This past 4th of April marks another year for the exciting Level Up Showcase. The free public event highlights the game development skills of many talented university students in Ontario.
This year’s showcase included games made in Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), motion sensing, and more!
Taking place annually in downtown Toronto, the Level Up Showcase is the top destination for emerging talent in the growing gaming industry. It was a huge and bustling event, with rows upon rows of fun new games ready to be enjoyed!
This year, the event was on April 4, from 5 – 10 pm, at the Design Exchange (234 Bay St).

Credit: Becky Wu, Jordan Probst

Level Up featured games from OCAD’s very own Game Design: Development class, which were made in collaboration with UofT Comp Sci students. Original music and sound production were created by UofT Music students.
OCAD Students from all majors are welcomed to join the class. Each team has diverse skill sets, with students from Digital Futures, Illustration, Graphic Design, Industrial Design, and more participating in the class.
Next year OCAD will be launching a Games and Play Minor, so make sure to check it out and consider taking it if you are interested in game development!

Credit: Jordan Probst

Several OCAD & UofT Teams were interviewed on their experience in the Game Design class and on Level Up. Links to their games are included so make sure you take a look!
The Winners of Level Up are also included below.

Kami

OCAD: Joyce Ong, Sachin Jayaram, Becky Wu

UofT: Justin Li, Jiachen (Lorinda) He, Meeral Qureshi

Music: Keyan Emami

Play Demo: https://sikai.itch.io/kami

Kami is a 3D adventure-puzzle game with strong narrative driven gameplay. The game is about  a Samurai who is trying to save his wife from an unknown land. Enemies block his path, but once they are defeated, the wife can possess their bodies and help solve puzzles.

What did you learn from the class?
We learned what elements make a good/effective game and tried to implement those into our own game. Learning the game design pipeline, from pitching to design doc to prototyping, was also very helpful.
What were some challenges your team faced?
Challenges we faced were primarily, and holistically, deciding the game’s camera perspective (2.5D and 3D isometric). Additionally, tying the story seamlessly into the gameplay, all the while making the controls very obvious for new players, was a challenge.
What was your general experience at Level up?
We thought Level Up was great, and it was really nice seeing people appreciate the game’s graphics. It was also cool to see what the other teams had developed too. Being able to talk to everyone and bond together over our love of games was a great experience!

Rhythm Rush

OCAD: Melissa Lou, Tony Kong, Sharlaine Sevilla
UofT: Annie Dong, Jordan Martel, Alex Stouparenko
Music composers: Zac “Zedgie” Goerlitz, Alex Metcalfe, Jason Ng
Play Demo: https://rhythm-rush.itch.io/rhythm-rush
Two adventurers are on a journey to reap the land of strange monsters that entered their world. Work as a team and hit to the beat, building up your chain and unleash team attacks to deal heavy damage to a plethora of intense boss battles. Will you be able to keep up to the tunes, or will you drown in the sound? Rhythm Rush is a cooperative boss rush rhythm game starring Sax and Xy.
What did you learn from the class?
We learned how to work in a group with very diverse individuals, improve communication skills, and solve problems efficiently and critically.
What were some challenges your team faced?
In terms of creating the world, a challenge we had was learning a new program. We didn’t end up having anyone with 3D modelling experience so we had to learn it ASAP, and we actually learned fairly quick which was nice. Game wise, the challenge was a matter of how to make our game flow and play well, making sure that all the programming mechanics, visuals, and auditory elements are unified and work in harmony to each other.
What was your general experience in the class and at Level up?
We had tons of fun. Of course it was a very fast pace grind once the course starts moving, but all that work really pays off in the end. We were all satisfied with the work that was produced and it was rewarding the share that to the community. A word of advice for future Level Up participants though, it’s probably a good idea to bring stools for your team, there was a lot of sore backs, legs, and feet that day.

