Ok, first up. I apologies that it took soooo long to update. However, you should have gotten something new before this. But Blogger, during a maintenance cycle ate my last entry shortly after it went up and I lost it completely. Makes me sad. Also, work here at the Guildhall is growing as in under a month our 2-D games are due. The program’s workload is not for the faint of heart, but its worth it. Now, when I wrote this, I forgot what was in my blog and what got eaten, so this might sound a little redundant.
Also, to all you fine people that have sent e-mails and added comments here, thanks. Believe me, I do notice them and I am read them. Especially you J. O and, as the Galbania treasury is limited, don’t expect to see me in DS land anytime soon. I’m behind in e-mailing.. well most everyone. Again, why we have the blog. If you guys could, pass on the location of this place to anyone that wants to keep in touch with me please do so. I’m not going to have time to do much of anything until near the end march.
Ok, so… I wrote last time in the post that vanished about the different classes I’m taking and the program we level design people are using. I partly blame that program on the loss of that post, because I spoke badly of it. I made the comment that if it heard me talk badly of it that “I’d find myself in a cornfield someplace.” So… yea… more on that later.
So the classes, now that I know them better, why don’t I tell you a bit more about them. They are 3 hours long, but we get breaks every hour or so.
First is Games Study. We’re looking at the development cycle of a video game, the history of games, and the some what philosophical question of “what is a game?” As a class, we all agree that the state in a game's production cycle is the "Fruity Drinks" stage. The Prof is an ex-Lucasarts guy, a company when I was younger was the only company I wanted to work for. I still wouldn't mind working for them. He also worked on, or was near, a number of games that I've loved. So I’ve naturally asked him a number of questions. This class I think I’ve learned the most about what it’s like in a game company and what it takes for a company or studio to get a game out.
Next, Art for Level Design. This class is for only people like me whom are in the Level Design, though if the others aren’t in class they can sit in. I understand a number of LDs (Level Design Students) took advantage of this and sat in on the Art students classes. So, in this class we learn how to make tilesets and how to show and tell the art guys what we want from them. I’ve gotten that we LDs are both new to the industry as an officially recognized job (its always been around, just now they see it’s a full time thing), and that we are the guy that keeps the artist and the programmers in line with each other as we speak both of they’re languages. As for tilesets, what are they you might ask. A tile or tileset is to a level in a game as wallpaper is to a wall. Take a square picture of something; say some dirt, grass, a brick wall, or the like. Now place four copies of the same picture next to each other so that they form a 2 x 2 grid. You should be able to see where one picture starts and the other starts. What we do is make these pictures “tile” so that in the same 2 x 2 square formation you can’t tell where one picture starts and the other ends. This is not an easy job, though it is possible to make most anything tile. Even a face. It’s just a matter of how much time, effort and sanity you want to put into it. I also like this teacher, as he isn’t much of what you think a teacher is. He is smart and we’re learning all kinds of things from him that will be very valuable in the future, don’t get me wrong. But he comes off as the guy in class that causes trouble than the guy running the show. He admits that when his wife, a teacher also, goes on field trips, they have him watch over the bus with the troubled students as any trick they come up with, he has already done.
Next we have Level Design. Clearly, this is another LD only class. In this class we learn about creating, documenting, and building a level. We learn what makes for good game play and what will kill it. We learn how to make a player do what we want them to so as to experience gameplay we’ve created for him while keeping the control of the player in his hands. One of the things we’ve looked at is, how to motivate a player, and the physiology you can use like sound and lighting. Create a hallway, the player will move down it without looking back. Create a hallway that is dark, and the player will have a weapon out and will move more slowly and carefully down it. We also looked at tricks we can use to create better looking games without better technology.
Lastly we have Team Game Production with Prof, Simon. This is where you will pick up your standard issued “Fear of God” at. This class has us looking at the basics of making a game, and the documentation that goes with it. The documentation is kind of hard, but as we can all say that we’ve done it, we’ll look better than most people around to employers. That’s kind of the thing. Yea, for some people this is boot camp (I’m sure people that have been in boot camp will have words about that) and its hard and you don’t have much time outside of class for anything but classwork, but in the end you’ll have a job and you’ll be good at it and will get them rises faster. I’ve referred to this place as being Dagobah. It might a “smelly mud hole,” but you’re leaving a Jedi. I’ll talk more about how worth it is later. However, this place, Plano, I wouldn’t call it smelly or a mud hole. Its really nice, though its funny as hell to me what people are like when it hit a low of 30 degrees. Wimps.
We also do our first game in that class, though work in most all our classes goes towards it. They start us with a 2d project. The Programming students go off and are taught to make an engine for a game while art and LDs are paired up and make a game using a… funny little program.
The program we’re using is “The Scrolling Game Development Kit.” It is a fine development program that also acts as a virus. As I understand it, when the Guildhall started it was at the time the best program out there for a person with no programming skill to make a basic game and learn what the teachers wanted the students to learn in they’re first semester. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, it was, and still is, unstable. What do I mean by unstable? How is “its known to eat its own executable.” Its also known to eat and destroy Photoshop if its open at the same time, though with updates it might not do that anymore. Not that we take the chance running them both at the same time mind you. The students believe the program to be alive, a viruses, and evil. Most of our instruction in it largely covered things in the program that, these are his words not mine, “Are a bold face lie,” “Don’t work,” or “Will make it spit blood.” While doing a simple walkthrough, it ate the work of the guy next to me and crashed his system. So far it reminds me of an evil stitch from that Disney cartoon or Imp from the Exalted games back at WMU. Always eating things it should not.
Now, you have to ask yourself, why the hell do we use this. Two reasons. One, as they asked older students if we should have to learn on it, they said “yes.” In part to be mean, in part because of what they came out with after using it. Two, all that these imperfections teach. There are lessons about naming conventions, saving protocols and backing up practices that this teaches that most students just don’t learn otherwise. We old Computer Science guys are really bad about this. With this, you’ll learn. That and the stuff you’ll use aren’t always the best as the editors will be buggy at times that are used in house at a gaming studio, so there is that. Just the trial by fire aspect alone though is worth it in the eyes of the teachers and those that came before me. If you can make a great game with this, you’ll be able to make a great game with most anything.
Just… don’t talk too loudly about it… Else it’ll eat something important.
Ok, so is this, the program, worth it? Yes, without hesitation. Right now its hard to say what I’ve learned as the main goal right now is to make sure we know everything we need to know before the more complex stuff. I could talk hours I’m sure on thousands of different little things I’m sure. The fillings of things I might already know but don’t so that we all have the same knowledge to move on to the harder stuff. And we are learning all kinds of things you can’t get else ware, and while it is hard, its kind of fun too.
But if that isn’t enough for you.
The classes that have come out of here have over an 80% placement rating into the industry, and the first graduating class is at 90%. We have students from here that worked on “Gun”, “Doom 3”, “Age of Empires,” and “Quake 4” to name a few games.
Anyway, coming soon. Photos. And I'll try to post more often.