New FAU Courses in Game Design and XR
Spring 2021 Students presented a formal analysis of video games as research posters for midterms in my Video Game Studies (DIG 4713) course. Games were analyzed according to the 4Keys2Fun (Hard, Easy, People, Serious), MDA (Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics), and SGRplay (Screenplay, Gameplay, Roleplay) design frameworks, and the concepts of Csíkszentmihályi’s Flow, Huizinga’s Magic Circle, and Craig’s Uber-Marionette. They also answered a survey to calculate the Playfulness Factor for narrative, competitive, and performative player experience for each game. For the finals, students researched game study journal articles related to games culture, and created posters on topics such as representation, social justice, and wellness:
Fall 2020 Students in my cross-listed 3D Video Game Design (DIG3725C/6547) courses used Unity game engine, Autodesk Maya, Adobe Mixamo, and C# coding to develop 3D video games using the MDA (Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics) game design framework, as detailed in their research posters. Here is a selection of student game demos and posters:
Spring 2020 Undergraduate students in my Video Game Studies (DIG 4713) course created research posters for game analysis and gaming culture. Games were analyzed according to popular game design methods like the MDA Framework and the psychology concept of Flow, as well as a novel new framework called SGRplay (pronounced sugar+play), that I developed to analyze three types of play (screenplay, gameplay, and roleplay) in games. Some selected game analysis posters:
For the Video Game Studies final exam, students presented critical research posters on issues related to video game culture, such as racism, sexism, and addiction:
Spring 2020 in my new Immersive Media for Games and VR (DIG 3773C) course, students created AR shadow box 3D scenes of classic transmedia literature, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, and Charles Dicken’s Christmas Carol. Here is a Youtube video of a tutorial I made for the course:
Some student demos of AR shadow boxes from the Immersive Media course:
Spring 2020 my Advanced 3D Animation (DIG 3306C) students used Adobe Fuse character creation software, Mixamo motion capture clips, and Autodesk Maya to create character animations. Here is a demo reel of selected renders for 2020, followed by a few from spring 2019:
2018-2019 FAU Animation, Game Design, and VR-AR Courses
In my first year teaching in FAU’s Film, Video, and New Media (FVNM) BA program and Media, Technology, and Entertainment (MTEn) MFA program, I taught pre-production art, advanced animation, game design, and interactive media courses. Many were cross-listed between the programs, allowing undergrads to work alongside grad students.
Here is work from our Visual Design for Film, Animation, and Games (FIL4703) and Preproduction, Prototyping, and Previsualization (DIG6546) courses, where students take an original concept through the design process of concept art, storyboards, and animatics.
Here is an undergrad research poster from the pre-production course:
My Special Topics: 3D Game Design (DIG4930) and 3D Production for Interactivity (DIG6547) are also cross-listed in the fall semester. In this course students learn how to use Unity game engine and the MDA game design framework to create a 3D adventure game that has a specific look and feel. Here are some screenshots from their projects:
Here is an undergrad research poster from the game design course:
Media Design (USCB MART B102 Fall 2015-2017)
In my former USCB Media Design courses, I introduced students to 2D, 3D, and interactive design principles using a variety of digital software. Each course had a conceptual theme to develop student projects, such as “Digital Renaissance” or “Emerging Artists”. In the Fall 2017 course the theme was “Persistence of Vision”, where students researched a painter and filmmaker that inspired each other, such as Edward Hopper and Alfred Hitchcock, exploring how aesthetics often flow across media and disciplines.
Selected Media Design student 2D composites done in Photoshop (MART B102 USCB Courses 2014-2017)
Student work was cumulative, building on previous assignments, with more complex software and concepts developed in each step. After completing their 2D imagery, students would learn how to make their artworks into paintings on walls of a 3D gallery in Blender. They learned to apply 3D design principles in virtual space, and use modeling and texturing techniques to create a simple kinetic sculpture. Then they animated a camera fly-through to display their gallery as a rendered movie.
A sample of student 3D gallery animations, many the first time using Blender:
The work of two Media Design students were featured as posters for our 2017 Film & Digital Media Symposium:
Digital Imaging (USCB MART B145 Spring 2016-2017)
In my former USCB Digital Imaging courses, I introduced students to practice-based arts research and the Hockney-Falco thesis, developed by the artist David Hockney and optics scientist Charles Falco. They contend that painters as far back as the Renaissance may have used lenses and mirrors to develop the first photographic aesthetic. This shows students the continuity between historical painting techniques and modern cinematic media, even the rendering and shading techniques in 3D video games. Students explore Hockney’s 1980s “joiner” collage technique in digital software, ultimately seeing how the 2D technique could be extended into Blender 3D software and the Unity game engine.
