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28th February 2011

Telefilm Canada Helps Support 30 Canadian Companies At GDC 2011

Telefilm Canadavia Telefilm Canada, who is pleased to announce its support of 30 Canadian companies attending the 2011 Game Developers Conference (GDC) and Game Connection America in San Francisco. Taking place February 28th to March 4th, GDC is the world’s largest industry-only event dedicated to the advancement of interactive entertainment. Game Connection America (March 1st to 3rd) is an international marketplace for game developers, service providers and publishers looking to expand their network and find business partners.

For 2011, Telefilm Canada will provide each of the 30 eligible companies with a grant of up to $1,500 to help with individual or booth registration fees, or event-related travel and accommodation expenses.


“In an increasingly competitive global context, helping Canadian game developers attend and leverage GDC is part of Telefilm’s objectives to support international sales and partnership opportunities for Canadian businesses,” said Florence Moureaux, Telefilm Canada’s Interim Director, National and International Business Development. “This initiative is part of our industry development mandate to help build a sustainable home-grown industry in today’s fast-changing interactive media marketplace.”

In addition to the grant, selected participants will also benefit from a number of on-site business development activities organized by Telefilm and its partner the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT). Activities include the popular Canada Networking Event where some 600 industry representatives will congregate. Once again Telefilm will co-host the Canada Business Lounge with DFAIT on March 1st to 3rd featuring open, semi-private and private meeting facilities for Canadians doing business at GDC.

In January Telefilm hosted a GDC orientation Webinar for Canadian participants who received market intelligence on emerging trends and business opportunities, a contact list, and other useful resources.

“Support from Telefilm for an independent developer like us is crucial to our success,” said Sarah Thomson, VP of Business Development of Vancouver-based IUGO Mobile Entertainment. “Assistance with key conventions and promotion at events has contributed to IUGO’s growth and elevated our reputation in the mobile game development market.”

“Attending GDC is central to our business development efforts,” said Neil Smolar, President and Co-founder of Montreal-based Web game developer NDi Media. “We are convinced that the Canadian program’s excellent design and implementation – from the grant, powerful consulate networking event and visibility program, to the orientation webinar and meeting support – will help ensure our success at this event.”

Canada at GDC 2011

Canadians are vying for conference awards, including:

Independent Games Festival Awards

Game Developers Choice Awards

While there are no Canadian companies nominated, there are important nominations for two games produced in whole or in part by teams working on Canadian soil:

  • Mass Effect 2 from BioWare is nominated in several categories: Best Game Design, Best Technology, Best Audio, Best Writing and Game of the Year.
  • Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood from Ubisoft Montreal is nominated for Best Visual Arts and Game of the Year.
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28th February 2011

Canada’s Pixel-perfect Business Conditions Touted by Ontario Technology Corridor at GDC 2011

via OCRI: To use a hockey metaphor, the Ontario Technology Corridor has dropped the gloves on Canadian modesty. Executives from Ontario’s talent-rich tech cities are promoting pixel-perfect business conditions for OCRIexpanding digital media companies. The C.D. Howe Institute, which studies social and economic policies, immodestly states that Canada’s international reputation as a destination for capital and investment is better than it has been for a generation.

“As a country Canada is firing on all cylinders,” says Blair Patacairk, Senior Director, Investment, Global Marketing, for the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation (OCRI). “Canada’s federal corporate income tax rate will fall from 18 per cent in 2010 to 15 per cent by 2012 — less than half of the top U.S. federal marginal corporate income tax rate, and the lowest in the G7. We have the world’s soundest banking system according to the World Economic Forum. And Canada has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio and the lowest R&D costs in the G7, with a 12.9 per cent advantage over the U.S.”

In Ontario’s collaboratively linked technology regions of Toronto, Ottawa, Waterloo Region, London and Niagara, 22 universities and colleges are pumping out more than 18,000 graduates per year. Graduates come from 174 specialized digital media programs including 3D animation, film studies, advanced computer programming, math, and hardware engineering.

