, and also keep tabs on the company’s Vancouver production branch too.

    Interested in a job at DHX Studios? Have a look at their animation careers page.

    Thanks to Ace Fipke, Lisa Wong and DHX Studios for allowing us an inside look into their Vancouver studio expansion plans.

  • 10 Nov 2015 by DigiBC

    Victoria-based game publisher Codename Entertainment has a hit on ther hands called “Crusaders of the Lost Idols”. Their downloadable PC game is hitting the top of the charts on several digital distribution platforms, and along the way also setting records.

    Find out what achievements “Crusaders of the Lost Idols” has accomplish in its brief foray online in this new infographic made by the Codename team.

  • 26 May 2015

    On Thursday, May 21, 2015 25 of BC’s most innovative companies gathered together to learn who would be taking home this year’s NEXTBC awards.

    The early evening was sunny and warm at Science World. Inside over 400 people from tech, marketing, investment, startups and other sectors walked through the Eureka Gallery and Rotunda to partake in the showcase portion of NEXTBC 2015.

    Top photo: Inside Science World’s rotunda on NEXTBC 2015 night

     

    In addition to the top 25 finalists, there were also sponsors and associations that had booth space at our event. Feedback was positive, ranging from the catered food to the positive, energetic vibe that the companies projected.

    Once 8PM rolled out, the second portion of the evening began inside the Omnimax theater. After a greeting from DigiBC President Howard Donaldson, emcee Patrick Maliha introduced the first round of nominees.

    DigiBC’s Howard Donaldson greets the NEXTBC 2015 crowd.

     

    Very shortly the audience had learned which companies had won the top prize in their categories:

    Most Innovative Startup: Adrroit Technologies
    Most Innovative Entertainment Company: QuestUpon
    Most Innovative Digital Media Company: Tradable Bits
    Most Innovative Business Solution: Eventbase
    Most Disruptive Innovation: H+ Technologies

    Once this stage of the awards were done, the interactive panel begin. Our four judges asked representatives from the five companies thought provoking questions designed to show which one had the most innovative approach to their business.

    (Left to right): Representatives from Adrroit Technologies, H+ technologies, QuestUpon, Tradable Bits, Eventbase answer the judges’ questions.

     

    After 45 minutes of questions, the judges retired to make their decision. That left time to reveal the winners of three special awards:

     

    Spark of Creativity Award: Agentic Communications for their work on the High-Muck-a-Muck website

    (Left to right): Nicola Harwood, creative lead on the project, and BB Magazines Executive Director Sylvia Skene.


    Lifetime Achievement Award: Tarrnie Williams Sr.

    (Left to right:) BCIC CEO Greg Caws, Tarrnie Williams Sr. and DigiBC President Howard Donaldson.


    Audience Choice Award: HelpHub

    The judges then returned and the final award of the night was given out for Most Innovative Company of the Year. And the winner was…

    H+ Technologies!

    (Left to right:) H+ Technologies’ Dhruv Adhia holds the Company of the Year award, which was presented by Microsoft’s Marjorie Trithardt.

     

    If you would like to see all of our photos from NEXTBC 2015, visit our Facebook album.

    Thank you to everyone that attended NEXTBC 2015, and congratulations to all of the winners!

     

  • 06 May 2015

    DigiBC is excited to reveal the Top 25 finalists for NextBC 2015, taking place on May 21, 2015. These are the companies in British Columbia that are pushing the envelope with innovation, and being the leaders in their respective industries of technology, entertainment, startups, marketing, digital, business and culture.

    Our NextBC 2015 Top 25 Finalists:

     

     

    Congratulations to our NextBC 2015 finalists! DigiBC would like to thank every company that submitted a nomination this year; this year we nearly doubled the number of companies that submitted their consideration!

    Each of the 25 Nominees will be invited to showcase their innovation at Science World, on the evening of Thursday, May 21. At 8pm, the Awards portion of NextBC 2015 begins, and we’ll find out which 5 companies will be selected by the NextBC judging panel as the tops in each of their respective categories.

