Posts Tagged ‘Game Design’

Bankruptcy doesn’t mean “Game Over” for Atari

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Atari, one of the pioneer video game design companies, declared bankruptcy recently. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the end for the iconic brand.

In fact, many thought the company faded away years ago. Not the case. For nearly a decade, Atari has been owned by a French company, Infogrames Entertainment, which coincidentally, is also filing for bankruptcy. The move is seen as a way to separate U.S. operations from the financially troubled parent company.

For the past few years, Atari has been producing versions of its classic games for browsers and for mobile devices. Although not nearly as huge as the company was in the 1970s and 80s, Atari’s U.S. operations provided more than 70 percent of the company’s revenue.

The rise of Atari

Atari was founded in 1972, and the company began to manufacture an arcade game called Pong. It was a hit. Two years later, Atari began producing a home version with a console that connected to the TV.

Warner Communications purchased Atari in 1976 and oversaw the period of growth that made Atari the fastest growing company in the U.S.

The game design console that made Atari a household name hit the market in 1977. The first year, the video computer system was manufactured in Sunnyvale before moving overseas. By 1979, the Atari 2600 was the most popular Christmas gift of the year. Popular games such as Space Invaders, PacMan, Centipede, Breakout and Asteroids, among dozens more, helped Atari sell more than10 million units in 1982.

Decline

A number of factors contributed to the decline of Atari as an innovative technology company. Several entities that controlled it had financial problems, which meant that research and development suffered. The parent companies often refused to give credit to video game designers, which made for unhappy employees and high turnover.

The biggest factor contributing to Atari’s demise was the rise of the home computer system. Here’s an interesting fact: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak all worked for Atari in the early days. No doubt their experience at Atari had an impact on their innovations. Job and Wozniak worked successfully on the system for the arcade version of Breakout, while Gates, hired to help simplify the system, was fired when the project was stalled for a year.

Many suspect that during that time, Gates was working on the DOS system that IBM used to propel the home computer revolution. By that time, Atari had fallen behind in the race to develop technology and the rest is history. The three former employees went on to form Apple and Microsoft, arguably two of the largest corporations in the world. With its Bay area location, a good number of Cogswell College engineering graduates also got their start at this iconic company.

Still lucrative

After separation from its French owned parent, the brand and intellectual rights could still be profitable for whichever company buys Atari. Like Hostess, there will still be demand for the games the first gamers grew up with. Compared to video games of today, they are quite simple, but nostalgia buffs find the mobile and browser versions just as addictive as they were back in the day. Which could mean a good return for the right investor.

Life Lessons Found in Game Design

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

According to the LA Times, Board Games are making a comeback. At Cogswell College you would never know there had been a decline. Students play games during downtime between classes, argue the merits of one strategy or game over another, are played right alongside video games during game night events and are a mainstay teaching tool.

Every year for more than a decade Cogswell faculty, Steve Librande, has used the principles behind board game design to give students the tools they need to create everything from card games to video games in his Game Design I class. Creating board games not only gives students a strong foundation in the development thought process for any game but also teach valuable life lessons about perseverance, risk-taking and belief in your abilities.

Cogswell students – Zachary Irwin, Andrew Traxler and Aaron Weingarten – have all taken his class and sat down to share their experiences and the lasting impact the class has had on each of them. In fact, they felt the class was so valuable that they all still had their notes from the class and referred to them often.

“I pull out my notes from Steve’s class every time I start a new project,” said Irwin a Game and Entrepreneurship major.

“The class provided a lot of good basic information that I continue to use no matter what type of game I am making,” added Weingarten a Digital Arts Engineering major.

The students first learn about the 8 kinds of fun that games satisfy. Traxler, a Game and Entrepreneurship major, pulled up his class notes on his computer and read them off: Sensation (involves the senses), Fantasy (make-believe), Narrative (creates a story), Challenge (players face obstacles), Fellowship (played for social value), Discovery (exploring the unknown), Expression (opportunity to state your views) and Submission (a mindless pastime).

Each class delved more deeply into one of the concepts. They were given a new game using one of the concepts and then had to figure out what to do with it – maybe make new rules, set a new objective or decide if it’s more fun as a game of luck or strategy. Once they’d experimented for about 40 minutes, then the class talked about what worked and what didn’t and what they might try next time.

“Lots of times the game we were given was broken and didn’t achieve its goal,” said Weingarten, “and we had to figure out why it didn’t work and what we needed to do to fix it.”

After students feel more comfortable with the game-play concepts, they begin tackling issues like replay value – what makes players want to return to a game they have played once; why do people purchase the things they do and the impact that box art has on their decisions and what makes a game fun.

