ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Taking “Brie Parmesan Mysteries” from final project to a release on Steam

By VFS, on February 7, 2024

Crime rules the streets of Chicatgo. The Meowfia has the city’s milk production in their claws. Luckily, none other than the finest rodent detective this side of the dairy farm is on the case: Brie Parmesan.

Brie Parmesan Mysteries is a stealth-based adventure created by a talented group of Vancouver Film School Game Design alumni, in which players take on the role of a titular rat and gather the evidence needed to take down a massive feline crime syndicate.

The game began as a final project right here at VFS. As part of their program, Game Design students finish their training by creating a fully playable game, giving them experience working collaboratively in production, responding to and iterating from feedback, and a brilliant centerpiece for their portfolios. (Be sure to register for our March 5 Game Design Program Preview if you’re interested in learning how YOU can create portfolio-worthy games at VFS. More on that below!)

Players step into the crime-filled city of Chicatgo, a lovingly realized ode to the detective noir genre.

Many of these projects culminate at Pitch + Play, VFS’s industry exclusive event connecting Game Design and Programming for Web, Mobile & Games students to games studios. Previous game studios in attendance include Blackbird Interactive, Relic, and The Coalition.

But the creators behind Crimes of the Furred Kind, as Brie Parmesan Mysteries was then called, were inspired to take their creation further. VFS Instructor Scott Henshaw approached the team about publishing the game on Steam, the world’s largest digital marketplace for video games. The team worked to expand the entire scope of the game, including new story, games features, and art.

We were lucky enough to sit down with the developers behind this pint-sized private eye to learn more about the origins of the game, how they took the mystery to the next level, and what’s next for Brie Parmesan and the team behind him.

How did the concept for Brie Parmesan Mysteries come together?

The concept originated in one of our team’s last brainstorming sessions at VFS for our final projects. We had all been pitching ideas for days and nothing was sticking. Ryan Lehmann then threw out an idea about a stealth noir game, based around a rat detective named Brie Parmesan, and his investigations of the Cat Meowfia. The team loved the picture and the game's satirical take on a classic genre fueled our creativity.

After months of design, prototyping, redesign, and coordinated implementation, Rat Pak Games succeeded in creating Crimes of the Furred Kind, a well-rounded, funny, and beautiful final project that not only gave us invaluable experience in the game production pipeline, but also the opportunity to continue to evolve our IP post graduation with the help of Kibble Game Studios, under the direction of VFS instructor Scott Henshaw. In the following months, Crimes of the Furred Kind evolved into Brie Parmesan Mysteries, an expanded version of our final project game which served as a highly polished proof of concept.

Players have to keep their eyes open both for crucial evidence, and the lurking goons of the Meowfia.

Did you have much game design experience coming into VFS?

For most of us, little to none. One of our artists, Victor Gazzetta, had experience in game art before VFS. Our programmer, Alexander Melander had previously studied game design and art but decided to attend VFS to gain more technical skills in programming for games and a large-scale team project to expand his portfolio. But for the rest of us, besides a love for playing video games, we had no prior game design experience. VFS not only gave us the foundational knowledge to succeed in the industry but also tangible production experience that served us well in our production of Brie Parmesan Mysteries.

What was the experience like of coming together as a team? Did any of you have experience working collaboratively like this before?

All things considered, it was an amazing experience. Video game production has its ups and downs, its disagreements, and its struggles. But we, as a team, made an effort to remain honest with one another. We were not afraid to critique each other's work and push each other to do better, knowing that any criticism came from a place of established respect for one another and knowledge that these criticisms were made to improve our team's creation. The Game Design program leading up to our final project also provided us with experience working collaboratively in a team, which allowed us to succeed together.

How were roles decided upon?

