SURREY — Like a lot of Millennials, Charles Park grew up playing video games. In this way, he was not particularly unique.
But Park was no casual gamer. He preferred titles that forced him to think and he was a fan of platforms that offered a sophisticated level of control – like PCs and laptops.
If that made him old school, then so be it.
And from a young age, he wondered what it would be like to create and develop his own game. But young dreams often prove to be just that – dreams – and by the time Park said goodbye to his teens, he’d bowed to the advice from friends and family that game development wasn’t a serious career choice.
Instead, he had become a mechanical engineer – and that was that.
But a funny thing happened along the way. Try as he might, he just couldn’t shake the gaming bug.
So, in 2014, at the still tender age of 22, Charles Park quit his job and got back aboard the education train – in the Game Design program at Vancouver Film School.
“You only live life once,” said the man born in Korea and raised in Surrey.
“I always had a passion for making games and I’d learned some coding in high school. It was time to do what I wanted to do.”
Was it a smart move? The folks at the Entertainment Software Association of Canada certainly seem to think so.
You see, as part of the VFB course, students are asked to develop, from the ground up, a video game. Park and three compatriots went to work on something they’d eventually name “Zeta Busters.”
Less than a year later, on June 11 of this year, the ESAC showed Park’s team, in no uncertain terms, what they thought of their efforts. It was the ESAC’s first annual cross-Canada Student Video Game Competition, and when the digital dust had settled, Zeta Busters sat alone in first place.
Vindication? Sure. And as a bonus, two members of the squad were invited to the prestigious Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, where they flaunted their creation to industry higher-ups. Indeed, executive types from both Electronic Arts and Ubisoft suggested Zeta Busters was one of the finest student-created video games they had seen.
So, what is it? According to Park, “Zeta Busters is a turn-based strategy game where you navigate your players around a map, fighting artificially intelligent robotic beings and attempting to save the city of ‘Vantropolis.’
“The caveat is that your available moves are based on a deck of (virtual) cards. The interesting part is that every time you have a hand, your available special abilities change. Every time you play, you have a different set of cards. You have to strategize differently as to how to defeat the enemies within the game. You have to adapt quickly.”
Fans of anime will be right in their element. The game’s artist, Melvin Kwan, is inspired by anime and has drawn all in-game elements by hand. It’s a cool look – home cooked characters with a distinct anime flavour.
Park is quick to point out that Zeta Busters is by no means a commercial product. Developed with educational software and as a school project, it is not deep enough for retail (seasoned players should finish within an hour), and it is available only in PC form with PC-centric (mouse/cursor) control.
Today, says Park, the four students responsible for Zeta Busters “have moved on to other things.” For Park himself, that means a new job as a game developer with Yaletown’s This Game Studio, a company set up and run by four ex-Electronic Arts whiz kids.
It’s just where Park wants to be. He’s a happy dude.
Click here to learn more about Zeta Busters or to download the game.