It’s the ReginaGameDev (ed: now SaskGameDev!) Year in Review!
It’s been a huge leap forward for game development in Regina, so we thought we’d look back at all the events and successes we’ve had in 2019. Here’s the month-by-month replay, then at the bottom we’ve got a recap of the year’s amazing achievements!
•We held an Introduction to Unity workshop at the Bothwell branch of the Regina Public Library. Thanks to Taylor and Mike at Bitcutter Studios we learned a lot of basics about Unity including some physics, and C# code integration. It was a packed house with registration maxed out at 30 people, but even more folks turned up at the door that we tried to squeeze in until there was just no more room. More interest than expected? Turned out to be a bit of a theme for the year.
•I start out the year doing a lot of educational outreach, computer science (CS) teachers at Campbell Collegiate, Sheldon Williams Collegiate and Campus Regina Public all had me in to talk to their classes about the gamedev industry. For those that haven’t heard Campus Regina Public has an actual Video Game Design course that grade 11 and 12 students can take as a CS and English credit course, led by friend and member of RGD Dave Clampitt.
•Local gamedevs Bitcutter Studios snagged the front page of the Leader Post (LP) also got an article about their journey into game development (https://leaderpost.com/news/local-news/reginans-quit-jobs-to-start-independent-game-development-studio)
•The same week we had an LP article promoting the Global Game Jam Regina event.(https://leaderpost.com/news/local-news/game-jam-organizer-hopes-event-will-foster-development-community-in-regina)
•We held the Global Game Jam Regina event – part of the Global Game Jam (GGJ), a worldwide game development event covering over 800 sites worldwide. For those that don’t know a Game Jam is an event where folks get together and try to make a video game in a limited time. While some are competitive the GGJ isn’t, it’s all about people coming together, being creative, helping each other and learning. We had a huge attendance, making it the largest hackathon in SK with over 50 participants completing 17 projects. The games (and their source code) can be viewed and played for free, just check out the site: https://www.globalgamejamregina.ca/
•We had a good amount of press about the game jam too: a piece on Global TV News (https://globalnews.ca/news/4895496/regina-developers-global-game-jam/) as well as on CTV News (https://regina.ctvnews.ca/game-developers-race-to-build-video-games-in-48-hours-1.4271360)
•We also started the ReginaGameDev Discord, at the time for GGJ participants to chat, but it lives on and is larger and more active than ever with over 160 members! You can join in here: Sign up to join
•With the fifth year anniversary of the provincial film tax credit being cut the Prairie Dog did an article on the state of the film industry in the province. As a sidebar to the article Gregory Beatty did an interview with me about the game industry. (https://prairiedogmag.com/2019-02-28/bring-back-the-cameras/)
•In partnership with Kids Code Jeunesse, the Science Centre, and the Canadian Space Agency, I helped run a local workshop for the ESA’s Astro Pi contest. I helped local kids learn some python programming to create a Raspberry Pi application that would run on the International Space Station. The event got booked solid, but sadly due to a horrible blizzard that day we didn’t see nearly as many participants as hoped, but we’ll try again this year!
•I held the Begin Quest event, a rally for the game development community in Regina. Held at Innovation Place I gave a presentation about why game development is critical to the development of a healthy and sustainable local tech industry. Had about 50 people come out to learn more. Included was a poll of people in Regina and what their interested and abilities are to help strategize more RGD events. I never got around to making any of the results public, but it has helped me figure out where people are at and what to do to help. As well the Begin Quest event got some local news coverage thanks to Global Morning (https://www.facebook.com/GlobalReginaNews/videos/305879066728363/)
•Headed out to White Bear Reserve just north of Carlyle to do coding workshops for all the students grades 4 to 9. Thanks to Aaron Hampton and Rene Dufour-Contreras with the North Central Hacker Dojo and Kids Code Jeunesse for making this possible! Rene and I spend the day out their teaching kids to code using micro:bits. The File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council has some excellent proponents of coding education, I hope we’ll get to do more work with them in the future!
