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leskern

Unity Starting Class in Game Design - Need help from experts

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Folks, I am new to this site. I didn't know where else to turn, so decided to come here where the people who know are. I am a Director of Technology for an Illinois School district. (http://www.mchs.net/technology/tech.html) Next fall we are offering a game dev class that is one semester long, and I am looking for solutions. First, I had NO idea this was being done, as the person in charge did NOT contact me regarding this. That's an internal thing I am taking care of! However, what's done is done as the class is already planned and has 100 students registered. I have to find a valid solution pronto. We are primarily a Mac-Based school (no cat-calls please!) so I looked into the app "Unity" (http://otee.dk/index.html). Looks like it has everything we need. HOWEVER, I found out that this will be taught in our PC lab. I have been unable to find a solution that will fit. Some of the facts: 1. It has to be something that the students will be able to actually create something... in one semester. 2. It has to be a full-featured product. 3. 3D is preferred. 4. Free products (like LUA) are fine, but paying for a better solution is key. We like to offer REAL-WORLD solutions, not stripped-down toys. Unity is about 300 a pop. No problem there. 5. I need to know if it needs other apps like Photoshop. I have 150 copies of Adobe Creative Suite, and it came as a binary, so I can load it on the PC's. 6. Any related info, like whether it can work using Active Directory, would be appreciated. To make this more interesting, I'd like to send the person who comes up with a real solution some token gifts from the school. Mugs, Shirts, pens things like that. IF you are close to the school (Minooka Illinois) I will consider PAYING a person to come out to assist with the set-up. I AM NOT KIDDING! My contact info is on the web site. Of course I want SERIOUS inquiries, no wishfull thinking. Credentials will be checked, and full knowledge of the solution MUST be proven. Again, we are talking REAL-WORLD here... Thanks, L. Kern

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What exactly is this course designed to teach? What is its scope and depth? What topics will it cover, and what skills/knowledge is it intended to impart on students taking the course?

You've mentioned that you're looking for a "solution," but (at least personally) I'm entirely unclear as to the problem you're looking to solve [smile]

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See, I DON'T KNOW, really.
If I was there during the planning of the class, I could be more specific. Get this: The curriculum isn't even WRITTEN yet. We have a blank slate.
At the end of the class the students should have a grasp of how games are developed, and have something to show that. Learning C++ or another compiler is beyond the scope, as it's only one semester. Have a look at Unity. It's sort of a one-stop-shop for game dev. And it has features that are present in the "BIG BOY" solutions.
I really can't get any more specific here, as I admit I am a newbie... I am sad to say...

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Original post by leskern
4. Free products (like LUA) are fine, but paying for a better solution is key. We like to offer REAL-WORLD solutions, not stripped-down toys. Unity is about 300 a pop. No problem there.

Uh, if you want 'real world' then Lua is a much better choice than whatever on earth this Unity thing is.

Although your requirements of real world + full featured product + 3d + one semester + unskilled students is (IMHO) a totally impossible goal. You're going to have to comprimise on (at least) one of those. Using a toy app like Unity is probably a good start, you might also want to look into providing some kind of framework/base for the students to build on top of to get straight to the core of the material.

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Although your requirements of real world + full featured product + 3d + one semester + unskilled students is (IMHO) a totally impossible goal. You're going to have to comprimise on (at least) one of those.

My comment EXACTLY to the department chair.

Quote:
.... you might also want to look into providing some kind of framework/base for the students to build on top of to get straight to the core of the material.

Like?
See, I am admitting here that I am without knowledge here. It's humbling, but I can take it! See, I am REALLY good at what I do, but this... THIS is like a nightmare to me.


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Original post by leskern
See, I DON'T KNOW, really.
If I was there during the planning of the class, I could be more specific. Get this: The curriculum isn't even WRITTEN yet. We have a blank slate.
At the end of the class the students should have a grasp of how games are developed, and have something to show that. Learning C++ or another compiler is beyond the scope, as it's only one semester. Have a look at Unity. It's sort of a one-stop-shop for game dev. And it has features that are present in the "BIG BOY" solutions.
I really can't get any more specific here, as I admit I am a newbie... I am sad to say...


Yikes. That's going to be a very serious issue.

As OrangyTang mentioned, you're looking at goals that are more-or-less mutually exclusive. The skills required to develop 3D games take years to acquire, full-time, by people dedicated to learning them. Even then, these skills are virtually always split among many members of a team, because it just isn't practical for any one person to "do it all." Even highly intensive fast-track schools like FullSail and Digipen take a couple of years of intensive study, and they really only deliver a short of shotgun-approach overview of the Big Issues in game design and development.

Is there any way you can get those in charge of the course involved in the discussion? I'm not really familiar with the structure of most schools, so I don't know who would be the person to snag here; but in general whoever has the responsibility for setting out the course syllabus and goals. Is there a teacher heading up this project?


Off the top of my head, one thing you might be able to do is an entry-level game programming type course. There are tools like Python that are used in the "real industry," are reasonably easy to learn, and can be used to do real games. For instance, the PyGame library for Python gives you the tools to build simple 2D arcade-style games fairly easily. A cool demonstration of Python's effectiveness can be seen in the article How To Build a Game In A Week From Scratch With No Budget.

