Level Up is now in its 8th year. This year's showcase was our first, and it provided a great look at the development community in Ontario. First formed in 2011, the showcase has proven to be a great place for students to show off completed and in progress games and interactive design. Thanks to Level Up, many can see our community at work. The public, Toronto organizations, industry leaders such as AMD, Ubisoft, and Xbox, and media like ourselves get to see the innovations and accomplishments of local educational institutions.
The word of the night seemed to be "co-op", whether it be through the numerous multiplayer games on display or through the spirit of cooperation amongst the schools. Talking with program leaders from Brock University, as well as students and teachers from Sheridan College, the picture of support amongst the schools was an inspiring one. Artists from OCAD aligned with coders from the University of Toronto, numerous teams mingling and looking at each other's work. These scenes helped foster a sense of community that Toronto and the greater Ontario region have achieved over the years, through events and groups like this one, and others like Dames Making Games and The Hand Eye Society.
The variety of games on display was almost mind-boggling, with some games reaching into an homage to popular titles, some games exploring the new field of VR, and some drawing an audience for their unique perspectives.
I had the pleasure of playing games, and speaking with their teams. A few stood out to me, and their developers and their development progress are ones to keep an eye on.
Oddbird Studios / Super Random Heroes
These developers took home "Best Overall" at last night's showing, and for good reason. The unique art style and humorous premise easily stood out in the crowd. Their initial release, Arrow Heads was a good first look at what they could do, and their newest game looks to be an even stronger premise wrapped up in an incredibly charming style. The game's hook of hilarious superpowers and combining their effects with one another is unique. The game felt incredibly polished and wouldn't have felt out of place at a PAX or even E3. This studio and this game are one to keep an eye on!
Second Wind Studios / Project Verne
Easily one of the standouts of the VR projects, Project Verne tasks the player with discovering new and incredible creatures and places all within the framework of Jules Verne. The demo I saw had the player underwater, which might cause some people discomfort, but looked to be a great concept that was reminiscent of I Expect You to Die, a game the team cites as inspiration. The other impressive part: the speed at which the demo was made as the team was a late addition Level Up's line up.
Ryan Mason / That Night
When you saw it, it stood out. The multiple old CRTs piled up beside each other, static and a quiet hum resonating through the crowd. That Night called for the player to cross across multiple screens on their adventure, connecting them in an analog way not seen before. Talking to Ryan, he spoke of a want to have his Steam library feel more concrete, and spoke a world where indie games were shown on a TV network, to be recorded to VHS tapes and played back later. A world where the analog still reigned supreme. His game, and his display, live in that world and are so unique for it. My concern is how to capture that feel beyond the TV landscape he made, and translate that analogue dream to our digital present.
Patchwork Games / Godsend
A puzzle platformer with a twist, as the way forward is found within your enemies! A unique concept that felt fun to play, and fun to puzzle out. Creating an interesting game demo and having it be fun within moments of grabbing a controller, especially during a busy event is hard but Godsend proved to be up to the task. I took no hints from the developer leading my demo (shoutout to Coley!) and so I had a real sense of accomplishment finding all the shrines, though my time could have used some work. I fell an embarassing amount.
UofT & OCAD / Viewpoint
At first glance, it reminds you of Fez, and that is almost all you need to know about Viewpoint. A game about shifting perspectives, I was immediately impressed with the design and the puzzles of the game. It wears its inspirations on its sleeve but doesn't falter in the homage. The music and sound design were great as well, thanks to composer Fellip Tellez.
Additional games or teams to watch: Radio Violence (No Sleep), Stop Running! (4M), Plastic Rounds, Jetswap, Noble Sin
Thanks again to Level Up, the Design Exchange, and the event’s various sponsors! It is such an important event for the community and it was a pleasure to attend.
Growing up in a small town, going to school for graphic and web design and finally moving to Toronto, Colin began to look for a new project and landed on Third Person. He has always had a passion for video games and finally decided to do something about it. Inspired by websites like Giant Bomb, Polygon, and Waypoint, Colin has founded Third Person with the intent of covering games using a mix of the old and the new.
Colin loves to dive into RPGs of all kinds, exploring their worlds and developing his character. Well-crafted stories draw him in too, and he is always on the lookout for a new adventure.
When he's not spending a billion years in a game's character creator, he can be found behind his camera, reading comic books or probably sleeping.
Some of his favorite games: Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen, Alpha Protocol, Mass Effect, Overwatch, Life is Strange, Persona 4