Coleman Game Development Capstone is a Huge Success!

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Finals can be a hard time for any student, but for our Capstone class, this week was harder than most. For the past ten weeks, two student teams have been working overtime to complete a game of their own design, but their last big challenge was to show off their hard work to an audience, for a grade! We attended their presentations and we were blown away at what we saw. Both teams put together great concepts that translated into exciting games that we hope to see produced as full games in the future. All members of the audience were given the opportunity to offer their opinions on the presentation anonymously through a worksheet that their instructor, Joe Shoopack, designed to gauge audience perception on playability and overall concept.

Both Team Jekyll and Team Hyde had to present and discuss where their game idea came from, which roles the team members took on, and the challenges that they faced while working together and working on their own. Team Hyde presented their game, Path of the Warded, which is based on a book, which takes place in a fantasy world overrun with demons that are set on destroying everything in sight. The main character has to wait until nightfall in order to protect his farm and the animals that live there. Team Jekyll showed us Malice, a game that was a three-year dream of project manager Marisa Hatcher, which took the main character on a quest to save her sister from kidnappers. The audience followed their presentations as the teams broke down their work flow and the various pieces of the game that each member was responsible for, and how their designs changed over time. Though this class was a great learning experience, it came with its fair share of difficult challenges that, in the end, taught the students what it’s like to work in a real-world game developer environment. This class is also a great example of why it is important, as a Game Developer, to be able to work in various job titles or departments. If you can better understand what it is that your teammates do, and how to help when it is needed, the more versatility you will bring to your job.

Once the presentations were over, the audience was given the chance to ask questions about the game and then was brought to the development lab and took their turns playing the games and seeing first-hand how the games worked. All of the attendees were really excited to see the results of these projects and had a great time hearing directly from the students about their experiences. You can check out the photo album below for more photos of the presentations and behind-the-scenes images of the production process. Congratulations to the Capstone class! We see a very bright and successful future in Game Development for all of you!

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Women’s History Month: Developing the Foundations for Modern Technology

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Last month we talked about the African American women who changed the face of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, despite adversity and oppression. Since March 1st marks the start of Women’s History Month, we are going to continue our acknowledgement of the women behind the modern technological age. We discussed the pioneers Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper in a previous blog post (which you can read here) but there is a long list of women who have come after them who have created their own legacy in STEM. If there is someone missing from this list, feel free to add them in the comments!

Susan Kare
When you think of Apple, most likely you’ll picture Steve Jobs or Steve Wozniak. Or maybe the first image that comes to mind will be the computer itself, a large and heavy object with a screen the size of a notepad. However, one of the names that you might not recognize is Susan Kare. Behind the scenes, she was in charge of developing the typography and iconic graphics for the launch of the original Apple Macintosh computer. Many of the interface elements that have become common in their products were designed by Kare, like the command symbol on their keyboard. Remember the “Happy Mac” that greeted you when you booted up your system? That was Susan Kare’s design!

Hedy Lamarr
You might not know Hedy Lamarr’s acting career, but you have definitely used her invention in your daily life now. She conceptualized the first ideas for frequency hopping (sending radio signals from different frequency channels). The basis for the idea was to help the Navy launch torpedos through remote control, and block communications from being interfered with. Despite the fact that this technology would have been way ahead of its time, the Navy was not interested and passed on the invention. However, Lamarr’s design would find its use in the 1950’s when the concept was used for secure military communications. This new use paved the way for Hedy Lamarr’s concept to become the foundation for modern Bluetooth and Wifi technology.

Roberta Williams
When videogames became popular in the 1980’s, the at-home console was a huge seller and brands like Atari took the market by storm. However there was a revolution coming and Roberta Williams was one of its leaders. It was her creation “King’s Quest” that would create the market for PC gaming. Her company Sierra On-Line would help to shape the future of video games with their more complex puzzle designs and storylines. Games that take the main character on a quest before they can compete against a final “boss” are inspired by her original design.

Radia Perlman
A member of the Internet Hall of Fame, Radia Perlman designed the spanning tree algorithm that transformed Ethernet from single-wire CSMA/CD into a protocol that can handle large information clouds. She also designed Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL), which allows Ethernet to make optimal use of bandwidth. Perlman holds over 100 patents and has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Unisex and the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Data Communication. She holds BS and MS degrees in Mathematics from MIT, and completed her PhD in Computer Science through MIT as well.

