Archive for the ‘Alumni’ Category

Cogswell Alumni Work on Top Games of 2012

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

A few of our Alumni’s Facebook posts caught my eye last week. It’s great to hear about the amazing projects Cogswell grads are working on!

Scott Russell at Electronic Arts posted: The games I worked on last year took home some hardware!

“Need for Speed: Most Wanted” won Racing Game of the Year (at the VGA 12) and “SimCity Social” won Web Based Game of the Year at this year’s DICE Awards! Huge congrats to my friends at Criterion, Playfish, and Mindwalk!

Mike Apolis at Cryptic Studios posted: A glowing preview of “Neverwinter”:

“’TERA’ used to be the standard visual ideal, now for me, the ideal to beat is ‘Neverwinter.’ It’s just that good, and there’s really not much more to say than that.”
http://lorehound.com/news/neverwinter-beta-preview-part-1/#more-33620

Forbes is also impressed with Neverwinter.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/danieltack/2013/02/07/neverwinter-first-impressions/

Alumnus, Chris Waltner, an animator at Telltale Games worked on “The Walking Dead: The Game” which won Game of the Year at the VGA 12. Kudos also go out to Alumni, Pat Gillette and Will Christensen, who are animators at Microsoft Studios/343 Industries and worked on “Halo 4” which picked up the Best Xbox 360 Game at the VGA 12.

If any other Cogswell College alumni worked on the top games of 2012, let us know! You’re an inspiration to the students who hope to follow in your footsteps.

Cogswell Grads Worked on Some of Highest Grossing Films of 2012

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013


This has been a great year for the movies and Cogswell College alumni worked on a number of the top 30 grossing films of 2012. We salute our animators, 3D modelers, Concept Artists and Programmers who are building great careers in an industry they love.

The Avengers, weighing in at #1, was touched by Gregory L. Smith as a Digital Modeler: Legacy Effects and Adam Lawson as an Animator.

If any of you saw Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, then you saw the handiwork of Carl Frytz as Postvis Artist and Adam Lawson as Animator.

Carl Bahor as a Resource Animator and Allen Stetson as a Production Engineer at DreamWorks had the pleasure of working on Madgascar 3: Europe.

Chad Stubblefield used his skills as a Visual Development Modeler at Disney on Wreck-It-Ralph.

Rhythm & Hues, one of the top special effects houses in the world, opened the door for a number of our alumni to work on two of 2012′s biggest hits. Joshua Cogswell, Technical Animation Lead; Jessica ‘Psy’ Delacy and Andrew Jennings both Technical Animators; Ben Taylor, Render i/o Coordinator; Jason Bettinger, Layout Artist and Adam Lawson, Animator provided some of the talent that made Snow White & The Huntsman so visually stunning.

And who can forget the Life of Pi? Alumni Chris Evart, Technical Animator; Ryan Rogers, Technical Animation Lead; Chris Sutherland, Compositor and Nic Spier, Digital Artist all had the opportunity to work on that breathtaking saga.

If we missed seeing a Cogswell alumni name in the film credits, we apologize. Let us know, so we can recognize your hard work as well.

Good work everyone! We look forward to seeing your talents grace the big screen again and again.

PC Gamer Features Neverwinter

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Neverwinter Game Box ArtNeverwinter made the cover of PC Gamer in its upcoming issue. Neverwinter is a product of Cryptic Studios in Los Gatos and a number of Cogswell grads worked on the project.

Designed as a story-driven game of adventure and intrigue, Neverwinter is a true Dungeons & Dragons experience of epic tales, strategic gameplay and classic roleplaying – all brought to life with the dynamic Cryptic game engine. Players can create and share their own adventures using The Foundry creation toolset, work strategically with other players, or choose to go it alone with the help of conscripted AI henchmen.

Congrats to everyone involved!