Ontario’s digital media tech talent bank has attracted international companies like Ubisoft, Electronic Arts and Capcom Entertainment. Animation, special effects and mobile apps talent from homegrown firms such as Starz Animation, XYZ RGB, Digital Extremes, Silicon Knights, and RIM also help create exciting cross-platform entertainment products. These products run on everything from gaming devices to smartphones to Internet tablets to personal computers and 3D cinema screens.

In addition to a deep talent pool and strong economy, targeted tax incentives helped the Ontario Technology Corridor push Canada past the UK last year as the world’s third largest centre for video-game development talent, trailing only Japan and the United States. Ontario’s Media Development Corporation (OMDC) is the central catalyst for the province’s cultural media cluster – to date the OMDC IDM Fund has contributed $7.7 million to support 76 projects with budgets totaling $32.7 million – and continues to offer the following incentives, including:

· Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit – refunds 35-40 per cent of eligible production costs
· Ontario Computer Animation and Special Effects Tax Credit – refunds 20 per cent of labour costs
· OMDC Interactive Digital Media Fund – up to $150,000 in project production funding, up to a maximum of 50% of the project budget. So far in 2011, the OMDC has announced $2.0 million in funding support.

Employing nearly 260,000 people among 6,400 companies within Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sectors, the Ontario Technology Corridor includes the Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa Region, Waterloo Region, City of London and the Niagara Region. The Corridor also welcomes in partnership the Province of Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development and Trade as well as the federal government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.

The Corridor is supported by the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance (GTMA), Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation (OCRI), Canada’s Technology Triangle, the London Economic Development Corporation and the Niagara Economic Development Corporation.

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28th February 2011

What’s New On This Monday Morning

Relic EntertainmentThe Cavechild has been doing an hourly countdown all weekend, waiting somewhat impatiently for the release of Dawn of War II: Retribution from Relic Entertainment. He pre-0rdered his special copy on Steam the first day they were accepting orders and he participated in the early beta as well. I will be so happy when Retribution is officially available in just a few more hours, because he is driving me crazy.


Webcast: If you missed the Canada Media Fund webcast outlining the changes which have been made to funding guidelines, you can view the video in either French or English online. Note, registration and log-in is required to watch the video.Canada Media Fund

Event: The next MoMoVan will be held at the Granville Island Brewing Company on March7th. The topic will be Privacy and Security. Tickets are free for DigiBC members, sponsors, students and partners, $25.00 for non-members. Attendance is limited to 100, so register early.

xnaCompetition: Game developers take note, Dream Build Play 2011 is now open for registration. Once registration closes on May 17th, the game submission period will begin. Entrants will have until June 14th to submit their Xbox 360 creations built using XNA Game Studio 4.0. Winning game developers split Spring Bonus$75,000 USD in prizes and get a shot at an Xbox LIVE® Arcade publishing contract, and their games will be featured on Xbox LIVE Marketplace.

grey alien gamesGrey Alien Games has announced its next title. Spring Bonus will be a Spring and Easter-themed match 3 styled game scheduled to launch on April 15th to several platforms including including PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, XBox Live Indie Games and Windows Phone 7 – possibly for Linux as well. Grey Alien’s founder Jake Birkett has released his first dev diary for the new title, you can read about the lead-up to Spring Bonus’ development on the Grey Alien blog.

vblankTrekking around the halls of GDC with Jake is Brian Provinciano, founder of Vblank Entertainment and developer of Retro City Rampage. Brian will be participating in a panel discussion titled The Next Steps of Indie: Four Perspectives during the Indie Games Festival within the GDC umbrella. Retro City RampageAttendees to this panel will get an inside look at the road Brian followed as he developed Retro City Rampage, from NES programming in 2002 right up to our current next-gen consoles. Retro City Rampage will be coming to Xbox Live Arcade and Nintendo WiiWare later this year. Retro City Rampage is also a finalist for the Excellence in Audio category at the Indie Games Festival Awards.

