Video Game grad helps develop 3D world

9/16/2013 2:42:30 PM

College of the North Atlantic (CNA) Video Game Design graduate Tristan MacDonald was instrumental in developing an educational 3D virtual world called NL Grid, as well as a successful kickstarter campaign for the indie game Steel & Steam. He applied the skills he gained from the program at CNA for both projects.

A passion for creating video games inspired Tristan MacDonald of Stephenville to enroll in the Video Game Design program at College of the North Atlantic (CNA). He was among the first intake of students to graduate in 2011 and since that time has worked on exciting projects in his field.
MacDonald was instrumental in developing an educational 3D virtual world, as well as a successful kickstarter campaign for an indie game – applying his talents to game design, level design, and art.
“I have always been into video games. I’m not a hardcore gamer but I have enjoyed them since I was a kid. I like making art as well, so game design seemed like an excellent outlet for that creativity,” said MacDonald of his decision to enroll in the Video Game Design program at CNA.

“The program prepared me for the kind of workload and workflow that I'd experience in a job so I knew how to approach it without wearing myself out, while still being efficient and meeting my deadlines.”
Newfoundland and Labrador Grid (NLGrid) is an Open Sim virtual environment that can be used as a teaching and learning platform. According to MacDonald, the immersive nature of 3D virtual worlds provides opportunities in which people can learn, work and play. Participants can interact with others, create simulation where people can roleplay and create teaching and learning environments where learners can explore, discover and interact with others and engage in activity.
“For the NL Grid project I had a chance to apply the skills I learned in the program,” MacDonald said. “I used my skills in document writing to draft up a concept for the project, and then applied my game and level design skills to build the welcome environment on the NL Grid.”
Memorial University’s DELTS, as the host for this provincial virtual environment, provides support and guidance to prospective proponents/champions located at CNA, faculty and departments internal to Memorial, and the K-12 public education system. A number of web-based and in-world resources were developed with MacDonald’s help that will introduce people to the NLGrid and get them thinking about potential uses.
MacDonald says guiding the player was an important aspect he took away from the Video Game Design program for use in the NL Grid project.
“I used these philosophies to guide new users around the NL Grid; simple things like using color to indicate different areas, or simple signs and symbols to attract the user's attention. It was also important that I make things within the grid interactive for users, which is something else we learned during our time in Video Game Design. I created fun, in-world activities for the users to complete and hidden areas for them to discover as they explored.”

As an artist at Red Meat Games, a small indie video game development studio based in St. John’s, MacDonald has also been instrumental in developing the successful kickstarter campaign for a fantasy steampunk adventure video game.  The Steel & Steam kickstarter campaign was successfully backed and passed their pledge goal in less than a day.
But without the networking opportunities available through CNA, MacDonald wouldn’t have crossed paths with Red Meat Games.
“The instructor of the Video Game Design program has run several Game Jams at various Sci-fi Conventions over the last couple of years, including Sci-fi on the Rock in St. John's and Atlanti-con in Corner Brook,” MacDonald said. “A Game Jam is where members of the games industry gather and spend a fun filled weekend designing games based around an overall theme. It’s a great way to meet other people in the industry and show off your skills and this is how I met the owners of what is now called Red Meat Games.”

He says he would recommend the program to anyone who enjoys video games and has a strong work ethic. 
“It’s a demanding course, but it’s totally worth it in the end. A lot of people think being a game developer is easy and that we sit around and play games all day.  It’s really not though. While we do have fun along the way, it can be a very demanding,” MacDonald explained. “However, when everything is done and a project is finished, one of the most rewarding feelings is seeing other people playing and enjoying something you helped to create. That is why this job is totally worth it in my opinion.”
For more information about CNA’s Video Game Design program visit To find out more about the Steel & Steam project, visit To learn more about NLGrid visit

Media Contact:
Glenda McCarthy
Public Relations Specialist
College of the North Atlantic