Twas the night before Christmas, at the VFX House

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012


“Twas the night before Christmas, at the VFX house
Everyone was still there, ’cause shots “HAD” to go out.
The clips were all loaded, ready for playback again,
With hopes to be home by a quarter past ten.

The artists all wiggled, back and forth in their chairs,
Confident that “Finals”, soon would be theirs.
VFX sup at the ready, their anticipation grew,
As they all settled in, for one last review.

When out in the hall there arose such a clatter,
They sprang from their seats to see what was the matter.
From through the door a producer screamed like a loon,
More shots just came in, due tomorrow afternoon!

“How could this be, do they know it’s Christmas eve?”
“We’ve been on OT for 6 weeks, and now we can’t leave?”
“For my family I’ve bought, nothing at all!”
“On the way home, I was going to stop at the mall!”

Sadness and anger took over their minds,
But soon they were off, they dared not get behind.
Back to their desks, away they did flee,
Anxious and worried, what kind of shots would these be?

No new characters or props, a bit of good news,
A new environment, no time, an old one they’d re-use.
More rapid they typed, as they got back to work,
They drank coffee, and yelled, and started to curse!

“Screw Maya and Nuke and this proprietary crap!”
“Wake me when that file loads, meanwhile I’ll nap!”
“Ok, it loaded, but my assets aren’t showing!”
“Where the hell are those files, there’s no way of knowing!”

After awhile they all settled, back on the right track,
They had to make haste, there was no going back.
Hours and hours they slaved at their screens,
Pushing every pixel, every red blue and green.

And then, via email, a bit of joy after all,
Donuts in the office, at the end of the hall.
Pushing and shoving to claim circular delight,
Glorious sugar and frosting, some fuel for the night.

With simulations and renders, out on the farm,
A slight glitch here and there, no cause for alarm.
Keeping tabs on their renders, frame by frame,
Soon they would finish and freedom they would claim.

By four the next morning, all tasks were complete,
Freshly animated and lit, then composited neat.
Shots uploaded and queued, so they gathered once more,
Tired and haggard, the team was drained to it’s core.

The VFX Sup stood up and looked over his crew.
A wave of pride rushed over, and immediately he knew,
These people had families that soon would awake.
These words he spoke so loud, the ground it did shake!

“Get away from this place, another minute do not spend.”
“Be with your spouse and your kids, go home my dear friends.”
“If during review the client says these shots do not pass,”
“I’ll turn to him and say, why don’t you kiss my ass!”

They looked at each other, then started to cheer,
Finally it was time, they were all in the clear.
They got up and walked out, goodbye they all waved,
Racing home in their cars, Christmas might have been saved.

Back in his office the VFX sup awoke from his slumber.
Where had everyone gone, out loud he did wonder.
Up on the roof, old Santy morphed back to himself,
“Happy Christmas to All!”, shouted the jolly old elf.”

Halo 4 Animator Talks About His Job

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Halo 4 Soldier ImageThe following is an interview with Cogswell College alumnus, Pat Gillette (2006), who earned a BA in Digital Art & Animation and is currently an Animator for 343 Industries (a division of Microsoft)


Q.  Company name, your job title, a brief description of your job responsibilities and how long you have worked there.

A.  I started at 343 Industries in March, 2011 as a gameplay animator. I’m responsible for creating in-game character animations and vignette’s utilizing key frame and motion capture pipelines. In other words, make stuff look good any way I can.

Q.  Can you give an example of what you might do on a ‘typical’ day?

A.  During production on Halo 4, I’d start my day between 8 and 9, do the usual email checking and try to remember what I was working on the day before. Then I’d get to start animating any number of characters doing any number of things, although most of those things are violent. I was also the ‘character owner’ for a number of characters and so I’d usually spend some part of the day reviewing other people’s work and giving feedback. The goal was to improve the overall animation but also to maintain a consistent look and feel for the characters across multiple animators. Throw in a lunch/workout break, some bug fixing, problem solving, goofing off, writing tutorials, playtesting, occasional meetings and more animating and you have a ‘typical’ day that ends somewhere between 5 and midnight.

