In the class MI 497: Game Design Studio, media and information students with enthusiasm for game design are given real-world opportunities to create digital gaming experiences for users. A team of six students from the class, ranging from 3D art, programming and design roles, created a game called “Bunny Skate,” which reached #38 in the kid’s 9-11 category on the App Store in December 2016.
“We wanted to create a fun mobile experience that anyone could play,” said Sage Miller, a media and information senior. “Most feedback came from friends and family, however, we were able to connect with many gamers from across the world through Twitter and sent them early versions of the game.”
The creators describe the game as an “endless skating adventure.” The object of the game is to control the bunny and skate around an ice rink through a variety of environments, collecting carrots meanwhile avoiding wolves and other obstacles along the way. Once you have collected the carrots, you can use them to purchase a chest, which allows the player to receive a random hat throughout the game. The goal is to obtain as many hats as possible, with a number of 50 possible during the course of the game. Some of these hats hold a secret power that can assist your character through the course.
“I think the idea sparked from the time of the year and what fit for our scope of the project,” said media and information senior Evan Jones. “We wanted to make a mobile game so we had to keep it simple and fun. We knew we wanted to release it around Christmas time so ice and other snowy environments were necessary.”
Bunny Skate was approved and published on the App Store and Google Play just a couple of days before Christmas. The students said they are pleased with how the game turned out, but it was no walk in the park to create the successful finished product.
“We had a rough beginning. We started with a different kind of game and we struggled to find the ‘fun’ in what we were doing,” said media and information senior Clark Ruiz. “But after four weeks, we scrapped that idea and started working on what would become the game you know (Bunny Skate)! It was great once we had the final idea, since we were able to polish something simple.”
Miller said one of the greatest features of the game is that it’s accessible, “It’s easy for anyone to pick up and have fun with it.
Each team member highlighted how important it is to collaborate with others and be on the same page. Trusting each other’s skills while allowing each person to take charge of certain elements was critical to overcoming obstacles as a group and making it to the finish line.
“The collaboration between the team members was great,” said Jones. “We all came together with our different strengths and used them to our advantage. I think teamwork and being able to work well with others will make you a better person in the long run.”
Jones continued, “Communication is the key when working with a group. Making sure everyone was on the same page and on task was something that we did well.”
Clark Ruiz – 3D Art
Evan Jones – 3D Art
Alec Velthov – 3D Art
Matthew Smith – Programming
Homer Chen – Programming
Sage Miller – Design
By Emmy Virkus
Immersive experiences within new spaces at the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences are empowering students with the acumen they’ll need to excel in competitive, tech-driven media careers.
The college’s new Spartan Newsroom and Immersive Media Studio invite students to collaborate, gain real-life experiences and build professional skills. The newsroom welcomed its first students in fall 2016 and went “live” during the General Election, while the immersive studio opened for classes in January 2017. The innovative, cross-functional spaces equip students for 21st century jobs by engaging them in the development and delivery of news, animation, game design and immersive interactive media content involving motion capture, augmented and virtual realities.
“Having the experience to work within a professional pipeline facility will make a student’s transition into a real-world situation smoother and more successful,” says Stacey Fox, professor of animation, mixed realities and immersive journalism in the MSU School of Journalism. “It also teaches students the importance of respecting a production space.”
The expansive learning spaces sit in the middle of the first floor of the ComArtSci building. Students and faculty are free to move seamlessly from one area to the next when producing or creating content, or when working on collaborative media projects. Many high-activity areas and broadcasting studios are viewable through glass walls, giving passers-by a Today Show experience.
Fox says students often remark on how lucky they feel to have such a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility in which to produce new works. She adds that the new space and studio places ComArtSci on the forefront alongside major universities like Arizona State University, California Institute of the Arts and New York University in offering curriculum and training in global media production.
“Our space is unique in that it has the latest in motion capture and learning technologies for classroom collaboration, production and immersion,” says Fox. “Spartans and the general public are able to see the whole process in real time when they walk by and look through the floor to ceiling glass windows.”
Learning by doing, learning with others
Julie Dunmire was in the initial group of students to experience the power of the new spaces. The broadcast journalism student worked in the newsroom on Election Day 2016, and was the first person to read a live report from the news anchor desk. Dunmire currently takes a class in the newsroom and sometimes interacts with students from other ComArtSci disciplines who are learning and working within the immersive spaces.
