The Sims 4: Unique Fusion of A.I. Technology and Emotion-Based Soundtrack offers Gamers New Ways to interact with their Sims

May 15th, 2014

Since 2000 The Sims has been a staple in the gaming world, setting the standard for real-life simulation.  However in recent years the various expansion packs and add-ons have confused consumers on the brand that original creator Will Wright began 14 years ago.

The Sims 4 offers new and exciting features that will remind gamers of the original game rooted in emotion. “SmartSim”, is a new feature that heightens emotions for the Sims. During gameplay, the Sims’ emotions are impacted in different ways, for example, hobbies, relationships, food, etc. Combined with new digital animation techniques and A.I. technology, the “Smart Sim” is a completely new breed of Sim.

In the past Sims never interacted with the gamer. However, by adding emotion, and a new soundtrack, the Sim can now react with the gamer through music. Soundtrack composer Ilan Eshkeri had to create scores that could take advantage of the SmartSim’s emotional capabilities and also hark back to earlier stages in the game.

“If something emotional happens… I’d try to relate all of those to a few notes or a riff or a chord sequence that appeared in one of the longer pieces of background music. For example, if character is doing something in the house or if something breaks in the house, I’d try to relate that to the music you heard when you were building the house,” Eshkeri said.

According to executive producer Rachel Franklin, the flow of the game comes together with the marriage of sound design and digital animation technology. “Ilan is known for these theatrical sweeping, wonderful compositions,” Franklin said. “It’s a way for the Sim to respond back to the player… You can really feel that in the audio. Combining that with animation technology and facial emotional overlays… things work together in a really cool way to make you feel more related to your Sim. Because ultimately you’re caring for them…the music brings your relationship really to a height.”

Cogswell College offers programs in Digital Art and Animation, Digital Audio Technology, and Game Design.  Titles like The Sims 4 wouldn’t be possible without the technological advancement of these disciplines.  – Learn more about the opportunities these programs can provide TODAY!

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/may/07/sims-4-composer-ilan-eshkeri

How to Find an “In” at Your Dream Company—Fast

May 13th, 2014

You’ve heard the reports. Employers today are leaning more heavily than ever on their own employees to help them find and recruit exceptional talent. Why? Because in many instances, it’s faster, cheaper and, at least in theory, more likely to result in a hire who excels in the job and aligns well with the culture of the hiring company.

This is promising and cool news for those among us who seem to know everyone and aren’t afraid to ask our people to serve as an “in” for a dream job. But what about those of us who don’t know many people? Who are moving to a new city, changing careers, or just, well, aren’t dazzling extroverts?

How do you get in that pool of people who, in all likelihood, will be considered first, instead of having to tromp your way in with the herd of others via an online application?

Strap on your gumption, folks, we’re about to get down with a little networking here. You want to be in the “in” club? Well, then, you’ve got show up for the game. You’ve got to find someone at that company you adore, and quickly (and non-offensively) endear yourself to him or her.

Here are six steps to cultivating your “in” at a company of interest.

Step 1: Race Over to the Search Box on LinkedIn

We have no better tool available to us to help us find people working for the very companies we’d like to join than LinkedIn. So, take advantage of it!

Key the company of interest’s name into the search box and, when the results come up, refine the search by checking the box that only shows you people currently working at that company.

If you have a 1st degree connection, you’re in business. Contact your person and ask for an introduction. (Here’s how.)

Step 2: Assuming You Don’t Have a 1st Degree Connection, Try For a 2nd

If you don’t have a 1st degree connection, that’s OK: Your 2nd degree connections can be equally valuable. When you discover that you’ve got a 2nd degree connection to someone working at your dream company, simply contact you shared connection (your 1st degree connection), ask him how well he knows this person, and see if he’d be willing to introduce you. (And here’s how you do that!)

