Archive for the ‘Alumni’ Category

Students at Cogswell College spend 48 hours developing games

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

The following article originally on the Mercury News website, February 4th 2015 written by Jasmine Leyva of the Mercury News. It covers the 2015 Global Game Jam event at Cogswell, and offers an inside look at the thoughts, philosophies and experiences the folks at Cogswell had earlier this year.


Cogswell College was one of 518 global sites to participate in the 2015 Global Game Jam, an annual event that sees students and gaming enthusiasts hunker down for 48 hours and create what they hope will be the next great game.

Students, professionals, alumni and hobbyists have risen to a new challenge each year to develop a game, whether it be digital or non-digital, to match a secret theme. This year’s theme was “What do we do now?”

“It’s an open-ended theme, but it’s meant to be open-ended so that the developers have the freedom to do whatever they want, but they have to capture the theme in some way,” Organizer and assistant professor Albert Chen said.

The event ran Jan. 23-25 and included a record 25,000-plus participants around the world. Global Game Jam got its start in 2008, with Cogswell College in Sunnyvale participating since 2009.

Jam participants have the chance to develop their game further by working out design flaws or programming kinks. It is even possible to have their game published and in the gaming market under an independent company or a well-known corporation.

“There have been a number of success stories where students who participated at the game jam have gotten hired into game companies. It’s a great way to jump start their career if they are trying to get into the game industry,” Chen said.

Teams at the Cogswell site were designing games with many different concepts in mind. One group was using Google Cardboard for a virtual reality game. Virgil Garcia, a sophomore at Cogswell, and his team worked around the clock to put together their virtual reality game, which he described as a horror game.

“Our idea was for a dark, atmospheric maze game,” Garcia said.

The groups at Cogswell spent hours building a concept, designing characters and programming playable levels and instructions for their games. One group of came up with Fluster Cluck, a multi-player party game resembling Tron and Snake with plenty of poultry puns.

“I believe the coolest stuff comes from the craziest ideas, and if you’re having fun something must be going right. So we came up with Fuster Cluck. I think it’s just hilarious every time I say it,” said Darrell Atienza, a returning participant to Cogswell’s event.

Atienza, a San Jose resident, was his group’s character designer. Characters he designed for Fuster Cluck included Gizard, a chicken wizard and Robocock, a robotic rooster.

Besides funny game characters and programming levels in just 48 hours, event participants said they were happy to put their skills to use for their passion. Dylan Greek, a junior at Cogswell and Global Game Jam veteran, said he’s been involved in the gaming industry since he was just a little boy.

“I’ve always been an avid player, but my dad worked for a company that made educational games back in the 1990s, so I was kind of a game tester since I was 5,” Greek said.

“I was playing the original Nintendo since I was 2, so it’s amazing to see that games I used to play were developed along the same lines as we are doing now,” said Tanner Posada, a newcomer to the event.

GAMING FOR ALL

Cogswell College has worked hard to include everyone. The Global Game Jam event saw more than 50 participants and the school’s game development club is helping curb the gaming industry’s boys club reputation. President of Cogswell’s game development club, Jodediah Holems said he is focused on making the gaming community open to everyone, just as GaymerX does.

GaymerX and GX are gaming conventions that bring game developers and enthusiast together to discuss their passions while creating a safe space for all attending.

“I think Cogswell is trying to actively get more females, but I think the ratio was 80:20 when I came in,” said alumna Cara Ricci, who participated in this year’s event with a handful of other women.

“I think Jodediah [Holems] has helped things out, especially being the game development club president. I wasn’t here for it, but I know he gave a talk for inclusive and respecting other people,” she said.

Holems, an eclectic developer, is no stranger to the game development jams. He is looking for games that go beyond the normal guns, battles and missions. He develops experimental games that take more than a controller to win a level. Last year he created a game that was a combination of the puzzle game Tetris and a word search. The game ultimately created a story from the letters.

This year he and his team created a game that reached to players’ emotional and psychological playing level. They called it “And after a long day of (blank) I removed my armor.”

For more information about Cogswell College, visit cogswell.edu. For more information about the Global Game Jam, visit globalgamejam.org.

Fantastic work everyone! And much thanks to the Mercury News for coming out for a story earlier this year.