Q.  Can you give an example of something that surprised you about your job when you first started?

You mean besides the fact that people pay me to do this job? I think it’s surprising how much you learn day to day on the job – and that’s also one of the most exciting parts!

Q.  What projects have you worked on in the past?

A.  The list starts pretty sad, but it gets better so hang in there. Drumroll Please!
Leapfrog’s ClickStart Educational Software
Leapfrog’s My First PC

Disney Pixar’s Finding Nemo: Sea of Keys

Create and Learn

Disney Pixar’s Toy Story

Godzilla Unleashed Double Smash (Nintendo DS)

Spiderman Vs. the Masked Menace (TV Plug and Play)

Tomb Raider: Underworld (Nintendo DS)

Red Faction: Beast (Wii, Cancelled)

Tales of Monkey Island: Chapters 1,2,3. (Wii, PC)

Halo: Reach (XBox 360}

Penguins of Madagascar: Dr. Blowhole Returns Again (Wii, PS3, XBox 360 Kinect)

Halo 4 (XBox 360)

Q.  What do you find most rewarding about your job?

A.  Seeing people get excited about the work you’re doing is pretty great. We often get to display our work on a big screen in front of the whole company and when you get a studio-wide reaction to an animation you’ve worked on it’s a pretty wonderful feeling. Combine that with the millions of people who willingly pay money to play something you helped create is amazing.

Q.  What advice would you give students preparing for a career like yours?

A.  Work really, really hard. Ask lots of questions and REALLY listen to the answers. Teachers tend to know some stuff that might be good to pick up. Be nice to people. College is equal parts learning and networking, so take advantage of both while you are there.

Q.  What qualities does someone need to have to be successful in this field?

A.  You need to be intrinsically motivated to keep getting better. It’s not that hard to get too comfortable with your abilities or your job and soon you’ll find yourself at the same quality level you were when you left college, and guess what, other people are working harder than you to get better, and they’ll succeed if you don’t do something about it. Unfortunately, most jobs would like you to get better but they don’t really help you do it, so it’s up to you to do it on your own time.

It also helps to be a people person, or at least be nice. You want people to like you, so that when job opportunities come up, your old co-workers remember you fondly, would want to work with you again and recommend you for positions at their company. I can proudly say I have never started a job where I didn’t know someone there before me who gave me a strong recommendation. This ‘learning and networking’ thing is a recurring theme.

Q.  How did Cogswell helped prepare you for this career?

A.  Cogswell gave me the opportunity to develop the foundational skills and the connections to start my career in animation.

YOBONJA Invades PAX Prime 2012

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Tobiah Marks at PAX Dev 2012

Cogswell College Alumni Tobiah Marks and Angelo Yazar Co-founders of the independent game development company, Yobonja, that brought us Blast Monkeys, will be exhibiting August 31 to September 2 at PAX Prime Seattle 2012 (booth #6415).  Also, on August 29th Tobiah will present a talk called “What Worked: Lessons Learned Running an Independent Game Company” at PAX Dev.

Yobonja’s  Blast Monkeys, a physics-based puzzle game with over 11 million cross platform downloads, was nominated for the “Best Mobile App for Consumers” at the 2012 Global Mobile Awards, and was the #1 Free Android Game during the summer of 2011.

Marks and Yazar, along with fellow business partner Yekta Yazar, will be supported by several fellow Cogswell alumni who will help run the Yobonja booth. There they plan to show off the many different versions of Blast Monkeys and conduct a PAX exclusive debut of Blast Monkeys related merchandise.

Yobonja started in early 2009 making Facebook apps, but shortly after switched focus to mobile apps as the new indie friendly mobile markets grew. The success of Blast Monkeys has defined Yobonja’s place in the exciting mobile indie space allowing them to turn their inherent passion for development into an indie game development business.