“One of the most important lessons we learn during the class is iteration and prototyping,” said Weingarten. “Whether the game is 2D or 3D, you need to see what it looks and how it might work.”

“For me,” said Irwin, “it was the idea that anyone can be a game designer as long as they are willing to iterate and not give up on their idea.”

“I learned that these principles are not just for designing games but are part of a bigger picture – design is a part of all aspects of our lives,” said Traxler. “It’s understanding what you, and other people, want in whatever is being designed for them.”

Learn more about Cogswell’s Game Design Program.

The Evolution of the Unreal Engine

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Unreal Engine

I have been playing games for a long time now and I can still remember when I first went to a friends house for a LAN party. I walked into the room and everyone was jumping around in this cool high-tech-ish world, shooting each other and using really crazy weapons. I leaned over to my friend and asked what everyone was playing and he told me it was something called “Unreal Tournament“. To me at the time, the graphics were pretty amazing but it was the game play and physics that really caught my eye. After that day I was totally sold on the Unreal Engine and the way that Epic Games would push each version so much further.

The reason I am writing about Unreal Engine is I was browsing Reddit for some relevent articles and saw this image.

The Evolution of Unreal Engine: http://i.imgur.com/XS6BH.jpg

I just love the visual jumps in ability to use higher resolution maps and overall quality of game models, animation, physics and all the cool stuff that comes along with the release of a new version of a developers kit. And then! I remembered the trailer that I saw at GDC 2011.

Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 Tech Demo:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzjsTt_DzCw&feature=related

When I watch demo’s like that and read articles about the future of gaming, technology, creative innovation and just the freedom to breath life something sooooo amazing just gets me so stoked! I can’t wait to see what the game designers here at Cogswell will do with this technology when it lands in their laps.

-Zombie

GLOBAL GAME JAM 2012!!!

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Global Game Jam @ Cogswell College

Hey hey now!

I have cool news for anyone and everyone who would like to be involved in game design!

Cogswell College is going to be hosting the 2012 Global Game Jam!!! <— (notice I put 3 “!” to emphasize how exciting this is)

It will start at 6:00PM on Jan 27th and go all the way to 3:00PM on Jan 29th, that’s right a whole weekend of designing games you crazy people!

If you want more info about the schedule and prices, go to the link below.

http://www.cogswellalumni.com/ggj2012/

SEE YOU THERE!!!!

-Zombie

Smart Words for Gamers

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Hapy Monday to everyone, hope you all are having a good start to your week. If you aren’t or even if you are, I found this great video over the weekend. Recently there was an astounding TED talk about how games are actually making kids smarter. So for any of you who are aspiring game designers and have people telling you there is no future in games…tell them to watch this!

Ultimate Battlefield 3 Simulator

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

To all of you fans who are floored on Battlefield 3 right now, I have an amazing video for you do check out. Here at Cogswell, the Game Design students are always looking to find a new and innovative gaming experience, this video is about precisely that…. to say the least.

You would have to pay me to NOT play this. I want one!!!

-Zombie

Welcome back from the president of the Game Development Club!

Monday, January 24th, 2011

The first week of school is always one simple thing: Crazy! No matter if you are a freshmen nervous about starting new classes and meeting people, thinking that your lack of skill will turn people away from you (which it won’t by the way! We will help you) or whether you are a junior or senior nearing the end and wondering on earth you will get a job after school, the first week of school is always the craziest and loudest usually.  I am indifferent whether or not I like the first week of school but that doesn’t really matter and as much as I love getting sleep when I want it and need it and having no homework or tests to worry about, getting back into the mayhem of school at this point in my life is something that I am just use to, it also helps that I am the President of  Cogswell’s Game Development Club here on campus and this semester along with another we got an idea for a game that we want to make and get others involved with, which is the whole point of the club really. This ironically does add to the overall stress and fatigue of the semester, but whatever call me crazy!  You kind of have to be to really dig this school, and that’s what I love about it!  This thing called normalcy is overrated here and if you are a nerd looking to be involved in crazy schemes that will make you giggle with glee at the thought of making a video game or a short film or awesome music this is the place for you.

Classes I am always a little apprehensive about cause I don’t know if I will like them or not, example is that I took lighting and layout last semester, which teaches you how to create and use lighting and effects in a 3D program to make them look realistic.  I was hopeful for the class but after it was over I really didn’t care for it, lighting just isn’t my thing but it’s fine and I learned a new skill and that will help me out in the future.  This semester I got four classes and all of them are pretty cool for the exception of math, which hates me for some reason I just can’t figure out, despite that I am looking forward to learning new things about rigging and level design along with figuring out what “x” is and how economics work.  This semester will be a big I feel cause of the project(s) I am involved with along with classes school events and parties and welcoming the new students.  Just the average life of a Cogswellian Dragon!

