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Teaching Game Development To Fine Arts Students?

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the I-see-you've-all-brought-your-apples dept.

Education 172

jkavalier writes "I've been asked to prepare a short course (50 hours) of video game development to Fine Arts students. That means people with little-to-no technical skills, and hopefully, highly creative individuals. By the end of it, I would like to have finished 1-3 very basic minigames. I'm considering Unity 3D, Processing, and even Scratch. How would you approach teaching such a course? What do you think is the best tool/engine/environment for such a task?"

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How about "Alice"? (3, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604138)

Alice [] is a pretty simple way to introduce newbies to game/3D-environment development. I used to use it in an introductory programming class and the kids loved it. Gives you a real sense for how game development and programming work without being heavy-handed about it (or requiring students to jump right into hand-coding, without so much as flowers and dinner first). Here is the text [] I used for the course.

Re:How about "Alice"? (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604240)

i'll second this - they teach middle school kids with alice these days, so art majors should be able to handle it. BUT, one downside is that while alice is good for "storytelling", AFAIK enabling interactivity in the virtual worlds isn't something its creators concentrated on too much. though i might be completely wrong. am i? anyone?

Re:How about "Alice"? (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604304)

It has the capability to do basic collision detection with if...then control structures. I do remember that much. I was actually surprised at how much it could do, considering so much of it was drag-and-drop. Some of the kids did some pretty amazing stuff with it, in only a few weeks.

Re:How about "Alice"? (1)

Haffner (1349071) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604584)

I learned on alice YEARS ago, and I remember my first project was a fps (enemies would run at you, and melee you when they got close, gun bound to camera bound to wasd with a little sphere projectile as a bullet that killed what it touched, etc) and the second was a maze type thing with things that tried to kill you. You can make legitimate, fun games with alice (not that mine were) and I recommend it to everyone who wants to learn how to code.

Re:How about "Alice"? (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604360)

My impression of Alice was that it was pretty much only useful for storyboarding. I've gotten a lot of negative feedback when I've suggested it, but my 9-year old actually seemed to like working with it. But what art students really need to learn is how to create a segmented 3D model and wrap textures around it.

Re:How about "Alice"? (1)

Peach Rings (1782482) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605798)

What is this obsession with 3D? It's an enormously complicating factor when trying to learn the basics of movement and computer graphics. Use something 2D (pygame?) and make a platformer or a top-down RPG.

Re:How about "Alice"? (1)

Clipless (1432977) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604366)

Actually Alice has the capability, but implementing it is far beyond their skill level. When my brother took an intro to programming class he used Alice. So I decided to download Alice and see what I could come up with. I am a developer by trade, so it was not too difficult to get some basic AI running, but my brother spent the semester basically creating a story.

Re:How about "Alice"? (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604496)

I'm not familiar with Alice specifically, but even with pretty limited interactivity it's quite possibly good for the job - these students are very unlikely to be going into the real complex nuts and bolts anyway, so giving them a very rudimentary idea of the 'computer' side while letting them focus on the 'art' side is probably enough. If they like what they see enough to consider a career in it, they'll just end up passing on the art and ideas to a separate team of coders anyway.

Re:How about "Alice"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33605678)

so art majors should be able to handle it.

I wouldn't be so sure, they are, after all, art majors.

Re:How about "Alice"? (3, Interesting)

samkass (174571) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604336)

I'd also check out GameSalad [] , which offers a GUI for attaching artwork to objects, then setting properties/events across objects to build a game out of it. It's really easy to create a basic platformer or simple touch game mechanics, and you can focus on how the artwork contributes to the game.

You can also generate web, Mac, PC, and iOS output (the latter which can be submitted to the App Store, which might be a fun reward for your students.)

Re:How about "Alice"? (2, Informative)

jkavalier (1648809) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604486)

Thanks, GameSalad looks great, but I forgot to mention that the tools must be open source or, at least, have a free version (like Unity)

Re:How about "Alice"? (1)

dotHectate (975458) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604776)

I noticed you mentioned Scratch. I posted elsewhere but thought if I replied to you that you might actually notice my comment :) Stencyl ( utilizes "Scratch"-type code blocks along with actual AS3 code (as well as the popular Flixel and Box2D libraries which it is built on) to ease the learning process of programming games. It's in closed beta, but Jon - the founder - has been really interested in the potential uses for educational environments. It might be worth checking it out, I'm in the beta and I really enjoy using the program. It works, and that's what matters.

Re:How about "Alice"? (1)

jkavalier (1648809) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605076)

Stencyl looks wonderful, thank you very much!

Re:How about "Alice"? (1)

retroStick (1040570) | more than 4 years ago | (#33606154)

If the course is going to include 3D graphics, I highly recommend looking at RenderMonkey [] .
I've found it very useful for prototyping shaders, and it allows developers to define 'artist variables' that are mapped to sliders, colour-pickers etc., allowing users to change various shader parameters and see the effects instantly without needing to recode.
This also helps open up the possibility of allowing your students to add their own shaders to games they create, assuming the engine / framework you eventually choose supports this.

Re:How about "Alice"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33605338)

How about Construct [] , a free open-source game creator? It's got a GUI and drag-and-drop logic system based around events. Windows only right now though.