•Local gamedev and member Kenton DeJong got Local & National TV coverage when he announced his new game project Regina Cemetery Tours. Set in the historic Regina Cemetery it lets players explore the history of Regina through the lives of some of its deceased inhabitants. As a former tour guide he decided to use video games to preserve the history of the city and share it with a worldwide audience. It’s an exemplary project that you’d think organizations and governments would support, but the world is a funny place. At least the media gave him some credit for his civic pride and thoughtfulness. The game can now be played at: https://reginacemeterytours.ca/
•The Federal CanCode program finished its first run. A grant program to provide coding education to kids and teachers I worked with Kids Code Jeunesse to do in-school workshops using micro:bits to teach kids. In the three months I was able to do workshops I helped teach 933 kids in 46 classrooms across Regina.
•Working with the Dunlop Art Gallery and Regina Public Library I was on the YQR Reel Talk podcast with Eric Hill. We talked about the gamedev scene in Regina, the smash hit Cuphead and Massive Corporations newly announced game Queen City Chaos. You can have a listen here: (https://yqrreeltalk.podbean.com/e/yqr-reel-talk-ep-5-gaming-in-the-theatre/)
•I gave talks for both the Computer Science and Entrepreneurship classes at Campbell Collegiate. I talked about the gamedev industry, it’s importance to the tech sector, some of the challenges and opportunities that online businesses have, some of the spinoff businesses, automation, and how government affects industry and economic development. Thanks to Janice Cotcher and Jill Labas for having me in!
•The Dunlop Art Gallery and Regina Public Library invited the Global Game Jam Regina participants to come and show off their games in the RPL movie theatre. We had a number of jammers come in and show their games, as well as let the public try them out.
•We started the month attending the inaugural Sask Expo Regina convention. Both Massive Corporation Game Studios and Bitcutter Studios had booths getting to show their demos to a crowd estimated at over 10,000 people! It was fantastic to see such a vibrant thriving event full of comic, video game, RPG, and boardgame fun. We’re looking forward to this being a regular thing and are working on plans for a bigger and better showing in 2020!
•We headed out to Balgonie for a few days as an exhibitor at the Regina District Industry Education Council’s Grade 9 “Try a Career” Days. We got to meet with virtually every grade 9 students from Regina and the Prairie Valley School District as well as some students from File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council schools. We provided information and insight into the vast array of jobs involved in the game development industry and gave some insights about skills and training to pursue to get involved in the industry.
•We were featured on Nerdcore Cabaret with MattyV on CJTR Community Radio. MattyV came by the booth at SaskExpo and did an interview with us about Queen City Chaos. The episode was full of great interviews from the con as well as the usual great mix of game music.
•We visited Campus Regina Public’s Video Game Design classroom again to see the students (nearly) finished projects from the year. Great to see all the passion and ideas from the students. Some great talent in the rough there, and hopefully lots of future members. We actually liked one of the students so much we hired her to do some art for an unannounced game!
•We presented at the Prairie Valley School Districts Grade 11 Job Fair as one of their “Computer Technology 1 – Animation, Web Design, Programming” speakers along with Jack Hilkewich of Melcher Studios. We talked to the students about developing skills for industry and what its like working on game projects for a career. Students also got to see a little of Queen City Chaos as well as try out Melcher Studios’ licensed VR game: Sharknado – Eye of the Storm. You can download their game here: https://store.steampowered.com/app/925090/Sharknado_VR_Eye_of_the_Storm/
•The RPL and Dunlop Art Gallery again had us in for their Game and Watch event series in the RPL Theatre. This time it was for a live demo of Queen City Chaos, and joined by Bitcutter Studios a demo of the newly announced Groove Gunner VR game. Leading up to the event we were on CBC Radio’s Afternoon Edition to talk about the games and event.
