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Put on your helmets and fly

Cranbrook game developers set to launch first product into the big time.
Flying Helmet Games founders Lukas Reynolds (left)

A Vancouver video game company comprised of Cranbrookians is seeking to put a new face-to-face look on the state of gaming.

Flying Helmet Games, founded by three people originally from Cranbrook, is presenting the first major demonstration of its newly created game "Eon Altar" at the Penny Arcade Expo in Boston in the coming weeks.

Flying Helmet Games is Vancouver's newest independent game studio. Three of its founders — Edward Douglas, Scott Penner and Lukas Reynolds — share an enthusiasm for games and gaming that dates back to their Mt. Baker Secondary School Days. But as well as that, they have a commitment to the social, face-to-face aspect of gaming that they feel is missing in today's gaming culture.

"We used to play board games and Dungeons and Dragons style games in basements after school in Cranbrook with a lot of this group (of Flying Helmet colleagues)," said Douglas, who serves as Creative Director at Flying Helmet. "And we got back together and decided we wanted to make a game that reflected how we played these games when we were young.

“You can see video games are getting more and more complex, the graphics are better, they’re getting more and more exciting,” Douglas said.

“But people don’t play games together in the same way anymore. We used to just hang around. Games were a way to socialize together with friends. Now most video games are played over the internet, you’re sitting alone at a computer, playing with someone far away.”

The gaming band of brothers set out upon their chosen career arcs in the gaming business after graduation, eventually working at major gaming studios like Electronic Arts, Bioware, Ubisoft and Sony, on game franchises like “Need For Speed” and “Mass Effect.”

“We worked our way through on many of these games, learning the industry,” Douglas said. “This past year, after working on giant studios, we came back to Vancouver ‘got the band back together,’ and made Flying Helmet Games.”

Flying Helmet is well-staffed with Cranbrook expertise. As well as Douglas, Penner and Reynolds, Daniel Bailey has come on board as composer. O.J. Abrey has just started into the writing and design. Dustin Adams is a Tester and Web Master.

Joey Wiggs, one of the original conceivers of the game, is now a senior programmer with Microsoft, doing a lot of programming for that company’s ‘Office’ products.

“Eon Altar” is a role-playing game, in the style of Dungeons and Dragons. Sumari MacLeod of Techvibes describes it thus: “There are players, who create characters to bring to the table to play out an adventure. The adventure is controlled by a separate person, called either the Game Master or the Dungeon Master depending on the system, who guides the players through the quest – or leads them to their collective doom, if the players are uncooperative.

“Eon Altar takes that structure and brings it to mobile and tablet devices. The infrastructure echoes the Wii U, but the project was conceived to take video games away from the TV and turn them into a more welcoming and social experience.”

Melding devices was a priority for the developers.

“We realized that now is the time we can take all these fantastic new devices — smart phones, tablets — and create video games for them, connected, that you can play like a board game,” Douglas continued. “You have five friends who gather together with their smart phones, and they connect. The tablet is on a table surrounded by couches and chairs, you order some pizza and beer, and play your Saturday night gaming with your friends.

“So it’s like taking a computer screen game, laying it down on the table, and actually looking each other in the eye while you’re playing.”

Flying Helmet has already held a soft announcement of their first game, and their first big demo is coming up, at the Penny Arcade Expo in Boston in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for details of how that event went.

In the meantime, the Flying Helmet Games crew is living the dream.

“We used to talk about making video games on our own, and two of our members would design their own systems,” Douglas said.

“It was always a dream. Last year, we decided we were going to try to make an actual game out of it. We got initial funding through Canada Media Fund, which fosters Canadian digital media studios.

“We’re working 18 hours a day.

“After working for giant studios for years, doing something for ourselves is great.”

Barry Coulter

About the Author: Barry Coulter

Barry Coulter had been Editor of the Cranbrook Townsman since 1998.
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