Re:How about "Alice"? (2, Interesting)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605118)

I would stick to alice and or flash. A lot of art guys already know how to make movies in flash (which is a valuable skill unto itself for them), making a game is different, but a text like Foundation Game Design with Flash by Rex Van der spuy works well. Alice is too simple for programming students but not bad for arts ones.

I would emphasize the distinction between "design' and "development'. They should get an overview of the whole process and the content pipeline, and a light introduction to programming, but the most you're going to get is a basic VB cardgame or something. If you put them with a robust 3D engine (unreal, unity) they'll get lost very quickly. Stick with simple. Design on the other hand is something they can do with creativity and then you can have them apply that in simple ways, and they can design something as complex as they want.

For example. A room full of straight guys. Have them design a gossip girl game, in flash, about dressing the character. Here you get to first teach them that you design what you're paid to design, whether you like the material or not, and secondly you break all of their pre-conceived notions about what a game should be. What makes a game fun? How do you make interactivity in a game about how to dress? How do you make the game accessible? What should the UI and controls be for a game about dressing? The technical aspects would be very limited, but they would have something at the end they could put on a webpage and showoff, and it highlights a lot of art skills. You can hand them core stuff, how to collide with walls that sort of thing, keep it to the level of putting stuff in arrays, iterating over arrays, and some basic strings text boxes that sort of thing. There are other examples.

Basically treat them like first year uni/college students, and ask yourself what can you do with 50 hours of lecture time (that's basically 1 and a half semesters of courses, depending on whether or not you're including labs), and what can 1st year comp sci students develop in that time? What can you stick in array, maybe a list, how can you traverse it, how do you define objects in memory, how do you manipulate them, and how do you make basic decisions.

Re:How about "Alice"? (1)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605252)

Have to agree here... Alice is probably the best fit in free or open-source versioned software for beginners from a design perspective. Not sure if the Adobe suite is a requirement for their other course load, if it is then I would suggest Flash as it's widely applicable and can be carried forward fairly easily for web deployments.

Re:How about "Alice"? (1)

object404 (1883774) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605766)

I second that with Flash. Being an intergrated hybrid illustration/animation tool, it'd be the easiest to teach fine arts students with.

You can easily make a lot of games just relying on "gotoAndStop();", "gotoAndPlay();" and just button click events for code

Why do most slashdot geeks always think "3D" when thinking game development these days? Most of the fun casual games available today are in 2d.

Plus, you don't have to do any coding to do animation and sprite objects in Flash. There's a reason there's so many amateur Flash games on the web today. It's the friendliest environment for non-coder art-oriented people.

Re:How about "Alice"? (2, Interesting)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605526)

Oh god. I got that in my 1st year game programming + engineer specialty overloaded program. It made me want to slit my wrists. Forced to take advanced chem for the program and the course that is to be my focus is geared towards 5th graders? Fucking painful.

I would approach teaching that course... (-1, Troll)

Zeek40 (1017978) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604166)

By telling the students to just go get a job at a fast food joint or book store and to buy their video games, because without a technical background you've got no chance in hell at game development.

Re:I would approach teaching that course... (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604224)

Stupid art hippies and their dreams! Zeek40 and me, we don't cotton to their kind round here!

Re:I would approach teaching that course... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33604250)

What a fine teacher you would make. :(

Re:I would approach teaching that course... (3, Informative)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604252)

There are other aspects to game development than just programming, you know. Think BioWare would be anywhere if they don't have top notch writers? What about the graphic artists, 3D modelers, texture artists, and level designers that are indispensable in any game studio?

Re:I would approach teaching that course... (2, Insightful)

Squapper (787068) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604850)

To be a successful artist in game development you need a sturdy technical foundation. No need to be a engineer, but you definitly need to be a geek and have a strong passion for games.

I have been a game developing 3d-artist for many years, and i'd rather hire a geek that became an artist than a "fine artist" that learned to do 3d.

Re:I would approach teaching that course... (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604274)

Ah, no. Most of the labor cost in modern games is actually for artwork: building 3D models and textures. You need both good code and good art to succeed.

Re:I would approach teaching that course... (4, Insightful)

Gotung (571984) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604290)

Clearly the goal isn't to turn some art student into the next Carmack. But development teams need artists, and don't you think giving those artists some basic understanding of how 3D games are built would help them do their jobs?

Re:I would approach teaching that course... (4, Informative)

jkavalier (1648809) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604538)

The course's aim is to let art students have a glimpse of the interactive and expressive possibilities that videogames have. It's not about training them to become EA employess, but to inspire them and burst a little flame of curiosity for interactive art and art games.

Re:I would approach teaching that course... (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604606)

Ah! A class for building up the GPA. .


What?!? You really didn't think you'd post a topic like this on Slashdot and think you were getting away unscathed, did you?!?

Bwahahahahahahahahaahahaa *cough* *cough* *cough**cough**cough*

Shit, I'm get'in too old for this shit.

Re:I would approach teaching that course... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33604728)

Hi there,
      I'm a correspondent with National Public Radio. I follow the development of video games and I'd be really interested in knowing more about the course you plan to teach and where you will be teaching it. Get in touch if you have a moment. I'm at
    Laura Sydell

Re:I would approach teaching that course... (1)

ChipmunkDJE (1231596) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605398)

Even NPR trolls on /.