Step 3: If You Don’t Have a 2nd Degree Connection, Try for a Group Connection

This is a magical way to get in touch with people you’ve not yet met. If you have no 1st or 2nd degree connections, find someone working for the company of interest, preferably someone who appears to work in the same department (would-be peers are excellent choices for this approach). Now, scroll to the bottom of her profile and check out her Groups. If you are already both members of a Group, terrific. If not, join one of the same Groups she’s in.

Why? Because when you share a Group affiliation through LinkedIn, you can contact fellow members directly.

Step 4: Approach Like an Affable, Genuine, and Sane Person

You’ve got your in. Now, how do you approach? Like a human, that’s how. Like a human who is not ambushing another human.

When you have the 2nd degree connection, try something like this:

Hi Joel. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I’d really just love to ask a couple of quick questions about your experience working with XYZ Company.

When you have only the shared Group affiliation, consider something more like this:

Hi Sherri. You and I are both members of the Geek Austin Group here on LinkedIn. [Writer’s note: That’s a real thing.] I notice that you work for Yodle. I absolutely love Yodle—may I ask you two very quick questions about your experience working there?

In short—approach in a way that doesn’t make the person feel like you’re asking for the moon or any weirdly forward favors. You don’t know this person yet. You need to build rapport.

Step 5: Keep the Banter Going for a Bit

Your goal in this stage is to continue building rapport and help the person become familiar with you. It’s the chit-chat stage of this process. It doesn’t have to last forever, but a little back and forth about the company, what you both do, your shared interests, and so on will likely go a long way when it comes to having someone vouch for you.

Step 6: Go in for the “Ask”

After you’ve achieved a bit of banter, now (and only now) is the time to ask for the “in.” One way to go about this:

Thanks so much, Sherri. It’s been great talking with you. Hey, I noticed that Yodle is looking for a client services manager. Would you happen to know the person I should talk with to get some additional information on this position?

Assuming Sherri knows, you end this conversation and go right to that contact, letting her know you’ve just spoken with Sherri. And, voilà!

You have an “in.”

And that’s what you want to go for. Every single time.

Article originally published at The Daily Muse here.

9 Video Games We Wish Had Sequels

May 8th, 2014

When video game studios hit on a good idea, they’ll frequently throw all of their resources into turning that one success into a string of successes. Although franchising is very common, every now and then a designer will leave a great title as a lone project. It might be a budget issue or politics among the developers or just bad luck, but whatever the reason, some favorite titles that would be well-suited to follow-ups have been left untouched for years. From underground research facilities in Half-Life to heroic journeys in Heavenly Sword; the end of these games has left thousands of gamers heartbroken.

Some are stand-alones and some are series that lost their way, but a new chapter of any of these stories would be welcomed with open arms. Visit this link for a full list of the nine video games that we wish would get sequels.

Article originally published at Mashable here.

Low-Budget Projects Offer Promising ROI Thanks to Digital Technology Advances and Creative Marketing Strategy

May 6th, 2014

Low budget film and animation productions utilize every means possible to get the job done, all the while watching every penny.  Filmmakers often tell stories of their earlier work, from casting parents and friends, to shooting in their neighbor’s backyard.

However, within the last ten years we’ve seen a jump in the quality of low budget projects as well as higher profits. The 2009 box office hit Paranormal Activity was filmed on a budget of only $450K and brought in over $89 million in profits. That’s a 19,849% return on investment!  This is all thanks in part to smart viral marketing campaigns, as well as creative editing via digital technology.

Independent filmmakers and animators are able to create projects more cost effectively compared to the big name studios. Since their projects are low budget, an independent project can afford to fail, compared to a major motion picture company flop that could cost millions.

In the case of Paranormal Activity, we saw a highly creative viral marketing campaign based on sounds and reactions that fed off human curiosity. Online trailers showed clips of the audience’s reactions of sheer terror, paired with strategic sound design. Digital Audio was key in adding to the fear factor to the preview. This drove traffic into the theaters and proved to be another contributing factor to the project’s success.

Cogswell College offers programs in Digital Art and Animation designed to prepare students for careers throughout the entertainment industries. Cogswell also offers programs in Digital Audio Technology, which provides project-based instruction for a wide range of professional audio fields by developing skills in sound design for film and other areas. Both areas are key for independent low-budget projects to become box office hits.