Juan Rubio – Cogswell College
3D Animation Student
Internal Public Relations, Blog Administrator/Writer
Industry News Coverage

Project X’s Driven – Partial Team Retrospective

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Recently, we touched base with some of the team members/Cogswell Students that had worked on the Project X short film, Driven. Given that no press has been generated other than a short blurb on the Cogswell website, we decided to reach out and hear what some members of the team had to say about working on the film.

The following text is direct from each person specified, and may or may not feature edits done in order to provide a smoother reading experience.

From Taylor Hodgson-Scott:

My Responsibilities on the Animated Short Driven:

Source: Official Driven video, Youtube

I was the Lead animator on Driven, responsible for a heavy share of the 3D Animation. This involves making the characters and vehicles/bicycles move believably and have the characters emote in a way they can connect to the audience. As the lead, I also headed up the other animators to make sure their shots were consistent with the shots around them and the motion style we were targeting. Ultimately, the director had the final say, but delegating some animation critiques to me allowed him some time to allocate elsewhere in the production, and allowed other animators quick feedback.

I also compiled the reel, taking all of the latest animations/rendered shots and editing them together to view internally, and allow us to see the flow of the film and if each shot flowed into the next fluidly. Editing is important for capturing a feeling we need to convey- especially in the last third of the film when things are amping up, quick well-timed cuts are necessary for the feeling of speed.

PROGRAMS I/OTHERS USED!

3D Animation, Modeling, Rigging in Autodesk Maya 2011
Edited the film in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5
Texturing and Matte Painting done in Photoshop CS5
Rendered using the Renderman plugin for Maya 2011
Compositing was done in (Eyeon) Fusion (6)

DEVELOPMENT TIME:

About 4 months in Pre-Vis (Pre-Visualization), which included storyboarding and low quality animation to roughly time the film out
About 18/20 months in Animation/Rendering

FOR OTHERS HOPING TO MAKE A FILM!

This is more of a general mantra than a step-by-step. Production Pipeline is much better cataloged than what I can explain in this e-mail, but here’s a few rules of thumb that may be more helpful than the gritty process.

1) You need a story that you really want to tell. It helps if it comes from a personal feeling, because that will help drive the story and performance as you flesh your film out. It can also come from wanting to tell a series of gags or just having good times, but if you don’t care about the story it will fail and be painful to work on

2) You need to seek out and employ constructive critiques from others, inside and outside the film production. This is not about using other people’s ideas and make their version of your film, but rather taking their input to improve your work. Sometimes you need to instead take the spirit of a critique when making changes, but people are perceptive and pick up on problems that you’ll be too close to see.

3) Do as much planning in the early stages as you can, it will pay off tenfold down the road. Sometimes you’ll have to destroy an entire storyboard sequence and build it up again to do it right, but if it’s gotten deep into the animation stage already it will probably be too late to economically fix and meet deadlines.

4) Communicate with your team. So many students and (bad) professionals alike forget to do this, and it is key on getting stuff done. If you’re making a change that affects someone else, don’t leave them out of the discussion if you can help it.

5) Love it! If you love what you’re doing, you’ll be able to stick to it. Finding even the smallest thing to get excited about in a film or a scene can help carry you through the tough times.

From Peter Mo:

Source: Official Driven video, Youtube

As Lighting Supervisor on Driven I was responsible for ensuring consistency and maintaining a quality standard for the lighting department. Lighting is at the tail-end of the 3D production process (Composting and Video Editing come after, but they deal with 2D), so lighters often run into problems that go unnoticed through the 3D pipeline. Render crashes due to Maya nodes created during production, problems with topology or object placement or animation that only appear when you see how they interact with light, crashes and loading issues from referencing other scenes are just a few examples.

Troubleshooting was a big part of my responsibility because technical problems, ranging from little nuisances to show-stoppers, would arise on a regular basis. A lot of my early work was assessing what we could do with our available resources in terms of computing power, people-power, and streamlining things as much as possible.

We used Autodesk Maya 2013 and Renderman for lighting. Renderman has advantages over Mental Ray in a 3D animation pipeline: fast and high-quality motion blur, fast displacement rendering, and Renderman’s Deep Shadow system. Mental Ray’s raytracing capabilities are better, but we would use reflection mapping to fake glossy reflections.

We also used camera-projected textures in the 3D scene to better control the look and style. We rendered all frames in 32-bit/channel OpenEXR image format, which allowed us a lot more flexibility in color correction without worry of color banding. We rendered out many different passes per frame to allow us to adjust different lighting elements independently, such as diffuse, specular, reflectivity, and more, before combining them together.