As with so many courses (3, Insightful)

guruevi (827432) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604188)

and nobody seems to understand it - you shouldn't teach programs, you should teach techniques and principals to be applied in lab sessions. I don't know what arts students are doing in game development. If anything, the only thing they should be developing is artwork.

You can use anything to teach them how to design something, I would suggest Blender (since it's free and they are ART students) or if they are technically adept enough (which they aren't), you can let them use the Sauerbraten engine and I believe you can get the Unreal engine free as an educational institution. If you have to get really simplistic and only teach them how their art works out in games, use HTML5 or *shudder* Flash, for something bigger you can use the Doom engine (very simple to design for) and let them make some artwork for it.

Re:As with so many courses (0, Troll)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604308)

I don't think there's much reason to be teaching game development to fine arts students. Teach game development to CS students, and game design to fine arts students. You could even have them work together on projects in the same class. Just don't spend too much time trying to teach English majors how to program.

Re:As with so many courses (1)

jkavalier (1648809) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604564)

We're trying to let artists know that programming is just another tool, like painting, sculpting or video, to create works of art.

Re:As with so many courses (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605126)

You don't think a game designer should know something about how interactive systems, procedures, dialog trees, preconditions, etc. work? I mean, you can't design a good interactive experience without at least having a vague idea about interaction and computation, even if it's mainly at a pseudocode level.

Re:As with so many courses (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604340)

In fact, if they are really good at arts, they should do only arts, with a tools like 3D Studio Max, Maya, etc. Again, arts only, no programming.

Re:As with so many courses (2, Insightful)

frosty_tsm (933163) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604454)

In fact, if they are really good at arts, they should do only arts, with a tools like 3D Studio Max, Maya, etc. Again, arts only, no programming.

This is pretty narrow pigeon-holing. There is no reason why an artist who may one day work with those tools shouldn't also know game-design principles (especially if they will one day be a key member on a game project).

Should I as a software engineer not touch Apache configuration because I am best at writing code? What about database scripts?

Re:As with so many courses (2, Insightful)

Rhacman (1528815) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604774)

I'd add that it isn't even just that the artist might one day end up programming, they may never write a single line of code professionally and still benefit from having an understanding of the basic principles to software development. Having an appreciation of how the software works may help the artist appreciate the limitations to what they can create. Perhaps the artist would like to use a certain special graphical effect for an object. It may turn out that this effect isn't natively supported by 3d libraries or modern video hardware and would require special coding that may have considerable performance implications. Ultimately, the software team will be the ones implementing this code and judging if the performance cost is within budget for the scene but in these discussions it is helpful if there is some overlap of knowledge on both sides of the table.

Re:As with so many courses (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604588)

You are completely off-base in assuming that someone who is good at art would be unqualified to do programming and should be discouraged from trying it. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration and Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science that say otherwise.

Re:As with so many courses (1)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605016)

Hey, the opposite has been done for years. I had a HELL of a time enrolling in music courses because I was a CS major and they were open only to B.Mus students. Turnabout is fair play!

OTOH if they want to teach game development to fine arts students, the answer is simple - make CS 101 or whatever a prerequisite.

A game *design* course that is pure-arts would also be pretty awesome. Especially if it was limited enrollment and you could partner them up with some game development grad students or something.

Actually, that would be a /wicked/ curriculum. CS grad students build game engines, hopefully with some kind of research.novelly bent. Arts undergrad come with up with game play that explores the novel component of the engine. Together they make it happen, and if it doesn't suck, the next year CS undergrads polish it and business majors flog it on shareware CDs or something.

Re:As with so many courses (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33605784)

In fact, if they are really good at arts, they should do only arts, with a tools like 3D Studio Max, Maya, etc. Again, arts only, no programming.

You are obviously not an expert in the field and I don't think anyone really expect you to fully understand what art is. One thing that I think you would benefit from is to consider that art can be a lot more than just an image. For example sound could be a vital part of art.
Tools like 3D Studio and Maya are very specific and if the artist want to create something that is beyond those tools it can be necessary for him/her to be able to program.
Some might even consider computer programs by itself to be an art. A program that calculates more than 50 digits of PI have very little use beyond what could be called art.

The 256 byte piece of machine code for dos that is listed in hex to the left in this image [] could not really be considered as anything else than art and the moving images it creates is also art. (Note that I consider the code by itself to be art but you need to disassemble it and see what it does to understand it.)

Re:As with so many courses (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605366)

I think what is more important are limitations with games. As creative people they invasion far more then we can technically handle. Also you need to remember that people need to use your art too so a good ui may trump good art

High-level frameworks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33604192)

Have you looked at using a stupidly high level framework such as Dark Basic or Blitz3D?

Game Maker 8 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33604200)

google "Game Maker" and head to the yoyo games site. Without programming experience, there are few options.

Re:Game Maker 8 (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605138)

If you want to go down that route, here's a syllabus [] from a course that's been taught a few times using Game Maker (also to mainly non-CS students), which might be useful to get ideas.

Unreal or Steam (3, Informative)

zombieChan51 (1862028) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604230)

A good way to start them out is making 3d models and creating maps for games using Unreal or Source.

Flash (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604234)

For such an illiterate students, Flash Animations is the best tool.

