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  • Capitalizing on Curriculum: Industry Partnerships in Game Education

    - Beth A. Dillon
  •  NaturalMotion's Academic Program has been picked up by the University of Portsmouth, Full Sail, and Swansea Institute, among others. In the case of Swansea, the partnership exists in their School of Digital Media courses, including BA and BSc 3D Computer Animation, BA Creative Computer Games Design, BA Interactive Digital Media, BSc Multimedia, and BSc Music Technology. The 3D character animation software developer offers endorphin licenses for all school PCs, early access to new NaturalMotion technology, and technical and supervisory support for select academic projects. The endorphin program is now also offered in the form of a time-restricted free trial with a compendium manual and training tutorials.

    Microsoft's XNA has also permeated universities and colleges after promoting their "user-generated content" drive into the next generation of game development. Most notably, the Guildhall at Southern Methodist University has partnered with Microsoft to come up with applicable curriculum and industry-preparing experiences for other educational programs. SMU Guildhall's Innovation Laboratory is tasked with helping improvements in game development academic programs by using XNA Game Studio Express, a software toolset based on Visual C# 2005 Express Edition and Microsoft .NET Compact Framework. The technology is aimed at PC and Xbox 360 homebrew programmers, enthusiasts, and students.

    Other colleges are also picking up XNA, not just for full curriculum programs, but also for individual courses, following the lead of PixelBox Academy, an e-learning school that offers online training for animation, VFX, and game development. The course, "XNA Foundation - Game Development with XNA Game Studio Express," introduces students to Visual Studio C# Programming Basics, input control basics, Sound Basics, 2D Sprites and animation, 3D game creation using Torque X and Network Play basics.

    GarageGames' Torque X spin on Marble Blast.

    Microsoft also offers their own video tutorials and community support for anyone interested in trying their hands at independent or hobbyist game development, which can be incorporated into university or college curriculum.

    GarageGames, known for games such as Marble Blast, has also partnered with Microsoft XNA through its game engine Torque X, combined in many of its forms of curriculum. Torque Education, which offers free licenses for instructors and researchers using the technology, has numerous full source C++ licensed schools using its game engines. DeVry University's Game Simulation Programming program, University of Southern California's BA Interactive Entertainment and MFA Interactive Media, and the Savannah College of Art and Design are among the list.

    Most recently, Emergent announced a new academic program, the Emergent Research Alliance, for its game development tools and Gamebryo game engine, used for titles such as Sid Meier's Civilization 4 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. By participating in the Alliance, universities will receive free licenses for classroom use and research. However, a limited number of openings are available in each program. Emergent is making an effort to target universities with graduate programs as well as unfunded research projects.

    Sample scenes of lighting effects in Emergent's Gamebryo.

    Once involved, the university will be able to collaborate with Emergent architects and software engineers for industry views and data as they research. The Alliance offers visits from Emergent professionals for seminars and guest lectures at the school, as well as participation for faculty in the annual Emergent Academic Summit. Finally, Emergent plans to provide internship opportunities for students.

    As software and middleware continues to range from platform-specific to open-ended, considering the differences between game engines and art programs, for example, curriculum choices in game education tied to technology must be made carefully to reflect the needs of students. Schools are likely to continue with differing curriculum understanding the unique aspects of each degree as students head into the flourishing and competitive industry of video games.


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