SGD Has Moved!

The CPCC Simulation and Game Development department has moved!

We are still in the Levine Technology Building, but now we are located on the first floor, setup complete with our own lobby so our SGD students have a place to relax and study that is their own. If you are interested in enrolling in our program, please contact any of our instructors or advisers. , , or

The Carolina Games Summit is about to commence at Wayne Community College in Goldsboro. This event is a full day summit that holds interest for gamers and developers both, as CGS holds about 10-20 classrooms full of the newest gaming platforms and even those dating back to the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube era(Smash and Mario Kart are still king).

The game developers looking for more career related fun will be happy to know that EA, Redstorm, Funcom, Autodesk and more are always there exhibiting and happy to talk to a budding developer.

This is a great place to attend if you don’t have the budget for East Coast Game Conference or Game Developer’s Conference but you still want to put yourself out there and network with some of the industry’s finest.

On another note, CGS is always looking for student volunteers!

Game Developers Conference is Looming!

The week long world known conference for game developers is on the horizon. Those who have shelled out the $1500+ or signed up to be volunteers are booking flights and hotels. One of the best AND worst things about GDC is that it has so many lectures and tracks for every facet of game development, it is impossible to go to all of the lectures. Though if you did attend, you can access the GDC vault. A magical repository where they have all the lectures on record so that if you did attend GDC that year, you can log into the vault and watch what you might have missed.

LoveIT Tv


Simulation and Game Development has several series of videos showing off what is going on in the IT department, student videos in SGD, and anything related to the gaming industry. Come check us out!

Latest videos are with Christopher Totten:

Part 1 video here

Designing Better Levels Through Human Survival Instincts

The experience of users in a space is something that architects have understood for centuries but which has been lost with the Postmodern focus on building forms. In a work that evolved from his Architecture Masters thesis, game design professor Christopher Totten set out to understand how buildings and games make better user experiences. What he learned was how to make better levels. Through case studies and building analysis, this presentation shows how video game environments can learn from architecture in ways that begin with human survival instincts. Shelter, shadow, shade, and vertigo are all explored to discover how levels can be both thrilling and fun.

Christopher Totten:

Chris Totten is a Washington, DC-based professor of game design and 3D animation. He has also participated in several independent game projects as an artist, animator, and project manager. Chris has written articles featured on both Gamasutra and Video Game Writers. He is currently writing a textbook called Game Character Creation in Blender and Unity, which will be released by Wiley Publishing in the summer of 2012. He has a Masters Degree in Architecture with a concentration in digital media from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Chris wants to help shape a new generation of game designers who look deeper into their designs. He works with students and other designers to challenge gaming conventions through cross-disciplinary research.

Overgrowth and their in-house engine

Overgrowth and Wolfire’s In-House Engine

A great friend who loves looking for new engines to play with recently showed me this gem of a game that is being made for the pc market. Overgrowth is a third action adventure fighting game where you play as anthropomorphic animals in a world littered with other animal hybrids trying to kill you. The game looks amazing and I cant wait to play it, but the real fun is their in-house engine that they are using to develop Overgrowth. The developers have multiple videos showcasing every step of the progress for Overgrowth, showing texturing, quick rigging, terrain development, blood splatter trajectory, 2D art assets, lighting, new ways of vertex weighting in action, etc. They keep blog updates about every aspect of how they are developing the game that make you think about how you would develop games using the same techniques. Either way if you are looking for cool new games, new engines, or great articles about game development, you will need to check out Wolfire Games and their upcoming game Overgrowth.


Click Here for Wolfire Game’s website!

Actions And Their Associated Consequences, or, Be Nice To The Girls.

So I was talking with Marc the other day, and that absolutely stupid blowout over Mass Effect that a bunch of reporters on (you guessed it) Fox News had a couple of years back came up. In all fairness, when the dust settled Fox realized they had spoken out of turn and apologized for the whole debacle, but still, what gives? Halle Berry wins an Oscar for Monster’s Ball which has one of the most explicit sex-scenes in it this side of 9 1/2 Weeks, yet a fairly tame depiction of sex in a game gets people all wound up. That they didn’t know it was pretty much PG-13 stuff really doesn’t matter. Assumptions were made, because it’s a video game. At that point I think we grumbled about it a little more, then I wandered into the kitchen and lost a game of Fire Team to J-Lu.

Still, I saw something a few days later while that was still in the back of my head that got the wheels turning. This video referenced and linked to in the following article is probably Not Entirely Safe For Work, so that means that you probably shouldn’t watch it in class, either. This means you. Nevertheless, the article is by a Kotaku forum poster who goes by the moniker LordFlash and he pretty much hits the nail on the head. Long story short, are you effing serious??

