Archive for August, 2011

Games Design 2

August 31, 2011 Leave a comment

In today’s class we looked at game platforms, from consoles to mobile phones and less well know devices such as DVD players and arcade cabinets.

The class researched the specifications of games consoles and gaming PC’s and logged the data in a proforma. They compared the specifications of two devices e.g an XBOX 360 and a gaming PC and wrote about their findings.

Following on from the last class, the students also wrote about the role of a Games Designer and the skills required by someone in that role.

I demonstrated some example games made in Blender – the tool we will be using to make games and also showed the class some videos of professional level games made with Blender.

Categories: Game Design, teaching

Games Design 1

August 29, 2011 1 comment

I’m running the Computer Games: Design (level 5) unit between now and November, followed by Computer Games: Media Assets  and Computer Games: Development, which will take us up to June 2012.Game instruction manuals

Today we looked at the role of the Games Designer.

First I asked the class what they wanted and expected to learn in the games part of their course. Their answers were:

  • Graphics
  • Level Design
  • Programming
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Physics
  • How to make the next ‘Call of Duty’

It’s good to see that they have high expectations…

Next each student was given an instruction manual from a game (some brought their own). We looked at the credits and identified a list of jobs involved in the production of a game. These included:

  • Producer
  • Artist
  • Voice Talent
  • User Interface Designer
  • Tester
  • Cut Scene Animator
  • Programmer
  • Creative Director

We discussed some of these roles, identifying what each person did.

We also looked at the number of people credited in each game.  Some older games had a credits list of about 15 people, whilst most modern games had a credit list of around 150 people. We discussed why the numbers had changed so much in 15 years and also the cost implications of producing a game. We worked out the staffing cost for a game using an average salary of £20,000, 150 staff and 1 years development time – a staggering £3 million!

Next, the class split into 4 groups and were asked to come up with a game idea. Each group was randomly assigned 2 characters, 1 location and 1 game objective. The group had to come up with a plausible game idea based on these and then present the idea to the class.

One group struggled with Pirate, Detective, Shopping Mall and Rescue. Another group developed several ideas with Elf, Animal, Island, Build, finally settling on a ‘tower defence’ game where the elf had to defend their food store from marauding animals by building defence towers around the island.

Finally we looked at the role of the games designer and started by watching videos about Hideo Kojima and Charles Cecil.

We discussed and identied some of the skills required to be a designer, including game-related skills and also generic skills. The class identified the following:

  • Art skills
  • Programming
  • Planning
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Imagination
  • Games knowledge
  • Creativity
  • Resourcefulness
We ended the lesson with a brief look at Games Industry Career Profiles, focussing mainly on the designer.
Categories: Game Design, teaching

Inspiration and where it comes from

August 27, 2011 Leave a comment

As a design client I need alternative ideas and different solutions to enable me to make the best choice for my requirements. As a design teacher I find that many students take the first ideas that pop into their heads and run with it. I ask the students to make alternatives and inevitably they say “I can’t think of anything else”.

What is the best way to bridge this gap? Is it possible to teach people to be inspired?

One method I’m trying is ‘The Creative Habit’. It’s an idea I got from Jim Groom when participating in his DS106 Digital Storytelling class. The idea is simple – to be creative you need to create, so you have to be creating things all the time. You need to get in a ‘Creative Habit’.

To get in the habit, you need to be inspired and then create something with that inspiration. It’s okay to copy an idea, but it should then be remixed and interpreted in your own way. This process needs to be constant, so I’m setting my students small achievable tasks each time I see them in class, then setting them further tasks for homework. The task can be a simple as “Do today’s Daily Shoot” (see below), or “Look at the style of these 10 images, now make your own in the same style”. Each small piece of work builds up into a portfolio of diverse objects that can be used as further inspiration, and these can be shared on Flickr, a blog or a personal website.

Two sites I’ve been using for creative ideas are:

  • The Daily Shoot – a photography site that gives you a new assignment every day.
  • Abuzeedo – a graphic design site that shares ‘daily inspirations’.

I set myself ‘Creative Habit’ tasks too, for fear of my skills becoming rusty. Here are a few of my recent creations.

  • Musical Birds. A while ago I read about a composer named Jarbas Agnelli who had been inspired by a photograph of birds sitting on five overhead wires. The birds looked like musical notation and he used the positions of the birds to create a piece of music. Taking inspiration from this idea I decided to make an interactive animation based on it.
  • I teach Art & Design Context, a unit about art history. Students find the subject rather dull, so I encourage them to try to recreate the styles in their own images.I particularly like Art Deco style of the 1920’s and 30’s so created a tutorial on recreating this style using Adobe Illustrator.
  • After seeing an ‘invisible man‘ image on a website I tried making my own and plan to do this activity with my students.

In getting the Creative Habit I hope the students will learn to see inspiration all around them, generate lots of ideas and create lots of designs. At the end of the year they should have a substantial portfolio of work, and increasingly it’s the diverse portfolio that’s securing students a place at university or attracting employers.



Categories: teaching

Teachmeet Carnegie College

August 22, 2011 Leave a comment

We held an internal Teachmeet at Carnegie College to share ideas and best practice amongst teaching staff.

Around ten presentations were made by staff from different departments on a range of topics including:

Although the presentations were very informative, unfortunately the turnout for the audience was very poor. The presentations were amongst the most useful CPD activities that have been offered in this past week at college (and there have been a lot), but for some reason there didn’t seem to be an appetite for participation.

Having attended a few ‘regular’ Teachmeets myself, I’ve found that the participants are predominantly from Primary and Secondary schools, and there is a distinct lack of participation from FE and HE. Maybe the ‘high and mighty’ lecturers know everything already. Maybe they wouldn’t be seen dead slumming it with school teachers. I really don’t know what their problem is.

My next Teachmeet will be during the Scottish Learning Festival on 21st September 2011 at the Glasgow Science Centre.

Categories: CPD, teaching, Teachmeet