-Nick

Meet Our Game Design Faculty

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Albert Chen is the Assistant Professor of Game Design and Development and joined Cogswell’s full-time faculty in 2007. He heads the Game Art concentration under Digital Arts and Animation (DAA) program and Digital Arts and Engineering (DAE) under the Engineering program. He is also the Associate Director for Cogswell’s Engineering Simulation and Animation Laboratory (ESAL), and the recipient of the Boeing Performance Excellence Award in 2008.

His goal is to provide the mentoring and support students need to excel at Cogswell and in the video game and digital media industries.

Mr. Chen was a professional game developer for over twelve years with credits in nearly two dozen game titles. His roles included Game Designer at EA, Game Design Director and Senior Level Designer at Factor 5, Level Layout Manager at 3DO, and Mission Designer, 3D Art Technician, International Lead Tester and QA Tester at LucasArts. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from the University of California at Davis.

Learn more about Cogswell’s Game Design Program.

-Bonnie Phelps, Dean of Institutional Advancement

Cogswell Faculty Spotlight – Albert Chen, Digital Art & Animation

Friday, December 18th, 2009

albertchenAlbert Chen

Albert Chen is the Assistant Professor of Game Design and Development and joined Cogswell’s full-time faculty in 2007. He heads the Game Art concentration under Digital Arts and Animation (DAA) program and Digital Arts and Engineering (DAE) under the Engineering program. He is also the Associate Director for Cogswell’s Engineering Simulation and Animation Laboratory (ESAL), and the recipient of the Boeing Performance Excellence Award in 2008. His goal is to provide the mentoring and support students need to excel at Cogswell and in the video game and digital media industries. Mr. Chen was a professional game developer for over twelve years with credits in nearly two dozen game titles. His roles included Game Designer at EA, Game Design Director and Senior Level Designer at Factor 5, Level Layout Manager at 3DO, and Mission Designer, 3D Art Technician, International Lead Tester and QA Tester at LucasArts. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from the University of California at Davis.

What classes do you currently teach?

Game 3: Introduction to game development and production, Content and creativity development, Entertainment Design and 3D Modeling portfolio

Do you have a favorite class to teach? If so, why?

Content and creativity development is currently my favorite because it’s purely focused on thinking outside the box and teamwork which results in some very cool student projects.

Have you worked for non-academic companies in the past? Which ones? How did that experience make you a better teacher?

I was a professional game developer for over 12 years prior to joining Cogswell. I have worked at Lucasarts, The 3DO Company, Factor 5 and EA. My past experience in mentoring junior designers has helped me develop my teaching style. I call it “Tough love”.

What made you decide that you wanted to teach?

When I was a game developer, I enjoyed working with and mentoring new designers. At Cogswell, I saw an opportunity to constantly get that kind of interaction with students.

What projects have you worked on in the past? What was your role in the project?

I was 3D Art Technician for Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi and Grim Fandango where I processed raw mo-cap data and fixed technical problems in digital art and animation.

As Level Layout Manager for Sarge’s Heroes 2 PS1, I managed a design team that developed and shipped a game in 7 months.

I was a level designer for Star Wars: Roque Squadron 2 – Rogue Leader (which launched with the Nintendo Gamecube) and Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3 – Rebel Strike. My levels were used for the pre-sell disks and shown at trade shows like E3.

As Game Design Director and Designer on Lair, I was responsible for building and managing a design team.

What projects (personal or professional) are you currently working on?
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Cogswell Hosting Silicon Valley Global Game Jam

Monday, December 7th, 2009
GGJgroup

Brainstorming during Game Jam 2009 at Cogswell

Have you ever wanted to be part of something really big? Now’s your chance! Join other San Francisco/Silicon Valley game enthusiasts for the second annual Global Game Jam weekend.

Following last year’s hugely successful inaugural event, organizers are expecting Game Jam 2010 to be even more spectacular. So far more than 100 locations in 31 different countries will host events – and the numbers are growing every day.

Cogswell Polytechnical College is pleased to host this exciting event in the Bay Area. The Global Game Jam begins at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, January 29 and ends at 3:00p.m. on Sunday, January 31.

Game Jams foster innovation and experimentation – it’s all about making games and in the GGJ you’re part of a global experiment in creativity. A game jam is not for the faint of heart though. Expect two days of hard work, experimentation, little sleep, new friends, great ideas, laughs, technical issues and the time of your life.

What could be better than the chance to challenge your creativity and technical expertise in a collaborative marathon? Not much if you love to make games!

Learn more about the event and reserve your space now.

Space limitation: 50 participants, so make sure to register early.

-Bonnie Phelps, Dean of Institutional Advancement

GGJgroup2

A group in the Game Jam 2009 works on their game.