I see something like this and I think to myself, it’s no wonder everyone thinks that the entire game industry, from the developers all the way down to the fans, are a bunch of chemically imbalanced misogynistic sadists. I have no problem with a strong, attractive female protagonist. “Strong” and “Attractive” adjectives that could very easily be applied to most of the male protagonists in our industry as well. Still, the men, no matter how little clothing they’re wearing, never come off as animate sex dolls.

I don’t think there’s a checklist that you can tick off that will determine whether or not this or that particular game girl is or isn’t some screwed up jerkwad’s self-involved fantasy, but I think much of it comes down to how far you’re going out of your way to make her look sexy. Does a hot girl on a spec-ops team drop into a combat zone in a low cut t-shirt that happens to be wet? Why is Diablo 3’s female demon hunter running around in spike heels?

We’re in a pretty young industry. The problem with new things is that they’re easy to demonize because people don’t understand them. We’re going to need to be really careful with how we treat the women we put in our games, because like it or not, we get associated with every depiction of every female in every video game ever.

Embrace Change

Some of the very first game design classes I took were courses on 3d modeling. The software we used was 3ds Max. Version 2008, if memory serves. Those who are familiar with 3ds Max and it’s particular legacy know that it’s a program that was heavily derived from engineering software of the same vein as AutoCAD. The interface was obtuse, to say the least. The terminology the user was presented with on nearly ever level of the modeling process made very little sense unless you had a master’s degree in geometry. Max 2008 still had it’s roots firmly planted in a prototyping lab somewhere and didn’t make any apologies about it. Of course, if I had to pick one part of the program that was particularly impossible and frustrating, the one part of the whole baroque mess that made you want to pull your hair out more than anything else, it was the materials editor. By a mile.

Putting together a material in 3ds Max meant scaling walls of Windows-NT-grey interface gibberish three miles high with nothing but your bare hands and a prayer. Empty, unlabeled blanks accompanied by uselessly technical flyout menus and what seemed like hundreds of tiny, tiny little buttons emblazoned with icons that might as well have been words in a dead language for all they told you. As if that weren’t bad enough, you can add to that some truly ludicrous design decisions on the part of the developers. I vividly recall Nic asking me, after a particularly vitriolic meltdown, if I’d “hit the checkerboard button.” I of course had not hit the checkboard button, no one ever hits the checkerboard button. The reason for this is because the “checkerboard button” is this tiny little thing about 32 pixels by 32 pixels tagged onto the lower left-hand corner of the material editor. Please note that in the history of all user interfaces that have ever been made by anyone at all anywhere, nothing important has ever gone in the lower left-hand corner of a window. Ever. This may lead you to the entirely reasonable assumption that the “checkerboard button” isn’t all that important. However its purpose is to make the materials you’ve just spent the last seventeen hours of your life cobbling together and applying to your model actually show up. That this is off by default makes me want to kick somebody in the crotch.

So now that I’ve got you cued up to that image, let me change course here with the understanding that I’ll bring all of this around full-circle and it’ll all make some kind of sense.

If I were to say “X-COM,” what would that mean to you? If you’re my age (35 at the time of this writing) you might have memories of this game on old 386 PCs or possibly something like a Commodore Amiga. X-COM is held up as this paragon of PC gaming. It was almost a perfect balance of blowing things up, gun-porn, survival horror, and fetishistic strategy-game micromanagement. To really understand what kind of game it was you kinda have to see it. (Bear in mind that this a crazy OP drop team being run by a guy who’s found all the holes in the system, knows where all the boss aliens are standing, etc)

Of course if you’re a little younger, then X-COM might bring to mind something more like this.

That’s footage of the new X-COM that’s being developed by 2K Games, of Bioshock fame. You would not believe the kind of hate this game is getting from the old-schoolers. The initial complaints were based on the supposition that the whole game was just going to be an FPS that used the X-COM license (which would have admittedly sucked) but I had enough faith in  2K to believe that they aren’t going to just make some attempt to cash-in on an old license at the expense of the people who are most likely to buy the game. Sho’ nuff, I was right. Now fair warning, that’s a link to a 20 minute video that’s hung on several Kotaku articles that you might not have the patience to read after wading through this, so I’ll just go ahead and give you the sharp edges right now.

A) The new X-Com is not “just a shooter.”


I won’t spare any words reasoning why having an FPS as your central gameplay element is better than an isometric turn-based strategy game. That’s not the issue here.


So 3ds Max 2012 was released ealier this year, and one of the really neat things they did with it was a total re-design of the material editor. Now instead of blanks with little buttons that don’t tell you anything, they have this graphical interface that lets you wire texture files into a final product that goes on your models. I think they even got rid of the checkerboard button. It’s not a total walk in the park to use just because it’s a complicated process, but now at least it’s not absolutely impenetrable. They were able to make an interface like because these days the devlopers can count on having the processing horsepower to make something like this run. They bothered because they knew what they were using had some serious problems because of the technical limitations that it was build under in the first place.

