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  • Student Postmortem: NJIT and Bloomfield College's The Forgotten War

    [09.16.08]
    - Jason Chin
  •  The development of The Forgotten War was a first-of-its-kind teaching project pioneered by Coray Seifert, adjunct professor at Bloomfield College and The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), and by day, a game designer at Kaos Studios/THQ. The game was developed via a partnership between the two schools and Creo Ludus Entertainment, a new game studio whose origin will be explained a bit in this article.

    The Forgotten War is a single-player campaign for Relic's critically acclaimed RTS, Company of Heroes.

    Seifert wanted to give his students (including me) a more useful experience than what's provided in a traditional class structure, so he brainstormed a new way to teach game development. On a beautiful spring day atop a Hoboken rooftop, he presented the new concept over beers and cigars to a group of friends and associates in the game industry. The status quo in the classroom, he said, wasn't really doing his students any good. He proposed turning the curriculum into pure mod projects-students would develop professional and polished content that they could stick their flags into and use as demo pieces.

    He recruited a team of advisors from the game industry, which eventually became Creo Ludus Entertainment. Seifert took on the role of the creative lead overseeing the students, who all acted as level designers. At the end of the semester, the best student levels would be included in the final product, and those designers would receive a credit for their work as well as have a professional quality portfolio piece to kick start their careers.

    The Forgotten War
    was the first game made using this approach. Because we were all experimenting with a new production model, we certainly had our doubts and moments of hesitation. Asking professionals to donate their time to managing a group of students on a one-semester schedule would be (and certainly turned out to be) a big challenge. Even with some setbacks, Seifert's model may just turn out to be a very effective and rewarding way to teach game design.

    What Went Right
    1. Getting it out the door. Perhaps we shouldn't be so proud of the fact that we got our game out the door, but there were many times when this project almost went off the rails. What kept the student team on track most was the guidance we received from the working professional we collaborated with, namely Seifert and Dylan A. Tredrea, who is now executive producer of Creo Ludus Entertainment. Other advisors included staff from Relic, THQ, Gearbox, and Blizzard/Activision.

    Working with the professionals allowed me to focus on programming and design, while they made sure the game got out the door. But it took a lot of firefighting on their part. For example, after the original composer bailed mid-project, they brought on Alan Brown from First Sound Entertainment, who composed an awesome piece and introduced us to voice actor Ed Mace for the opening cinematic narration.

    2. Polish, quality, and substance. The professional advisors not only helped us keep The Forgotten War on track, but also helped us maintain a professional standard of quality and polish. Possibly the most important thing about The Forgotten War is that it is a fun and engaging game.

    The team made good use of our technical achievements to communicate the compelling story the professional team penned for The Forgotten War. Intro cinematics include professional quality music, voiceovers, and a unique and polished visual style. In the game, players play through the unit's strategic alliance with French resistance, made possible by scripted audio and gameplay events with professional quality voiceovers. Of course, most importantly was successfully integrating all these pieces together, so the feature mosaic meshed with the level design to the benefit of both the audio/visual experience and gameplay.

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