Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

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

Cogswell Alumni Work at Impressive Companies

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Recently, I’ve been researching Cogswell graduates to add to a contact list for an alumni reunion. I was pleasantly surprised and amazed at some of the names that cropped up—not only were there an impressive number of graduates working in the industry, quite a few held job titles like Lead Animator, CEO, Art Director, and even more still owned their own companies. Previous to doing this research, I’d had no idea they existed; and I thought I’d share their job titles as a resource to other Cogswell students.

In the Los Angeles and Bay Area regions, we have a number of alumni working at Disney, DreamWorks, EA, Sony Animation, Cryptic, Activision and other large, well known studios.  They are storyboard artists, technical artists, designers, animators, layout artists, riggers and hold tons of other positions. I was blown away to learn that, among others, one of our alumni is a Lead Animator at EA games. In addition, we also have alumni with positions such as: Art Director at Sony Animation Entertainment; Lead Lighter/Compositor at DreamWorks, Lead/Senior designer at Crystal Dynamics; Vice President of Production at Toonbox Entertainment; President/CEO at Logigear; Broadcast Designer at NBC; Supervising Engineer at Warner Brothers; and the list goes on. Alumni from all degree programs are talented leaders.

We are a very small college, and yet it seems we have a very large amount of alumni in comparison holding impressive positions within the industry. Most students aren’t even aware of the credits that our graduates hold. Personally, I feel like Cogswell College is a bit of a hidden gem in the Silicon Valley—not everyone knows that we’re here, but those who do find Cogswell know that they have stumbled across something unique.

~ Sierra Gaston
Digital Art & Animation student at Cogswell College

Star Thief Studio Animation & Interactive Book Teaser

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Star Thief Studio is one of several on-campus Project-Based Learning studios at Cogswell College. These studios mirror professional production studios and allow students to collaborate with their peers – whether they be artists, animators, technical artists, engineers and sound designers – to create outstanding large scale projects.

= ABOUT STAR THIEF STUDIO =

Star Thief Studio is guided by faculty with industry experience and student work is regularly critiqued by industry professionals. We are focused on creating engaging story-driven content in the form of animated shorts and interactive stories. Currently Star Thief Studio is working on an unannounced project which will feature a stand-alone animated short and an interactive version of the story, bundled together as an app for the iPad.

Our development artists work in a dedicated studio space and use everything from pencil, paint and clay to Maya, Zbrush, Mudbox, Photoshop, Renderman and Fusion. Much of our digital painting and sculpting is done on Cintiqs. Our engineers use tools like X Code, Flash Professional, and Maya, writing code in Objective C, C++ Maya API, Action Script, Mel Script and Python.

Star Thief Studio offers students the opportunity to be an important part of a major project that will deliver a great experience, film credit and professional quality content for their demo reel. The large group, project-based environment of Star Thief Studio gives students the opportunity to develop and exercise the skills needed to work effectively with a team over an extended period of time. Skills like communicating professionally, being a team player, taking initiative and learning to lead, as well as managing time-sensitive tasks and completing work within deadlines. In the end, students will have work for their portfolios which has been refined to an extremely high standard and used in a major animated and interactive project.

See more at: http://www.cogswell.edu/student-work/studioe.php
Andhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTv8U7n_cIg&list=PL9DCF83E90D3F20A7&index=1
Video created by Cogswell alumni and Cogswell students:
Rachael Sass
Andrew Long
Jose Hernandez

Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Art by Cogswell Student Jose Hernandez

Happy New Year!!! Did everyone make new resolutions? Did anyone actually stick with last years?

We made it to another new year and I, for one, am more excited than I have been in ages. New beginnings! New opportunities! New friends and more! I’m a bit more than halfway done with my bachelor’s degree here at Cogswell, and I can’t wait to get started on the new semester. I hope everyone has been enjoying their break, because I know I have. See you again soon everybody.  Happy New Year and stick to those resolutions!

Juan Rubio
Digital Art & Animation Student

Virtual Reality Sculpting

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Screenshot taken from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnqFdSa5p7w

Have you ever thought about sculpting using Virtual Reality technology? A new app called VRClay shows us how to do just that by allowing us to create 3D sculptures in VR. Using the Oculus Rift headset and a motion controller such as the Razer Hydra, we will be able to sculpt 3D figures using motions such as push, pull, drag and buildup. While the traditional method of using computer screens would still be ideal, a VR workspace would give us the ability to walk around and inspect the physical manifestation of our work. There is still no release date for the Oculus Rift, so it looks like we will have to wait a while before we can try this app.

Peter Gazallo

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

Art by Cogswell student Jose Hernandez

Merry Christmas everyone! Hopefully you’re spending the holidays having a jolly old time with your friends and family. Remember, it’s not so much about the presents, but about the relationships and bonds you form and continue to keep throughout the year. Christmas is a time of year where we’re all reminded of those who love us, and those who are near and dear to us as well. So go have some eggnog, grab a mug of hot cocoa, roast some chestnuts, and spend some time with those who are important in your life. Have fun!

