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Ubisoft Toronto NEXT 2023 Winners — Celebrating 10 Years of Supporting Student Talent in Ontario

May 12, 2023
6 minutes read
Matt West Web Banner

The Ubisoft Toronto NEXT challenge celebrates its 10th year of the competition! The challenge saw more than 200 students across Ontario compete to win a paid internship at the studio, and the quality of submissions left our judges panel in awe!  

Over the last decade, NEXT has showcased the talent of video game development students in Ontario and helped to kickstart their careers in the industry! 

Since the launch of the competition, there been 79 winners and over 1500 applicants from over 30 different schools. We have hired 87 participants (including some finalists). We are proud to say that 37% of our NEXT hires are still with the studio and many have since become judges in NEXT!   

“We created NEXT to provide students with a concrete pathway to make a career out of their passion – shedding light on the different disciplines and career opportunities within the games world, while also giving them a look into what it’s like working at a studio like ours,” said Istvan Tajnay, Managing Director at Ubisoft Toronto. “We’re excited to keep working on educational programs like NEXT and to keep growing the industry in Ontario, making it a compelling, imaginative and innovative one to work in.” 

The 10th edition of the challenge culminated in a ceremony, the first in-person event of the competition since 2019. Finalists of the seven categories; 3D Art, Animation, Concept Art, Game Design, Level Design, Programming, and UX Design; had their work featured and the winners were presented their awards. Alongside them were top experts in the game development industry, education and government partners, and fellow finalists. 

“As our studio continues to make great games, initiatives like Ubisoft Toronto NEXT and Develop at Ubisoft will innovate, present creative challenges, and continue to nurture and grow early career professionals into experts in their field.” 

  

– Tanvi Athavale, Team Lead Talent Acquistion  

We are absolutely thrilled to announce the winners of the 10th edition of the Ubisoft Toronto NEXT challenge! 

The 2023 Ubisoft Toronto NEXT winners 

3D Art 

For this year’s theme, participants were asked to create a 3D video game environment diorama of the interior point of a scene, including the subject. Students were encouraged to focus on visual storytelling, composition of quality assets, and attention to detail rather than physical size of the diorama. 

Winner: Melissa Friesen (She/Her) from Durham College 

“Melissa’s submission really set the tone right from the get-go. From the lighting to the mood and arrangement, we found ourselves rewatching the video finding new bits of intrigue each time.”

– Jonathan Batt (He/Him), Model Artist  

Second place: Olivia Ongaigui (She/Her) from Seneca College 

Third place: Dominique Goberdhan (She/Her) from Humber College

Animation

The theme of this year’s challenge was “squeeze.” Participants were asked to create an animation with at least two characters, at least one of which was of biped form. The challe

Winner: Xiangyu Chen (He/Him) from Sheridan College 

“Really great comedic timing with this one! Xiangyu took his time with his acting beats to sell the moments and poses, feel the weight, and have a good laugh. The squeeze aspect of his piece felt really good with the robot initially trying to squeeze through the turnstile and then the assistant from the other character played with it some more.”

– Duy Nguyen (He/Him), Lead Animator  

Second place: Chaowei Liu (He/Him) from Centennial College 

Third place: John Carpino (He/Him) from George Brown College 

Concept Art 

Bring a story to life! Students were asked to imagine any real-world mythology in a different time period. (Eg: Greek, Celtic, Polynesian, African, etc.) Participants were invited to flex their creativity and artistic skills while keeping in mind overall cohesiveness of characters or creatures, environment design and tone when developing their concept art.  

Next 2023 Concept Art Winner Abhishekdas

Winner: Abhishek Arabind Das (He/They) from George Brown College 

“For a second there I thought we had a civil engineer! It was super impressive to see the way Abhishek took care of every single detail, from structured components, CHAPEAU, he thought of absolutely everything (which is not an easy skill to develop).”

– Sergi Iranzo (He/Him), Concept Artist 

Second place: Erika Masui Davis (She/Her) from OCAD University  

Third place: Elliot Woods (He/Him) from Sheridan College 

Game Design 

One of two new disciplines in this year’s competition, the Game Design challenge lets participants showcase their problem-solving skills and experience with game engines as they plan a design from concept to playability. This year’s challenge was to create a new companion character or AI for any Far Cry game. The challenge took students through different stages from defining design goals, to creating a creative brief pitch document to constructing a detailed design document. 

Next 2023 Game Design Winner Junsu Jang Square

Winner: Junsu Jang (He/Him) from Sheridan College 

“Junsu’s design ticked every box we were looking for. He thoroughly outlined his design, digging deep into his companion’s abilities, controls, synergies, systemic design, and outlining what choices the player would make in different gameplay situations.”

– Giulia Santin (she/her), Game Designer 

Second place: Lucas Zakaria (He/Him) from Sheridan College 

Third place: Zeineddin (Zain) Alqudah (He/Him) from Toronto Metropolitan University 

Level Design 

From creating a pitch to a playable blockmesh, students had to apply their design sensibilities across this two-part challenge, which was designed to be representative of the production journey a mission takes — from its earliest “on paper” pitch to its very first appearance “on screen.” 

Winner: Ken Stevens (He/Him) from Sheridan College 

Ken impressed us with his solid foundation and thorough understanding of level design. The level he crafted was clean and consistent, easy to navigate and just… fun. He showcased his skills in crafting a world, creating fun puzzles and balancing the level well. 

– Camila Kukulski (She/Her), Level Designer  

Second place: Zack de Boer (He/Him) from Oxford College of Arts 

Third place: Mary Ellen Daniels (She/Her) from Conestoga College 

Programming 

Students were challenged to create a game made entirely in C++ over the course of a weekend! Drawing inspiration from the classic arcade game Bomberman, participants were asked to create a well-crafted, compelling game experience, while innovating on the original and adding their own flavour to their game. 

Winner: Bijia Zhao (She/Her) from Toronto Metropolitan University 

“Bijia’s entry impressed us with the focus on being fun, technically challenging and innovative – we were immediately impressed with the particle effects, grid warping, cloth and water simulations that were shown off. Her strong technical framework supported the gameplay and allowed the creative vision to shine through.”

– Adrian-Constantin Popescu (He/Him), Lead Programmer  

Second place: Adriano Mazzucco (He/Him) from Toronto Metropolitan University 

Third place: Thomas Plagakis (He/Him) from McMaster University 

UX Design 

The other new discipline in this year’s competition, UX Design combines participants’ creative design with research and analysis to create an enriched and accessible player experience. This year’s challenge was to research and propose ideas for a third-person role playing game’s quest system in the form of annotated wireframes. Participants were encouraged to focus on the user’s pain points and to be innovative and showcase unconventional design solutions. 

Next 2023 Ux Design Winner Jay Lee

Winner: Jay Lee (He/Him) from University of Waterloo 

“We asked for original ideas and that’s what we got! Jay fascinated us with a design that initially felt like it wouldn’t fit the genre. But once we started to understand it more, its cleverness became clear. The details in his annotations were quite impressive. But if there was one thing Jay nailed, it was that he surprised us in ways we never expected. His quest system, represented by a calendar, that in turn mirrored the life of a bounty hunter fit the bounty hunter narrative well.”

– Ruwan Fernando (He/Him), UX Director  

Second place: Tomas Chen (He/Him) from University of Toronto 

Check out the full ceremony in the video below!

Congratulations to all Ubisoft Toronto NEXT winners and finalists! And special thanks to all participants and judges for being a part of this program! 

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