Unlike the two previous projects in which I was working with students who had taken lighting class, I was working with a team that had little or no prior lighting experience. Lighting and rendering took place over 2 semesters, including a lot of training in the beginning. Even after lighting was mainly complete, re-rendering of certain things went on until the very end if changes were needed or if a problem could not be fixed in compositing.

We used render presets and light rigs as a way to keep things consistent across the shots at different times of day. We had a pre-dawn and sunrise setup for Acts 1 and 3 and an afternoon setup for the flashback portion in Act 2. The light rigs were updated and improved as needed and everyone would reference one into their scene to use as the primary light sources, for moon, sun, and sky lighting. Additional lights for characters were added on a per-shot basis and setups that lighters create that worked well were shared for others to use when appropriate.

For compositing, we used Eyeon Fusion 6. It is a powerful node-based compositing program which allowed us to quickly change or fix visual elements which would take much longer to do on the rendering side. Making certain parts of the composition modular and reusing them in each other’s scenes reduced the amount of redundant work we’d need to initially perform in order to build up a composite from scratch.

Useful effects and techniques that individual compositors came up with were also made modular, such as color correction nodes for shots that had been approved, or a heat-distortion effect that worked well. All monitors used for compositing were color-calibrated to ensure the closest possible image when viewed on any of those monitors. In additional to traditional 2D compositing techniques such as color correction, rotoscoping masks, and paint fixes, we also incorporated 3D techniques directly in Fusion.

To save on render-times for a lot of the vegetation in the environments, we pre-rendered various sprites, generated point clouds of their locations, and then imported 3D cameras and the point clouds from Maya into Fusion. The vegetation sprites would be attached to points on the point cloud and rendered from the 3D camera and placed over the 2D shot, all in Fusion.

Compositing took about 2 semesters worth of work with a few dedicated compositors and a few more that were splitting time between compositing and other responsibilities. An additional month could be counted for training since none of the students had ever used Fusion before. We had a Digital Tutors account and students studied many of their Fusion lessons. I also gave some lessons based on my experience using Fusion on previous projects.

For the first time on any project, we used our own in-house render management software instead of commercial software. It was customized to our needs and the developers were very responsive to our suggestions for improvements and additional features. Commercial render management software we’ve used in the past was not reliable and we couldn’t get the type of support we needed when problems arose. It definitely helped us all maintain our sanity–without it we’d pretty much have to take shifts around the clock to babysit each render job, especially at crunch-time.

Thinking back over the events during the production of Driven, I admit I was concerned how everything was going to come together at the beginning; however, the technology we used ended up working well enough and seeing how far the initially inexperienced team had come by the end of the project was very satisfying. I’m very proud of all the students who had sacrificed so much of their time and energy to making the film the very best they could.

From Steven Chitwood:

Source: Official Driven video, Youtube

Steven handled the VFX on the short, “All effects were done in Maya 2011, specifically. I used Maya fluids, particles, nParticles. Types of effects were fire, smoke, dust, explosions, and liquids. All effects were either rendered with Mental Ray or Renderman.” he says. Other programs used in the making of Driven included ” ‘Zbrush’ for 3D sculpting of characters and some environments, ‘Renderman for Maya’ (the Rendering engine used for the film), ‘Eyeon Fusion 6′ for Compositing, and finally ‘Mel’ and ‘Python’, for scripting.

To manage the team, a combination of verbal communication, along with email and other means were used to provide both official and unofficial ‘check in’ updates. “We used Google Docs for documentation including tasks for each departments, deadlines, and milestones. We did keep track of everyone’s hours and their tasks so we could accurately predict of where the project was going.” says Steven.

On the project pipeline, Steven said the following, “I was not in PX (Project X) during the beginning, I jumped in almost mid-way through but here’s my take. We first start off a pitch that Mike had and we discussed things of what did work and what didn’t for the story. Concurrently, we started create to concepts of the film while the modelers and animators were developing the layout of the film, also, the riggers were doing some RnD (Research and Development). Once some of the concepts were starting to be officially approved, modelers would start to make the final assets and create textures for them. Once assets, textures, and animations were done, those shots would be handed off to the lighters.

