Game development on the rise in ASU classes

ASU's computer gaming certificate is open to all students of any major

With Dreamleague competitions and Friday night Smash tournaments, the Tempe campus is quickly becoming a hub for student gamers. However, those that want to create their own interactive worlds have a sizable amount of options to choose from.

Nestled inside the Brickyard building on Mill Avenue is where students will find the computer gaming certificate, a non-degree program crafted to teach prospective designers, coders and artists the tools of the growing trade.

Yoshihiro “Yoshi” Kobayashi is the focal coordinator and lecturer of the certificate programs, and has been a member of the department for the last six years. He explained that the structure of the classes involved six courses: three core classes in game development, and three elective courses with subjects ranging from game engine development to 3-D modeling.

“The first level, CPI 111 or Game Development I, is a course to study how to create a 2-D game using GameMaker, which is a very popular game engine,” he said.

The second level, CP 211, sees students delving into three-dimensional space via Unity, a game engine used in many PC and mobile games. In addition, they will begin to study game programming as well.

“50 percent of the course is programming,” he said.

From there, students can then choose from two tracks of 13 elective courses: programming or art. Programming students will work on the Game Engine Development course as one of their classes.

Art students will focus on the Fundamentals of Game Art course, and 2D game Asset Creation, which includes working with Adobe PhotoshopIllustrator, After Effect and SpriteStudio. Afterward, similar courses will undergo work in the three-dimensional space.

Level four is the culminating Gaming Capstone course, where students will collaborate in groups of four and work with student or professor collaborators outside of the certificate program to finish a full game.

In addition, the program works with the digital culture program to hold the Game Impact certificate, an additional elective. The course focuses on making educational games.

Kobayashi explained that the program fell into the ranks of general study, meaning that any student of any major could take the classes to complete the certificate.

Around 25 to 30 students graduate with the certificate, down from 150 at the beginning of the program. 

“Most of the students figure out how difficult it is to develop a game,” Kobayashi said of the decline with a chuckle. “Or, they already know game design, so they stop going to the certificate program.”

Overall, Kobayashi calls the program “healthy,” and said he was very proud of it and its progress.

In addition to his work with the certificate, Kobayashi is also an advisor to the Game Development Club, which meets every Friday in Lattie F. Coor Hall.

Junior computer science major Excel Ortega is the club’s creative director and a student of the Game Certificate program, focusing on game art. He said that the classes taught at Brickyard are “very specific,” and teach small things about the development process, something he considers a positive. 

The club also emphasizes the team aspect of game development.

“In the club, we kind of try to mend the gap,” he said. “Game development is a team industry, you can’t just make a very good game, like a ‘triple-A’ game like 'Skyrim' or 'Bioshock' by yourself.”

“In classes, it’s more individual-based what someone can make on their own time. Here, we try to show that a team can work together to make a good game,” Ortega said.

Senior psychology major Joseph Cash is the club’s game director and president, and considers his specialty to be game design. He said that the Brickyard classes were very good at teaching the basics of game development, but they also emphasized project-based learning.

“It’s in the sense of not just, ‘You’re going to learn some skills and do a project,” he said. “Here, it’s, ‘Hey, we have this big game project, it’s going to take a year to make — come, learn something.’ If you want to be a designer, you’re going to come, you’re going to make some levels, you’re going to do some scripting, you’re going to actually build something for your portfolio.”

Cash said the club links its work with the classes from the certificate course by finding out what classes members have taken, and their experiences with game design.

From there, members are grouped based on skill set and given tasks from their leads that are slightly above what they have learned. This way, team members and leads are given the chance to increase their knowledge of their particular area of design.

Currently, the club is working on a 3-D naval combat game titled “Twisted Sails.”

“It puts two teams of four together in a small arena filled with power-ups,” said Cash. “There are four different kinds of ships, and each has their own special weapon. It’s a team death-match game.”

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