DigiBC

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Vancouver Island’s smaller talent pool pushing some developers to recruit from outside video game... see more

    Source: Business in Vancouver
    Author: Tyler Orton

    Victoria video gamers grapple with HR challenges amid growth

    Vancouver Island’s smaller talent pool pushing some developers to recruit from outside video game sector

    It’s been nine years since three University of Victoria (UVic) grads launched their first video game aimed at Facebook (Nasdaq:FB) users.

    Viking Clan was monetized almost instantly and managed to gain 250,000 players within weeks of its launch, and by the end of its first year on the market, Kano/Apps CEO Tim Teh said the Victoria-based company was profitable after generating $1 million in revenue from the game.

    “We try to create games that are built around communities that last for a really long time,” said Teh, who met his co-founders on their first day at UVic.

    Kano/App’s latest game, Free Rider HD, is the fifth game the team has developed for iOS after expanding beyond Facebook games. The company recently moved into its second office after growing from the initial UVic trio to 25 developers.

    Despite Kano/Apps’ significant growth, Vancouver Island-based video game developers still face talent recruitment challenges.

    There are 5,500 full-time employees at 128 companies in B.C.’s video game industry, according to a 2015 Entertainment Software Association of Canada report.

    Vancouver Island accounts for “roughly” 250 of the province’s developers, according to Eric Jordan, a DigiBC board member who also serves as CEO of Victoria-based Codename Entertainment.

    The talent pool is significantly smaller, which makes recruitment from within the industry tricky.

    But Jordan said the broader tech industry has usurped tourism as Victoria’s main economic driver.

    BC Stats’ 2016 profile of the B.C. tech sector estimated the tech industry accounts for 20,000 jobs on Vancouver Island.

    “Certainly there’s a love of video games in the broader tech community, so we can recruit people out of the broader tech industry,” said Jordan, whose company just released Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms, a Dungeons & Dragons-themed game.

    Codename Entertainment CEO Eric Jordan, left, says his company is recruiting from Vancouver Island’s broader tech industry | Submitted

    Kano/Apps has been using the same tactic of recruiting from the broader tech industry already living on Vancouver Island.

    “The rising cost of Vancouver definitely helps in terms of trying to drive talent Island-side,” Teh said, adding Kano/Apps also recently recruited a game designer from India.

    Meanwhile, Jordan said flattening distribution channels – app stores, for example – has made it easier to develop and release games into the market anywhere in the world.

    “And so that then combined with, ‘So if I don’t have to be in Vancouver, well, where would I like to be?’ You have studios in Victoria, of course, but then you’ve got some really interesting stuff happening up-Island, too.”

    Jordan added that Vancouver Island developers like Cloudhead Games are in locations “that make Victoria look astronomically large.”

    As for future growth, Jordan said gaming is acting as a “natural bridge” between the public at large and the tech sector.

    “And the tech sector’s really growing so much here in Victoria, it’s been a real boon for video game companies.”

    torton@biv.com

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    There were robots and rockets and a talking glove, oh my! see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Michael Reid

    Around Town: Geeking out at Discover Tectoria

    There were robots and rockets and a talking glove, oh my!

    It wasn’t just super-cool technological crowd-pleasers like these that made Discover Tectoria, the high-tech showcase that packed them into Crystal Garden on Friday, such a blast.

    As one visitor remarked, almost as impressive as the high-tech doodads was that there were so many We’re Hiring signs displayed by dozens of local technology companies that participated.

    While this family-friendly event did to some extent have the feel of a hiring fair, it was a predominantly educational and entertaining showcase for the region’s thriving tech sector.

    “What is Tectoria, anyway?” was one question overheard from those not already in the know about the catchy moniker created by VIATEC (Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council) in 2011.

    To quote its playful slogan, Tectoria, the umbrella title for the capital region’s tech sector, is “home to 100 killer whales and 1,500 killer apps.”

    To describe the products and opportunites on view as mind-blowing would be putting it mildly, whether you were marvelling over the fun and games or the scientific applications.

    Popular draws included Victoria Hand Project’s low-cost 3D-printed prostheses, used in developing countries where amputees have limited access to prosthetic care.