Lighters simply then light shots and render them and bring them to the next stage: compositing. Compositing is where we bring all the images together to make the final shots, making final tweaks to make the shots the way we want it. Keep in mind, when animators are done with shots and the assets are created, we also hand off those shots to the effects department (me).

There, we create the fire, smoke, dust, etc and then render those effects as well in separate images, just like what the lighters do. We then bring those also into the comp to finish the shots entirely. While we are doing this film, we are also doing an ongoing edit for the film. Towards the very last stages of the film, we edit the film and see what ever else changes/fixes we need to do.”

Lastly, in short the pipeline process is as follows “story->concept->look development->layout->modeling->rigging->animation->effects->lighting&rendering->compositing->final edit”, also “We decided to create our own render-farm. Our render-farm was used to expedite the rendering process.”

It’s very clear that a lot of work went into making the short film, everyone that worked on the project had a part in making it all possible. Fantastic work everyone!!

Source: Official Driven video, Youtube

Juan Rubio
3D Animation Student, Internal Public Relations, Industry News Coverage, Blog Administrator/Writer
Cogswell College

Goodbye to Cogswell

Friday, May 8th, 2015

It passed by in a flash, just like I’d expected it to when I first arrived here. To be honest, some days did drag on especially long—mostly during finals week when I was running on empty and animating furiously at 3 in the morning. Even during the roughest spots of my education here at Cogswell, I always felt blessed that I was doing what I loved and never regretted the amount of work that went into it. Whenever I had doubts, I would remind myself, ‘you could be in nursing school right now,’ and instantly whatever difficult project I was working on didn’t seem so bad anymore. Getting to do what I loved every single day was a luxury that it seems I’d fought my entire life to have.

I definitely learned some important and valuable lessons during my time here. Some I’ve noticed as a bystander, others up close and personally. I’d like to list a few here.

1. Don’t wait for things to change, be proactive and be the change.
One of the biggest problems I’d see around school were plenty of students complaining about their lives or the way things were run. A lot of whining, but very few people taking the time to make a change or coming up with solutions for problems. This may sound harsh, but if people put the same amount of energy into just making things happen rather than constantly expressing dissatisfaction, we’d be in a different place altogether.

2. The connections you make now will carry on to the future.
You know the kids you’re going to school with? Take a good look, because chances are you’ll be working with them later. Don’t be a jerk. Share cookies. Give positive feedback rather than dismissing their efforts at what they’re trying to do. The relationship you’re forming now could be the key to establishing good connections in the industry later.

3. Don’t be arrogant.
Yes, be confident in your work and what you can bring to the table… but please don’t be that person that’s so absorbed in their work that they come off sounding hypercritical and judgmental all the time. Always be willing to take criticism and advice, and be supportive instead of condemning. You’ll be kicking yourself later when you try to get into an industry full of extremely talented people who by contrast are actually willing to listen and learn.

4. Always be willing to work hard.
It will pay off. If you want to be an artist badly enough, a strong work ethic comes automatically. The desire to design or create will overpower the one to veg out and binge-watch the entire series of Doctor Who (just barely) Remember that you are competing against tons of people talented and obsessed with their craft. You just have to be better and even more obsessed!

While it’s exciting to get out into the real world and make things happen, it’s also difficult to leave the school where I’ve spent the last three years of my life. As the building is going to be demolished, it’s sad knowing that everything’s going to be torn down and that the place I’ve practically lived in will no longer exist. Cogswell will continue of course, but this building in particular holds special memories.

To the remaining and future students; work hard, play hard, and I want to see you guys do some great stuff! Go Cogswell!

Sierra Gaston

Google’s Project Tango at Cogswell College

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Recently, a small group from Google visited Cogswell College to teach a class about and demonstrate Project Tango. What is Project Tango exactly? Project Tango is a brand new mobile device that has the ability to navigate the world, similar to us humans. It’s an Android device/platform that has spatial perception, and accomplishes this by using advanced computer vision, image processing, and special vision sensors.

One may think, “That’s all fine and cool, but what does this thing do exactly? And what practical applications can be derived from such a technology?”. To put it simply, what Tango does is continuously scan the surrounding environment as the user walks around with the hand-held device, and then it uses the data it collects to construct a 3D model of the environment. It uses motion tracking to give real time info about it’s motion through 3D space.  It also uses depth sensors for depth perception (allowing for interactions between the real world and the virtual world Tango has built/is building) and it can learn new areas intelligently. If there are any errors with the 3D model it has created, Tango can use visual cues around the space to re-render and fix trouble areas. The potential applications for such a technology include, but aren’t limited to, new Virtual Reality or AR based games and applications, video games, rapid environment generation, prototyping and more. The potential is limited only by imagination.