Juan Rubio

Happy Holidays

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Jack Kirby Happy Holidays fan art, found on kirbymusem.org

Merry Christmas, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Festivus for the rest of us! Finals Week is here, and the holidays are happening right now. While all of us are hard at work, studying, taking tests, giving presentations and more, we’re all looking forward to the end of it all. It’s just three more days now until we can say goodbye to the all nighters, the unhealthy amounts of coffee and the energy drinks. All of the stress and hard work that everyone has been putting forth will all be worth the effort once the semester ends on December 20th. I know I’m looking forward to home cooked meals, cozy weekends and hot cocoa, but I won’t ever forget what truly matters around this time of year.

It isn’t about the presents or the free stuff, it’s about the family and friends you spend your days with. The priceless memories that are formed each and every day, particularly around this time of year. It’s a time to look back and reflect upon the year: did I accomplish everything I set out to do? Or did I have a great year anyway? Whatever the case, take the time to seek out your friends, family and loved ones, and remind them why they matter in your life. Don’t forget to have fun and be safe my friends!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Juan Rubio

Pixar Animator Michal Makarewicz visits Cogswell

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Picture credit goes to "animationfestival.no" and was used for the "Fredrikstad Animation Festival" in Europe.

Michal Makarewicz visited Cogswell College on the evening of November 19th, 2014. Currently holding the title of Directing Animator at Pixar, Michal joined the company in 2003 and has worked on many of the company’s films to date. His body of work includes The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, Toy Story 3, Cars 2, and Brave, as well as numerous Pixar shorts. In 2008, he was awarded an Annie for “Outstanding Character Animation in a Feature Production” by the International Animated Film Society for his work on Ratatouille.  Michal is also the co-founder of the Animation Collaborative, a school of animation founded by professional animators. Teaching since 2005, Michal has also been a lecturer as well as teaching classes at the online school, Animation Mentor, as well as instructing classes at California College of the Arts and the Academy of Art University.

The evening of November 19th was a special occasion, not only were students shown the workflow and artwork of an industry professional, they were also treated to an animation demo! This is quite rare, as most guest speakers do just that – speak and answer questions. Michal helped foster a loose and friendly atmosphere, answering any questions posed to him during his demo, no matter what they were. The presentation Michal gave started off with a 10 minute reel of his work at Pixar. He seemed hesitant to play it, citing time constraints, but the crowd wasn’t going to have that. After the video, Michal dove right into a detailed breakdown of his workflow including tips from his mentors, examples of how to streamline your work, and even throwing in an impromptu lecture on the philosophy and principles of animation. After his presentation, we were given a meet and greet opportunity while Michal set up his animation demo.

Michal started his demo using Maya and a free rig available to to the public. He imported some audio from “Liar, Liar” and proceeded to show us each and every step of his process, flying from menu to menu and making rapid changes and edits. He explained exactly why he was doing what he was doing, and would ask the audience for feedback on his work while he did it. Asking the crowd for feedback and suggestions made the session more interactive and laid back, which seemed to be greatly appreciated by those in attendance; everyone had a great time. After a short 40 minutes, Michal had fully animated a character including facial expressions, body movement, even mouth movements synced with the dialogue. And the crowd had helped!

The evening closed with Michal explaining his role at the Animation Collaborative, and a thank you. This truly wasn’t a night to miss for any hopeful animators or those interested in the field of animation. Hopefully we will have more speakers that with interactive presentations and allow the crowd to get more involved. I’m ready for more speakers like him, are you?

Juan Rubio
Digital Art & Animation student at Cogswell College

Toy Story 4

Monday, November 24th, 2014


When the first Toy Story movie came out in 1995, it signaled the dawn of a new era. The fully animated film paved the way for other CG (computer generated) films, and is now the most common form of animation. Over the next 15 years the sequels Toy Story 2 and 3 were released, causing generations of audiences to feel like they had grown up with the characters. Toy Story 3 was declared to be the end of an extraordinary trilogy, and many felt it was the perfect ending. The toys had encountered the worst possible obstacles but overcame them all, even facing abandonment and annihilation in the process. We collectively said a tearful, but content,“goodbye” to the toys whom we had grown attached to. Then, earlier this month, Toy Story 4 was announced.

The internet exploded.

Mixed reviews of “Why on earth are they making ANOTHER Toy Story?” and “So excited they’re making another Toy Story!” popped up everywhere. John Lasseter made an announcement regarding his decision to direct another Toy Story movie – it seems that they were presented with a storyline they couldn’t pass up. Although personally I loved the ending to Toy Story 3 and thought it was the perfect way to wrap up an amazing storyline, it’s intriguing to consider the plotline possibilities for the upcoming Toy Story 4 that will be released in 2017. It was revealed that the new Pixar film will revolve around a love story, which no doubt put fans everywhere in frenzies of speculative delight. Will it be about Buzz and Jessie? Perhaps Bo Peep will find her way back to Woody?

Whatever the plot that will be revealed, it’s a good reassurance that Pixar has a trend of making powerful sequels that either live up to or surpass the original. There’s no doubt in my mind that Pixar will continue to carry on its legacy of excellent filmmaking.

Directing Animator at Pixar, Michal Makarewicz, made a visit to Cogswell on November 19th. Michal, whose work includes The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, Wall-E, and Up, came last year and demoed an animation scene from the film Monsters Inc. Needless to say, everyone at Cogswell was very excited to see him. Who knows, maybe we’ll see some of his work on Toy Story 4 when 2017 rolls around!

Sierra Gaston
Digital Art & Animation Student