Sixty teenagers spent two weeks at Emagination Game Design this past summer. Sponsored by Emagination Computer Camps, Emagination Game Design is an intensive two-week program for 16-18 year olds who are serious about learning game design and development.
Teens studied the game design and development process as it happens in the game industry and worked on a development team while learning game design skills to build a playable video game. Each team presented their game to industry experts for critique and awards.
The program took place in June and July at Bentley College in Waltham Massachusetts in an amphitheatre style classroom with advanced media features. Students got a taste of college life by living in campus dorms and eating meals in campus dining halls. In 2007, Emagination Game Design plans to expand the program to Atlanta and Los Angeles.
Emagination’s program used 3D Studio Max from AutoDesk and FPS Creator from The Game Creators Limited. Students learned to create the game world including 3D characters. They studied design and function, programming, menu construction, and also created music and sound effects.
After learning key skills, students chose a role on a development team. There were graphic artists who created 3D characters, vehicles and weapons. Level designers led the development of the game world with background images, lighting and special effects. Audio artists selected music and sound effects to bring forth the emotive elements of the game. Story writers provided the foundation for game play. Programmers wrote some code for control functions and helped bring to life the graphical, sound and lighting elements. All students played the role of game tester.
Using a design document created especially for the program, the development teams set out to design a playable game. The development team role of Lead Designer was filled by a team of instructors comprised of graduate students in video game design programs at leading universities such as the University of Southern California and specialty game design schools like Full Sail.
Learning teamwork was an important lesson for students. “Video games are developed by teams, not individuals,” said Craig Whiting, Executive Director of Emagination Game Design. “Creators of art assets need to understand the implications of their work on programmers,” he added. “When creating the curriculum for the program, industry leaders told us that fostering teamwork and understanding across disciplines is a constant challenge.”
Ten development teams including The Alchemists, Discord, Slashhack Games, and Noob Productions created first person games titled Ninja Polyester Monkey Soft
, Cardinal Chaos and the Butter Monster Siege
, Cranial Corruption
, and Trih Xeem
. Each team presented its game to industry experts including Rick Goodman, the legendary creator of Empire Earth
The Emagination Game Design program was highlighted by a tour of Blue Fang Games, the developer of the Zoo Tycoon
series of games that are published by Microsoft Game Studios. During their visit to Blue Fang Games, students toured the development studio and got an overview of Blue Fang’s development process and staff.
The visit was broken up into six different sessions focused on Art, Design, Engineering, Production, Quality Assurance, and Sound Design. A Blue Fang representative from each department provided an overview of their department and their role in the development process, answered questions from the students and provided advice on how to begin a career in the gaming industry. The students also got a behind-the-scenes look at Blue Fang’s newest game, Zoo Tycoon® 2: Marine Mania