The Cogswell class (which is currently learning to use Unity) was tasked with testing the devices, running an application, and providing feedback as they went along. Google called it a “Code Lab” event, the purpose of which was to iron out and fix any bugs in the system before this year’s Google I/O conference in roughly two months time. Students debugged Google’s sample instructions, tested and ran the code, and followed development environment instructions – all while under the direction of watchful and curious Google engineers. Google had previously tested these devices at Nvidia, but were impressed to see that Cogswell students produced better results and provided higher quality feedback.

For the demo, students were each provided with a Tango tablet device, USB cables, a pin code to unlock the devices, and a URL in which they found further instructions. The students booted up their devices and launched a 3D mapping app which tracked their movements. As they moved around the classroom, the students got feedback through interactive mapping, cloud arrays and more. The students then returned to their workstations to continue the demo. The students went through a series of environments to get an app running in Unity, importing that app into their devices, then running that app on their devices as they moved around. Some students continued with the instructions provided to them, whilst others conversed with the Google engineers.

The success rate of the tests and demos was 100%, much better than other tests that Google had done before. Whenever any of the students would get stuck, they would first work together for a solution, using the Google engineers as a last resort. Working together led all students to success. As the class progressed, the Code Lab event slowly turned into a seminar where students brainstormed potential applications for the technology.  Ideas included a music application for better microphone location/tracking within a room and an app capable of creating 3D sound environments.

All in all, it was a successful demo and everyone walked away with new knowledge – and an amazing experience!

Based on notes from John Duhring’s experience
with additional content and editing by Juan Rubio

Tour with Gree International

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Image source: http://www.bcciconst.com/

Thanks to my attendance at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco last month, I was able to meet the Director of Engineering from Gree mobile. After he helped me with a portfolio review, I asked if it was possible to tour the studio to see how their pipeline worked. During spring break, I was given a personal tour of the facility where their 300+ person team works. I got to see how Gree International functions as a whole and how the artists collaborate with each other.

After signing a nondisclosure form and mentally getting over the fact that their employees get a never-ending supply of snacks, beverages and coffee as well as free meals, I was able to meet with Gree’s Production Artist. She walked me through their pipeline, explained how art reviews were performed, and went over how long it generally takes to create a game. I also learned about their outsourcing and how many artists were actually in the studio.

Near the end of the tour, I was able to get a look at one of the Art Lead’s workspace where he had several characters and environments drafts that the other artists had submitted to him. His job was to maintain consistency in the established art style, so he would do paint-over corrections and send it back to the artists to make the changes.

At the end of the tour, I got a free burrito (yay!) and left more enlightened about the studio and really impressed with the level of work that came out of Gree. I hope to be back one day soon!

Sierra Gaston

Happy Pie Day!

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

Happy Pie Day Everyone!! Midterms are over, Spring Break is right around the corner, and as many would agree, pie is delicious. It can be sweet and evoke memories of simpler times like an apple pie with a buttery flaky crust, just like the ones grandma would make. Or it can be hearty and savory, such as a chicken pot pie packed with flavor. There are fruit pies, meat pies, and many more varieties in between: coconut cream or ice cream pie anyone? Whatever your preferred pastry, one can’t help but wonder, where did this scrumptious dish come from and what were the first sorts of pies?

According to historians, pie-making can be traced back to ancient Greece, thought to have been the originators of the crust, who made it by combining water and flour. Meanwhile, the Romans would fill their pies with many different kinds of meats (even mussels and other types of seafood). Meat pies were often part of Roman dessert courses which they called secundae mensae. Fast forward to the first Thanksgiving here in the United States in 1621. Everyone knows that among the various dishes shared between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims, there was pumpkin pie right?

In reality there is no evidence showing that modern day pie, or even early versions of it, was served at the first Thanksgiving. Pilgrims brought a variety of English-style, meat-based recipes with them to the colonies. The first record of pumpkin pie here in the US was in a cookbook from 1675, originating from British spiced and boiled squash; it wasn’t popularized until the early 1800′s. We don’t know what dishes the Pilgrims served at the first Thanksgiving, but primary documents show they cooked with fowl and venison, and inevitably these ingredients found themselves stuffed in between sheets of dough.

