Screen shot from the GEAR UP game, showing the interior of the Static Light Room (from the original TechDemo game from Conitec Systems) with a few rovers from the Evolutionary Robotics course, a couple of particles from the intelligent particle swarm work with Cory Perry, and a weapon (rocket launcher) taken from the Shooting Range room, thus illustrating how we modified the game in the GEARUP workshop, since normally the player cannot take the weapons out of the Shooting Range room.  The screen shot also shows the explosion just after firing the rocket launcher at a support column in the Static Light Room. NMU Ranks in Top 50 for Game Design


NMU has one of the “Top 50 Undergraduate Game Design Programs,” according to a first-of-its-kind ranking by The Princeton Review, an education services and test preparation company, and GamePro magazine. This achievement comes despite the fact NMU does not yet offer an academic major or minor in video game design. But two campus departments teach related course material and technologies. Faculty members from each called the Top 50 designation a pleasant surprise.


“I must assume that our ranking stems mostly from our strong programs in computer science and art and design, both of which are essential to the top institutions in the ranking,” said Jeff Horn (Mathematics and Computer Science). “While other disciplines such as music, English and performing arts are important in computer games, it is programming and art that form the heart of successful game development curricula. In computer science, we have incorporated 3D game engine programming into several upper division courses, including three special topics classes on game programming itself.” 


Art and design teaches 3D modeling and animation using professional software and hardware typically found at leading production companies. Horn said they have been experimenting recently with courses that bring students from both departments together, including a team-based game design course and a course on flash programming.  


“I see such interdisciplinary courses as the foundation for game design degrees that truly prepare students for the collaborative atmosphere of the computer game industry,” Horn added. “Finally, I think the capstone experiences of our senior projects and portfolios get the attention of outsiders, because they give our graduates personal, original achievements that they can bring to the job interview straight out of school."


Stephan Larson (Art and Design) said his department emphasizes adaptability and encourages students to have varied interests and skills.


“We have had graduates successfully go into the game design field simply because they could adapt to the situation in the technical aspects and in the overall approach to game design,” said Larson. “I think it speaks highly of our electronic imaging program that students are so technically proficient while maintaining design savvy; that they can be flexible enough to learn new technologies and fit into a design pipeline. Our focus is on making our students a success rather than how the rest of the nation perceives the program. But it is nice to be noticed.”


The list will be posted on The Princeton Review and GamePro Web sites and published in the April 2010 issue of GamePro magazine. Horn said a Web site dedicated to game development at NMU includes a downloadable, free game that “is really a demo of several technologies we’ve been working on over the years.” To see it, visit Game.


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Updated: March 11, 2010

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