So what’s the first thing I heard someone say about it? No lie: “This isn’t like the old editor. I don’t like it.”

What are good ways to come up with video game ideas ?

Author: Mike Sellers, a game designer for over 15…

Inspiration can come from daily life, from taking a walk or a drive, from playing another game, from seeing a problem that can be modeled in a game, or from the ever-present “wouldn’t it be cool if…” Another useful way to get ideas is to set constraints; many people don’t do as well as you might think with a completely empty canvas. So choose limiting conditions, even arbitrary ones (you can always change it later). So: this is a game about flying. Everything in this game is a shade of blue. The game is about loss and rebirth. Just typing those (at random) you may have three new ideas for games you could spin from them — and other people would come up with ones that are completely different from yours.

All that said, and not to sound flippant, but the problem isn’t coming up with ideas — it’s sorting the bad ones from the good ones, and then focusing on one good one for long enough to turn it into something. For most designers, ideas come in an unending stream. It’s like a fascinating and frustrating firehose of ideas that you can’t really turn off. All you can do is quickly scrawl down your idea (cloud creatures living in twilight, rotating with the earth, dying with the night but being reborn with the sunrise — etc) and get back to the idea you’re supposed to be working on.


Anyone remember the dot-com collapse?

Do you have any portion of your retirement fund invested in electronic entertainment? Read this, then call your broker. This week, preferably.

So I had to look a name up for this post, though in retrospect I’m not sure why I bothered. I’m reasonably certain that the name “Peter Vesterbacka” will permanently cease to be noteworthy in the next year, if not sooner. Mr. Vesterbacka is one of the head marketing executives for Rovio Mobile. Still no idea? Rovio makes a game you may have heard of called “Angry Birds.”

Ahhhh, okay.

Anyway, this guy recently claimed that his company was worth as much as Zynga (whom you might know from Farmville, et. al.) within earshot of someone who actually printed it in a magazine. For the record, Zynga is probably worth substantially more than a billion dollars (yes, that’s billion) so for this character to claim that his company and it’s inexplicably successful bird-catapult simulator somehow rates ten figures takes some serious pills, me droogies. They’re in high cotton now, but the fact that they’re flogging this license into Angry Birds toys, Angry Birds clothes, Angry Birds jewelry, even an Angry Birds cartoon show, indicates one of two things to me:

A) Management knows that they got lucky, knows that they have no more ideas of any substance, and that they’d better cash in right now before this thing collapses totally.

B) Management has no idea that they got lucky, and furthermore are so utterly clueless that they lack any grasp of the fact that flooding the whole world with Angry Birds merchandise is the fastest and surest way to engineer a backlash against your brand from which it will never, ever recover.

In any event, this will be bad for anyone who’s got any financial stake in Rovio. I understand that they aren’t a publicly traded company at the time of this writing, but you never know who might catch wind of this.

Moving on. In every other respect beyond the sheer volume of cash involved, I find it pretty appropriate that the guy I was talking about above decided to compare his company to Zynga. I will state right now that I believe Zynga is about to become the gold-standard example for what happens when an entertainment company underestimates the speed with which your audience’s sophistication can grow. I have a theory about hardcore gamers (such as myself) and Zynga games. You see, if a Zynga title snares a ‘core gamer, the fascination doesn’t seem to last too long. I think this is because Zynga titles seem to consist mainly of all the horrible, tedious, repetitive, soul-crushing parts of games like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy without delivering any of the good stuff.

At all.

Now please note that this is tantamount to saying that Zynga games are very much like the first installments of Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, which are now both venerable franchises. The games us ‘core gamers played in our childhood have evolved into products with less grinding for levels/gold/whatever that deliver a more rewarding, more articulated experience. What I’m getting at is that we’ve been innoculated against Zynga treadmill games because we already did all that twenty years ago. If a company were to release a game that bore a fundamental mechanical similarity to the first Dragon Quest or the original Final Fantasy, they’d be laughed out of the industry by the vast majority of their target audience. We’ve played that game. We want something better.

Mark my words. If it can happen to socially awkward, angry young men, it can happen to bored housewives, too.

Now this is all speculation on my part, but I think it’s pretty solid. I understand games. I know a good one when I see it, and neither of these companies have products that really justify their success. We’re at this moment living in a world strangely similar to the one we lived in at the turn of the millennium. Whether or not this money will vanish when exposed to direct sunlight remains to be seen, but if I were you I’d keep my savings in Gold or Blue Chips for another few months at least.

(Oh, and by the way, I’m not a financial advisor. I’m a teacher. I can find my my own *** with both hands and a map.)

SGD Showcase on Facebook!

Hey everyone! The students have built a new facebook group dedicated to posting their own work so everyone can see what they have been working on. There is already a bunch of student work and we would love to see more. So if you are an SGD student or just want to take a look at some of their work, check it OUT!