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EAE:MGS Overview

Program Overview

The Entertainment Arts and Engineering Master Games Studio (EAE:MGS) is truly a unique academic program. Our program has brought together the Department of Film and Media Arts, the School of Computing, and top industry professionals to create a one-of-a-kind learning experience in game production.

Students enrolled in the EAE program are typically interested in pursuing a career in interactive entertainment. The program is built around this goal and offers students a world-class education from the state’s leading research university, as well as an opportunity to develop a professional game portfolio, and a chance at an internship in the game industry.

Our Program

Our Program

At its core, the Entertainment Arts & Engineering Master Games Studio (EAE:MGS) is an interdisciplinary program offered jointly between the College of Engineering and the College of Fine Arts. Our program creates a partnership between engineers, artists, and producers through closely working together in groups. The program is designed this way because these groups reflect the current state of the entertainment business world, where people from disparate disciplines work closely together on a daily basis. Anyone interested, in the Entertainment Arts & Engineering program, has three areas of concentration from which to choose:

  • Artists (including fine artists, animators, modelers, and riggers)
  • Software developers/Engineers
  • Producers

Each track also has a concentrated set of explicit electives to choose from in the School of Computing, Film and Media Arts, and other departments on campus. The EAE:MGS program also requires a professional level internship, an internal internship, or an individual research project which is usually completed either during the summer between regular semesters, or during the final semester.

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Game Arts

Game Arts

Students in the Arts Track focus on the tools and techniques required to understand and use the components of design, story, drawing, and storyboarding for games. Students are trained to expand their artistic skills as they create interactive worlds, animation, cinematics, characters, and models that are integrated into cutting edge games. This is done with cutting-edge industry tools and the latest equipment in a true entrepreneurial game development space.

In regards to Last March of the Dodos, we only had a couple of students from the Arts Track to produce assets for both the 2D & 3D environments. Moreover, during our games development, we were challenged with not only improving the growth and quality of the art assets within each 2D & 3D environment (whose methodologies are very disparate processes) but also blending their aesthetic cohesively as well as producing a look and feel that matched the quality with which we pitched our game: "politically incorrect quirky fun".

Through the tutelage of our talented faculty, the artists succeeded in creating a visual narrative that reconciled our game's cartoony, goofy theme. When considering the resources and strained artistic workforce we had at our disposal, this aspect of our games development is a source of pride for those artists who helped conceive our initial vision into a reality.

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Game Engineering

Game Engineering

Students in the Engineering track take game engineering classes that focus on the technical aspects of video games including game engines, graphics, artificial intelligence, and novel input devices. Students in this track learn selected topics as applied to building a game engine. Topics include: professional programming practices for games using C++, mathematics for games, data structures and algorithms for games, asset database systems, game pipeline processes, design patterns common to industry, and debugging systems used in the industry.

As their curriculum progresses, engineering students learn selected topics by dissecting given game engines and applying them to the game engine they previously built. Students in the Engineering track are trained to expand their CS aptitude as they cover a range of topics including: high performance computing, GPU/parallel programming, low-level algorithm analysis, cross platform development, memory management, code optimization, hardware, I/O devices, technical project management, game project architecture, industry standards and norms, shader programming, and networks for games.

Our talented engineers were tasked with several challenges while developing Last March of the Dodos. Beyond building an engine that included an AI which learns to avoid player placed traps, physics-based unit collisions and launches, as well as chaining the dodos from trap to trap, our engineers had to grapple with a UI layout, camera system, achievement & scoring method, and an inventory/trap store system that underwent constant transformation throughout the course of our game's entire development.

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Game Production

Game Production

The Production track is a three part sequence designed to both educate and prepare students for the variety of tasks undertaken by producers involved in video game development and focuses on theory, praxis, and performance. Producers focus on a survey of game production in the first semester which incorporates a variety of topics including team management, task management methodologies such as scrum, waterfall and agile development, marketing and the publishing side of producing games as well as business and legal concepts as they relate to the development and publishing aspects of game production.

In the second semester, producers focus on art and content production in games and consequently develop a thorough knowledge and understanding of the production and project management for computer games projects as they relate specifically to the art side of game development. In the third semester, producers focus on the technical and engineering aspect of game production. Moreover, producers are required to take basic Game Arts and Game Engineering classes, not only to give them a better understanding of gaming technologies so that they may become better project facilitators, but also to enable them to help fill the shoes of either the artist or engineer in order to successfully meet their milestones.

In regards to Last March of the Dodos, the producers are credited with filling many roles; among which were game designer, level designer, 3D modeler, art director, UI designer, texture artist in addition to the regular producer responsibilities which were relegated to task and team management as well as pitching and presenting the game on several occasions.

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Our Thesis

Our Thesis Project

The process by which our thesis game prototypes are determined and developed is one of the many aspects that makes the EAE:MGS program highly captivating. As industry game development methods continue to evolve, our program's skilled faculty will also continue to alter and tweak their mentoring methods. We found, for the duration of our game's development, the procedure which the graduate students underwent to determine and develop the EAE:MGS class of 2013 final thesis game prototypes was truly engaging.

At the beginning of our second semester, students from all three tracks were invited to submit a game design idea (along with a GDD). After an administrative vote was cast, seven game ideas were chosen. Consequently our entire class was divided into seven teams with four members to each team (1 producer, 1 artist, 2 engineers). Each team had a little more than a month to develop a prototype which each producer had to pitch and present to a mixed panel of industry professionals and our professors at the end of our prototype's development cycle. After the panel conducted their intensive deliberation, although we were led to believe only two would be picked, three game prototypes were chosen (oooh those crafty scholars!) for our final game projects.

Consequently, Last March of the Dodos was one of the three games that made the final cut for our thesis game prototypes. Therefore, for the remainder of our first year and the entirety of second, our Game Projects class solely focused on the development of our thesis game. Looking back at the three game prototypes that were chosen, one thing was clear; each possessed a promising game mechanic worthy of creative investigation. From the beginning of our game's development, it was evident that Last March of the Dodos provided its user with a gratifying gameplay mechanic.

By the end of our first year (2nd semester) our prototype had a working game engine and a core gameplay mechanic that successfully demonstrated our intended gameplay design. However, our prototype did not possess a level of sufficient art and visual assets necessary to provide, to the user, a sufficient grasp of our game’s aesthetic, environment, and theme: quirky, cartoony, goofy, and politically incorrect - this aspect was implicit and crucial to the promise we made when pitching our game. Moreover, 'making good' on our game's promise to its user was essential to successfully answering the thesis question presented by our game's pitch: could we take a very sensitive topic - such as extinction - and make it fun?

To make a long story short, the final two semesters of our game's development entailed a balancing act between the tasks delegated to our engineers and artists which were determined through an iterative process that endured many modifications and alterations. Although our initial vision of providing the user with several game levels was a slightly ambitious scope, we were able to develop a game with three levels - each of which lend themselves to specific challenges & achievements emphasized by the set of tools (traps) that are unlocked and provided for each level. We are proud to share with you the results of our hard work and academic pursuit at the EAE:MGS program; we hope you enjoy playing as much we did creating:

Last March of the Dodos