The colonists cooked many pies not only because they were tasty, mind you, but because the crusty top would aid in the preservation of food. This would help to keep the filling fresh, particularly during winter months. Were these early American pies bland? Not exactly. Documents show that Pilgrims would use dried fruits, cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg to season their meats. As the colonies began to expand, so did the reach of pie. The pie acted as an outlet to showcase local ingredients and, with this, the first American sweet pies began to appear.

A cookbook from 1796 listed a mere three types of sweet pies; one from the late 1800′s listed 8 varieties; and by 1947, the Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking listed 65 different kinds of sweet pies. So the saying goes, “There are few things as American as apple pie”, however, like much of America’s pie tradition, the original apple pie recipes hailed from England. These pre-Revolutionary creations were simple, unsweetened apples encased in an edible flour crust. Pies today are a treat eaten around the globe, made with everything from apples to avocados. Pies have come a long way since the heyday of venison and pepper, but whatever the case, there’s surely a pie out there for everyone.

As for me? Kahlua Cream Cheese pie is my favorite. Go out and grab your favorite everybody! Happy Pie Day!

Juan Rubio

Blue Sky presentation at San Jose State

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Image from fashions.toprate10.com

The Shrunkenheadman Animation Club at San Jose State is a pretty remarkable group. Many people at Cogswell might not be aware that Jeff Jackson, Cogswell’s storyboarding and drawing animation teacher, actually came from San Jose State and started the Shrunkenheadman club. Being a particularly large club, comprised of both illustration and animation departments, there is a very strong sense of community and kinship. They have a track record of hosting some impressive speakers/presenters, and last Thursday was no exception. Blue Sky representatives came to SJSU to give a presentation about their studio, including Matt Munn, Lead Animator.

Munn showed work from his early days as an animator (which visibly proved EVERYONE has a starting point) and gave some helpful advice. What stood out the most for me was the advice to “follow your heart.” As a previous nursing major, this really resonated with me. I’d left everything to go to art school because, in my heart, I felt passionate about animation and creating things. As graduation approaches and I reflect back, I don’t regret my decision; I’m glad I made the dive into animation.

I feel that both Cogswell and the animation department of San Jose State could learn from each other, and I hope to encourage networking and connections between the two. After all, we have the potential to be future co-workers so why not create professional relationships now!

Sierra Gaston

Cogswell College Students Develop and Create 3D Animatable Rigs for 12 Unique Digital Characters

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

This article was originally featured on the Creative Planet Network website, it was published on 2-23-2015, and is credited to Cogswell College.

Sunnyvale, CA, February 23, 2015 ­­

Cogswell College, a leading educational institution offering a unique curriculum fusing Digital Art, Engineering and Entrepreneurship, has announced that students within its Digital Art & Animation program have developed and created 3D animatable rigs depicting 12 original digital characters, through the program’s in-house character project: “Avatarah.”

To download these 3D rigs, visit: http://www.cogswell.edu/modeling-rigs/project-avatarah-free rigs.php

ALSO: For “Avatarah” support, requests and comments, please
Email: avatarah.cogswell@gmail.com

The first character from “Avatarah,” “Cogswell the Dragon,” has just been released via open source data to the general public. A few of the additional 11 original characters will be
exclusively for usage by Cogswell College students, but the school does plan to release a
number of additional character 3D rigs in the near future, in efforts to draw the general public back to the Cogswell College website for download. Students around the world regularly seek interesting rigs to download, so that they can use them within their own portfolios as they animate original content based on these rigs.

The new 3D animatable rigs from Cogswell College are of the highest quality, and are
expected to stand out in the middle of the vast world of “freebie” rigs available online. In
addition to the first character, “Cogswell the Dragon,” additional characters from Cogswell will include “Toothy” the Saber toothed tiger, “Snowy” the dog and “Thunder” the horse, “Chippy” the squirrel, “Chubby” the rabbit, “Flappy” the bird, and several others.