Kimberly Bryant (Black Girls Code)
After earning her degree in Electrical Engineering from Vanderbilt University, and a successful career in the bay area near San Francisco, Bryant decided to dedicate her life to helping more African American women achieve their dreams in STEM. She founded Black Girls Code in 2011 to bring classes and workshops to her community that focused on helping underrepresented girls learn computer programming, coding, website development, and robotics. Her foundation now had chapters in seven states, and across the globe in Johannesburg, South Africa, and even offers programs in Spanish! To learn more about her organization and all of their community work visit: www.blackgirlscode.com

Sister Mary Kenneth Keller
Though she was a devout nun her whole life, Sister Mary Kenneth Keller was the first woman in the United States to earn a PhD in Computer Science. She entered into the convent in 1932, and earned her BS in Mathematics and her MS in Physics from DePaul University. However, it was during her time studying at Dartmouth College in the 1960s that she developed the BASIC computer language which made it possible for anyone to write custom code. Suddenly developers didn’t need to have a mathematics or science degree to be able to code their own programs. Keller’s dissertation, written in CDC FORTRAN 63, was titled “Inductive Inference on Computer Generated Patterns.” In 1965, she became the first American woman to earn a PhD in Computer Science. She envisioned a future of computers that would help teach and stimulate cognitive development for all.

Carol Shaw
Considered the first female professional video game designer, Carol Shaw worked for the Atari company programming games for the VCS console before leaving to work for Activision. The now famous River Raid game for the Atari 2600 was her design and is considered to be one of the best examples of game design in history. However, even though she was an equal member of the team, she still faced discrimination, even from the President of Atari. During a walk through, he remarked “Oh, at last! We have a female game designer. She can do cosmetics color matching and interior decorating cartridges!” You can read more about her life in game development on the Vintage Computing Website.

Adele Goldberg
A prominent software developer, Adele Goldberg is one of the designers of the SmallTalk-80 programming language. While working at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) she would become the manager of the System Concepts Laboratory where her team would finish the SmallTalk-80 program. She served as president of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) from 1984 to 1986, and, together with Alan Kay and Dan Ingalls, received the ACM Software Systems Award in 1987. Many of the concepts she and her team developed at PARC became the basis for graphically based user interfaces, replacing the earlier command line based systems.

There are thousands more women who have made great strides in technology development who also deserve recognition on this list. This month, take the opportunity to learn more about the extraordinary women who have made history in STEM. You can tell us about them here in the comments!

 

 

The first degree conferred by Coleman University (then the Automation Institute) was to a woman, for Data Processing in 1964. It has been our mission since we were first established to ensure that all of our students have equal access to education, and resources to pursue their passion to turn their ‘Dreams Into Reality’. What could you do with a degree in Software Development, Cybersecurity, or Game Development from Coleman University?

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Are You Team Jekyll or Team Hyde?

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For some, the thrill of playing a new videogame is like nothing else. Meeting a character for the first time, watching a new story unfold, wielding a super-cool new weapon, and  playing with others online are what make gaming so much fun. What you don’t see is all of the coding, programming, structuring, planning, designing, and all around WORK that went into creating this experience. What may have taken 12-15 hours to finish, in reality took months to create and perfect. In fact, you might be surprised to know that there are thousands of jobs related to Game Development and Design and some don’t require coding experience at all! For the Game Development Capstone students at Coleman University, this truth is one that they are learning first hand, and soon they will have their own game for other gamers to play.

For ten weeks Coleman Game Development Capstone students will be working closely in teams to create, from start to finish, an original videogame of their own design. Beginning with the concept art and overall design, these students will build a game that is the culmination of all that they have learned and a test of their skills in teamwork. As scary as that may sound, the Capstone is an opportunity to take what they’ve learned so far in their program and work as part of a team to experience the iterative process of Game Development that celebrates their creativity and talent. The Capstone class will mimic the pressures and expectations that game development companies put on their employees in the real world. This term we have two teams working on Capstone projects and an exciting rivalry is developing. What do Team Jekyll and Team Hyde have in store for their final project? Keep reading to find out!

 

TEAM JEKYLL: MALICE

Taking inspiration from the classic game MARIO, players in the world of Malice will have to race against the clock solving puzzles and battling creatures along the way to save someone they love in a 3D world. The story begins with a young boy who is looking for his younger sister who was taken from their home, followed by his trusty dog that has some cool tricks of his own. In a brilliant twist, Team Jekyll has designed the game to allow players to switch between the young boy and his dog to solve puzzles or leap over traps.  Various monsters and creatures will try to attack you and stop you from finding your sister, and you’ll have to defeat the boss at the end, so this game is definitely going to be exciting! Though this game is fun to play, it won’t be a walk in the park; there are some scary challenges and surprises hidden in this game.

Project Manager: Marisa Hatcher

Level Design/Puzzle Design: Jake Bommer

Programmer/Puzzle Design: Gary Lawrence

3D Modeler: Curt Ljungquist

 

TEAM HYDE: PATH OF THE WARDED

Based on the book The Warded Man, this PC game is a post-apocalyptic challenge that tests the ingenuity of the player at every turn. During the day, players must take care of their farm by reinforcing fences, finding defensive weapons, and preparing for sunset. Once the moon comes up, demons and menacing creatures come out of the woods to try to tear your farm to the ground! Attacks come in three waves and players can set traps in order to destroy as many attackers as possible. Each creature or monster that attacks will have a specific elemental characteristic related to water, fire, wind, or earth. The final version of the game will allow players to customize their character and upgrade their farm to further defend against attacks. After a detailed cut scene, players will have the opportunity to explore their surroundings and engage with their farm. Unfortunately the animals at the farm are not part of the game play and can’t help you defeat any of the demons or monsters, but they provide good company.