Re:Flash (3, Funny)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604424)

For such an illiterate students

How's that Flash workin' out for 'ya?

What do you mean "Development"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33604236)

Depending on the "Arts" involved, you'd probably want to spend less time making a game from scratch and more time teaching them mapmaking (eg UnrealED) or scripting (eg neverwinter nights). Or maybe some other artistic asset creation like character modelling.

WTF (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33604246)

...ugh, I think maybe you shouldn't be teaching them?

Blender (5, Informative)

LetterRip (30937) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604306)

The Blender Game Engine is actually quite suitable for an introductory game design course, and it has two completely free books written for learning it, plus a huge number of example games and scripts. Almost all of the logic can be scripted with 'logic bricks' (a minor amount of simple python scripts are needed for some typical behaviours). [] []

Also see Yo Frankie - which shows what a team can accomplish in a short time [] []

Blender itself is now quite easy to create game assets in, and works well as a level editor.

The Game Engine is not exactly cutting edge, but then cutting edge isn't of much benefit for learning game design.

Re:Blender (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33604888)

Good call. I was going to suggest that.

Also worth consideration are Crystal Space 3D and Panda 3D. Crystal Space allows for a lot to be done with just XML. You can do even more with Python. Panda 3D also allows for a lot with Python.

Python is a real plus as the language is easy to learn, very rich, and the standard library is large. Python is usuble with Blender too, which means you don't have to learn a lot of different languages. And as I said, if you don't want to learn a language, you can still do a lot with XML in Crystal Space.

Personally, I'd point people to Blender and/or Crystal Space. But I've heard plenty good about Panda 3D too.

And since we're on a python kick in this post, PyGame is hard to over look too.

Fine-arts + programming = ? (3, Insightful)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604318)

Stick with the broader aspects of game design such as: story development, character development, gameplay, flow. I would be hesitant to throw "fine-arts" students into programming. If you must, however, I have no advice.

Re:Fine-arts + programming = ? (5, Interesting)

asdbffg (1902686) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604788)

I took a game design/development course as a student at CalArts. Many of the students were from the film program, but we also had some musicians, sound designers, and theater kids. Many of the students came into the course with a basic knowledge of programming. Out of that class I saw games developed and completed in Processing, Flash, and Torque.

Another game design class that worked with created two games based on Arduino hardware and Max/MSP. One game incorporated RFID scanners and custom built MP3 players to take players on an audio scavenger hunt. That game received funding from the city arts council and was installed in local mall and again later as part of a city-wide arts festival, the other used video tracking to track players in a physical game arena and has been shown at several Maker Faires and art exhibitions here in LA and Europe.

Many artists I've met are more than capable programmers, and many of them make their art exclusively in coding environments. I would assume that artists taking a game development class would at least be technically minded. The point is that it's probably a mistake to assume that "fine arts" students can't or shouldn't handle more technical work.

Re:Fine-arts + programming = ? (1)

EnsilZah (575600) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605036)

Surely by that reasoning you should be hesitant to throw "fine-arts" students into story development, gameplay and the like since those are best suited for design and literature students.

Re:Fine-arts + programming = ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33605176)

I disagree. There's no reason why a fine arts student would be bad at making a game. The many artistic aspects of a game are the largest factor in why I pick up anything anymore. Not that it has to be fancy or big, just fun. I mean, Fine Arts, the study of appreciating other peoples work... I get it. If they wanted more than reading they'd already be building. But that doesn't mean they wouldn't have fun or do well at it.

What I'm saying is, it's hard to appreciate games that are intangible. And I the idea looks really good, I've seen some interesting stuff made by high schoolers and it works for any computer with a browser. ++ to that one.

Give them a technical background (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33604320)

I think the teaching languages mentioned are not really appropriate for a 50-hour class of adults.

I think the best route really would be to teach them a real programming language like python. If you want to integrate game design right off the bat, try using something like pygame. I bet you can get them listening for kepresses and moving sprites around in no time

as for 3d, i still like python, pygame has some decent utilities to get you into a 3d window quick and easy. I think it's a lot more important that the students get a real grasp on the basics than that they do cool-looking things with a less-useful language. get them to program a ball bouncing around a cube, have them code up a 3d model loader, get them doing some basic animations or 3d simulations, give them some experience with simple scene graphs and graphics engines. A lot of these examples can be implemented as simple games, and for the sake of beginners, it's not a bad idea to do some of the work for them and let them fill in the blanks. That can give them an opportunity to see the whole application in a real programming language without having to comprehend it all.

Depending on the focus of the class, maybe some 3d design (blender/maya/etc) would be in order. Design a model in blender, texture paint it, write a loader in pygame.

I think starting with some fundamentals of programming is going to be critical otherwise the whole thing will just be magic to your pupils and they'll come away with little useful knowlege

fining art students? (1)

agent_blue (413772) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604344)

who else read the headline and thought the game development community was imposing punitive penalties on art students?

mcAWSOME (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33604358)

You could try Gamemaker 8.0 it had drag and drop and a new student can put together a game in 3 hours (albeit very simple) it also has a coiding languge for when you want to gompore advanced

Your target audience (1)

iONiUM (530420) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604388)

So your target audience here isn't graphic designers, nor is it developers. I think you have to cater to them by breaking down the basics: code, graphic design, level design. Kind of give an overall impression.

