Sunday, February 24, 2013

WPI Game Development

On Thursday I visited the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts as a guest of the department of Interactive Media and Game Development (IMGD), where I gave a  lecture on Worldbuilding.

The IMGD program at WPI is designed to provide students with both programming expertise and art knowledge so that they're well rounded in their approach to interactive design.

One of the professors is Britt Snyder (left, with a Jordu Schell sculpt between us). Britt has worked as an artist in the field of video game development for the past 13 years, with clients like SONY, Blizzard, Liquid Entertainment, Rockstar, THQ, and many others.
He teaches 3D modeling, digital painting, and concept art.

WPI was one of the first to develop a program in game design, and is one of the top-ranked academic programs in the field. Since the department is part of a larger engineering school, there's always a focus on blending art and technology, with an eye on fostering close working relationships between artists and programmers.

Students get to jump right in and participate in hands-on projects and collaborations, creating games, virtual environments, interactive fiction, art installations, collaborative performances. They are encouraged to invent entirely new forms of media.

I was thrilled to be invited by PhD candidate Jia Wang to try out the virtual reality mo-cap lab, dubbed "Phase Space."

I am wearing a stereoscopic head-mounted display and holding a tracking constellation (basically a souped up Wii controller with very precise tracking points). 

The myriad sensors mounted on the outer frame follow  the exact 3D movements of my head and hand-held wand, turning me into a St. George with a sword facing off against a dragon, or whatever. 

Small fans mounted on the outer frame can generate the effect of wind, so that the player can feel completely immersed in a virtual environment.


Anonymous said...

He teaches 3D modeling, digital painting, and concept art.

Since you're as qualified as anybody to answer the question, do you think video game development is perhaps the most promising career field choice for young people with artistic aspirations? It seems to be taking over everything.

James Gurney said...

Etc, I'm definitely not an expert on career placement, but I would guess that the job/graduate ratio is better in game design than in most other art fields, because the industry is so big and the number of schools with good programs is still relatively small. WPI is in a special position of giving its students programming AND art experience, making them potentially valuable to companies that need people who can communicate across the art/technical chasm.

Anonymous said...

I've an idea for you: Dinotopia: Art School....the dinosaurs are working on canvas, paper, and clay. :)

Jia Wang said...

James, thanks for the great talk! I loved your comment at the end about "geting more immersed in the world is critical for the world building inspirations". It would have been great if I could have prepared a demo of my "immersive world building" work to you on that day as I think you might be interested. Here is a Youtube video link to it. Hope you like it and any comment is appreciated!