Project Manager/Level Designer/Branding: Mari Erdman

Level Design: John Becker

3D Modeler: Eduardo Aviles

3D Modeler: Curt Ljungquist

 

So why are they named Team Jekyll and Team Hyde? When the class began, the 7 students enrolled were expecting to be working on one game, but instead developed into two teams that are working on two different games. As a way to foster healthy competition, and teamwork, the two teams each became Team Jekyll and Team Hyde; two sides of the same… In week ten of their course (March 12-16th) both teams will present a finished product to faculty, staff, and classmates, including offering the opportunity for attendees to play the game as well! If you want to see what these teams are developing, keep your eye on the blog calendar for the announcement of the Capstone presentation. Congratulations to Team Jekyll and Team Hyde! We look forward to seeing the hard work that you are putting into this project and we can’t wait to play it!

 

 

If you are interested in where your own passion for Game Development can take you, give us a call today at (858) 499-0202 and schedule a tour! There’s plenty of opportunity in San Diego to start your career, so take the first step and meet the Coleman Game Development community!

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Faculty Spotlight with Joe Shoopack (Game Development)

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We are less than two weeks from Global Game Jam 2018 and this year is gearing up to be one for the record books! For this month’s Faculty Spotlight we interviewed one of our Game Development instructors, Joe Shoopack, in honor of the upcoming Global Game Jam. Joe has a lot of passion for gaming and enjoys teaching the next generation of great game developers! Thank you to Joe Shoopack for giving us an awesome interview!!

If you’re interested in the Global Game Jam there’s still time to register!
Don’t miss your chance to be a part of the only Game Jam in San Diego for 2018!

  1. Joe, what was the first video game that you bought; why did you choose that one?

The first game bought for me was PONG for the home television system in 1975. The first console game I bought for myself was the Sega Genesis Mickey’s Castle of Illusion in 1990. It was a really creative platform featuring a level that flipped upside down and had some very cool looks to the levels.

  1. Name some of your top five favorite game releases in the past ten years. What makes a game noteworthy for you?

I would have to say, The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinity, and Cuphead are three standouts I’ve really enjoyed playing since they were released. I like to feel completely immersed in a world, and all three of those games accomplish that in different ways.

  1. Are there any upcoming game releases that you are looking forward to?

I’m waiting for the release of The Last of Us II.

  1. What retro game would you like to see brought back for a modern console?

Rather than seeing an old game brought back, I’m more excited to see the emergence of interest in creating 2D sprite and tile mapped games. It’s been referred to as the Hi-Bit Era: 16-bit style games utilizing the wide screen and higher resolution, like Owlboy from D-Pad Studio.

  1. What drew you to making Game Development and Design your career?

I loved art and arcade games, and when I graduated from Brigham Young University in 1985 with a degree in Illustration, game careers for artists were just starting to become a viable possibility, so I naturally gravitated to doing art for games.

  1. Can you share some of your experience in becoming a game developer and what you are currently doing in the field?

I first started working on Atari 7800 and Sega Genesis Games at Blue Sky Software in San Diego. These were small development teams, so you had the opportunity to do both art and level design as an artist.  I worked there for about 5 years and contributed to Jurassic Park, World Series Baseball, a Ren and Stimpy game, The Little Mermaid and a bunch of others. After that I started working at Sony and worked on Gameday ’99 (a football game for the PC). I then moved over to a spin off company of Sony, called Sony Online Entertainment.  At Sony Online I worked on some very fun Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games like Star Wars Galaxies and EverQuest 2.  I then became a Development Director for Art and started working in a broader capacity with all the games and artists at the company on games like DC Universe Online, Planetside 2, H1Z1, etc. I left in 2016 to work on an independent project and to start an adjunct teaching career.

Joe Shoopack Game Development Faculty Quote Coleman University

  1. What brought you to Coleman University to teach?

I started a professional mentor program when I worked at Sony Online that partnered with a local college where I visited classes and advised on student projects and portfolio development.  I really enjoy interacting with students and helping them get started in the game industry, so I started teaching as an adjunct professor.

  1. Any advice for potential and current students looking to make Game Development a lifelong career?

My biggest piece of advice is: be willing to work on anything and be one of the people that volunteer to do whatever it takes to get a game done, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone.

  1. What’s the gaming industry in San Diego like? Is it a growing industry?

It’s pretty stable; although some larger companies have come and gone over the last 20 years. Amazon just opened a San Diego Studio this past year and I’m sure they’ll be growing. Also there are a lot more small independent developers now, which means there will be more pathways to enter the field of Game Development.

  1. Are you involved in the Global Game Jam? Or planning to attend or create a team?

I will be attending Global Game Jam, most likely as a resource visiting and helping out different teams.

  1. Why are events like Global Game Jam important for Game Development students?

It gives you an opportunity to meet some really creative peers and mentors and it’s an excellent opportunity to test your creative and development skills against a tight deadline while having lots of fun!