I think another comment in this article says how you shouldn't try to teach them development, and I agree with that to a point. I think you should try to stay higher up, but (personally) I find it really hard to relate if I don't see some hard evidence of how to do it. As such, you should definitely mock up a really small demo right in front of them, so they can see how to make something in whatever studio you're planning to use.

I know I'm gonna be modded to hell over this next statement, but uh, what about XNA? On any platform, even mobile, it's fairly easy to get going and mock up a quick demo. Alright, that was it. I know what's coming, you mods. DO IT.

Roguelikes! (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604402)

Give them ncurses or pdcurses and have them make roguelikes!

Team up with a programming school/ course. (1)

NailerNforce (1698916) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604446)

Have your fine artists team up with 3rd year CS students. Then you teach them to model 3D using Maya/3DSMax + ZBrush/Sculptris(free alternative to ZBrush) and rig models for use in games.

"Technical" (2, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604502)

To be fair, many of them may have highly developed technical skills. But their tools may be paint brushes, pianos, or their own bodies.

It's probably more accurate to say they don't have much computer technical skills.

Re:"Technical" (2, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604638)

Don't assume that fine arts students today lack computer skills. Many do, and some just don't have the left-brains for it, but there are a lot of artists out there with an excellent understanding of computer technology. You can't get a BFA at most art schools these days without using a computer... sometimes a lot.

Kodu Game Lab (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33604518)

Check out Kodu. It's a visual programming language that runs on Xbox or PC that allows users to create and share games using only their game controller. No typing necessary, or the overhead of learning a full-fledged programming language. The PC version support mouse/keyboard input as well as the wired xbox controller. PC version is free. Download it here:

Cookie Cutting-Edge (1)

CobaltBlueDW (899284) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604536)

I think Unity3D would be a good idea. Do their platformer tutorial yourself using all their stand-in content. Modify the end result for your purposes. Break the students up into groups, where each group gets to make their own platformer game. Have them all use your code, and let them make their own story-line, models, animations, textures, levels, music, etc.

A pad of graph paper and a pencil. (1)

OldWebDev (1811724) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604552)

My first games were mazes I custom made and sold to my friends for a dime each. It's the most basic game you can start with. Start small work your way up. The best games are essentially board games, or have board game rules. Make a variant of checkers or chess. Dissect some of their favorite games so they understand the fundamentals before they run into programming.

Break them into teams assisting Open Source. (0, Offtopic)

DontLickJesus (1141027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604618)

As the lead developer over at [] I applaud this effort and offer this advice:

Fine Arts students are going to have a knack for the story telling portion of this project. Those musically inclined will grasp the programming concepts quickest, and there will be an artist or two in the bunch. Authors will be used to organization of time lines, so thing project managers there. Most of all, write up a survey for them early on for hints on what they're interested or already talented in.

As far as the language / engine portion goes, my suggestion is to team up with a free / open source project. The underlying engine doesn't matter as much as the core concepts. A good team will have a bug tracking system divided out into a helpful group of areas for you to cover. Having the class take on bugs from the projects as study work will help to reach into the deep technical areas without overreaching each student's comfort area. For those who do show ability in the deeper technical aspects, have them relate in their own terms how the problem was solved, and the team will grow.

Last, but definitely not least, do not forgo the project management and business aspects of game development. Deadlines, project scope, and performance limitations are just as integral in a game's development as the original idea team. Placing reasonable limits on resources and time will inspire creativity among the team. Giving your students the opportunity to be involved with a project that stands every chance of being played in real life will motivate them more than anything else. Game development covers a broad range of talent and experience, find the blend that fits the class.

Re:Break them into teams assisting Open Source. (1)

sproketboy (608031) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604954)

I was going to mod this interesting but your web site explains nothing about what this is. You have a project you want people to be interested in - it would make sense to spell out WTF the project is about on your main page.....

Re:Break them into teams assisting Open Source. (1)

DontLickJesus (1141027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605110)

My apologies, it wasn't meant to promote my site. I'm the lead developer on Nova Initia, a game that's still in development. If you interested in beta testing sign up and I'll get you hooked up with the details.

Re:Break them into teams assisting Open Source. (1)

sproketboy (608031) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605538)

NP :)

I know what it's like to get some attention for your project. [] (hint hint)

gamez4art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33604626)

I go to a liberal arts college.
A film student friend of mine built video games for his thesis project.
I think you guys are under the impression that the art students are going to want to make Halo or something.
You (generally) don't major in fine arts because you want to design billboards.

Teaching Blender is DUMB - 3d modelling class.
Teaching level design is dumb.
Teaching "storytelling" is dumb.

I would use Processing and at the end of the course expose them to methods for packaging their games for distribution/exposition (iphone, projection). Maybe you could have them explore what "games" are and what "play" is. I think the main things to get across are games as art and the computer as a canvas.

You guys would be surprised by the games a creative person can come up with if you show them how to make an object move to where you click on the screen. for instance.

Personally, I think Unity would be a little much for beginners but you could tell them about it and the more techy/ambitious or people who've done a little 3d modelling could use it for their final projects.