•We had a slew of media coverage for the announcement of Queen City Chaos including:
a interview with Mark Melnychuk at the Leader Post (https://leaderpost.com/news/local-news/video-game-set-in-regina-will-be-a-playful-homage-to-the-queen-city), an appearance on CBC TV news with Sam Maciag (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=l6ffJOPJo9E), an appearance on Global Morning with Colton Praill (https://twitter.com/GlobalRegina/status/1133004714180612096?s=20) and a feature on the Global TV News thanks to Ceilidh Miller (https://globalnews.ca/video/5340653/new-video-games-turns-the-queen-city-virtual)
•Holy moly, we got some pretty amazing coverage with our Leader Post article – Tommy Tallarico (of Earthworm Jim, Reviews on the Run, and Videogames Live!) noticed our article and tweeted about Emma Kramer-Rodgers words about how Videogames Live inspired her to get involved in the industry. Its awesome getting to hear back from superstars that helped pave the way, especially when they share your work! See the tweets here: https://twitter.com/TommyTallarico/status/1129920129221873664?s=20
•The media coverage continued with a feature on Queen City Chaos on CTV News thanks to Creeson Agecoutay and Cally Stephanow (https://regina.ctvnews.ca/local-game-developer-creates-video-game-set-in-regina-1.4444748#_gus&_gucid=&_gup=twitter&_gsc=WNRABwb)
•The spring issue of Industry West magazine was dedicated to the Tech Sector in Saskatchewan. We actually feature in two separate articles. One in the regular Tech column, alongside Noodlecake Studios and Bitcutter Studios (https://industrywestmagazine.com/features/get-in-the-game-game-development-holds-promise-for-the-saskatchewan-tech-sector/). Then highlighting our friends the North Central Hacker Dojo non-profit in the Giving column (https://industrywestmagazine.com/give/coding-community/)
•After meaning to do it for some time, we finally started doing monthly meetups. Now once a month we try to bring together the gamedev community in Regina for an evening of camaraderie. No agendas, just snacks, meeting each other, and talking about games and game development, with the occasional playtest too. Come on out and meet the crew!
•We helped run Coding Workshops for the Saskatchewan Science Centre. Teaching kids to use the Scratch coding website developed by MIT. For those that don’t know it, it’s a fantastic tool to teach kids how to code using a concept called “code blocks”. Check it out at scratch.mit.edu. If you’re interested in learning more about Scratch or teaching kids to code, just let us know!
•We attended the MSI Computer Summer Camps held at the University of Regina. Here teens are given a wide-range of coding skills including web development, app development and game development by great instructors from the Regina coding community including superstars like David Crossman (founder of HackRegina and ToolShed) and Kyle Smyth (Founder of Offstreet). I gave a talk about the gamedev industry and all the awesome jobs involved in it as well as gave a demo of Queen City Chaos so the campers could try beat each other with sticks (digitally).
•We did a few more coding camps for the Saskatchewan Science Centre.
•We attended the other run of MSI Computer Summer Camp.
•We organized the largest ever showcase of Saskatchewan made video games at QC Anifest – Regina’s own anime convention! We had seven different developers with live demos! Thanks to Nyk Reed, Westley Howe, Ephraim Bilson, Colin Witow, Kenton DeJong, and Gallagher Laird for joining me! We also had Queen City Fighters battling it out beside us in an eSports arena.
•We gave a talk at QC Anifest – “Game Development in Regina”. We talked about the studios in town as well as their current projects. We highlighted some career options and educational paths in Saskatchewan. As well we highlighted the events and organizations to get involved with.
•Kenton DeJong had a launch party (Regina’s first?) for his web game: Regina Cemetery Tours! He had a live demo of the game at the Queen City Collective with a great crowd cheering on and finding out the surprisingly dark premise for the game and reflecting on all the great information hidden within it. The live demo was streamed by local Twitch streamer Dylan Fairman. Again you can check out the game here: https://reginacemeterytours.ca/
•After CanCode finished up at the end of March the coding education community had been pretty rudderless while it waited for the government to announce what was next. Thankfully the CanCode program got picked up for another two year funding block, so organizations were able to jump in over the summer with new applications. Come September Kids Code Jeunesse had been approved and I signed up to help them deliver in-school coding workshops again under CanCode 2. This time multiple workshops would be included. So after a week in Montreal to cover the new materials, I started doing workshops in Regina again. This year the workshops cover an introduction to coding, a follow up workshop for classes that did the previous workshop, and brand new and a world first – an Introduction to AI course that teaches kids what Artificial Intelligence is, a bit about how it works, and a hands on activity getting to train an AI system! The workshops are available for free to schools thanks to the CanCode funding. Any teachers interested can sign up here: https://kidscodejeunesse.org/code-in-the-classroom#workshops
•Royal Saskatchewan Museum (RSM) launches their Dinos-in-3D app. The app provides an Augmented Reality (AR) experience that lets users summon up and interact with 3D models of three dinosaurs in the RSM collection. The app was developed by RGD member Rajnibhai Gediya, a veteran mobile gamedev from India. Rajnibhai volunteered to develop the app to help out a great Sask institution after coming up with the concept. An amazing app and an amazing gift to his new home. Check out https://royalsaskmuseum.ca/rsm/education/dinos-in-3d for more info, or drop by the museum and say hi to Scotty while you’re there!