“News is not in ‘silos’ anymore,” says Dunmire. “We have to stop thinking about ourselves as ‘photojournalists’ or ‘writers’ or ‘anchors’ because we will all have similar tasks and roles in a digital age.”
Like Dunmire, other students believe that what you learn in a traditional classroom is far different than what you can learn in an immersive or real-world environment.
Media and Information undergraduate Michael Grassi focuses on 3D animation studies and is applying his craft through the immersive studio. His big take-away, he says, is learning to operate advanced motion capture systems and apply motion capture files to 3D animation.
“The new systems we have access to are professional grade equipment, and the products professionals use to make a living,” says Grassi. “Knowing how to operate them and having access to their benefits as a college student preparing for the professional workplace gives us invaluable experience. It shortens the learning curve potential employers would face if they were to hire us.”
Creative Advertising undergraduate Michael Cagney echoes the sentiment. Cagney is continuing to learn the ins and outs of the studio’s motion capture system, and has begun to integrate motion capture skills into his other animation abilities. Those experiences, he says, have strengthened his confidence, and are shaping the direction he will take when he graduates in May.
“I’ve learned how to operate the motion capture system for myself and for others in a professional setting,” he says. “I would like to pursue a job in animation and possibly mocap.”
In addition to applying their skills in news, animation and motion capture arenas, students and faculty can design and produce virtual reality broadcasts and 360 animation renderings for immersive storytelling. The center opens up possibilities for cross-campus collaborations in almost any area, including those underway in athletics, health and medicine and theatre.
“Along with offering our courses in the space, we will also be utilizing the immersive media studio to host events such as game design jams, animation festivals and this February the Cultural Digi Summit in partnership with the Smithsonian Latino Center. We will have industry leaders in technology and culture in residence for two days utilizing the new spaces,” says Fox. “It’s a very exciting time to be at the MSU School of Journalism and ComArtSci.”
By Ann Kammerer
Whether designed to entertain or to achieve more “serious” purposes, games have the potential to impact players’ beliefs, knowledge, attitudes, emotions, cognitive abilities, physical and mental health, and behavior.
Meaningful Play 2016 is a conference about theory, research, and game design innovations, principles and practices. Meaningful Play brings scholars and industry professionals together to understand and improve upon games to entertain, inform, educate, and persuade in meaningful ways.
The conference will include thought-provoking keynotes from leaders in academia and industry, peer-reviewed paper presentations, panel sessions (including academic and industry discussions), innovative workshops, roundtable discussions, and exhibitions of games and prototypes.
Visit meaningfulplay.msu.edu for schedule, to register, and for more information.
Being a Concept Designer for the games industry nowadays demands more than just knowing how to draw, paint or render. Due to industry demands, besides having a strong base in the aforementioned subjects, it is becoming more and more necessary, also to learn how to think in terms of design, functionality and ergonomics.
This lecture will approach some of these elements. In this lecture I am going to present to the audience several elements that makes successful concepts to be used in the games industry. I will talk about the relationship between art and design, as well as the difference between Concept Art and Concept Design; I will discuss the importance of maintaining the connection between form and function; also, I will talk about a few techniques to improve design iteration and production process. All the topics will be approached with the aid of several images to better clarify each topic.
The art of Foley was born when Jack Foley performed sound effects, recorded to picture, for 1929 Universal Pictures production, Show Boat. Since then, it has become an essential part of film, video and interactive sound production. Paul will discuss Foley production techniques, along with the methods and technology used specifically for Foley in games.
paulfoxBio >> Paul Fox has worked professionally in sound design for interactive media for over 15 years. He got his start in game audio at NovaLogic, Inc. on the Delta Force, Comanche and Joint Operations series, and has since worked with Sony, Warner Brothers, Naughty Dog and Activision. He is also credited on game franchises such as Warhawk, Twisted Metal, SOCOM, flOw, God of War, Uncharted, Batman: Arkham Knight, Destiny and Skylanders.
During childhood he experimented with analog cassette recorders, and played piano, guitar, Telstar Pong, Mattel Electronic Football, Atari 2600, and various other instruments. As a young adult, after many years as a touring and recording bass player and electronic musician, he earned his BFA in Music Technology at California Institute of the Arts and has been working in sound ever since.