  1. What are some hobbies, outside of gaming, that you enjoy in your spare time?

Whenever I go on a road trip I take photos of old “roadside America” attractions that have been abandoned or are off the beaten path.  I especially like finding dinosaur and prehistoric animal sculptures. (See attached.)

 

If you are interested in learning more about our Game Development program and the opportunities available for you here in San Diego, give us a call today at (858) 499-0202 and schedule a free tour! 

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Celebrate National Trivia Day with Coleman University!

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January 4th is National Trivia Day and we want to share some fun facts about us! As you know, Coleman University was established here in San Diego in 1963 by Dr. Coleman and Mrs. Lois Furr. Our first building was in Downtown San Diego, and since our first graduating class; we have been making history in this amazing city. Check out our list of some of the top 10 most interesting trivia facts about Coleman University, and if you’re an alumnus, feel free to share your own trivia in the comments!

  1. Coleman’s original mainframe was named Kermit; the name was changed to Papa Bear in the 1990’s.
  2. Coleman University (then Coleman College) presented its first lecture about the internet and the World Wide Web in 1991. The internet was not even being accessed commercially at this point by users at home; that came later in 1995.
  3. In the 1990s Coleman was the home of the Computer Museum of America, whose mission was to collect, preserve, and exhibit historic computer equipment and artifacts.
  4. Coleman (then the Automation Institute) conferred the first degree in Data Processing issued by a private data processing institution in the state of California in 1963. The degree was conferred to Jean Thomas by Doctor Coleman Furr, our co-founder.
  5. Our second location was in Old Town San Diego, at 2425 San Diego Avenue. Today that location is now a storefront; you might not even recognize it with all of the changes!
  6. Over the years Coleman has had a successful track team and softball team that competed in events across San Diego.
  7. Our Co-founder, Dr. Coleman Furr, was a friend of Grace Hopper (the inventor of modern binary code for programming) and since the founding of our institution Coleman has always dedicated a hall on our campus in her name.
  8. From 1974-1976, Coleman College supplied 38-42% of all the initial Data Processing workers needed during the early days of building mainframes to begin automating City and County Government offices in San Diego.
  9. On September 12, 2015 the White House, through their “College Scorecard” software named Coleman University as a school whose students graduate on time, get good jobs and can pay off their loans quickly.
  10. On Jan 26, 2017 – Coleman University became host to “Hornet’s Nest,” San Diego’s first publically-available Indoor UAV drone flight, test, and training facility. It is open 11AM-2PM every Saturday in the B Building located on the West side of the campus.

Since 1963, it has been the philosophy of the Automation Institute, Coleman College, and Coleman University to bring career opportunities and accessible education to any and all people who wanted to learn. Technology was a passion for our founder, and that passion is still here today. We can’t wait to see what history we continue to make here at Coleman and in San Diego!

 

If you are interested in taking your own passion for technology and turning it into a career, call us today at (858) 499-0202 and we would be happy to give you a tour! (Tours are available in Spanish).

Become a part of our history, and look to your own future, at Coleman University!

Coleman University Technology Focused Careers

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Daybreak Games Welcomes Coleman Students to Their Studio in San Diego

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On December 4, Coleman University faculty member Joe Shoopack took his DSN343 (Game Story and Character Design) class, along with other interested Coleman Game Development students, to visit Daybreak Game Company in Rancho Bernardo. Through his connections to the company, he arranged for a panel discussion and presentation about game design and story narrative creation between his students and Daybreak developers.  Daybreak was founded in 2015, and since then they have been making their mark on the gaming industry.  Published games from Daybreak include EverQuest®, EverQuest® II, PlanetSide® 2, and DC Universe Online™. Team members and representatives from Daybreak have come to our campus in the past to speak with students and present workshops on what it takes to be a successful game developer.

Luke Sigmund, EverQuest Franchise Creative Director for Daybreak Games, hosted the event for Coleman students, and was one of the panelists along with four other senior members of the game story team. The presentation covered creating compelling narrative and character design, the relationship of game play and story narrative, the process of creating/designing story worlds for open world games, creating emotion with character interaction, and other related topics. In addition the Daybreak team held discussions with our students about how to find a job as a game designer and best practices for preparing for a career in the game development field. The panel-style presentation stimulated interesting discussion and was a valuable opportunity for students to meet and interact with professional game developers. Our students benefit enormously from the connections that our faculty have with the local game development community. This event highlights the great dedication our faculty has to helping our students learn not just in the classroom, but from professionals in their field who can offer their experiences as learning tools.

 

If you are interested in helping play, test, and give feedback on Daybreak game titles visit  https://www.daybreakgames.com/insiders/  for more information.

 

If you are interested in learning more about what it takes to earn a degree in Game Development and benefit from more opportunities like this, give us a call today at (858) 499-0202!
Classes start January 8, 2018 so there’s still time to register for the new year!

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How Do I Sign Up for the Global Game Jam 2018??