Even that though will probably be beyond the scope of what a complete uninitiate can accomplish in a single semester; the author of the article already had enough programming experience to be able to attack the problem effectively. Do you know if there are any prereqs for this class, like taking a CS course or introductory programming? Even a cursory knowledge of programming skills in your students will open up a lot of doors for what you can experiment with in the space of such a course.


Another area you might find useful is removing asset-production from the problem. For instance, don't require students to produce their own artwork, or at the very least let them do it for extra credit if they like. That way the course can focus on a specific area like programming and give it a more in-depth and proper treatment. That, of course, will require some collaboration with the person/people who are actually in charge of specifying the course, though.

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Quote:
Original post by ApochPiQ
Quote:
Original post by leskern
See, I DON'T KNOW, really.
If I was there during the planning of the class, I could be more specific. Get this: The curriculum isn't even WRITTEN yet. We have a blank slate.
At the end of the class the students should have a grasp of how games are developed, and have something to show that. Learning C++ or another compiler is beyond the scope, as it's only one semester. Have a look at Unity. It's sort of a one-stop-shop for game dev. And it has features that are present in the "BIG BOY" solutions.
I really can't get any more specific here, as I admit I am a newbie... I am sad to say...


Yikes. That's going to be a very serious issue.

As OrangyTang mentioned, you're looking at goals that are more-or-less mutually exclusive. The skills required to develop 3D games take years to acquire, full-time, by people dedicated to learning them. Even then, these skills are virtually always split among many members of a team, because it just isn't practical for any one person to "do it all." Even highly intensive fast-track schools like FullSail and Digipen take a couple of years of intensive study, and they really only deliver a short of shotgun-approach overview of the Big Issues in game design and development.

Is there any way you can get those in charge of the course involved in the discussion? I'm not really familiar with the structure of most schools, so I don't know who would be the person to snag here; but in general whoever has the responsibility for setting out the course syllabus and goals. Is there a teacher heading up this project?


Off the top of my head, one thing you might be able to do is an entry-level game programming type course. There are tools like Python that are used in the "real industry," are reasonably easy to learn, and can be used to do real games. For instance, the PyGame library for Python gives you the tools to build simple 2D arcade-style games fairly easily. A cool demonstration of Python's effectiveness can be seen in the article How To Build a Game In A Week From Scratch With No Budget.

Even that though will probably be beyond the scope of what a complete uninitiate can accomplish in a single semester; the author of the article already had enough programming experience to be able to attack the problem effectively. Do you know if there are any prereqs for this class, like taking a CS course or introductory programming? Even a cursory knowledge of programming skills in your students will open up a lot of doors for what you can experiment with in the space of such a course.


Another area you might find useful is removing asset-production from the problem. For instance, don't require students to produce their own artwork, or at the very least let them do it for extra credit if they like. That way the course can focus on a specific area like programming and give it a more in-depth and proper treatment. That, of course, will require some collaboration with the person/people who are actually in charge of specifying the course, though.


EXCELLENT reply.
This is from scratch. There are no pre-reqs. There is no teacher hired (The one who planned this will not be with us next year) There is no rubric. The department chair, I admit, needs to be a part of this. I have seen Python, and will investigate it more with your handy links. The "LUA" solution was given to us by a new teacher that WORKED as a game developer, BUT she teaches fine arts, and does not have the major or minor to teach the class. I've been using her as a reference.
I think our FIRST step is to hire someone!

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Do the students know how to program already? Chances are, not really (like, on a professional level).

Some good beginner environments:

DarkBasic.
BlitzBasic.
RealmCrafter (for the MMO angle; written in BlitzBasic I think).
PyGame (freeware).

If the students know how to program C/C++ already, you might try something like Torque.

If you're going 3D, then Photoshop might be useful for textures, but the real kicker is modeling the 3D models. I suggest getting a product that comes with content packs already, because 3D modeling is a serious skill in and of itself, and 3D modeling packages are invariably complex products (just like CAD programs, say). Also, 3D modeling packages cost about $3000 a pop... For completeness:

3D Studio Max (by Autodesk/Discreet)
Maya (by Autodesk/Alias)
TrueSpace (by Truespace) -- have a cheaper "gamespace" version.

Cheaper solutions:

Blender.
Milkshape.


Last, an alternative would be to attempt to "mod" an existing game. Most popular games come with level building and scripting tools, and have the benefit of already having a lot of art available. I would suggest Unreal Tournament (based on Unreal engine, comes with UnrealEd), or Half-Life 2/Counterstrike Source (based on Source engine, comes with Hammer).

Honestly, unless this is a very advanced computer science program where all the students already know how to program, I would suggest modding an existing game, or using one of the Basic variants that are more of a "game design environment".

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Use an existing game engine that allows your students to create a game without needing to code (or one that uses a very simple scripting language) seems like the best solution. That way, your students can concentrate on the actualy game design/gameplay then all of the technical details.

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I recently completed a 2 term game design course at Drexel University. Our program is relatively new as I was part of the second class to go through this cycle. The first term we were broken up into four 5 person teams, all of us Digital Media majors, meaning we had little to no prior programming knowledge. Each of the teams was to develop a game in 10 weeks, at the end of the term presenting the game to the faculty. Two of the games would then be picked to continue development. We were given the choice between the torque engine developed by Garage Games and GameStudio. Torque is C driven engine and provided more problems then GameStudio. I would look into developing using Gamestudio, http://www.3dgamestudio.com/ as the students in the program were able to develop a fully functional 3d game demo in 10 weeks with little prior programming knowledge.

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