Sale: Endloop Systems has announced that their iPad app iMockups will be on imockups on itunessale for 30% for the duration of GDC. iMockups for iPad is a mobile wireframing and mockup app for your web, iPhone and iPad projects, combining a beautiful interface with intuitive functionality, taking full advantage of the breakthrough touchscreen device. With a comprehensive and growing list of pre-built dynamic controls (for Web, iPhone and iPad) help turn your ideas into full fledged designs at the office or on the go.

New Media Manitoba New Media Manitoba will be very active at this week’s Game Developers Conference, which is just getting underway in San Francisco. The association is leading a provincial delegation that will showcase the Manitoba digital media industry and offer start-ups and seasoned game companies the opportunity to grow their business. New Media Manitoba will be hosting a networking event at Thirsty Bear from 4-6pm on March 3rd.

One of the shiny new yet retro members of the Manitoba delegation is the Winnitron itself, making its first appearance at the GDC. The Winnitron will showcase exclusive Manitoba made games like Leap4Blue, Trash Pilot, C4ke, Sumo Topplers, and Robots Robots Everywhere, along with other high profile indie titles such as Canabalt 2-Player and Super Crate Box. Fans from all over the indie game circuit are already buzzed about playing classic indie games like Space Sushi, Indie Brawl, and N Arcade on the Winnitron for the first time ever. Winnitron Photo Credit: Chrissy Chubala

Four companies will be sharing space at our booth on the Expo Floor—Tomkorp Computer Solutions (creators of Clones ), Cube Force Media (creators of Aerrevan), Cogmation Robotics , and Project Whitecard, which is currently leading development on a multiplayer problem-solving game for NASA.winnitron Photo Credit: Chrissy Chubala

Representing the Winnitron at the booth will be Bit Collective (creators of the Winnitron) members Alec Holowka of Infinite Ammo, Tom Rab of Reborn Games, Noel Berry, Marlon Weibe and New Media Manitoba’s own Kert Gartner. Manitoba game developers Red Reptile Studios and Complex Games, who recently won a Canada New Media Award for Best Web Game, will be making waves at the conference via some targeted meetings.

If you’ve been following news on Indie Game: The Movie, you’ll know that the Globe and Mail and major industry publications (including this site) have already been celebrating the pre-release footage Blink-Works has posted on their web site. The 2-person team behind the project, Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky, will be chatting about their film at Manitoba Booth #1137 on Thursday, March 3.

New Media Manitoba would like to gratefully acknowledge the amazing support from Manitoba Trade & Investment, Western Economic Diversification, and Red River College for their contributions toward growing the game companies in Manitoba and this Trade Mission, as well as: Complex Games, Agence nationale et internationale du Manitoba (ANIM), Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT), Industry Canada, Manitoba Innovation, Energy, and Mines (IEM), Economic Development Winnipeg, and Manitoba’s tireless game development community.

ie market researchVancouver-based IE Market Research Corporation has released its 1Q.2011 Global Mobile Entertainment Forecast, 2008 – 2015, which is available now for purchase. IEMR’s forecast provides our quantitative forecasts for Mobile Music, Mobile Gaming, Mobile Personalisation, Mobile TV, and other premium content. It covers 50+ countries and regions, and it is one of the most comprehensive forecasts of its kind in the world.

“We think that the global mobile entertainment market will see significant growth over the next five years. Globally, we are expecting mobile multimedia revenue to rise from $32 billion in 2009 to $52.8 billion in 2015. Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) from 2011 to 2015 will be 9.5%,” said Nizar Assanie, Vice President (Research) at IEMR. “Among different categories of mobile multimedia, we expect that Mobile TV will see the biggest growth in revenues over the next five years. We forecast that global mobile TV revenues (which are broadcast and unicast revenues) will increase from $2.52 billion in 2009 to $6.6 billion in 2015.”

To the comprehensive data set, we are adding a PowerPoint presentation which provides our clients with an overview of key trends in the global mobile entertainment market.