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We’ve already talked about the Global Game Jam on this blog; and the fact that this opportunity to compete in a global challenge with other gamers is one that can’t be missed. So now that we’ve peaked your interest, this blog will tell you what you should know about the #GGJ2018 and what to prepare for once you’ve signed up.

To start with, we want to tell you what your ticket purchase includes. The hosts of the Global Game Jam event at Coleman, the IGDA, have dedicated the funds from the event to providing food for the participants as well as other resources to help make this event as awesome as possible for all who attend! Starting Friday evening on January 26, 2018 participants will start arriving at the Coleman campus to set up their equipment and find spots to get settled in. You can bring in your own computers, laptops, and monitors to use for the weekend as well as any other special resources that you need to effectively code or design. Since the participants will be here from Friday night to Sunday afternoon Coleman University has not only provided campus space for this event, we will be making sure that there is a computer for everyone who registers. The point of this event is to mimic the conditions and stresses of game design and development so make sure that you come prepared to work hard, but we want you to be comfortable while doing it! So if you prefer to code in your bunny slippers, make sure to bring them along too.

What if you don’t have any team members lined up when you register? Well that is certainly no problem. Once the theme for the challenge is announced on Friday night, participants will then have the opportunity to discuss their ideas with others, and teams will form based on which projects participants want to join. The proposed projects will not all be videogame based because board games, card games, and any other styles of game are all welcome submissions. Since the submissions don’t have to be a videogame, participants who do not have coding experience are not excluded from being a part of this event. A passion for gaming and creating fun projects is the only requirement needed! The fun comes from the thrill of joining a team and bringing a great game to life in only three days.

Once teams have finished their projects, they will be submitted to the Global Game Jam site and published. Visitors to the site can still see games from previous years and even play some of them as well! For a game developer or designer, this can be a great addition to any resume and will add invaluable experience to help put you ahead. Being able to perfect your teamwork and problem solving skills while also creating a game from scratch is something that many recruiters look for in a potential hire. Why not put the Global Game Jam onto your resume this year?

If your family or friends are interested in seeing the event and coming by to show support, they are more than welcome! There will be visiting hours for friends and family, however, since time is limited and teams will have to work around the clock, visitors will not be able to stay overnight. We will also have special guests from radio station FM 94.9 on our campus live streaming and getting involved with participants. Hamby from the Casual Gamers podcast will be on our campus broadcasting from his Twitch channel, so you definitely don’t want to miss out on that! Head over to the official Eventbrite page for more information and the link to register as a participant: http://bit.ly/GGJ18Coleman. See you there! #GGJ2018

Turn your passion for gaming, coding, or design into a degree and a lifelong career! With a degree in Game Design from Coleman University, along with all the first-hand professional game development experience of our instructors, our graduates have the knowledge and the connections to build a solid career in game development and design. Call us today to schedule a tour and learn more about our programs at (858) 499-0202! Turn your “Dreams into Reality” now, classes start January 8, 2018!

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Global Game Jam is Coming to Coleman! #GGJ2018

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       It seems like only yesterday that we had a big group of game developers and creative designers on our campus for the Global Game Jam. Yet that was almost a year ago! Once again Coleman University will be hosting the Global Game Jam and we are calling all programmers, coders, designers, and game enthusiasts to participate! So what is the #GGJ, how much experience do you need to attend, and how can you get involved?
The GGJ is a weekend long coding and development event that happens a few times per year and challenges the skills and creativity of participants. Starting on Friday evening, the secret theme for that challenge is revealed and teams are formed with only the rest of the weekend to complete their projects. Groups can take the theme and create a video game, card game, or even a board game using the theme as a guide. Last year the theme was “waves” so teams had to incorporate that idea in some way into their project (think of ocean waves, sound waves, air waves, wavy hair, waving hands, the possibilities are endless!). Coding and developing overnight and into the early morning hours, teams have only a limited amount of time to create a tangible product. However these teams are not just working against the clock here in San Diego; teams from all over the world will be going through the same challenge! From India to Africa, England, Mexico, China, Australia, and many more countries; teams from around the world will be participating together. Last year the teams participating at Coleman University published some amazing games to this challenge. If you visit the Global Game Jam website and search under San Diego, you will see all of the submitted games from previous events over the past years. With fun names such as Chore Wizard, Cowabunga, and Elon Musk Goes to Space, you can see the high level of creativity that goes into these games. You can even play some of them! Studios like to see game developers who have proven their skills outside of the classroom, and having a game published on the Global Game Jam site is a great way to show off your talent.
Our event in January with the GGJ will be one to remember. Bring your sleeping bag, favorite pillow, snacks, and comfortable clothes to code in, and meet new friends who are just as passionate about gaming and game development as you are. The entry fee for earlybird tickets is $25, (all tickets purchased will include a meal) and you can begin registering this month. Visit their Eventbrite website for registration and get your discounted ticket before they are sold out! After you register you will have to also register for the event on the Global Game Jam website, or create an account. Participants will also be asked to sign a permission waiver to have photos or video taken of their teams working over the weekend. If you do not want to have your photos included in Game Jam promotional material, please speak with an IGDA representative when you arrive at the event. We look forward to seeing all of the new and returning participants who will be at the Global Game Jam this year! There may even be some special guests making an appearance that weekend to show support for the game developers…so you don’t want to miss out on this opportunity!