Viewpoint

OCAD: Ron Singh, Timothy Horizon, Thomas Feng
UofT: Julie Wang, Steven Hao Hui Tan, Yi-Ting Kao
Music: Felipe Tellez
Play Demo: https://www.dropbox.com/s/zzc5epoxt51gzio/Viewpoint.zip?dl=0
(Controller Recommended)
Viewpoint is a 2D/3D platforming collect-a-thon that aims to challenge the norm of the classic platforming formula! Harnessing the ability to swap between a side-scrolling perspective to a 3D environment, the player will seek out magical orbs in order to progress. Travel across various locations in order to collect as many orbs as you can!
What did you learn from the class?
Prior to this class, I had absolutely zero experience with gave development (modeling included). However, the most difficult aspect came from the cooperation required across the board from every member in the team. In order to streamline our development, being able to stay in contact with any given member was a quintessential part of progressing. After the 11-week crash course of development, I personally walked away with a new outlook at video game development, as well as basic understandings for 3D modeling software and video game engines. Despite the troubles and stress, I can confidently vouch on this class being a very enlightening experience for those looking to get into video game development.
What were some challenges your team faced?
We encountered a variety of conflicts and challenges along the path to Level Up. Communication was the most important skill required, as this allowed us to streamline our work and avoid conflictions. GitHub was another brand-new tool I was introduced to, which also brought along the joys of understanding how to avoid merge conflicts. Art wise, we were all faced with learning shortcut methods to modeling specific assets, understanding animation, and various little software tricks that went over our head; all apart of the learning process though! As for the programmers, much of their problems arose from bug-solving; from clipping issue in-game to game-breaking bugs, our programmers spent countless hours learning and understanding how to go about making, breaking, and rebuilding our game.

Jetswap

OCAD: Matthew Almeria, Nikunj Varshney, Quincy McLean
UofT: Dmitry Paramonov, Jack Irish, Bogdan Vochin
Music: Jason Ng
Play Demo: https://webspace.ocad.ca/~nv14pj/jetswap/
JetSwap​ is a competitive team-based game where players are armed with devices that let them switch places with players and objects in their environment. The main goal is to capture a crown in the centre of the map and keep it away from other players as it accumulates points. The first person to reach a certain amount of points wins the game.
What did you learn from the class?
There were tons of lessons we learned over the course of the class. We got to experience what it was like to develop a game and really get comfortable with tools such as Unity, Blender, and Maya. Furthermore, we learned a ton about level, gameplay, UI, and visual design over the semester. These weren’t necessarily presented in slides or lectures, but rather things that we learned through hands on experience as well as critiques from industry professionals. It was an honor to get brutal criticism from Ubisoft developers!
What were some challenges your team faced?
We had many challenges that we faced throughout the course of development. Our overall visual design went back and forth a few times, and we had around 9 iterations of level design that we scrapped before finalizing our decision. Throughout the course, we had to constantly keep up communication with each other through online chat and weekly meetings in order to keep everyone on the same page – missing a week or a discussion meant a setback in development time that we desperately needed! As Level Up crept up on us, we started to ramp up our development, and we were adding things even as we were setting up our booth a few hours before judging. We wished that we had more time to work on the game to truly give it a nice polish. Anyone thinking of taking the course, I advise you to hit the ground running and avoid slowing down at all costs!!
What was your general experience in the class and at Level up?
Accomplishing something like creating a videogame for the first time and then presenting it to the public was an amazing experience. This course is definitely worth it, but you have to be prepared to put in the work. If you go into this half-assed, you will not only have a hard time, but also let your team down (and it does happen). However if you’re passionate about it, then this course will give you the opportunity to create something special.