For the second year in a row, the undergraduate game design program offered by the Department of Media and Information has been ranked by The Princeton Review as one of the top programs in North America to study game design. The graduate program also secured a spot in the top 10 for the first time, further strengthening MSU’s position as a key player in the game design and development arena.
“We’ve been expanding the game curriculum, hiring new faculty, and enhancing our facilities,” says Brian Winn, associate professor of media and information. “The quality and creativity of our student work continues to get better and better each year.”
The Princeton Review is one of America’s best-known education and admission service companies. The review has ranked best schools to study game design since 2010. MSU ranked 8th on the 2016 list of the top 25 undergraduate schools, moving just slightly from last year’s 7th place spot. The graduate program ranked 10th in the 7th annual survey, jumping five spots from last year’s 15th place ranking.
“It’s great to continue to receive recognition for our game program from the Princeton Review,” says Winn. “It’s particularly exciting that both our undergraduate and graduate programs are recognized as top programs in the country.”
Established in 2005, MSU’s undergraduate game design program enables students to learn the technology, design fundamentals and development process of digital games. Students gain valuable skills in communicating and collaborating in team-based projects while building a strong portfolio of games.
The graduate certificate program in serious game design and research was launched in Fall 2012. Students can complete the program as a stand-alone certificate or as part of an MSU graduate degree program. Courses can be taken online or in person on MSU’s campus.
The 2016 list of best schools to study game design by Princeton Review was released in March. The results were based on a 2015 survey of 150 institutions that offer game design coursework and/or degrees in the United States, Canada and some countries abroad. The selection and ranking of schools was derived from criteria that broadly covered the quality of the faculty, facilities and technology, as well as data collected on a school’s curriculum and career services.
The monthly magazine, PC Gamer, also runs an annual article with survey highlights and includes information on many of the ranked schools’ degree programs, class offerings, events, prominent professors and alumni.
So you have particle, zooming through a particle accelerator at nearly half the speed of light. Your job: To keep it on track so it collides with a target. The collision provides information about such things as how the elements were formed.
While that sounds like a job for a scientist who has spent a lifetime studying such heady matters, it’s actually the object of a new digital game designed in part by the Department of Media and Information’s Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) Lab.
Called Isotopolis, the game is a joint venture of the (GEL) Lab and the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) at MSU.
The goal: To get the public, including children as young as middle schoolers, interested in science.
“We need to be able to reach out to kids and get them excited about science,” said Zachary Constan, NSCL Outreach Director who helped design the game. “The game is very accessible, something they can do on their own. It’s going to get to them in a way I can’t.”
With Isotopolis, a player guides a particle along a track, representing the accelerator used in real experiments, working to avoid various obstacles that arise. “They keep it on track by touching the left or right side of the screen,” said Andrew Dennis, Instructor in the Department of Media and Information, who helped design the game.
The more obstacles that are avoided, the faster the player’s particle gets, until it slams into the target, creating a new isotope, or an “atomic flavor of an element.”
“It represents, step by step, what we do in the NSCL, and what will eventually be done at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams when it is complete,” Constan said. “First there is an acceleration phase, followed by a phase where you actually hit the target and select the isotope of interest.”
In a real experiment, these collisions create isotopes that can exist on Earth for less than a second, but often can tell many tales, like providing information on how our universe was shaped and how stars generate the elements that we find on Earth.
“Science is something that people are intrinsically motivated to know more about,” Dennis said. “This gives them access to it in a way that they can really grab onto.”
The game can be downloaded on an iPad for free from the App Store.
Isotopolis is funded by a grant from the American Physical Society. Additional support was provided by MSU’s College of Communications Arts and Sciences, NSCL, the Office of the MSU Vice President for Research, MSU Graduate Studies, MSU University Outreach and Engagement, the Office of the MSU Vice President for Information Technology, MSU Department of Physics and Astronomy, the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics, and the National Science Foundation.
This Specialization covers the theoretical and practical foundations of video game production using the Unity 3D game engine. The Specialization is taught by faculty at Michigan State University with over fifty years of combined experience building games and teaching game production. Michigan State University is one of the top-rated game design and development programs in North America. You’ll learn to develop a game concept; prototype, test, and iterate on your ideas; and navigate licensing, marketing, and other business considerations. The specialization builds a solid foundation for industry roles as a gameplay designer, level designer, technical designer, technical artist, programmer, or producer. In the final Capstone Project, you’ll build an original market-ready game while interacting with a supportive community of designers and developers. The capstone partner for the specialization is the online game portal Kongregate, which provides an avenue for distribution of the capstone project, as well as a pathway for monetization for aspiring game developers.