The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) has secured a new, exclusive membership benefit for members – an airline travel discount. Starting immediately, all IGDA members can get a 5 percent discount on Virgin America flights booked to attend GDC, E3, IGDA Summit, Casual Connect Seattle, PAX Prime and the IGDA Leadership Forum. Naturally, Virgin America appears to fly only out of Toronto on our side of the border, but I guess one could drive to Seattle or take the shuttle bus, and then fly down to the California events from there if the overall savings were substantial.

IGDA members in good standing can access the promo codes online. Please note that discounted tickets are limited and members should reserve their flights as early as possible. Remember to add your IGDA special promo code before purchasing your ticket in order to get the discount.

Your travel on Virgin Airlines must fall within these timelines:

GDC 2011: To SFO: 2/24 – 2/28 and From SFO: 3/4 – 3/8
E3: To LAX: 6/4 – 6/8 and From LAX: 6/9 – 6/11
IGDA Summit/Casual Connect Seattle: To SEA: 7/14 – 7/18 and From SEA: 7/20 – 7/24
PAX Prime Seattle: To SEA: 8/29 – 9/1 and From SEA: 9/5 – 9/9
IGDA Leadership Forum: To LAX: 10/22 – 10/26 and From LAX: 10/30 – 11/3

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28th February 2011

Experience Global Game Jam

Global Game Jam 2011For the last three years we’ve spent the final weekend in January periodically checking in on a group of people who shut themselves in a big room full of computers and ideas for 48 hours. Each of those years has seen this event grow, and 2011 was Vancouver’s largest Global Game Jam event ever, with about 120 participants. One other note of importance – 20-25% of the 2011 Jam participants were female. Awesome. Opening Night

Held in the Main Hall of BCIT’s main Burnaby campus, this year’s Global Game Jam opened with presentations from Scott Jones, co-host of Electric Playground, and Kelly Zmak, the former president of Vancouver’s Radical Entertainment. Unfortunately, due to the demonic nature of traffic in the Lower Mainland, especially for those of us who live out in the Fraser Valley, we completely missed Scott’s opening comments as well as the first few minutes of Kelly’s BCITpresentation. I freely admit that I never tire of hearing a talk given by Kelly – he doesn’t pull any punches, and he will tell you exactly the way things are in this fine industry. Even while he is forcing you to face the reality of how many titles actually become blockbusters, he is still encouraging developers new and veteran, to get out there and give it their best shot anyway. You don’t have to work in a creative studio to benefit from the advice Kelly shares, either. Many of his suggestions are applicable to any discipline, and I never fail to be anything but inspired whenever I’ve been to a Kelly Zmak presentation. Many of the participants in this past Global Game Jam obviously took Kelly’s words to heart as well, because there were some very good products that emerged from this 48 hour exercise in innovation and creativity.

Before I go too much further, I would like to note that the Global Game Jam is an initiative of the International Game Developers Association, and this year took place in 169 registered locations around the world. This total does not include the informal game jams that were also held over the same weekend, such as the one taking place at New Media Manitoba called So Many Rooms, which was a unique twist on the jam concept, but more about that in a different post.Electric Playground on site For more photos of the BCIT event, please see our GGJ Gallery. There are more photos on the Global Game Jam Vancouver web site as well.

The jams also would not happen without the support of venues, schools, corporate partners and of course, volunteers and industry mentors. A large part of the Vancouver Game Jam support comes from these post-secondary educational facilities: BCIT and UBC with the assistance of the Centre for Digital Media and SFU. Other supporting sponsors include the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, AirG, Microsoft, Wacom, Radical Entertainment and Electronic Arts Canada. Other supporters and friends of the local Global Game Jam are the Canadian Video Game Awards, the Vancouver Silverlight User Group, and ourselves. It was also very cool to see Electric Playground attending and interviewing participants, as well as giving the jam some airtime on its February 8th episode. You can watch the EP video here.

Global supporters and sponsors of Global Game Jam include Game Salad, Intel AppDeveloper Programme, Autodesk, GameSpy, gamesauce, triOS College and ACM. Once again, a huge thank you to the volunteers, the instructors and the corporations who all work together to make the Global Game Jam such an awesome weekend of inspiration.

