Living the Dream: Developers finding success in Canada’s East Coast

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While the other children in their class were more interested in playing games, brothers Matthew and Jason Doucette were more interested in making them.

Jason recalled a story from when he was in the second grade and decided to showcase some of his technical skills. Much to the dismay of his classmates.  

“One day when we were in the second grade, our teacher brought in some Vic-20s and let our class play video for the day, I think it was Gorf. I’m not sure but I do know that it was very similar to Galaga. When it was my turn to play, I unplugged the game from the machine and started  programming. Everyone in the class got mad.”

Now in their thirties, these brothers from Yarmouth Nova Scotia have had quite the year. Their retro shoot ‘em up, Duality ZF placed seventh in Microsoft’s 2009 Dream Play Build competition. It has also been named the second most anticipated Canadian indie game of 2010 by Village Gamer. Their newest title Decimation X has become the highest rated and selling Xbox Live Indie Game in Japan and now they have won the top prize in Innovacorp’s I-3 Technology Start-Up Competition, winning a $100,000 award package for their company.

Recently the brothers have entered Duality ZF in the 2010 Dream Play Build competition and finished in first place in the Canadian rankings and in fifth place overall. On August 2, they have entered the game in the 3rd Indpendent Game Developer's Competition.

However, all of this success hasn’t gotten to their heads. Matthew said he still can’t believe all that has happened.

“I am so proud of Jason and I for getting the job done. It’s not often I truly feel proud, because we expect a lot from ourselves. We had to get Xona Games into shape to come this far.

“We did the best we could on deciding what needed to be done, and worked hard on getting them done.  And we did it.  We did what was right and it feels great.”

Jason said it is great to have won and it is also a good confirmation that they are headed in the right direction.

“The last few weeks we spent putting Decimation X together from scratch was pretty hectic and I didn't get as much done as I wished. But I believe it made a significant difference to the judges and investors we pitched to, since it shows we can make good products and get them done.  

“I knew we had a good chance of winning the Innovacorp competition since we had a solid foundation with Duality ZF, but to actually win confirms everything.”

Making it into the gaming industry can be hard, especially for smaller developers. However another maritime developer has had its far share of success. Other Ocean, which is based in Charlottetown, has made a name for itself after working closely with Sega of America to develop Super Monkey Ball for the iPhone.

Other Ocean producer, Owen Watson talked about the efforts that go into the development of a video game when the company was on the verge of releasing its first solo project, Puffins Island Adventure.

A team of 10 people is mostly responsible for the games development, said Watson.

“The team of 10 people did spend the most time on the game but everyone in the studio had a part in developing the game over the year and half.”

The production and development of a video game is filled with different challenges, said Watson.

“There are always the challenges of the day to day fine tuning of the game as it is in development.”

Watson said the game is great for the company. The content of the game really speaks to home with it taking place in the Maritimes and it is a big deal for the studio as a whole to develop the game for Nintendo. “It’s a great opportunity and it shows how the gaming industry is growing in P.E.I. It’s really exciting to see some exposure in the gaming market on the East Coast rather than the West Coast.”

Chris Sharpley, learning manager of the Video Game Arts and Design program at Holland College, said the development of a game begins when people with money have a few discussions on what to do with it.

“If it is the developer who is developing the game they’ll fix the budget and develop it to a certain level, a demo or a prototype and they’ll sell it to a publisher for some sort of price.”

Sharpley said development cycles can last four to five months but the majority of cycles averages about 14 months. Some games can take several years. The industry has been drastically expanding over the past couple of years and employment in it is continuing to grow as well, he said.

“Hardware is being marketed towards audiences it hasn’t been before like the DS and The Wii are aimed at a wider age group and both sexes and the more games that are in production, the more jobs that are available.”

Sharpley said he had his own experience working with Other Ocean. He was one of the artisits for the I-Phone game Super Monkey Ball.

“The development of the game only lasted about four or five months. We didn’t have to design the whole game since it was based of previous titles.”

With developers like Xona Games and Other Ocean continuing to makes waves in the industry and schools like Holland College helping to mold the next generation of developers, it seems that the video game industry has very bright future on Canada's east coast. 



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