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Faculty Spotlight: Anthony Le (Game Development)

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What did your parents say when you told them that your plans were for your future? Were they happy about your decision, or did you change your mind all on your own? One of the benefits of obtaining a degree in technology is that your skills and career path are destined for a long life. Your passions are what shape your future, and that rings true no matter the circumstances. That is the theme for our Faculty Spotlight this month as we sit down with Anthony Le, a senior Game Development and Software Development instructor for Coleman University, who started out with a very different career path in mind.
Enrolling as a medical student at UCSD, Le realized that he was not meant to enter the field of medicine. After a thrilling class in physics, Le found that he was more interested in the mechanical way that the world worked, rather than the biological. From there he began his career in technology through computer programming and artificial intelligence. We asked him about his life in technology and his passion for teaching at Coleman University.

1. What was it like moving to the US?
We moved out to the United States in the 1975 after the Vietnam War when I was nine years old. At the time my father worked for a shipping company in the US and the first place we were brought to was Camp Pendleton. So all of my family came to the US at the same time. We settled in Bayou la Batre, Alabama because that’s where my father’s shipping company was based. It was also the setting for the movie Forest Gump. At the time the southern states were very anti-communist, and my family was deeply Catholic, so they welcomed us with open arms and we had a better time adjusting. We went to Alabama, and I had the BEST time. All of these people, our neighbors, town folks, would come over every day and give us stuff and check in to see if we were okay, so my experience in Alabama was wonderful. However my Dad didn’t like it as much as I did, because he wanted to be back in California with the rest of his family, so he rented a big U-Haul and drove everybody back. That was 1976, and my family has lived here in San Diego ever since. I went to Serra High School in Tierrasanta and graduated at Mt. Carmel in Rancho Penasquitos. I was yearbook photographer there and won several drafting and photography awards from the Del Mar Fair.

2. So you stayed in California for college and went to UCSD. Is that were you became interested in technology?
I love UCSD. It is a great school and much bigger than it was when I was there. That feeling of being on a college campus, making friends in the dorms—it was like its own city. I changed my major several times while I was there. My family wanted me to be a doctor and get a good job, so I started out with bio-chemistry and I quickly discovered that I didn’t like it, but I loved my computer science classes. Turns out one of the faculty members at UCSD was a family friend and he was teaching physics, so he got me into that and I became a TA for his program and for the computer lab. Physics simulations were really my first computing job at UCSD. I fell in love with computer programming after that and changed my major to Cognitive Science, which was a nice mix of biology and the physiological makeup of the human body. I learned and dreamt about how those mental processes can one day be emulated with computing. So that was around the time when an Artificial Intelligence major was introduced at UCSD, and I jumped on that program and that was my final change of major. I also have minors in philosophy, psychology, and astronomy (because I love studying the planets).

3. What were you like as a student?
I was a very active student. Besides being a TA in the computer lab, I was a member of the Vietnamese Student Association, and I became president and tried to get our club more involved with other club events on campus. I organized an International Volleyball Player’s club and organized a Hands Across UCSD event for the campus, and it was really tough to get all of the logistics together, but it was a really fun to try to get everyone involved. By that time my sister and my cousin were attending UCSD, so it became a family affair. Overall, UCSD was an amazing experience, and that is where I cultivated my love of learning.

4. Once you graduated with your degree in A. I. where did you go? Did you create robots?
I wanted to work in computing, and my relative had a chain of computer stores, so I started working for them when I graduated from college. I was in charge of writing programs for diagnostic and performance testing and for keeping tabs on all of the inventory and OCR (optical character recognition) programs used to process all the orders. Unfortunately, this chain did not win out over its competition, so my relative moved into a different field—buying and selling prescription medications from Canada to patients in the US. So I wrote all the programs to scrape and accumulate all of the data on prescription medications (this was before Big Data was around) and price match for the lowest prices. Then the government changed the law and we could no longer sell lower-priced prescription medication from abroad. With my 20 plus years of programming experience, I ended up getting into teaching through my wife at the time, who knew the Vice President of Coleman University was looking for programmers who had real experience and wanted to teach. I came to Coleman when the Game Development department was still in the process of creation, so I was involved in writing the courses for Game Development. We had to write six classes and establish a certification program. I wrote Course 2 and Course 5, which were about Engine design and 3D rendering (for networked first-person shooter (FPS) and third-person shooter (TPS)). The algorithms for 3D rendering use the same technology and mathematical calculating processes as Artificial Intelligence and neural network programs. It’s the summation of a lot of values and the manipulation of numbers simultaneously. It is a lot of complex ideas, and that is the challenge of teaching: getting students to relate to the material and understand it, so they will be excited to learn.

