Ottawa 2017 Gets Carleton Playing Games

By Joseph Mathieu
Photos by Chris Roussakis

What better way to unwind after a long day of studying than playing video games?

The Ottawa 2017 Video Game Competition and Expo kicked off at Carleton University on Nov. 13 with a crowd gathered in the Mackenzie Building courtyard, sipping hot chocolate and watching video games flash across the red brick walls.

A white tent surrounded by space heaters contained eight Nintendo Switch consoles for players to practise their skills on the shooting game Splatoon 2. They played the new fighting game Arms to compete for prizes.

The outdoor gaming event, part of Carleton’s 75th and Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations, highlighted a local video game company before the competition.

The expo featured Halen: Ballad of the Blade Thief, a free single-player action platform game developed for a Carleton Bachelor of Information Technology (BIT) fourth-year project. Its motion capture cut scenes and speedy run-and-jump gameplay were tested out by passersby while two of the developers, Nick Burns and Mathieu O’Brien, described it on a PA system. Six Carleton BIT grads went on to found SkyPyre Studios after completing Halen to keep making games together.

“We wanted to make as simple a game as possible while also making it fun and complex,” said Burns, SkyPyre’s studio manager. “We gave ourselves the challenge to create the game in just 13 months. And my best advice to give to any small game developers is keep it small.”

Their second game, The Blobs Fight, will be unveiled on Saturday for the Expo week’s final event at the City Centre.

Guy Laflamme, executive director of Ottawa 2017, said 500 people have signed up for Saturday’s competition. He was among the crowd at Carleton watching teenagers and young university students battle each other for prizes in Nintendo’s Arms.

“We wanted to put on this event to both inspire young people to become involved in video games and to highlight Ottawa as a technology city,” said Laflamme.

The national capital is considered a rising star in the digital entertainment industry, now home to 23 video game companies and ranked as Canada’s fifth largest producer of video games. Canada is the third-largest producer in the global games industry, which is expected to generate close to $109 billion in 2017.

A second day’s event on campus was to feature another indie game developer co-founded by Carleton BIT grads, Steel Crate Games. It come from the team that made the virtual reality bomb-defusing game titled Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.

Events were also scheduled at the University of Ottawa and ByWard Market. The weeklong expo was to culminate with an open bracket tournament of the vehicular soccer game Rocket League and everyone’s favourite realistic soccer game FIFA 18.