Jonali Bhattacharyya, Assistant Professor with Cogswell College’s Digital Art & Animation
program, and formerly with noted game companies Secret Level and Factor5, spearheads the Cogswell student­ developed 3D animatable rigs project in concert with game industry
professional Sergio Sykes. Sykes, currently with EMOTIV and formerly with Massive Black, is involved with the Cogswell program as an industry rigging artist and Adjunct Faculty Member. Regarding this program, Bhattacharyya said, “For the past year or so, there has been a constant demand for exciting new 3D animation rigs that can be accessed online. Our goal with project ‘Avatarah’ is to have Cogswell students create an identity of their own within the rapidly exploding world of animation. Our initial 12 characters have all been designed, modeled, textured and rigged by Cogswell College students. This is a huge platform by which our students can really start to get their names out there!”

ABOUT COGSWELL COLLEGE:

Designed as a “fiercely collaborative, living laboratory,” Cogswell College is located in the heart of the legendary Silicon Valley in Sunnyvale, California. The school is a WASC accredited, four ­year institution of higher education with a specialized curriculum that fuses digital arts, audio technology, game design, engineering and entrepreneurship.

Numerous alumni of Cogswell College have secured prominent positions within the entertainment, video game, technology, computer, animation, and motion graphics industries throughout California and beyond. Several of these alumni have established careers with such high profile companies as Activision, DreamWorks Animation, Disney, Electronic Arts, Pixar, and Microsoft Game Studio. Many other alumni have launched their own creative ventures.

Recent Cogswell alumni were members of the Academy Award-­winning production teams which worked on the blockbuster films “Frozen” and “Life of Pi.” Some of the other well­ known consumer projects to which Cogswell alumni have contributed include the feature films “The Boxtrolls” and “The Avengers,” and the popular video games “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare,” “Halo 4″ and “Battlefield Hardline.”

Additionally, animated short films conceived and produced by Cogswell students have gone
on to win prestigious awards, including those presented by the California International
Animation Festival, the Colorado Film Festival, the Oregon Film Festival, the Miami Film
Festival, the Philadelphia Film & Animation Festival, the San Jose Short Film Festival, and
Canada’s International Film Festival.

Cogswell College is located at 1175 Bordeaux Drive, Sunnyvale, California, 94089. For more information, please call 1-­800­-264-­7955 or visit: http://www.cogswell.edu/

Congratulations to everyone who worked on the project, I look forward to seeing what Cogswell’s students can pull off with these original rigs. Well Done!

Juan Rubio

Tour at Zynga

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Image source: www.adweek.com

There were dogs everywhere. Perhaps that shouldn’t have been a surprise to me after seeing the huge dog logo on the massive building, but it still caught me off guard in a pleasant way. Zynga also gave off this sense of happiness—just walking in, I could tell that the people employed by Zynga were pretty content with their environment. For those of you who don’t know, Zynga happens to be one of the largest and best-known mobile and social gaming companies in the bay area– you’ve probably also seen a few games of theirs on Facebook.

A group of four people and myself from Cogswell got the chance to visit Zynga from Women in Games International, a group formed for the purpose of providing women with support and opportunities in the game industry. While there, we got a tour of the studio, which included the exercise room, bar (yes, there’s a full bar) the candy room, and the Farmville rooms!

After the tour, we got to enjoy some h’ordeuvres and listen to a panel given by women leaders at Zynga. Some of them had been in the industry for quite some time, and a few originally hadn’t had any intention of going into games. Yet another one actually played WOW as a side hobby. (Yes!)

It was amazing to see Zynga up close. It was clear to see the passion that they had for their work. We also got to do a lot of great networking, and meet people working in the heart of the mobile game industry. It was an amazing opportunity!

Sierra Gaston

Jodediah Holmes and GXDev Award Winning Game Patchwork

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015


Q:Tell me about you. What’s your name? What school do you go to? What is your degree program? Frosh/Soph/Jr./Sr.? Are you a part of any clubs?

A:Hello! I am Jodediah Holems. You may recognize me from my personal brands: pajama pants and hubcap backpack. I am the Game Development Club president at Cogswell College, where I organize teams, give lectures, hold workshops, and kindle the growth of my fellow game friends. I am aspiring to become a professional weirdo, but at the moment I am only part-time. At Cogswell I’m under the Digital Media Management degree, and I’m a junior.

Q: What was the competition that you entered? How many participants were there (if you know)?