“I did not realize how much time and energy the business side of running a company takes,” said Marks. “When you’re so focused on game development, you forget to factor in time for massive amounts of emails, meeting with other companies and dealing with all the legal issues and paperwork.”

“Being a student at Cogswell taught me time management, staying in scope, all sorts of things that are so hard to learn from just reading a book and listening to lectures,” said Marks, “we learned to stay focused and just create the games we want to make.”

PAX Dev Panel Information:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012, 5:00PM – 6:00PM

What Worked: Lessons Learned Running an Independent Game Company” by Tobiah Marks.

Alumni Interview: Tobiah Marks

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Tobiah Marks of Yobonja!

I had the chance to catch up with Tobiah Marks who is super busy with his company Yobonja!  Between the fan emails, conferences, awards shows and more, Tobiah was able to take a few minutes to share his amazing experiences within the company he has built.

Zombie: So Tobiah, what is the name of your company and what is your title there and responsibilities.

The name of my company is Yobonja, and my title is “Co-Founder.” As for responsibilities, I wear many hats and I find myself doing a little bit of everything. I like to just call myself a “Game Developer.”

Zombie: Did you always want to start your own company?

Yes, or at least be in charge/running a game development project, not just be another “cog in the machine” so to speak. I didn’t think I would start my own company so soon after graduating though. It just kind of happened.

Zombie: So how did you come up with the name for your company?

A lot of people ask us that. The answer is, we made it up! Yobonja is sort of an anglicized version of the Turkish word “yabancı,” which means “foreigner” in English. We wanted to make up a word so that when we Googled the name before we made the company there were zero results.

Blast MonkeysZombie: Can you give an example of what you might do on a ‘typical’ day?

I wake up, eat breakfast, then sit down in my living room and start working. Usually I am doing something related to level design, such as designing new worlds, making new levels, etc. Then I’ll move on to answering emails. We get hundreds of emails a week ranging from dealing with customer service issues, getting fan feedback, to business people trying to sell us stuff. Players are constantly emailing us with bug reports and asking about when new levels are coming out. At some point in the day I’ll usually call or meet up with Angelo (Angelo Yazar, another Cogswell alumnus and the other Co-Founder) and we share our progress and plan out our next course of action.

Zombie: Can you give an example of something that surprised you about your job when you first started?

I did not realize how much time and energy the business side of running a company takes. Learning all that from ground zero was quite a challenge. When you’re so focused on game development you forget to factor in time for things such as the massive amount of emails I mentioned before, meeting with other companies, and dealing with all the legal issues/paperwork. Now that we’re more successful, we’ve been able to hire people to help us with those issues, like being able to get a lawyer when we need one. Even with help, I did not realize when we began how much time I would spend not actually developing any games.

Zombie: What projects have you worked on in the past?

I honestly have lost count, we’ve worked on so many. The first project our company started was Zeppelin Nations, a MMO on Facebook back in 2009. We’ve done a wide variety of projects, from mobile to web games, and even some odd ones like a photo manipulation application Angelo made.

End of January/early February 2011, we made Blast Monkeys. It started off small, but we kept iterating and iterating on it, adding more content, new art, new levels, etc. Over time, we built up a fairly large fan base. Now, 15 months or so later, we have over 10 million downloads and over 300 levels across 10 unique worlds. Over the summer of 2011 we were the #1 free Android game. We were even nominated for the “Best Mobile App for Consumers” at the Global Mobile Awards in Barcelona, Spain. The game is currently on iOS, Android, KindleFire, and NOOKColor. We’re also working on a couple other new versions of the game for other platforms as well.

Zombie: What steps did you take to grow your company?

Well, I haven’t really seen ourselves as having “grown” too much. We started off as two people, just Angelo and myself. Later we added a third, Yekta Yazar. After the success of Blast Monkeys we’ve been able to hire independent contractors every now and then when we need them, but I doubt we’ll expand to much bigger anytime soon. We like the size of our company.