5. Did you find that you had a passion for teaching after you began at Coleman?
Turns out, from all of my experience as an eldest sibling and as a TA in college, this is my calling. It fits me, because I can explore what I love to learn, and using what I know about AI and how the brain works thus far, to facilitate and transfer that knowledge to another person, using a many sensory modalities as possible. For me this was a fateful event, and I went with it. That was over 7 years ago. Now, I am focusing on helping our students learn physical computing, like how to program robots, sensors, GUIs, and different hardware devices to enhance their job placement. Our students are so excited to learn and Game Programming is very competitive, so I am working on introducing physical computing using Python and C into Game Development and Software Development. Even though I love games and created my first game using the VIC20 and Commodore 64, I am not a gamer per se, I am more into computing. I want to bring more programming into the Game Development program. When a student is hands on and sees his or her creation, and it’s something that’s tangible, that is the experience we want. Computing is a tool with a specific language and you need to understand the syntax to express how you want to control the technology.

6. What do you look for in a potential student at Coleman University? What advice do you have for a new Coleman student?
What I love ideally, is excitement. When students are excited, they are learning and progress goes up exponentially. My advice is perseverance. You cannot learn everything in one try. It is a process and especially with programming, you have to do it in many different ways and solve many different errors. In solving errors you learn something new. You can read about it and watch it, but until you do it and spend the time fixing it, you will not actually learn. The more you put yourself through this process the better prepared you will be, so use repetition and that will help you excel and gain experience. Education is an investment, so I would advise anyone who is learning a new skill to keep in mind that commitment to an investment. I will always give students a chance to solve things on their own, and then I step in to help by providing strategies and hints. I often discuss the various ways that people solve the same problem, and my motto is if you don’t agree, at least try it once, and if you realize you like it you can incorporate it into your own style. Be open minded.

 

We want to thank Mr. Le for taking the time to sit with us and discuss his passion for teaching and computer science.  If you are interested in pursuing a technology-focused degree and learn from instructors such as Anthony Le, do not hesitate to call us. Classes start every ten weeks and financial aid is available for those who qualify. Call (858) 499-0202 today!

 

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Faculty Spotlight: Tommy Mitchell (Game Development)

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This month we wanted to showcase another of our amazing instructors on our blog, and our spotlight is on Tommy Mitchell. A Game Development instructor with many years of direct experience in the field, Mitchell’s knowledge of the game industry has become a huge advantage for Coleman University students. Having been a fan of gaming since he was six years old, it is more than safe to say that this subject is a passion for him; one that he shares with our students.
We sat down with Tommy to discuss how he got started in Game Development and what it takes to be successful in the industry.

1. How did you get into Game Design and Development?
Well that’s a bit of a long story. I have played video games since I was 6 years old so I’ve always been pretty active with that. I used to play about 2-3 days per week and it just became an obsession. However traditional art became my forte. When I graduated from high school, I had a partial scholarship to Southern Methodist University in Texas for their art program. As I was going through my courses I was approached by a professor who had recently established a game design program on campus called Guild Hall and she wanted me to join. I went through those courses for two years which put me in the pipeline for a game development degree. So I have a traditional art background, but I went from painting canvases to digital art and sculpting.

2. How did you apply your degree after you graduated?
Once I graduated I was called up to work for a small gaming company in Austin Texas called Midway. During that same time I was hoping to pursue more education in game design, so I applied to schools in San Diego that offered higher degrees. Once I had been accepted, my company offered to hire me back once I had finished my education. So I moved to San Diego in the hopes that I would have a job waiting for me back in Texas once I was done. I attended ITT Tech for their Digital Entertainment and Game Design program. I received my bachelors degree, while also doing freelance work. In 2009 I was lucky enough to get an interview with Sony and I was hired on as a game tester. I did game testing for about a year and a half.

3. Wow. So you lived every teenage gamer’s dream then?
A lot of people think that with game testing you’re just constantly testing games and having fun, but it is serious software testing. You have to look for bugs and issues, marking their coordinates in the game, and making sure that you are sending that information to the developers. Your job is to find as many ways as possible to break the game. After a year of testing I was promoted to being a character artist. The first game that I worked on for character design was God of War 3, just small portions  of the background design, which was really fun. Then I was put onto the teams for MLB The Show, and Star Hawk. After a couple more promotions I was given a project management role, around 2011 for a game called PS All Stars. At that same time I started working at Coleman University.

4. So how did you become an instructor at Coleman?
Once I had graduated with my bachelors I was interested in getting my master’s degree, so I came to Coleman to pursue my degree in Information Systems Management. I was going to school and working at the same time. I graduated in July of 2010, and continued working at Sony. After a big project that I was working on was finished, I stopped in to talk to Career Services and catch up with my instructors. I found out that Coleman had started a Game Design (as it was called at the time) program and they were looking for instructors. Career Services took my information and forwarded it to the dean of the program, who called me ten minutes later asking for me to come in and interview. Two weeks later I was a full-time instructor for Coleman.