Crowdfunding in Game Development

May 1st, 2014

Video games are often developed under larger publishing companies, or produced by developers themselves as independent titles. However, the new trend of crowdfunding puts gaming in the hands of the consumer rather than designer. Gamers can choose to fund the games they find interesting and are genuinely excited to play.

The crowdfunding model received significant attention in the video game world with the success of “Double Fine Adventure”, a point-and-click adventure game that earned more than $3 million via Kickstarter in excess of the initial $400,000 funding request.

Crowdfunding allows independent developers the means to create a desired product and also creates a consumer-fueled marketing strategy. Social Media is key with crowdfunding. Titles that don’t generate enough buzz won’t reach their initial funding requests. A little less than half of video game crowd-funded titles successfully obtain their target funds.

Knowledge about these strategies are key to game designers. Cogswell College offers programs Game Design & Development that gives aspiring designers the art and engineering skills necessary to produce quality content that consumers demand. Cogswell also offers their Masters in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, a comprehensive program for students to learn the entrepreneurial skills needed to create, establish and grow their own ventures. These skills key to a successful game designer.

25 Years of Game Boy

April 29th, 2014

Raise your hand if you’ve owned a Game Boy (Hand raised)!

The Game Boy, Nintendo’s first full-sized handheld device, was released in Japan on April 21, 1989. It featured a green LCD screen, a directional pad, A, B, and start and select buttons. It was released in America in August of the same year for $89.99. Over the next decade and a half, the original Game Boy and its upgrades like Game Boy Color would sell 118 million units worldwide.

Take a look at this Mashable article for Every Game Boy Model from the Past 25 Years.

What Can You Do with a Degree in Digital Art and Animation?

April 24th, 2014

Without a doubt, California is the hotbed for digital art and animation degree programs. The state is home to many companies in the industry, including movie studios, CGI companies, and software & game developers. Cogswell College, located in Silicon Valley, CA, offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Art and Animation (DAA). This program is designed with the goal to ensure that students leave Cogswell with the creative and technical skills required for multiple opportunities within the areas of the entertainment industry.

Many schools across the country offer degrees in fine arts or graphic design, and many of those graduates find themselves looking for a job in interactive; but they are sometimes behind the curve when they enter the job market. Although these are important aspects for multimedia design education, degrees specific to animation are preferred by most companies in the industry.

With a wide variety of jobs available in this growing industry, a career in digital animation can not only be appealing to creative individuals, but lucrative and highly competitive as well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for digital animators is more than $58,000. This job segment is expected to grow at 8% in the U.S. over the next decade.

Job positions in game development, television and movies are the most highly sought after career paths for people with a degree in digital arts. While this area has the largest number of jobs available for people with a DAA degree, the competition for positions in these areas are extremely high. However, other job possibilities exist on the cusp of the entertainment industry.

Working for an Advertising Agency:

Advertising agencies have an ongoing need for multimedia designers and the industry provides a steady and stable work environment for employees with experience. They work across a variety of areas, including commercials, websites, social media and video production. With companies large and small turning to the Internet to advertise their products and services, this area can potentially outgrow other positions which have traditionally been more sought after.

Many companies are using video channels (think YouTube and Vimeo) to advertise to their potential and existing customers. They are also using the video medium to provide product information and demonstrations. With this available to advertisers, it is important that there are multimedia designers available to generate the ideas, who have the technical expertise to make it happen.

The career path for a digital animator working in advertising is somewhat varied. While an employee may begin as a storyboard artist, they find themselves advancing through the agency quickly. Becoming a creative director is not uncommon; as the medium grows and rises in prominence it will happen with greater frequency, especially as employees with digital animation experience learn and become integral parts of other business areas.