•I ran a Teacher Training workshop for Kids Code Jeunesse to help prepare Saskatchewan teachers to integrate coding into their classrooms. We had 48 teachers come from across southern Saskatchewan, Regina and Saskatoon. They got taught computational thinking and coding fundamentals, learned how to work with the Scratch coding website, got hands on with micro:bits, and got to experience the new Introduction to AI workshop KCJ developed. Thanks to Sean Dufour of Prairie Valley School District and Gordon Heidel of Regina District Industry Education Council for the support and space to make this happen!
•Creative Saskatchewan launched the “Digital Game & Gamified e-Learning Equity Fund” to support the Interactive Media (games) industry. After a more than year long hiatus of the previous grant program to support game development (put on hiatus because it had failed so badly), and a laughably meaningless survey of stakeholders, the switch to an equity fund from a grant was a big disappointment. The program was such a let down to the community and industry that we had CS offer to come meet and discuss it. So we invited CS to the next meetup to talk with us. While we gave them a chance to explain the program, our questions were clearly not answered and concerns were unaddressed due mainly to ignorance of the industry and realities of production, business and the market. Questions about the program led to a Leader Post article about it: (https://leaderpost.com/news/saskatchewan/deal-maker-or-breaker-sask-game-developers-give-new-equity-fund-mixed-reviews). The official line from CS was that the program would run as designed and be reviewed next year.
•I visited the Campbell Collegiate Coding Club and talked to them about game development, as well as showed them a few things about micro:bits. The Coding Club is an extracurricular club for students passionate about coding (and many specifically about game development).
•Member Evan Geissler was given a scholarship by Reboot Develop Red to attend the world class game development conference’s inaugural year in Banff Alberta. Given on pretty short notice to book travel and accommodations Massive Corporation helped sponsor his trip to ensure he could attend this great, and surprisingly local, opportunity! He got a booth in the Indie hall so he could talk to convention-goers about his (and Studio Virtus’) project Embervein (https://embervein.com/)
•Also on his way to Reboot Develop Red, international indie gamedev superstar (and keynote speaker of 2019’s Global Game Jam) Rami Ismail came thru Regina! While just driving through on a cross country trip from Montreal to Banff, Rami and I met for an evening to talk gamedev. Turns out we have some mutual friends. It’s a small world, and in gamedev circles, it’s even smaller! He was really surprised at the amount of activity going on here, especially the size of our Global Game Jam event. So don’t be worried about being in Regina, we are and will be operating on a global level. Just wait till you see what’s happening in 2020!
•We were interviewed for the Startupville podcast. Run by Innovation Saskatchewan they highlight entrepreneurs in Saskatchewan helping build the digital future of the province. We talked about the hopes and challenges for Massive Corporation, our game Queen City Chaos, and how to build the industry. The episode will be released in their fifth season, so look for it in the new year (http://www.innovationplace.com/startupville/)
•We did a talk at Wascana Plain school on “Responsible Gaming”. Unfortunately video games are causing a lot of problems in schools lately, and not just the usual scapegoating. The industries use of exploitative and addictive behaviour modifying techniques is causing tremendous harm in society. It’s not fun, it’s not easy, but its important we start having these conversation to build more aware consumers and start thinking about what regulations and oversight are necessary for the good of society and the individual.
•We held a Creating and Editing Sound for Video Games workshop thanks to local voice actor, composer and YouTuber Tara St. Michel. She taught participants how to work with Audacity and Reaper and taught some microphone basics so folks could know what equipment to look for based on their needs and interests. Thanks to the RPL for hosting the event and again to Tara for sharing her expertise!
•We helped run a Teacher Training session for KCJ in Winnipeg. While it probably doesn’t do too much for the Regina scene, its great to help out our neighbours and it was good to get more practice in training teachers. We’re hoping to do more teacher training in Saskatchewan in the new year.
•We attended the Campus Regina Public Grade 11 Job Fair, with a booth put right in the Video Game Design classroom. We had Grade 11 students from all of Regina’s high schools come by throughout the day to learn about the Game Development Industry. We talked about the various career paths in the industry and some of the skills and training they could pursue to get ready for industry. As well we had a demo of Queen City Chaos just to catch some eyes. While there they Video Game Design class was running, so helped out with some advice and bughunting for the students. We definitely have some future gamedevs in that class, I’m excited to see what they make!