    Another eye-catcher was Tango, the revolutionary glove designed to overcome the communications barrier between deaf and hearing individuals by using a glove equipped with sensors and a microcontroller.

    A user’s hand gestures correspond to phrases or letters that, via Bluetooth, appear on a smartphone screen in a text format that can be output as a digitized voice.

    Kamel Hamdan, Alaa Dawod and Abdul-Rahman Saleh head the development team for the University of Victoria project, working in association with Coast Capital Savings’ Innovation Centre.

    Other highlights included LimbicMedia’s interactive blinking-light installation; VRX Ventures’ massive racing simulator; and the Holografx station’s Instagram photo booth.

    “We’re creating a new prototype, our biggest screen at 49 inches,” said Anamaria Medina, a Colombia-raised electrical engineer who works at the Esquimalt-based company.

    The tech firm develops innovative holographic tools used to showcase products, services and company logos, she said.

    “We did the Instagram photo booth because this is what teenagers do now,” she said, pointing to giant hashtags and other social media tools.

    Matthew McCormack said he joined a capacity crowd for an afternoon seminar on Victoria’s video game sector in the Innovation Theatre to learn about employment opportunities.

    “I want to know how to get into the video game arts. What’s the best route to get my first job, to skip over working at the grocery store and get right to where I want to be working?” the Claremont student said.

    McCormack, an avid gamer who plays Rainbow Six, a first-person shooter, and the futuristic vehicular soccer game Rocket League, learned being a fan isn’t necessarily enough.

    “It’s a highly competitive industry. We don’t just hire you if you’re really into games,” said Eric Jordan, CEO of Codename Entertainment, with a smile.

    “You’ve got to be really good at art, or marketing, or businesss or programming, depending on what we’re hiring you for.”

    Jordan offered the crowd some pointers, including VIATEC’s Student Video Game Work Experience Program, which gives students a chance to work in a gaming studio.

    Moderator James Hursthouse of DigiBC got a few laughs when he asked if “there is something in the water here” to explain why so many tech types come to Victoria.

    “I think it’s where people want to live,” said Magda Rajkowski of Kano Apps. “It’s beautiful here, and there’s a lot of creativity.”

    Even before you entered Victoria Conference Centre, it was hard to miss UVic Centre for Aerospace Research’s sleek carbon fibre-and-fibreglass drone parked outside.

    “This is our workhorse, an aircraft designed to carry payloads, conduct research for companies or collaborators who want to test equipment,” explained operations manager Eldad Alber.

    One software developer, for example, asked the team to design wings that would be flexible based on their software designed for such a purpose.

    “Hopefully we’ll get more students interested in aerospace,” said Alber. “A master’s program for aeronautics is going to be available soon, so it would be nice to see more exposure and people applying for it.”

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    As an active contributor to Victoria’s game development community, Dylan was the first recipient... see more

    Source: University of Victoria

    “I could feel the electricity in the room … see sparks shooting with every idea generated.” Dylan Gedig and the UVic Game Dev Club helped create that energy. They put on the Victoria installation of the Global Game Jam, a worldwide event that brings together artists, designers, musicians, programmers and writers for 48 hours of collective creativity.

    Alumnus and CEO of Codename Entertainment Eric Jordan knows working together like this is reflexive in Victoria’s vibrant technology sector. He brought VIATEC, DigiBC, OneBitLabs, KANO/APPS, InLight Entertainment, Electronic Arts Canada and Codename Entertainment on board to create a scholarship for computer science students who mirror that collaborative nature. As an active contributor to Victoria’s game development community, Dylan was the obvious first recipient. He shared this passion at UVic by volunteering with the course union and teaching coding to new students.

    Dylan laid the groundwork for a career in video game development through UVic’s Co-op program. This scholarship gave him confidence for the next step. Under Eric’s mentorship, Dylan launched a video game publishing company and his first product will be released before his convocation ceremony.

    “That recognition meant a lot to me,” he says of the scholarship. “I wouldn’t have started my own company if the local scene wasn’t so supportive. As a new member of that community, I’m excited to do what I can to help develop new talent.”

    Click here to watch the video!