A: I recently participated in GXDev: Everyone Create’s Games, a 24 hour game jam put on by the GaymerX organizers. I’d say there were around 30 developers in attendance, figured from the ~10 games made by teams of less than 5 (there were two solo teams, I was one). The goal was to make a game in 24 hours from the theme “the stories that aren’t told.”

Q: What did you win???

A: I won in 2 categories: Strangest Game and Judge’s Pick. I got two lovely glass bricks, a DVD, and some other nifty digital gifts as a reward! I also got to feel very excited for a whole week. I still can’t handle it.

Q:Tell me about your game. What is it called? How does it play? What is the goal? How long did it take you to make? Did you create it by yourself or with friends?

A: My game is called PATCHWORK, and it’s a bit of a game soup. The official genre is “Tetris-Jenga-word-search-diary-entry-collect-a-thon”, and it is played with two people, two devices that can run an .html file, and ten painted pieces. One player builds a balancing building, searches for words, and enters found words into their device to read a selection of secret stories. The other player is in control of certain parts of the process, answering questions and assisting the player in such a way as to bend the outcome of the game to their will. Nobody knows how many secret stories there actually are, but it doesn’t matter. Some people choose to stop playing after the stories make them cry or laugh or feel.

Q: Where did you get the inspiration for the game? Is it based on anything?

A: My local art gallery was putting on a project where members of the community could buy oddly shaped wooden blocks, paint them, and bring them back to form one giant puzzle mural. I noticed that they were Tetris shapes and remembered that I was going to a game jam, so I asked if I could have a whole bunch. I walked out with ten. These pieces whispered “Hey, I really want to be in a game,” so I planned to fulfill their dreams. This merged with a couple of other ideas I had, those being:

  1. I really want to make a game that is played a little bit in a Gamemaker file, a little bit in a Twine file, a little bit in physical space, and maybe also over email or something.
  2. Oh yeah, this is a queer game jam! I should write the letters S, E, I, A, L, B, and N all over the backs of the tetris tiles. Someone may unwittingly spell LESBIANS. That would be humor.
    Those ideas all came together in a gallon pot for 45 minutes on medium-high heat, and emerged as PATCHWORK. They were all inspired by certain Big Ideas I’ve observed across games and games academia, but otherwise there were no direct inspirations.

Q: What programming did you do for the game? What languages did you use?

A: I do not know programming. I made the digital portion of this game in Twine, a program for making text-based choose your own adventure-type games. It is very easy to learn, I’d recommend you check out out! http://twinery.org

Q: What advice would you give to another student trying to enter a gaming, or game creation competition?

A: Do it. Participate in as many events as possible. Meet people. Run through every door.

Q: There’s something really intoxicating about games that have physical and virtual elements. Do you think there’s particular power in combining elements of both?

A: All digital games have physical elements, which is something I don’t think a lot of people think about. Your hands are always going to be interacting with a mouse, keyboard, controller, or other contraption. A really easy way to make a game that genuinely surprises people is to have that in mind, intentionally forming a physical something that isn’t a mouse, keyboard, or typical controller. It’s so easy to make something unlike anything your audience has ever seen, and that’s incredibly powerful!

Q: Here’s where I get super arty on you — do you think our lives are more physical or virtual? Or is the difference unimportant?

A: Ahhh, that’s a great question! When I hear “are our lives more physical or virtual,” I immediately connect physical to body and virtual to mind. There have definitely been times where I think “bodies are handcuffing my spirit to the earth. I’d be so much happier if I wasn’t weighed down with needing to sleep, eat, exercise, and perform for people. I just want to be a brain.” There are also times when I’m upset with my brain and feel the opposite feelings, but that happens less often.

The internet, as it exists on phones and computers and wires in our homes, very much fuels the idea of bodies as inconveniences. Chairs, mice, keyboards, controllers, and screens don’t respect our bodies. What is the point of the rest of me when I can lead a happy connected existence as a brain, a couple of fingers, and a pair of eyes? That’s why I think games with designed physical components are so powerful. Even if they still only require your brain, fingers, and eyes, doing it in a way that is new and interesting lets you know that someone out there respects your fingers. Someone out there understands the terrible sameness your fingers have to deal with every day. Someone out there wants you to experience your body in a world designed for your mind.

Q: What are your aspirations for the future?

A: I would very much like to ascend to the next mortal plane, but in the meantime I will make games and art and friends. Dismantle capitalism!

Watch a short clip of Patchwork on Vine at: Patchwork