It depends on the students (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33604628)

I once was a fine arts student and had completed a project that was made in unity3d uning sketchup and blender for modeling all of the texturing was Photoshop based and since unity is all js it's a very easy language to get into especialy because of unitys great community and their stack exchange site I would suggest starting with a very basic concept in unity making something that is first or third person and have the students run through the corresponding tutorial there is also a fantastic set of video casts from noesis interactive that may be of some help for unity

What and How to teach... (1)

Ssherby (1429933) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604650)

First of all, to really know what and how to teach on this subject I'd need to know what the course requires. For example, are you required that the course cover technical aspects such as code/script writing, or the process of figuring out the logic involved in the mechanics of the game or how the AI is going to work. If there is not technical requirements, then don't try to take them there.

The Game Design job marketplace used to require a handful of techie nerds spending long hours together making a game to be burned to a cartridge, but those days are long gone. Now the job market requires manager types, human resources types, fine musicians to create game music, sound effect artists, fine artists (in many different flavors such as concept artists, texture artists, environment artists, etc.), story boarding artists, digital 3D sculpting artists, and the list goes on and on and I've yet to mention anyone who writes code and puts things together in a game engine.

So, if there isn't any requirement that you make the class technical, then teach them how painting a wall of bricks is different then making a seamless tiling texture file that will make a surface look like bricks, how their skills would apply to story boarding, 2D concept art sketches or paintings, 3D character texture files and how the parts of the model's texture have to fit the UV file, or detailed 3D sculpting using tools like ZBrush, etc. Keep your class focused on how their fine art skills are tweaked to fit a technical industry rather than on how ill-suited they are to doing the technical stuff in the industry.

Stencyl (1)

dotHectate (975458) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604668)

I'm pleased to be in the beta for Stencyl ( and it's an excellent program that works well for people of all experience levels. I'd say I'm a moderate novice when it comes to programming (it's not my job, just a hobby) and Stencyl is powerful enough that it doesn't hold me back with simplistic expectations of what I'll want/be able to do.

Don't forget 2d! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33604688)

Art students can easily make salable games by working with, say, Ren'Py.

And in going to a bit more minigaming-style work, Game Maker.

Really, if you want to teach game design don't just focus on the bigger 3d engines, there's a LOT of room for creativity in the 2d scene and non-techie artists can actually be quite successful at it with some work.

Employable? (1)

maomoa (1040372) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604692)

So a BFA might actually be able to get a job out of college? Lies...

Teach them about the limitations of the art. (1)

eddy (18759) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604696)

Game development is all about limits. Texture limits, vertex/poly limits, limits in flexibility of animation systems, limits in complexity of shaders, limits in number of light emitters, limits in number of objects, limits in drawing distances, limits in lighting and shading models, limits to how you can use transparent surfaces, etc. These limits are pushed for every generation, but they're still there.

Work with a programming class (1)

MaerD (954222) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604714)

Find another class at the same time that's teaching programming.. pair some of the art students with a programmer to come up with a design for a simple mini-game. Have the art students come up with what they are good at, namely the art assets, "story", and plan with the programmer on the rewards. Have them discuss the logic of the game with the programmer and have the programmer implement the game using what the artist can provide.

It should help the understand the interactions they will face in the real world better.

Android development? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33604752)

It would certainly beat what I am learning now (C#).

Interactivity (1)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604786)

I'm not an expert by any means, but I'll attempt to make a couple of hopefully useful suggestions.

I believe there are two important lessons to take home regarding game design:

  • Branching storyline design. Unlike traditional storylines, which are linear, game storylines have the potential to change based on player choices. Think choose-your-own-adventure type of storyline design.
  • Balance. For instance, keeping weapons and power-ups weak enough and the enemies just powerful enough so the gameplay stays challenging. Similarly, you don't want the units in a strategy game to be too powerful.

Get either of those wrong, you lose suspension of disbelief, and have a bad game. You want to look at the "Game Design" section here:

Now, as to how to teach this.. Perhaps you can ask them to produce short design documents, with justifications about their choices and require them to script something very simple (I take it they are already quite confident doing graphics.). Perhaps they could work in teams, using something like AGS (Adventure Game Studio -- to create small 2D point-and-click adventure games (in the style of Monkey Island and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis -- see youtube) with branching storylines.

Re:Interactivity (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605780)

Branching storyline design. Unlike traditional storylines, which are linear, game storylines have the potential to change based on player choices. Think choose-your-own-adventure type of storyline design.

Balance. For instance, keeping weapons and power-ups weak enough and the enemies just powerful enough so the gameplay stays challenging. Similarly, you don't want the units in a strategy game to be too powerful.

What this would be teaching them is the opposite of art. This is a formula for a certain type of game.

What you want to teach them is the tools they need to create games. Then they can use their imagination and artistic abilities to come up with new ideas for games and challenge the preconceived notions you've set forth.

What's with the "Fine Arts" scare quotes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33604826)

Wow. I can't believe all these people in this thread saying not to teach programming to "Fine Arts Students," whatever the scare quotes are meant to imply.

Fine Arts Students (notice I don't use the scare quotes) can completely benefit from learning some simple programming skills. Programming teaches how to break a problem down into manageable pieces, put together strategies to solve those pieces and then assemble those solutions together to solve the overall problem.

I'm a CS person but I also paint and the skills from programming are VERY useful when doing art.