This year’s Jam began with everyone gathering in groups based on their disciplines. Each person had a coloured “skill dot” on his or her name tag, which made it very easy for others to find artists, programmers, designers or the Nick Waanders of Slick Entertainmentvery elusive audio folk. Note to those of you with audio skills: come out to next year’s Game Jam, your skills are in high demand. You will be very popular. Once the skills groups were formed, attendees were put through some ice-breaking exercises, discussing their favourite games, super-powers and why their respective disciplines are the best. With the announcement of this year’s theme of Extinction, the jammers were encouraged to come up with some quick game concepts that would then be pitched to the entire room.

Needless to say, in a room full of creative people, there was a huge variety of game concepts that covered everything from dinosaurs to aliens and time travel. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly and reasonably clearly the ideas are formed and presented. After the presentations, it was time to start the team recruiting and previs work before settling in for the next several hours of coding, drawing, editing, testing and reiterating with maybe a bit of sleep mixed in.

When we returned to the Jam on Sunday afternoon, the BCIT Main Hall was still a hive of activity. At first glance you wouldn’t know that a good part of this group was heavily sleep-deprived and that for some, thought processes were by now running at something akin to dial-up mode. However, as we moved among the developers and asked for demonstrations or their thoughts on the weekend, as tired as they were, each team managed to talk about their projects with energy, enthusiasm and passion.

Without a doubt the team with the best game trailer was RawR Games, developers of, coincidentally, the game chosen as Top Pick for the Vancouver event. Dino Fling is a 2D game that asks the player to save dinosaurs from rising post-Ice Age waters by flinging them onto a rescue boat.


Naturally the game gets more challenging as the water rises, covering the beach and making the distance you need to fling each dinosaur wider and wider. The RawR Games team perhaps had a bit of hand-up as members of the squad had been to previous Jam events and also work in the game development industry, but it was still important to them to get a product completed within the 48 hour time limit, and that the game be fun to play.

Nick Waanders, co-founder of Slick Entertainment, said that one of the challenges for him personally was having each new iteration of Dino Fling better than the last, each one topping the features and fun factor of the previous. He said that it’s very important to get into the habit of taking notes throughout the development cycle, don’t count on your memory to keep all of the ideas straight. He feels that this is a very important part of development discipline that will help keep your work flow from getting all tangled up. Flash Punk creator Chevy Ray Johnston and Tatham Johnston, a Junior Gameplay Programmer at Klei Entertainment while Rachel Simpson is a Game Jam veteran, Testing Pod PanicDaniel Ritchie is a UBC Computer Sciences student and Celeste Medina is a Layout Artist at Luximation (by the way, they’re hiring). One other cool footnote before moving on, Chevy’s Flash Punk engine was used by other teams at the Jam for their games.

Pod Panic was another title which was high on the list of favourite games, with the premise of this title to both learn about the Orca pods who inhabit our coastal waters and the dangers they face every day through pollution and over-fishing. Designed and built by James Karg, Douglas Richardson, Shane Morin, Jacob Kwitkoski, Spencer Daemore and Travis Hilliard, Pod Panic was developed on the XNA platform for Xbox and Windows. The premise of the game is to help your pod of Orca whales navigate several levels, each named for a coastal area and with increasing levels of difficulty. Pod Panic was inspired by the David Suzuki Foundation and the real-life plight of our whale populations and other endangered species.

Another friend of ours, indie developer Jake Birkett, was on the team which created the germ-ridden game Invasion of Giant Planet-Eating Bacteria From Outer Space, along with Alex Vostrov, Steven Pugh, Khadija Ghazi and Samppa Raski. Jake and Alex are the co-founders of Full Indie, a meetup and resource grDreaming Up Galactic Germ Warfareoup for independent developers. The premise behind their flash-based game is to rocket about outer space jabbing the giant bacteria with your Inoculazer, thereby curing different diseases and saving the planets. Of course it’s not as easy as that sounds – each type of bug requires a certain type of cure, and every cure has a side effect. You must match the colour of the cure to the colour of the bacteria, and due to the aforementioned side effects, strategy and timing do play an important part in winning this game. Jake’s advice on game design is to not be afraid to think big and add loads of features to your list, but also don’t be afraid to wield a big axe when it comes time to pare down what parts make it into the game and which don’t. His main take-away from the Jam weekend was a reinforcing of his knowledge and the sharing of experience both as a giver and as a receiver.