Zombie: What do you find most rewarding about your job?

Being able to work every day on a game that I love and then putting a content update out and see how literally millions of fans immediately respond to and enjoy it. I like that nobody tells me what I have to do or have to design. We have total control over what we as a company think is best for our game. We’re making games that are fun for us to make, fun for us to play, and it just so happens others love them too.

Zombie: What advice would you give students preparing for a career like yours?

Learn a bit of everything. As an independent developer, you will at some point be forced to wear multiple hats. If you don’t know something, learn more about it or find someone who can teach you. Also, use version control! I run into so many people who don’t understand how important that is. Most importantly, iterate on your projects. Don’t just work on them, then throw them out there thinking you can move on to the next game. “Release early and often” is sort of the mantra we try to follow at Yobonja. Although we’ve been guilty in the past of not following it, as soon as we started just focusing on Blast Monkeys and iterating on the game, getting new stuff out, and growing the game based on player feedback is when we started to be really successful as a company.

Zombie: What qualities does someone need to have to be successful in this field?

Passion is the number one thing. You can’t just want to do it, you have to really love and be excited about what you are doing. Drive to learn is a huge factor – never stop experimenting with new tools and new languages. Never be content with just repeating what has worked for you/others in the past, especially in mobile. It changes so rapidly so you need to be able to adapt.

Blast MonkeysZombie: How has Cogswell helped prepare you for this career?

I really loved my time at Cogswell. I learned so much. I think most importantly though was the time I spent involved with the Game Development Club. The club gave students a space to meet with other artists, programmers and sometimes even an audio person or two and then work with them on all sorts of projects. Our company, specifically, started with Angelo and I working together on a project for a “Game in a Month” competition run by the Game Development Club.

My experiences at Cogswell really helped me learn how to create/manage a project, stay within scope, manage my time, etc. All sorts of things that are so hard to learn from just reading a book and lectures and really prepared me for my career.

Zombie:  Thanks so much Tobiah!  Best of luck to you in your future endeavors!

Halo 4 Box Art Released

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Hello everyone!

I know that I just posted about Halo 4 in my last entry, but… THEY JUST RELEASED THE BOX ART! This is pretty exciting as 343 Industries haven’t followed the trend that Bungie has set forth with nearly every other Halo release where they have leaked tons more game-play and video previews. This time around 343 has kept the details pretty under-wraps in terms of video footage and releasing very little art. However, a little beauty came flying across my desk today and I had to share it with you guys. Oh and….. little bonus, did you know that two Cogswell alumnus work for 343 Industries? Their names are, Will Christiansen and Pat Gillette, and I would like to give them a big salute and thank you for bringing us this beautiful game, we are all eagerly awaiting its release. Thanks guys!

Halo 4 Box Art

Beverly Hills and Newport Beach Film Fests

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Worlds Apart Crew at Newport BeachNewport Beach Film Festival (from left to right): Evan Clover, Josh Hodges, Jeron Moore

Worlds Apart Crew at Beverly HillsBeverly Hills Film Festival Awards Gala (from left to right): Josh Hodges, Evan Clover, Ivy Clover, Jeron Moore

Recently a few of our alumni attended two film festivals in southern California; The Beverly Hills Film Festival and the Newport Beach Film Festival. Both festivals were very exciting, the gang started their weekend off with attending the screening the animated shorts portion of the Beverly Hills Film Festival and we happy with the way Worlds Apart was received by everyone. After that, they took off to the Newport Beach Film Festival to attend the Shorts for Shorties portion of the festival. The animation they saw there was astonishing in quality and said it will be tough competition.  They were invited to the front of the theater to answer questions from the audience and then hopped out to the red carpet for pictures. Finally their weekend concluded with the Beverly Hills Film Festival Awards Gala. They got all gussied up with their suits and skirts and arrived to rub elbows with other film makers and celebrities. The awards ceremony was very classy and there we tons of laughs. Worlds Apart did not walk away with an award but there was high praise among  attendees for the films high production value and story. The Project X crew was all in all very pleased with the festivals and the weekend they had.