There's no reason in the world not to introduce Fine Arts Students to simple programming languages that let them express themselves by creating an interactive thing. In fact, a lot of really cool stuff is being exhibited all over the place using things like Arduinos, electromechanical parts and interactive programs.

My suggestion is to take something like python + pygame, create a framework in advance for the students to use and then teach them to make games within that framework. Set some boundaries on what they do, pick a flexible game type anyone can do (say a shooter to avoid physics or a platformer if you don't mind some physics), teach them the basics of working with python and let them have at it.

Fine Arts Students are often, in my opinion, much more intelligent than they're being given credit for here.

(And, frankly, a lot more fun to hang out with because they don't seem to spend as much time telling you how you're wrong about everything.)

Take advantage of the skills you know they have (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604842)

I'm not familiar with game development tools, so I can't make specific suggestions, but as someone who straddles technology and the visual arts, I'd suggest that the more visually-oriented they are, the better. Point and click and drag and drop. A troll suggested Flash, but that's actually not a bad idea: the similarity to the UI of Photoshop (which most fine-arts students these days have at least experienced) can help them get working with it, and the ability to start doing things with very little code is a good way to ease into more complex procedural programming. Most fine-artists are very good at processing information and ideas visually, so use that: flowcharts will be better then text, demonstrations are much better than lectures. If there's information that has to be presented verbally, give it to them in writing. On the other hand, don't be surprised if some of them turn out to be ace coders.

Good luck. (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604844)

It's going to be a challenge. I thought a game design course a couple of years ago, taking over the course from a friend. The course was based in the media studies department and pretty much the entire class majored in media except for one student who was studying design.

Our platform was Flash, using Actionscript 2. I'd say this is the easiest platform available because the basics are so simple and require little coding. Artwork was done in Illustrator and Photoshop and even that required some instruction. We were pretty much starting from scratch. We began with simple things like mouse clicks using buttons. I also got into keyboard and mouse control and basic collision detection. But ultimately it wasn't so much them absorbing anything from me as it was me simply providing them with snippets of completed code. You're going to have a hard time getting them to learn the basics, let alone being able to build a game out of it.

My course was more about the process of game design. But because it involved actually going through the process the bulk of the course was spent on simply learning how to accomplish this. If I had continued with the course I would have changed the curriculum quite heavily. I would have based the entire class around a single project with everything working towards that. I'd provide the code and give them a few options for game types. They would then spend the semester, planning out the game first, then creating the assets, then building it with my guidance.

There are a few important things I took away from the experience:
1) Keep things extremely simple. People who haven't programmed before are going to have a hard time understanding it. Be prepared to spend entire classes just going from student to student helping with issues they're having. I had 8 or 9 students in my class and still it was a challenge to help everyone out. Granted my class met once a week and was 2.5 hours long.

2) Anyone who misses even a class or two is going to fall dramatically behind.

3) Some students tend to be overly ambitious and take on way more than they can handle. It's your responsibility to rein them in.

4) Don't put them in groups for actual projects. But a big problem I found with them working together on a final project was that I'd have one student doing all the coding and everyone else watching. The others were supposed to create assets but of course they'd rush through that. Then they'd spend the rest of the time talking or chatting with friends on IM.

Each student should be responsible for their own project. I had the idea of grouping them for the conceptual phase. They would work together on coming up with an idea for a game, and then each building their own interpretation of that concept.

You're in a more fortunate position that you're working with fine arts students. So ideally you've got a class that's creative and has access to the resources needed to create the art for these games. So I'd have them create those assets as homework and then spend class time doing development. Like I said, they wont be able to get very far on their own.

I don't know enough about the platforms you're proposing. But from the quick look I've taken those don't look particularly easy to pick up for someone who doesn't have any background in this stuff. At least Flash is heavily used in the design community so there's something to take away from this. And you can actually build something without requiring much coding.

Paper and pencil (1)

Chess Piece Face (247847) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604846)

Throwing programming at people with "little-to-none technical skills" is a bad idea period. Have them develop games or game concepts and then help them apply those to programming. Or take an existing classic game and describe the challenges of making it digital (such as card shuffling).

Speaking from experience... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33604848)

I taught a Flash ActionScript class at an art school once.

Tell them to save their creativity for their artwork, and not their variable names.

They are going to be overwhelmed, both by the left brained and "only one right answer" discipline required to get code to run properly.

I would keep it VERY simple. More than you think is necessary.

You might just lose some students entirely. It's been said that programmers do for love what others wouldn't do for money. You will soon find out just how true this is.

At the end of my class, the students really did seem to appreciate it and had learned a lot. However, you are not going to turn them into professional programmers in this amount of time. I would focus on just giving them a sampler platter of the kinds of things they would need to consider if they were working on a project like this with a programmer, especially as it pertains to art.

The best you can hope for is that it will spark someone's interest and they'll want to find out more outside of class.

3D artist (2, Insightful)

poly_pusher (1004145) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604860)

Being a 3D artist with a fine arts background, if you are trying to teach artist basic elements of game design, I think it would be best to pair an artist with a comp sci major. The comp sci major can handle many of the technicalities of getting content into a game. Most artists who lack a technical background are going to be intimidated just by the process of creating assets and learning how to use the software necessary and the various requirements of doing so. The benefit for the comp sci major is insight in to how to communicate with artist. If they go into gaming they WILL be frustrated by the flakey, flighty artists. Understanding how to cope with them in a future professional environment will be very useful.