    Immediately following, the top 5 companies will participate in an interactive panel. Questions from the judges, special VIP guests and the audience will be asked in a rapid fire format. Whichever company can build the best case for their company’s approach and execution to its innovation will win the top prize of the night, the Most Innovative Company of the Year!

    NextBC tickets are now on sale. For more information on the event, attending as press, or becoming a sponsor, please contact Kelsey [at] digibc.org or call 604.602.5237.

  • 30 Apr 2015

     

    A jammed room of virtual reality gamers and job seekers at DigiBC’s April 2015 “Level Up” event.

     

    On April 14th DigiBC hosted its second “Level Up” event of the year. For those not in the know, “Level Up” are DigiBC’s video game-themed events; for example, in March we presented a panel featuring six of the Lower Mainland’s movers and shakers in the video game industry, to discuss what it might take for BC to raise the gaming industry to a higher stage of growth and visibility.

    For the most recent “Level Up”, Digi chose to focus on the emerging virtual reality (VR) games being built in Vancouver. Six developers were on hand to show off their VR game creations including Archiact (makers of “Lamper VR”); the makers of the shadowy and spooky “Gorgon VR”; Conquer Mobile and their medical VR sim “PeriopSim”; and last but not least, H Plus Technologies brought their Holus device, showing off the holography entertainment that they’re building.

    Job Fair

    But that’s not all that happened at April’s “Level Up”. The week before, a local video games studio had to downsize a significant portion of their Vancouver staff. We know the people there, and our hearts immediately went out to the affected employees as well as the management team who had to go through this difficult adjustment.

    I had the thought to turn Tuesday’s night “Level Up” into an impromptu job fair, hoping that a handful of Vancouver gaming studios could send someone from HR to meet with these new job seekers. The actual results startled me: in only the space of 48 hours, 15 video game studios confirmed to send representatives, and another 5 IT recruitment agencies also confirmed their interest.

    “There’s a Line Up Out the Door!”

    We held this “Level Up” at the offices of Mobify, one of Vancouver’s emerging tech leaders in the mobile marketing and shopping space. By the time 6:30pm rolled around and the doors were open, there was a line-up down the stairs to get in the room.

    Over 140 people showed up to “Level Up”, and it looked to be about evenly split between VR enthusiasts, job seekers and employers. I had originally planned to have the VR developers give a short presentation, but the level of interactivity between the crowd and the so-called “VR pods” where the teams were set up was always high.

    In the end, I heard reports from a couple of gaming companies that they had made offers that night to job seekers, and that the VR game companies had gotten high levels of interest in their creations. That’s a win-win I’ll take any day.

    Keep Playing

    DigiBC wants to do regular “Level Up” events, so look for the announcements on our social media channels and website. What I also learned is that the Vancouver video game industry has massive respect for each other; companies stepped up and helped over three dozen people find new homes to build great games. That was awesome to see and experience, and I’d like to hold something like this again. We’ve got a special thing going in video games here in Vancouver (and, from what I hear, in Victoria as well), so the more that this sense of pride of community can be cultivated, the stronger our industry should be.

    Thanks to everyone that came out to April’s “Level Up”, and keep your eyes open for new developments with the VR game companies that showed their work that night.

    Patrick@DigiBC

  • 09 Dec 2014

    On the night of December 4th, DigiBC held its 2014 Holiday Party at the headquarters of HootSuite. Over 150 people from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland’s technology industries came out to party, network, win prizes, be merry and eat festively.

    This was our second year holding the Holiday Party at HootSuite. Thanks to the assistance of over a dozen owls, as well as with the help of volunteers from AIESEC, the raffle team from POF, our party sponsors and the DigiBC companies that furnished great door prizes, the event went smoothly and was a great success!