We will let you know as soon as we hear back from Newport Beach if Worlds Apart won an award. Stay tuned!

-Zombie

Alumni Interview: Adrian Majkrzak

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Adrian Majkrzak: Bungie Concept Artist

For those of you who don’t know who Bungie is, let me give you a brief overview. Bungie is responsible for one of the biggest game franchises ever, Halo. Their history goes back much further than that though, they were also shipped a game called Oni and several other Mac gaming titles including Marathon and Myth. Adrian Majkrzak, one of our alumni, got a job there recently and agreed to an interview with us. So here goes…

Zombie: Hey Adrian, thanks for talking to us. Could you give me a quick summary of where you work and what your job is?

Adrian: I’m a Concept Artist at Bungie. My job is to provide visual designs for anything that’s asked of me, including characters, environments, vehicles, weapons and props.

Zombie: So what does a typical day look like for you?

Adrian: Being a night owl, my day usually starts with a big cup of coffee. After that I’ll look over my tasks for the day and talk to anyone involved in them (my lead, the art director, the game designer in charge of the aspect of the game I’m working on, and any 3d artists who are going to have to model my designs). Once I have a clear idea of where I’m heading, the majority of my day is spent in front of the computer, painting away in Photoshop. As a design progresses, I’ll usually ask my teammates for a critqiue, which is almost always invaluable and I end up with a stronger design for it. At the end of the day I fire off my work to everyone involved for a round of feedback. If everyone is happy with the design, then I submit it and move onto my next task. Rinse and repeat each morning.

Zombie: What is something that surprised you when you first started your job?

Adrian: Maybe not surprising, but the sheer talent of the people I’m surrounded with can be pretty intimidating. I like the challenge though and love being able to contribute in whatever way I can.

Zombie: Can you tell us about any of the projects you have worked on in the past?

Adrian: Prior to joining Bungie, I worked at CCP Games for about 3.5 years. There I worked on concepts for EVE Online, the EVE-related shooter DUST 514 and the World of Darkness MMO.

Zombie: What is one of the most rewarding parts of your job?

Adrian: Being able to work in a creative field and getting paid for doing what I love. Cliche, but true.

Zombie: Do you have any advice for students wanting to get into your field of work?

Adrian: Be prepared to put in a ton of work outside of class and your assignments, to supplement everything you’re learning. Unless you’re a prodigy, it’s going to require a lot of self-discipline, study and hours upon hours of practice to break into the field. Spend time on online art forums, not just lurking but actively participating and asking people for feedback. Contact professionals and ask them for a critique of your work (be courteous and most people will be receptive). Learn to not be precious with your artwork because ultimately it’s the client you’re designing for, not yourself?

Zombie: Are there any qualities that someone needs to be successful in your field?

Adrian: Passion for drawing and painting is number one. Make sure you love it, because there are million other things you could be doing if not! Learning self-discipline is another big one, both for preparing your portfolio to break in and once you’re working, because you’re going to be expected to deliver and there isn’t going to be someone constantly over your shoulder to make sure you’re getting your work done.

Zombie: Is there anything special that Cogswell did to help your prepare for your job?

Adrian: For my normal day-to-day, I have to thank Reid Winfrey and Thomas Applegate for giving me an excellent foundation in drawing, painting and sculpture to build upon. They helped me recognize that 2d art was my real passion and encouraged me to pursue it. My education in 3d software wasn’t wasted either, as I still use 3ds Max frequently to create quick block-ins for me to paint over. Having that knowledge has helped make my process much more efficient.

Thanks Adrian for you time and all the cool info you provided. And for everyone else, be sure to check back in for more alumni interviews. Take care everyone!

-Zombie