I wouldn't necessarily focus on finishing actual games. Focus on finishing assets. You'll be surprised at how excited these artists will be just seeing the helmet, gun or whatever they made show up in a level that will cement their interest in game content creation and will be a much better focus for a 50 hour course. I would also recommend the Unreal 3 engine if possible. That way, they are more likely to continue learning from what you taught them well after the class is over. They can skin a head for a game they have at home. Geeking out is an understatement regarding what their reaction will be to that. "That's mine, and it's in the game engine used for Gears of War!"

After that they'll have an interest and incentive to take it further and more technical, things like scripting, etc.

How about teaching them 3D modelling ? (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#33604880)

I'm not sure what the students' other courses are, but I'm wondering if, instead of teaching them general programming in a very basic, very not-usable-in-any-real-job way, it wouldn't be more practical, instead, of teaching them specifically how to create content, artwork, for somebody else's game, using real-world, or close to real-world (since you need free) tools.

You're obviously not going to make them into game developers. Would it maybe be better to make them into semi-credible artwork guys ? Maybe develop a basic game yourself, and ask them to do the artwork ?

Then again, if they already have these kind of courses, by all means do teach them game dev as best you can, it will be useful for them, too.

Ask working game artists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33604972)

Might be worth asking around on some forums frequented by CG artists.... jumps to mind.

you said FINE art students didn't you? (1)

Dr.Altaica (200819) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605004)

It's fine arts. require them to submit a sample portfolio of games they have already made. like every other fine arts program does.

Re:you said FINE art students didn't you? (2, Interesting)

liquiddark (719647) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605266)

Umm...That's not how that portfolio works. Most programs include a wide variety of media (pencils, paint, print-making, sculpture, performance art, etc) without banning students who have only one or two (sketches, paintings). In point of fact, what you're suggesting is about as far away from the goal of a BFA program as possible; much of the point of a BFA or conservatory or other formal art instruction program is to expose students to new ideas and techniques and give them the tools to be productive in those media.

Broken Sword (1)

janwedekind (778872) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605010)

IMHO one of the best games in terms of artwork is Broken Sword 1 [] . The scenes are handpainted and the character animations are very detailed. In the meantime ScummVM [] was developed which is a free software game engine which is able to play the data files of Broken Sword as well [] . ScummVM is not recommended for developing new games though. Maybe somebody nows a more modern engine with similar capabilities?

board game or ccg (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33605090)

Get them to design a board game or a collectible card game. They are already familiar with almost all the skills it'd take to make one. If you're going to try and squeeze a bunch of computer programming stuff in there then good luck.

Why not try sleep is death? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33605200)

the tools are somewhat primitive, but it allows some amazing creativity to be expressed.

What is your course's intent? (1)

hanako (935790) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605256)

Are these people aiming for jobs within the mainstream game industry, aiming to become independent game developers, or interested in game design as an art form? If they're looking for jobs then yes, give them time with Unity and talk a lot about the limits of 3d and how to balance speed and beauty. If they want to sell their own games, step away from Unity and look into simpler game builders that can be highly customised by people with artistic talent. Even RPG Maker would do for that (look at Rainblood for an example of an artist-driven RPG Maker game). RenPy or one of the adventure game toolkits, also. If they're not very techie but they want to create games, you want to give them tools that make the basic game-making easy, and then let them go wild exploring how different they can make the results. If you want to explore weird experimental/conceptual game design stuff, then along with the 3d give them some simple flexible 2d tools that they can prototype wild concepts with.

Source? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33605350)

Try using the source engine maybe? With Garry's Mod, you have a relative freedom of the FPS genre, and there's a huge knowledge base for it, it's still relevant, and really simple. /2cents

Or they could fix the title (1)

ShopMgr (1639595) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605740)

Body says 5,000, not 50,000...

I teach a similar course at Williams (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33605746)

I teach game design in the Art and Computer Science departments at Williams College, and wrote a book for these students:

I've been looking for a new engine all year. After talking to other teachers and game developers and trying many engines myself, I went with Unity 3D. It has the depth for students who really want to take it far, but is easy enough to get art students into quickly. Unity3D also targets platforms they care about, like the Web and iPhone, although there's no way they'll do iPhone development in their first course.

Alice is a good alternative. It lacks the tools, depth, and polish of Unity 3D but is easier to get into initially and is more tailored for education.

I haven't seen Processing deliver well for a games course. I think it lacks the tools and game-specific support to get students moving soon. Andrew Glassner has a very nice new book out called Processing for Visual Artists that I would recommend if you do use Processing, however.


Forget About Games - Think Levels (2, Insightful)

Plekto (1018050) | more than 4 years ago | (#33605796)

The title pretty much says it all. People in art don't program games at all. They instead get hired to do levels and art for them. I'd just take a basic game that's well understood and have them make their own custom levels for it.

Game Development or Computer Game Programming? (3, Insightful)

HawaiianToast (618430) | more than 4 years ago | (#33606132)

It sounds like you want to teach computer game programming to me. If you really want to just teach game development maybe you should develop a pen & paper game. They can write the rule book. Otherwise you're teaching two things and maybe nobody will learn much of either.
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