Working for Bigger Companies:

Many companies, especially larger ones, choose not to employ advertising agencies and have been bringing their marketing in-house. This trend means that there will be a growing number of opportunities available in companies that many may not consider. Working for a large corporate entity has its advantages. The work is steady and the traditional benefits associated with them (insurance, retirement, etc.) may not be available when working for a small production company. Education, software and manufacturing are all areas with potential to see increased growth.

For more information about Cogswell’s Digital Art & Animation Bachelor Degree program, visit http://www.cogswell.edu/programs/digital-art-and-animation.php

11 Times ‘The Simpsons’ Predicted the Future of Technology

April 22nd, 2014

With 25 season of comedy under its belt, American’s favorite TV family has poked fun of and spoofed almost everything related to pop culture. They’ve even predicted some of today’s technological advancements.

From heavy hinting at potential NSA snooping to goofier predictions of future video phones, Mashable has rounded up 11 times that The Simpsons imagined the digital future with eerie accuracy. Have you seen the scenes referenced?

Digital Art is Real Art – Really!

April 17th, 2014

There’s an old adage that most people can’t define art, but they know it when they see it. The definition of art was debated long before the digital age. From Greek philosophers to the United States Supreme Court, wise people have tried to define what art is, the process by which it is created, and its meaning to society.

Defined in simple terms by Merriam-Webster, art is “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.”

As the process of creating digital art evolves and becomes more commonplace, we see debates in internet forums and hear conversations in museums and coffee shops about whether art created digitally can really be considered art.

Open for interpretation

Many would argue that art cannot be defined. In fact, the legal system has declined to “define” art and has instead left it open to interpretation. It allows for societal norms and does not put limitations on the evolving process by which it is created.

For the most part, fine art has been defined as something created primarily for beauty rather than utility and placed into categories such as painting, sculpture, poetry and music.

What is digital art?

Digital art is any form that utilizes digital technology during production. Fairly broad in definition, we know, but there are as many forms of digital art as traditional art. For the most part, though, a digital artist sits in front of a computer monitor to create, rather than a blank canvas or hunk of unformed clay.

Sometimes the image created is done from scratch; other times the artist is manipulating an existing image into something different and unique. Like other forms, digital art can take on many forms, from illustration to multimedia to interactive.

Commonalities exist between digital and traditional art. As in traditional art, there are very few successful, self-taught artists. The best digital artists study traditional techniques in order to become better artists. There is skill involved. Like a painter, a digital artist has tools available to help him create. But those tools do not create; the artist does! And like a painter, the digital artist must be well-versed in light, color, texture, saturation, and depth. Perhaps most importantly, each artist has to possess a desire to create and express through the medium.

Does digital art meet the definition of art?

Of course it does. At its base, art is merely a form of communication. The artist, through creativity, is attempting to express an idea or evoke an emotion. The same is most certainly true for a digital artist.

Like any other form of art, digital is merely the newest evolution of art. The potential of digital will grow as technology progresses and will be limited only by the artist’s imagination.

Cogswell College’s Bachelor Degree in Digital Art & Animation is designed to prepare students for exciting careers throughout the entertainment, media and art industries. Through extensive coursework, students gain hands-on experience using the latest tools and applications for 3D graphics and animation.

Cogswell’s Project-Based Learning Receives Praise from Visiting Students

April 15th, 2014

On Thursday, April 10th; 20 students from Management Center Innsbruck (MCI), an Entrepreneurial School in Austria, came to visit Cogswell.  Most of the visiting students are studying Art & Entrepreneurship, and were fascinated with Cogswell’s Project-Based Learning classes and studios.

The MCI students were amazed with the work they were able to see, and that it was all “made from scratch”.  From character sketches & 3D models made from clay, to digitally rendered creations brought to life; the MCI students were completely in awe. They also got the opportunity to learn about the process that a piece of art will go through to become part of an animated film or game. Cogswell’s own Digital Audio Technology students then add music to the digital projects to create a completed work of art done entirely by students.

Cogswell’s Project-Based Learning classes are the foundation of the education provided here; they help to create strong, T-shaped individuals that are prepared for careers in a variety of industries.