Selected Digital Imaging student 2D “joiner” composites done in Photoshop (MART B145 USCB Courses 2016)
A video showing students crowd-sourcing of photographic imagery for the project, creating digital 2D joiners in Photoshop, and developing experimental 3D animations in Blender:
In spring 2017, the project was similar, but students focussed more on making the imagery more painterly using filters in Photoshop, and by printing on paper to add physical media.
Selected Digital Imaging student 2D Joiners printed and enhanced with physical media (MART B145 USCB Courses 2017)
Experimental 3D animation done by the 2017 Digital Imaging class:
Students created award-winning posters for USCB Student Scholarship & Research Day:
History of Animation in the US (USCB ARTH/MART B201 Fall 2016-2017)
This survey course I taught at USCB on American animation fulfilled upper level art history credits, and conceptually supported my other production-oriented MART courses. Students learned about the artists and technologists that developed moving pictures since the nineteenth century, from the birth of cinema to contemporary digital media.
Students also wrote papers on topics related to the pioneers of cell and stop-motion animation from the early twentieth century, which showed how techniques evolved with contemporary digital technology. For their final, they designed a research poster that summarized their papers and other work in the course:
There was also a hands-on component to the course where students created simple animations based on historical techniques, using digital software such as Adobe Photoshop, Premiere, and Blender 3D. Here are some student animation cycles based on the horse photography of Muybridge and the 2.5D parallax effect of Disney’s multi-plane camera:
Digital Animation (USCB MART B210-310 Fall 2014-2016)
My former USCB Digital Animation courses at USCB taught students how to create a short 3D character animation in Blender. Students started by doing simple exercises that related to Disney’s historic principles of animation, such as animating a bouncing ball, flour sack, and a biped walk cycle. They then designed an original character-based narrative that they can take through the pre-production, production, and post-production 3D software pipeline. Here is a sample reel of some student character animations:
Broadcast Design (USCB MART B250 Fall 2016)
My former USCB Broadcast Design courses focused on teaching students how to produce educational PBS-style media, including shooting green-screen interviews in a three-camera SCETV television studio with a Tricaster Advanced Edition switcher, shooting B-roll footage with the Canon and Panasonic field packs, editing in Adobe Premiere, and doing post-production motion graphics and visual effects in Blender and Adobe software. Students learned documentary filmmaking techniques like the Ken Burns Effect and the 2.5D parallax effect to make still photographs seem more like video. These courses are interdisciplinary, and appealed to both media arts and communications students.
Collaborative group projects provided experiential learning in developing content for real-world applications, such as these 2.5D animation shots done to visualize sea level rise for an SCETV production called Climate Change: A Local Focus:
An award winning student research poster on the production process:
We also developed internships with SCETV to produce local content for shows like Palmetto Scene. Here is a segment two of my interns did on the Beaufort International Film Festival (BIFF) during the spring 2017 semester:
Video Game Design (USCB MART B281-381 Spring 2016)
My former USCB Game Design courses taught applied interaction design using Unity game engine, and focused on collaborative group projects that leverage abilities of students in media arts and computational science. Students learned experience-based game design by applying a modified MDA (Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics) game design framework, as well as how to code operational logics for event-based programming in C#, and how to process art assets through the game development pipeline.
Here is an example where students developed levels for our USCB Lowcountry Golf 3D game in Unity.
A video demo of gameplay in our first version of the game in spring 2016:
Here is an award-winning student research poster on applied game design for our USCB Lowcountry Golf game:
Graphic Design (USCB ARTS B245 Spring 2017)
In my former USCB Graphic Design courses students were assigned a real-world commercial branding project to create posters illustrations in Photoshop, logos in Illustrator, motion graphics in Blender, and a web site in Dreamweaver. The spring 2017 class created graphics for the USCB Film & Digital Media Symposium during BIFF.
COSMOS Game Design Cluster (UCSC Summer School 2013-2014)
At UCSC, I taught the COSMOS Game Design cluster for high school students gifted in STEM. For one month students lived on campus Monday-Friday, and came to class for five hours per day. I taught my cluster how to create games in Gamemaker, Processing, and Unity Game Engine. It was an amazing experience to have so many talented young students enthusiastically making games for four weeks.