Zephyr

OCAD: Wil Fisher, Dylan North
UofT: Stefan Latychev, Mike Orzechowski, Justin Park
Music: Zac Goerlitz
Demo not yet available
Follow @zephgame on Instagram & Twitter for updates
Zephyr is a 3D puzzle-platformer that has you playing as Zephyr, a stone mask given the power of controlling the Seasons. The game’s overarching goal is to collect other stone shards to restore the Season Dial to its original state thus returning the balance of nature and the Seasons to the world, but this is all done through fun platforming and puzzling in unique environments that mix natural and architectural elements.
What did you learn from the class?
The class taught us a lot about the production workflow of creating game-ready assets in a rapid development environment. We got experience in scoping a project with a tight deadline, and collaborating with team members outside of our fields, with half the team being from OCAD and the other half from U of T. We also learned about the indie game design industry and community in Toronto, and about all the different resources and opportunities available to students.
What were some challenges your team faced?
The challenges our team faced were often related to the kind of game we wanted to make. Reconciling our high ambitions and expectations for our game with our limited timeline and resources meant making a lot of difficult decisions about mechanics, story, and game design. Many games at Level Up focus on one or two core mechanics, but we ended up requiring quite a few player mechanics alongside environmental mechanics, to meet our goal of creating a story-driven platformer demo centered around a rich and thorough season-changing mechanic. Another challenging aspect for a lot of team members was managing a full course load while trying to put in as much time and effort as possible into the game.
What was your general experience in the class and at Level up?
Overall it was an amazing experience, although a ton of work, it all felt extremely gratifying and productive along the way. Working on a project where everyone was passionate about creating a fun engaging game was a great experience and exercise.
We learned a lot about the fundamentals that make a good game, and the opportunity for feedback from playtesters who actually work in the game industry was very beneficial. Finally, Level Up was extremely rewarding, to see all the games made by other students and meeting people from the industry. Most importantly, we got to see people play the game that we had worked so hard on.

Zephyr won third best overall game, and placed second in the Art and Player’s Choice categories!

That Night

Game by OCAD Digital Futures student: Ryan Mason
Play Demo: publicgames.itch.io/that-night
Site: publicgames.ca
That Night is a narrative driven puzzle adventure set in a forgotten home on the outskirts of a small, unremarkable town. Enter into a place left untouched for over thirty five years, whose story has been left untold and secret’s remain to be discovered. Play as Evelyn Young, a high school sophomore who just moved to yet another painfully mundane town in middle America.
At least… that’s what she thought.
Inspiration and concept
The game and the ‘console’ it’s played on were designed for my thesis work this year. I decided to buy a TV off craigslist last summer so that I could digitize my family’s home VHS tapes. I wanted something that had composite video in for video games as well as a built in VCR with composite video out for the digitizing. I wasn’t expecting much, just an old crappy TV VCR combo, but then I found the most beautiful little box I had ever seen – the Panasonic AG-500R. I was in love, but not only with the TV, my passion for early 80’s electronics and computers was ignited. I didn’t plan on focusing my thesis around this idea of technological nostalgia, but it was all I could think about at the time and I was constantly stumbling across some amazing technologies that just missed mainstream adoption (danmere backer, Taito wowow, Corvus Systems). It lead me to design an entirely original game console fictionally set in the early 1980’s. My idea was to create a system that could be connected to multiple televisions to expand the gaming experience. So I started designing a framework for games to be played on this specific configuration, which seemed best suited for either top down or side scrolling exploration games.
At the moment, That Night is one of a few playable prototypes on the console I designed called the Cathode Mk1.

That Night won first place for Artistic Achievement!

Level Up 2018 Winners

Artistic Achievement: That Night, OCAD

Technical Innovation: Prime Ops, UOIT

Best Overall: Super Random Heroes, Sheridan

People’s Choice: Stop Running, Brock

 

Organizers of Level Up & Sponsors

The 2018 event is co-hosted and organized by Algonquin College, Brock University, the University of Toronto and the Digital Futures Program at OCAD University, in partnership with AMD and Ubisoft Toronto.


Article by Becky Wu

Photos by Jordan Probst, Becky Wu


For more information, visit www.levelupshowcase.com

follow @levelupTO on Twitter and @levelup_to on Instagram

 

Instagram: @chiaroscuromag

Facebook: OCAD Magazine “Chiaroscuro”