Created by Michigan State & KONGREGATE
Complete 4 courses, tackle the Capstone Project, and receive a certificate to share your success with the world. The 4 courses include:
Each of these 4 courses costs $79, as well as the Capstone. All together, the total price to enroll is $395. Students have the option to pay per course, or pay for the bundle and save 10%.
For more information on the program, or answers to your questions visit: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/game-development!
The Department of Media and Information will soon be the first at MSU to offer online courses through Coursera, an open online education provider.
A Game Design and Development Specialization taught by MSU Media and Information faculty is set to launch Tuesday, Sept. 15, on Coursera. Accessible to anyone, this online program will include a series of four courses – modified versions of Game Design and Development courses taught in person on MSU’s campus – and end with a final capstone project.
The MSU team – including Brian Winn and Casey O’Donnell, both Associate Professors in the Department of Media and Information, and David Wheeler, Director of Media Sandbox – competed against other institutions for the opportunity to partner with Coursera on the Game Design and Development Specialization and won the contract.
“We’re taking part of what we do physically here at MSU with our Game Design and Development minor and turning it into a specialization on the Coursera platform,” Winn said. “It’s not the complete experience of what we do here, because obviously there are certain things you can do when you are together physically that you can’t do online, but its borrowing a lot of the things that we’ve built and refined over the last 10 years in our top-rated program.”
These will be the first massive open online courses (MOOCs) in Game Design and Development offered by Coursera, and the first time MSU has partnered with the company.
“We are thrilled to offer a Specialization in Games Design and Development from Michigan State University, a leader in this field,” said Daphne Koller, President and Co-Founder of Coursera. “This specialization is expected to quickly reach hundreds of thousands of the 14 million registered learners from around the world on Coursera, many of whom would never have had access to MSU’s high quality instruction.”
Winn and O’Donnell are developing the courses. Students from the Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) Lab and the Media Sandbox are helping with the project.
“We’ve got a really solid curriculum here that only touches about 80 people a year, so we are scaling from 80 to thousands and potentially more,” Winn said. “One of the huge differences between our physical program and the online program is I’m not there. In the online version, I have to make sure it’s a complete course experience that stands on its own.”
David Wheeler, Media Sandbox Director
The first class will be available Sept. 15. The second on Oct. 15, the third Nov. 15 and the fourth on Dec. 15. The capstone course is expected to launch in January. One or more companies will be partnered to offer the capstone. Wheeler is helping develop industry partnerships for the capstone course. The first confirmed partner is the online game portal Kongregate, which will provide an avenue for distribution and even monetization for aspiring game developers taking the course.
“I think this will really will help push MSU’s brand as a location that does game design and development and teaches about it, out to the world,” Winn said. “It is sort of staking our claim over that area. I hope it will build a lot of positive PR for the university and our program. I also think it has the potential of attracting students to MSU in the future.”
The courses will be offered on demand, so students can start them at any time.
Students will receive grades based on two types of assessment – multiple choice, computer graded quizzes and peer review where others in the class grade your projects. Students won’t earn college credit, but can receive a certificate for completing the entire specialization.
The ComArtSci team sees the target audience as professionals, including programmers, designers and artists, who already have a college degree who want to move into the game industry, or high school students who are curious about making games.
“I think this will really appeal to high school students,” Winn said. “It’s a way to get their toe in the water, decide if they like making games, and then hopefully some of them will decide to come here to MSU to pursue it as a degree.”
Anybody can take the courses for free, but to take the capstone and to get the Michigan State University certificate learners need to pay for them.
Coursera has partnered with more than 120 universities and educational institutions to offer hundreds of online courses and specializations in topics ranging from computer science to social psychology and beyond.
For more information, visit the Coursera website.
Of the top 25 Public Game Design Schools and Colleges in the US (in 2015), Michigan State is ranked 7th! And of the top 15 Game Design Schools and Colleges in the Midwest, MSU is ranked 2nd. View a complete list of rankings here (Animation Career Review).