5. What classes are you teaching now?
I instruct Level Design 1, Intro to Digital Sculpting, the Programming Capstone, and Fundamentals of Game Design. Mainly I teach students the basic structures of game design. It is a very fast and competitive career path to go into, so you need a strong knowledge of every aspect of design.

6. On that note, what are the misconceptions that incoming students have about getting into the Game Development field?
Whenever we have student orientations I am the first person to tell students that if you think that you’ll just walk into a studio and start testing video games, you should throw that idea right out the window. This program is not about that. You are learning a skill set that is very complicated. Even when you’re done with a class meeting, you still have to do more work on your own outside of class. The industry’s first question in an interview will be “what else have you done?” You can create a portfolio that includes your class assignments but companies do not focus on that, they want to see how you applied your skills to an outside project. You need to develop more than programming skills. Game Developers have increased hand-eye coordination, critical thinking, and problem solving skills due to the requirements of this industry. In this industry you will be asked to work long hours and even work overnight to meet deadlines and finish projects, so putting in more hours for professional development will only benefit you. In our program there are really two tracks. The first is more of a programmer role, and the other is the designer role. Each one takes a lot of time to master and you have to do it all of the time, which includes participating in game focused events. Luckily for our students Coleman hosts the Global Game Jam every year, and that has a huge impact. Organizations look for that specifically, as well as your online presence through LinkedIn and Twitch. Networking is a lot more involved in job placement than people realize. Passion is important in this field and students need to have that in order to succeed. I would also recommend that students be prepared to freelance while they are looking for work. Once a project is over you may not have a residual income coming in so be prepared by getting into other projects ahead of time. Be willing to learn as many skill sets as possible. Ask peers who may have a better grasp than you to help you learn more. As long as you communicate the desire to learn, people will be willing to teach you.

7. What are your opinions on the rise in online celebrity gamers, or the professional gamers that compete in world competitions?
Well, social media and online exposure is actually a huge boost to developers looking to get hired by a company. These feeds and uploads are being watched 24/7 by companies looking for new hires. If a studio likes a candidate they will be brought in for testing or interviews. Having a vlog or Twitch channel is a big help for getting yourself noticed. I had two students who were invited to work with famous game vloggers and were flown to a vlogging convention in San Francisco because of their popularity online.

8. Considering your passion for art and your background in it, what are some of the recent games that have come out that you feel are visually/artistically incredible in their style?
I’m going to be a little biased with my answer. I would have to say two of the games that I actually worked on within the last five years. I was an Associate Producer for The Last of Us and I really loved the artwork that was developed for that. Even though I was brought in around the third phase, it was my first big title as Associate Producer and I was freaked out because I was working on that and teaching at the same time! My second choice didn’t do so well commercially, but I really liked Order 1886. I consider that one to be a steampunk version of Van Helsing. You were acting as a werewolf hunter and it was almost like its own cinematic movie. I helped design some of the Demon Dogs that were within the game. The other game that I can think of is Unfinished Swan, you are playing as a little boy who falls into an open world through a book which is all white. As you work your way through the game, colors and structures start to appear and you create your world that way. The first color that is initiated is black so you can create figures and outlines then add color as you go. We tell students when they are applying to a company and want to showcase their best work with a demo, that if you can turn down the volume and run through it and still understand the story no matter where you are, then you have done a great job. I look for that specifically when I am hiring for studios.

9. Can you tell me the most important traits that you look for in a potential Game Development student?
Definitely, I look for a student who is passionate for Game Development and who is an open book. They don’t come into the classroom thinking that they have everything handled, that they only have to learn to do a couple of things. You have to be very motivated and hungry to achieve your goals because this field is very competitive. You have to realize that you and 20-30,000 other people are applying for the same jobs at any given time. Challenge yourself every day to get better; you can’t stay in the same place. You have to reinvent yourself, and the best thing about being in the game industry is that it is not hard to find something new to learn every day. There is no ceiling on what you are capable of in a work position, because the technology in this field is constantly changing so you have to change with it. Confidence is also really important, being able to look someone in the eye and provide straightforward answers will help you stand out from the crowd in an interview and in class.

10. Last question: tell me about your favorite project that a student or group has produced at Coleman?
It was a capstone group in 2014. It was a very unique group with plenty of colorful personalities that also had a lot of motivation and passion for what they ultimately wanted to do. They created an amazing 2D game, with almost every aspect being hand drawn and conceptualized by this group. The project lead was a really shy and laid back student so I purposefully put him in a leadership position. Within hours of their first meeting they came together and completed their concept. This group came in every day that they could and worked on this project, which was incredible. Once they had a finished product, they published it online and received a lot of praise for their work from other developers and programmers. I use this group as an example to motivate students, because it is this type of project that they should be striving for. The capstone is a great way for students to really figure out what it is that they want to do.

If you love gaming and creative art, think about joining our Game Development program! Tommy is just one of the amazing instructors that we have in the program and there are opportunities here for you to grow and establish an exciting career. Call Coleman today at (858) 499-0202 for more information and to schedule a tour! 

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