    Gifts & Room Destinations

    We handed out over $4,000 worth of raffle prizes this year, a record! Some of the amazing prizes that winners walked away with included a pair of interactive snow goggles (courtesy of Recon Instruments); Canucks hockey tickets (thanks to Disruptive Publishers, PwC & Fasken Martineau); a sweet prize basket stuffed with DVDs and movie swag (thanks to our pals at Sony Pictures); a beer-themed gift basket (courtesy of Steamworks Brewery); a video game bundle (Electronic Arts Canada); and so much other goodies.

    Just that alone would have made it a fun evening, but when Carly, Kelsey and I started planning this year’s Holiday Party, we wanted to go all-out. We reached out to attract sponsors so we could bring in “destinations” throughout the room, to give our guests more to do. And we had three great companies step up to become Silver Sponsors of our party:

    • Cologix, a North America-wide provider of co-location & cloud services, sponsored the Oculus Rift gaming display made by CDM students
    • Fusion Projects, the interior design team that made HootSuite’s incredible working space, sponsored our photo booth
    • BenefitDeck, an extended health & worker benefits company that specializes in covering the employees for tech companies, brought us the Oxygen Bar

     

    Throughout the night each of these three room destinations were consistently busy. Every time I would glance over at the Oculus Rift, there was a line-up of people waiting to try on the virtual reality glasses. People were putting on wacky costumes and having their group’s photo taken, while there was always only standing room around the oxygen bar.

    Food & Beverages

    It also looks like our choice of Roaming Dragon as the night’s provider of snacks and light meals also went over well. Red Truck Beer Company also partnered with us on the night’s suds, while Erik & Dave from Vancouver startup Indiloop came through by delivering a full night’s worth of DJing and cool tunes.

    Also, a thank you should go out to Vitay from Billy Bob’s Jerky. Vitay had a table by the snack table, and judging from the number of beef jerky wrappers I spotted people holding, it seemed that there was a lot of nibblers of Vitay’s snacks.

    With all this activity going on, it’s almost easy to forget that people can come to the Holiday Party to network with other tech company owners and employees. And while that’s a great attraction to this annual DigiBC event, our team wanted to expand and make this a fun event that offered many different activities for everyone. We hope that we succeeded and surpassed your expectations.

     

    For the people that missed out on going to this year’s party, our humble apologies. With more than a week to go until the event, we sold out of tickets. For 2015 we’re planning more social events throughout the year, and if demand remains high we’ll have to look for larger spaces to accommodate everyone. Keep in the know by signing up for our newsletter or following us on social media (Facebook, Twitter) so when we make those announcements, you’ll be among the first to know.

    On behalf of Howard, Carly, Kelsey and myself, thank you again for being a part of DigiBC and for making our Holiday Party a great time!

    – Patrick Sauriol, Executive Director

     

  • 28 Oct 2014

    For over 20 years British Columbia has been a leader in making video games. Whether its triple-A titles or breakout indies, games made in BC have captivated audiences worldwide with their innovative gameplay, dazzling graphics and superior art and sound.

    While Vancouver is perhaps the best known quadrant of BC known for game creation and employment, other regions in BC are rapidly gaining in reputation and visibility. One such community is BC’s capital city, picturesque Victoria. In several ways Victoria’s gaming industry is establishing its own unique identity, with young companies sprouting up fast to take advantage of the local talent and enthusiastic community support for games.

    Have a look at this infographic released by VIATeC (Victoria Advanced Technology Council) which breaks down the city’s gaming scene as of mid-2014. Some eye-catching details that stand out:

    • After the government sector, the next largest group of employed workers is in Victoria’s technology space.
    • $24 million is spent in Victoria by the gaming companies (on employees salaries, R&D, goods & services, etc.)
    • 64% of all employees working for game studios were local residents of Victoria.

    With events like Gottacon attracting thousands of people and emerging studios like Code Name Entertainment, TinyMob Games, GameHouse Canada and Metalhead Software making releases for browsers, social and PC platforms, this “City of Gardens” is quickly emerging as a hotbed for cool video game culture and industry.

    Keep up the momentum Victoria!

    [See larger image here.]

     

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