Meanwhile another galactic planet-destroying game with yet another twist was being developed just a few tables away. MDP Earth Defender was built using the Unity platform and is for two players who are required to switch between Savior and Destroyer roles. The Destroyer literally tries to destroy Earth with nuclear bombs while the Savior sends up Claw Satellites which need to intercept the bombs before they blow the Earth into tiny little bits. The player with the most survivors at the end of the round wins. MDP Earth Defender was developed by Clayton Campbell, Don Lee, Eric Raue, James Xia, Jason Tseng, and Tiva Quinn.

Another game of galactic proportions (and name) was Super Hyper Mega Deluxe Earth Annihilation – it seems Super Hyper Mega Deluxe Earth Annihilationmore than just a few people were trying to make Earth extinct, but then I guess it’s an easy target, what with being big and round and floating around in space on a pre-determined path. In this game, instead of defending Earth, the player must protect the mother ship death ray that is trying to destroy our fine planet. The Earthlings have the nerve to try and defend themselves by sending out waves of spacefighters, and it’s the player’s job to remove them from existence. This team took their development cycle practically to the wire, finishing up just one hour before the deadline. Developers Alex Mcgilvray and Ryan Sheffer said that one of the most important pieces of advice that they could pass along about participating in a game jam is to get as much coding done as possible early on in the event, because a lack of sleep means coding errors.

One of the most imaginative titles we took a look at over the weekend was Squishy Squid Sex, whereby the gamer must ensure that the squid population increases through recreation…or, re-creation – they both apply.  This team, which learned the importance of early iteration, prototyping and software compatibility, showed a great deal of creativity and imagination in their product. The development team for Squishy Squid Sex was Airlia Hansen, Ben SheftelNathaniel Kopjar, Jonathan Clark and Alice Tai.

ContainmentMoving back to the germ theme was Containment, a top-down infestation elimination game. This browser-based game is kind of like a blind man’s bluff, because the player doesn’t know until a character is killed if it was one of the germ carriers or not, and a process of elimination must be used to search out the three germ bearers. The catch, and you know there’s always a catch, is that if you kill the entire population you lose. You win the game by saving the highest number of citizens as you possibly can. Oh, and of course there’s a timer, too. When this team was formed to come up with a product, they were all strangers, having never met each other prior to the jam weekend. Ben James is a computer programmer by day, but not in the digital media sector, and he said that he has realized how hard it is to make games (actually, we heard that a lot over the weekend), and that it’s important to focus the scope of your project early.  Other team members included Jen Kim, Arnold Ip, Colin Cove and “Got Quail”.


We did not have time to visit with every game team and participant, that’s something I’d like to be able to accomplish next year, but over-all, the consensus about Global Game Jam is that the event is a lot of fun and a fantastic learning experience. The sharing of knowledge between students, professionals and hobbyists is something that is not always easily obtainable, and there is a combined sense of collaboration and competition – because while there isn’t a prize for making the best game or finishing first, there is a sense of pride and accomplishment that goes along with the lack of sleep, the software glitches and the new friendships. Much of the success of any Game Jam event, whether it’s a part of the Global weekend or otherwise, falls on the shoulders of its organizers, volunteers and supporters. The willingness of both industry mentors and teachers to help and guide those who strive to be a part of this wonderful industry is sometimes a “thank you” that may not be said loudly or often enough.

If any of you reading this got the “wow this is cool” feeling, I hope you will carry that feeling forward and participate next year, in any capacity be it participant, volunteer, sponsor or leader. In 2011 there were at least a dozen Game Jam locations across the country (72 across North America), wouldn’t it be great if next year there were twice the number of locations, participants and sponsors?

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