Weekly Vancouver Game Industry News, November 27th

Hard to believe it’s only been a week since my last update. Seems like two months.

I’m finally back in Vancouver after 3 months and 12,000km on the road – just in time for one of the bigger games I designed last year, Princess and the Frog for Wii, to launch last week. Happy to finally be able to chat about this one as most of my projects are super secret.

There’s lots of stuff to cover this week, so let’s get right into it.

Relic Reclaims Senior Talents

Less than a year after he joined BigPark, Relic‘s former Studio Art Director Andy Lang is returning to the studio where he spent over 10 years. At BigPark, Lang had transitioned into a Producer role on that studio’s Joy Ride XBLA title. Also returning to Relic after a slightly longer absence is Raph van Lierop. Van Lierop will assume the role of Producer on Relic’s Space Marine console title, a position left vacant by the departing Chad McFarlin. Most recently, van Lierop was Narrative Director on an unnanounced Ubisoft Montreal title. Both Lang and van Lierop cited the much improved Relic work environment and the cool factor of the Space Marine project in their rationale for abruptly returning to the studio.

Alex Garden Working on Natal

Jeff Brown, former Relic Design Director and now Project Natal Design Director overseeing third party development, recently bumped into Alex Garden, former Relic founder and Nexon Vancouver head, in the Microsoft cafeteria. Turns out Alex is working at Microsoft on Project Natal as well. We’re not sure in what capacity, but it begs the question, what happened to Garden’s Small Incorporated startup? There’s no mention of Garden’s recent move on Small Inc’s website.

CabinWorks Media

Shift Control Media, the Granville Island-based branded entertainment startup that succumbed to recession-induced advertising cutbacks over the summer, has spawned a new startup. Ted Morgan, former Producer at Shift Control, has founded CabinWorks Media to offer a similar range of interactive development services to ad agencies, media companies and publishers of all levels. Other Shift Control alumni have found new gigs elsewhere in Vancouver: Mark Findlay, former CFO of Shift Control, is now Studio Director at BigPark and Mart Lume, former SCM Producer, is now Creative Production Team Lead at Tiny Speck. Juliana Loh, former SCM artist, has gone on to work as an independent creative consultant and WordPress seminar host for PowerUP Concepts.

Trent Shumay’s Finger Food

Finger Food Studios, the iPhone app developer founded by former Next Level Games, A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. and EA programmer Trent Shumay, continues to pump out client work as the third party iPhone development market remains hot. While small iPhone apps and other casual products are often derided by those in the core game industry, Shumay’s work for brands such as Axe have netted him more revenue than his core games industry salary did. His latest app launch hit the store this week. Entitled, “Best Jokes Ever,” [iTunes Link] it’s a compendium of original jokes from professional comedians Michael Mode and Jeff Hobson.

Game Design Competition for Charity

Competition Sunshine is an opportunity for the Game Development community to give a voice to individuals passionate about video game design, through a fun and worthwhile game design competition. To enter, participants must make a donation to the Child’s Play Charity of $20 (USD) or more (100% of entry fees go to charity) and conform to the design criteria. Finalists will be judged by a panel of  experienced game design professionals – with winners receiving prizes and, of course, bragging rights.

Please note that all Intellectual Property Rights (copyright) of the submitted design concept will remain the sole property of the entrant. And who knows, there is a chance that you will get your game made! Competition Closing Date is December 13th, 2009.

Game Industry Ski Trip

Allie Henze of BigPark is organizing the Vancouver Video Game and Tech Industry Ski and Snowboard Trip for January 30th/31st at Big White. Last year’s edition saw 54 people attend, but this year promises to be even bigger. The price will range from $349 to $379 per person (depending on the number of people) and is split into two payments. That all-inclusive price includes 2 nights accommodation at the luxury ski-in ski-out Copper Kettle condos with kitchens and private hot tubs on the porch… round trip bus transportation… two days of lift tickets, and an apres ski party. To put it in perspective, two days of lift tickets at Whistler would already be $200… so this is a fantastic deal. There are also discounted private or group lessons available.

Skiers and boarders will be coming from Relic Entertainment, EA, Action Pants, SlantSix, Propaganda, BigPark, Nexon, and from all over the tech industry including bloggers! All skill levels welcome – from those who just want to come along for the ride and don’t even ski or board, to people who like to rip it up in the trees all day. There’s also lots to do in the Big White village for significant others who like dining, snowshoeing, shopping, nightlife, and spa treatments.

They’re expecting to sell out again this year, so if you’re interested please e-mail Allie at allie@vancityallie.com.

Adrian Crook is a game consultant based in North Vancouver. With over 14 years experience, Adrian designs and produces social, casual and AAA games for a variety of clients. He has spoken on the subject of free-to-play games at GDC and SXSW and writes articles for trade publications.