Our roles in Rat Pak Games were tailored to each of our team members’ interests and focus. At the start of our project, we discussed what part of the game-making process made us excited or eager to learn more. We played to our strengths when building our team and when growing it. Sometimes our team members were tasked to be in areas that weren’t their focus, like animation, rigging, or VFX. Through it, we learned to do the things we didn't know or understand before and deepened our knowledge of what it's like to create a full game. When we were building our game independently, we had the same team structure as we did in VFS, and at that point, we were experienced enough to run our respective departments.

Whose idea was it to release the game commercially?

The team was approached by Scott Henshaw, after the completion of our Pitch + Play presentation at VFS. Scott, and his company Kibble Game Studios, had been looking for the right team with the right idea to expand their idea coming out of school.

Not only did this help us expand and continue working on our project, but it also allowed us to gain professional experience and a shipped title, both of which are crucial items that help us stand out in our future job applications. Our team cannot thank VFS and Kibble enough for providing us with this incredible opportunity!

How much has the game grown from the final project at VFS to where it is now?

From our final project, Crimes of the Furred Kind, to Brie Parmesan's Mysteries, it almost feels like a completely different game. During final projects at VFS, we wanted to make a game that would be fun to make and play but importantly, scoped correctly to allow us to see it through to fruition! We completed that in our time at VFS and were proud to have presented what we made, however, all of us wanted more. A lot has been changed coming from our linear 10-minute game at VFS and working with Kibble Game Studios allowed us to explore previously cut features and ideas in this larger-scale project.

Everything was expanded upon technically and artistically: a new currency system of evidence and cheese, new levels and progression system, verticality/platforming, a new lockpicking mini-game, and unlockable cosmetic items. The game was grander in every way possible. Even the characters, the world, and its many assets were expanded upon.

Lockpicking is among the new features developed for the full release of the game.

Fundamentally, the concept of a rat versus the “Meowfia” is very strong, and it made things a little easier when expanding the universe and building the world. A lot of the ideas came almost naturally. With decades worth of references from the noir genre and cats vs. rats media to pick from, there was no shortage of inspirational material to create a universe of 1920s Chicatgo, dripping with cheesy charm for the players to explore and experience.

After the final release of Brie Parmesan Mysteries, what's next on the horizon, individually and as a team? Do Rat Pack Games and Kibble Game Studios already have more games planned?

After finishing our work on the project, the team took a much-deserved break, enjoying the summer and looking for work opportunities in different studios. We have been exploring our passions in the game industry and expanding our portfolios, whether it be code, design, art, or production!

But this is not the end of Brie Parmesan Mysteries; a DLC is in the works! This content will be coming in the form of another case for our players to crack. We’re beyond excited to unveil the new gameplay, upgraded visuals, and amazing new setting to fans of the first game. Stay tuned to Kibble’s social media channels and make sure to Wishlist and Follow the base game and DLC when the announcement drops!

Rat Pak Games is currently working on another title, which is a revamped version of another project we worked on in school and we are happy to bring two new team members for our class into the team. The project is called On a Roll, a side-scrolling runner where you play as Greek legend, Sisyphus, in a grueling grind from the depths of Tartarus to the top of Mount Olympus!

As far as Kibble is concerned, there is another title under production with a different, yet equally talented team that came from VFS, currently slated for release at the end of the year. Be on the lookout for this new title, Plastic Tactics Online on Steam—don’t forget to Follow and add to your Wishlist!

Thank you so much to the hard-working devs for taking some time out of their busy schedules to talk to us. If just hearing from the creators hasn’t already sent you sleuthing for this game, be sure to pick up Brie Parmesan Mysteries on Steam today!

Looking to Press Start on your game design career in 2024? If you have an interest in creating & designing games just like Brie Parmesan Mysteries, VFS is hosting its first Game Design Program Preview of the year on March 5. This online event is your opportunity to discover why our program is ranked as the #1 Game Design Program in Canada, gain career tips & insights from the Head of Department, ask questions about what it takes to succeed in the industry, and more! Register here for FREE.

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