•We held a joint holiday party/meetup with Regina Game Forge. We’ll likely be incorporating both groups in future events more regularly as there’s a lot of important, creative and valuable overlap with the board game and video game development. Thanks to the brave souls who braved the weather to make it out. Thanks to Dunc we had a live demo of Studio Nevermore’s then-soon-to-be-released Oh Jeez, Oh No, My Rabbits Are Gone! Game. As well I talked about the biggest gamedev news story this December:
•I launched the Massive Sacks of Cash grant. In its inaugural year the grant program will provide one recipient a steady monthly cash flow to help cover their living expenses so they can better pursue their dreams of developing video games. The recipient will receive a $500 Canadian payment every month for 1 year. The game industry needs support in this province. Unfortunately due to predatory student debt and overinflated housing costs, too many of our creatives are stuck working too hard and too long to pay their bills leaving them with no time or energy to build their futures. This grant is about helping our creatives to build products to kickstart their dreams. We need support at the individual level to help people develop their skills and develop product that can prove they can for freelancing and contract work, and/or develop their first products to understand production and the market to build successful independent studios. While it’s small, we felt it was an important step in the right direction, and an important proof of concept to show how this industry can grow – quickly, cheaply and effectively. Without any government funding, no team of high paid professions whose job it is to make it, or other external support, we designed, and implemented the grant program in under a month and had the first applicant within 24 hours of launch. For more information on the grant or to apply visit: https://massivecorp.ca/massive-sacks-of-cash/
•We got some media coverage of our grant program. An article by Mark Melnychuk of the Leader Post (https://leaderpost.com/news/local-news/regina-game-developer-creates-grant-to-grow-industry-talent-in-saskatchewan) and a Global TV piece by Connor O’Donovan (https://twitter.com/ConnODonNews/status/1206403943552544769?s=20)
•The Saskatchewan Science Centre held an Adult Science Night event with the theme of Retrogaming. They invited us to give a talk and demo Queen City Chaos. Our talk “The How and Why of Retrogaming” covered a wide range of Computer Science, Art Theory and Psychology to explain why Retrogaming continues to be popular.
•We attended the Balgonie Elementary School’s Kids Convention. I ran an Introduction to Videogame Development workshop using Scratch. Kids were allowed to sign up for various STEAM activities throughout the day. I did a packed workshop in the morning and afternoon and taught the kids the basics of working with Scratch and some useful game concepts.
•On December 20th Studio Nevermore launched their first game “Oh No, Oh Jeez, My Rabbits Are Gone!” on Steam and Itch.io. We tried to make some noise and help support our local gamedevs with a call to buy first day to our members and across Twitter. Hopefully we’ll have lots more launch alerts in 2020. The launch was covered by Canadian Game Devs (https://canadiangamedevs.com/blog/studio-nevermore-releases-debut-game). You can buy it on either platform here: (https://store.steampowered.com/app/1199140/Oh_Jeez_Oh_No_My_Rabbits_Are_Gone/)
•And to finish off the year Canadian Game Devs held a poll for the top Canadian made Game of The Year and the Most Anticipated Game of 2020. Both Massive Corporation’s Queen City Chaos and Bitcutter Studios’ Groove Gunner both made the nomination list of 21 games against heavyweights like Ubisoft Toronto and Eidos Montreal. The voting is here (but might be closed by now): https://canadiangamedevs.com/features/canadiangamedevscom-2020-most-anticipated-game
So with the year now at an end we’ve got some statistics of our achievements:
•Kids Taught to Code: 1725
•Kids Taught to Train AI Systems: 50
•Classrooms Visited: 77
•Saskatchewan Teachers Taught to Teach Coding: 125
•Saskatchewan Projects Run on the International Space Station: 3
•Regina Games released in 2019: 2 (Regina Cemetery Tours and Oh No, Oh Jeez, My Rabbits Are Gone!)
•Workshops, Camps and Talks Held: 22
•Meetups held: 7
•Volunteer Commitments: 13
•Media Articles, Interviews and Appearances: 25
•ReginaGameDev Membership: 295 members
•ReginaGameDev Discord: 160 members
•ReginaGameDev Funding: $0
Thanks everyone that made this possible, I’d list you here, but ^look^ there’s over 295 of you!!!
Happy New Year and wait til you see all we accomplish in 2020!!!
@ReginaGameDev / CEO Massive Corporation Game Studios