The evolution that video games have seen over the past 40 years is nothing short of mind-blowing. Arthur C. Clark said it best: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And although he may not have been speaking directly about games, the sentiment holds true. What began as arguably clunky tech in the 80s and 90s is now an equal part of the video game industry, with companies like PlayStation developing their own tech and big franchises like Half Life releasing new games available exclusively on VR.
With new VR games hitting the market rapidly, one to look out for is Archiact’s Journey to Foundation. Based on Isaac Asimov’s groundbreaking literary saga, the game is as an epic sci-fi VR narrative roleplaying adventure that will take players to regions of space they’ve never explored. While we’re already sold on the premise, we’re also excited to report that 10 Vancouver Film School alumni worked on Journey to Foundation! These alumni come from our Game Design, 3D Animation & Visual Effects, Programming for Games, Web & Mobile, VR/AR Design & Development and Foundation Visual Art & Design programs.
Located right here in Vancouver, Archiact is a premier VR game studio that’s blazing the trail of virtual reality. One of the largest independent VR developers, Archiact’s portfolio includes Evasion, FREEDIVER: Triton Down, and the critically acclaimed Doom 3: VR Edition.
In Journey to Foundation, players take on the role of Agent Ward, a galactic spy with the Commission of Public Safety. What begins as a mission to investigate deserters quickly becomes a battle for control of all humanity. ‘Choice’ is a major element of gameplay, as every decision players make affects the world around them. But, of course, what makes this game truly unique is the VR. Players find themselves playing mind-games (literally) with NPCs, twisting, pushing, and pulling to influence or alter emotions – something right out of Star Wars. Players also have access to a blaster, hacking tool, & laser cutter, and are faced with a variety of intricate 3D puzzles, all of which create a truly unique gaming experience.
Alumni who worked on the game include Matthew Duncan – Animator, Kio Ohene-Djan – Intermediate Level/Mission Designer, Emanuel Salazar Gallardo – QA Lead, and Cody Ouimet – Narrative Producer (all Game Design alumni), Duygu Tokmakkaya – Lighting Artist, Vincent Pitre – Technical Animator, and Tomo Akiyama – Animation Director (all 3D Animation & Visual Effects alumni), Czarina Ramos – Software Engineer (Programming for Games, Web & Mobile alum), Kaleb Valenzuela – Software Engineer (VR/AR Design & Development alum), and Kevin Gamble – Art Producer (Foundation Visual Art & Design alum).
We were fortunate enough to connect with Animation Director Tomo Akiyama, Narrative Producer Cody Ouimet, and Software Engineer Kaleb Valenzuela to discuss their experience at VFS, in the industry itself, and making this fascinating game:
Why did you choose VFS? Do you feel that your program set you up for success in the industry?
TA: I chose VFS because there really wasn’t anything comparable. VFS taught me the essentials basics needed to land my first job at Mainframe Entertainment.
CO: VFS offered a unique and diverse course catalogue that really appealed to me. After completing the Foundation program, the Game Design program won me over. I saw ways to take my passion for filmmaking & telling stories and apply it to my love of video games. VFS gave me the skillset and tools I needed to get started in the industry and really set me apart from some of my peers when I first started at BioWare.
KV: I chose VFS primarily because of its reputation for having an intensive, industry-focused curriculum. It was also the only institute offering a program focused in Virtual and Augmented Reality which had always been my dream industry. The technical skills, the collaborative experience, and the industry insights I gained there were instrumental in shaping my career.
What was it like watching Journey to Foundation come to life? What are you most excited for gamers to experience while they’re playing this game?
TA: It wasn’t an easy journey, but it was great to see the team come together and bring this game to life. I’m excited for people to experience this fun, visually pleasing narrative VR game.
CO: To see it all come together was extremely rewarding. I'm really excited for gamers to experience having full blown conversations in VR, which feels a lot different compared to traditional games.
KV: It's been an incredible journey seeing the game come to life – pun intended. Seeing our work transform into a complete, immersive VR world has been truly magical. We've designed it to be engaging, dynamic, and most importantly fun. We've taken full advantage of VR capabilities to create an experience that's both intuitive and challenging.
How do you feel that VR will elevate the experience playing this game, compared to if it was developed as a more traditional game?
TA: Being able to walk around the various worlds, seeing all the splendor that the art team created, and interacting with the world and the people within it.
CO: "Participatory Drama" was a phrase we coined internally to really hammer home what we wanted our conversations and narrative to feel like in the game. For me, physically feeling like I'm right next to someone else, really having a conversation with them is different compared to simply selecting conversation choices and watching the cinematic play out. You'll often catch yourself doing conversational hand gestures on your own, as if you're actually talking to the characters.
KV: VR has truly transformed this gaming experience. You get to become the character, a level of immersion you can't fully achieve in traditional gaming formats. In our game, conversing with characters is a much more dynamic and participatory experience. We've also incorporated spatial audio to make conversations more realistic; you can sense the direction a voice is coming from and even its distance from you.
Journey to Foundation really stands out in the current game market; what do you think will make this game memorable for players?
TA: For a VR game, what we hope will stand out is how much narrative story we’ve incorporated compared to other VR games and how that story is weaved into our gameplay.
CO: I hope that the characters and world really stand out for players, and that the choices they make throughout the game stick with them in the long run. We've got some characters that I feel are quite memorable, and our unique and diverse cast of characters will give players someone they can identify with.
KV: We've invested a lot in the storytelling aspect. Players are not just bystanders but active participants. The choices you make have consequences, and characters remember and react to your actions. This makes for a dynamic, evolving narrative that players will be eager to explore.
What advice do you have for those looking to get into game design?
TA: For animators, gear the demo reel towards games; having a good mix of action-based animations and acting is good to see. Make sure to show animations from every angle and lead your reel with your best work. Always keep learning – not only animation but also technical (Unreal, Unity etc).
CO: Learn as much as you can about game development. For me personally, taking the time to really reflect on what I wanted to do once I was actually in the industry was a very important milestone, and I ended up moving in a path completely different than what I focused on in school. Always move towards the goals and objectives that will bring you success and happiness.
KV: Build a strong portfolio showcasing your best work. Your portfolio is often your first impression, so make it count. Connections are also incredibly valuable. Attend industry events, workshops, and seminars. Knowing the right people can sometimes make all the difference in landing that crucial first job or internship.
Congrats to the talented alumni who worked on this game! If you’re looking to immerse yourself in a truly mesmerizing adventure, Journey to Foundation is now available on PlayStation, Meta Quest, and PICO.