Category Archives: Game Development

What do you call a mini-MOOC?

Already covered: A MOOC is a Massive(ly) Open Online Course – whether using traditional or more connectionist models of learning and instruction.

But what do you call a mini-MOOC? Where the numbers are not massive? This summer, and for the second time, I’m coordinating a summer UNversity – which is kind of like a regular university course, but without lectures, labs, class times, set coursework, syllabus, grades or set content. But otherwise, just like a regular university course.

There are rules though:

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Call for Papers: ICEC 2012

The IFIP International Conference on Entertainment Computing explores the application of computational technology to entertainment. The conference brings together practitioners and researchers interested in the art and design of entertainment computing applications. ICEC welcomes submissions on the design, engineering, application and theory of entertainment technology. We solicit paper, poster and demonstration submissions, as well as proposals for tutorials and workshops. Papers will be published by Springer and archived in the SpringerLink digital library.

Download here the whole Call for Papers as PDF.

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Bye Bye ICT… Hello CS

As covered on every news site (e.g. BBC) and every blog everywhere… schools in England will be dropping ICT (Information & Communication Technology, or ‘How to use office software and send email’ as it was generally taught) and introducing Computer Science – including programming and software development – in its place. It seems that even Michael Gove can get things right sometimes.

Of course, software development (including game development) is already part of the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence – but the greater challenge comes with developing teacher skills and knowledge and getting the technology in place to support the curriculum. According the Ian Livingstone interview on Today, only 3 of 28,000 qualifying teachers in England in 2010 had Computing Science degrees (seems a dubious statistic myself, not sure what the origin of the stat is), so there will be significant need to support and develop teacher expertise. If schools are merely given the option of including programming, then relatively few may benefit from what has been announced as a very major shake-up.

I’ll leave final words to Prof Steve Furber (who as one of the creators of the BBC Computer, was responsible for the introducing many British school children to programming in schools):

“We look forward to hearing more about how the government intends to support non-specialist teachers who make up the majority of the workforce in delivering an excellent ICT education without official guidance on lesson content,”

Open Education: My Year

Over the past couple of years I have become increasingly interested in Open Education Resources (OER). Though I have to admit that I often find the task of finding OER resources for use in my own classes more challenging than it should be – having to plough through pages of results from an Jorum search, for example, looking for resources that actually match what I need for my class.

As far as releasing my own resources, over the past few years I’ve increasingly been posting Creative Commons licensed images and documents to Flickr, Scribd and Slideshare – though these are often related more to my research & development work than my teaching. This year I finally took some steps towards sharing my teaching resources with the wider public.

My 3D graphics classes rely heavily on copyright material from books written by others – which makes it a challenge to share what I’ve been doing. This last year, however, I started a blog  on 3d game development where I could post some of my own additional lab and lecture materials. The very first post on Getting Started with GLTools details how to install the required software. I included notes on getting the libraries to work with the latest version of Visual Studio in an embedded Scribd document – which has now been viewed over 6,000 times, while the linked zip files have been downloaded over 1,000 times. I had around 50 students in my graphics classes, so I’ve been able to reach 20 to 100 times as many people as I actually taught – simply by placing some of my materials online. I didn’t post the notes to a repository, in the vague hope that another tutor might find the materials and think them useful. Instead, I simply posted the materials online in the form most convenient to me and let other students, tutors, professionals, or whoever, find them however they might.

In the second semester I took over a first year Computing Systems class – this was a bit of a challenge as it required a substantial rewrite as the class had to be applicable to a much wider audience than previously. I wanted to provide much greater context and to make the material much more approachable and up to date. I looked to Jorum and existing text-books, but generally the available materials were aimed squarely at Computer Science and Engineering students – too much depth, not enough context – and it would have been a major task to revise the material to suit. Instead I opted to pick a very general book that had broad coverage of material and provide additional depth myself through tutorials, lab exercises and additional notes. This would still have been impossible without Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons, which respectively provided a great deal of information for use in lectures and images for the presentations. I could also refer students to Wikipedia for further reading, rather than trying to fit everything into the lectures. The PowerPoints I created are currently available online here, while Screencasts are available here. To be honest, I think there is a mass of room for improvement, but I was working to a very tight deadline – and I’m happy how well these materials and other changes to the class (including online formative and summative tests and SMS polling in class) were received by the students. In the module review feedback at the end of semester I received probably the highest praise and most positive response from any class I’ve taught… ever.

I may not have deposited any OER into any recognised repository, and I may have only made minimal use of the same, but in using open resources and in sharing what I’ve produced openly online, I made my life easier, improved the classes for my own students, and reached out to an audience well beyond my university campus. Not a bad result, all told.

My OER 2011

I’ve not written much about Open Education Resources recently, but I have produced some over the last year.

While I was teaching 3D graphics, I produced a blog to collect some of my notes and materials – this might be of interest to C++ / OpenGL programmers out there: http://3dgamedev.wordpress.com/ (My notes on getting the OpenGL Superbible GLTools library to work with Visual Studio 2010 seem to be something of a hit, and some of the files I made available are regularly downloaded – so its of use to some people out there, which is nice).

I also took over a first year class in Computing Systems that needed substantial reworking. This had to meet a broad audience – with some of the students on programming focussed courses and others on more business oriented courses, I did not think that a traditional Computer Systems course was going to work. I needed something broader, but that allowed students to study individual topics in much greater depth according to their interests. So this was a complete re-write from ground up. With limited time, I turned to Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons for help, alongside textbooks and other OER online courses. The resultant Computing Systems lectures are available on Screencast, and you can download the lecture slides (for now at least) from box.net.

I should package these up, and upload to some repository… perhaps when I have the time…

Free stuff for virtual worlds and game based learning

[Updated 7/6/2011 - More 2D & sound resources]

At the recent Game2Learn event in Dundee, I spoke about ways of reducing the costs of developing new learning games and/or virtual worlds. One of the key ways to reduce costs is to use free stuff – of which there is a lot out there. Many of these resources are also useful for students learning game development.

Before using any resource be sure to check the license and conditions for use – some resources allow reuse for any purpose, others are only for non-commercial use.

3D Models

If you are developing your own game or using Unity, then chances are that you can import models that are available in the popular Collada format (and with mesh import this should also come to Second Life/OpenSim before too long).

Google’s 3D Warehouse is home to thousands of static 3D models – particularly strong on models of notable buildings, due to the links between Google Sketchup, the 3D warehouse and Google Earth, but interiors, objects and vehicles can all be found.

An interesting new resource (especially if you want military type models, or models of things you might find in or around army bases) is the ADL 3D Repository. You’ll also find a lot of regular household items (chandeliers and bidets!) alongside the weaponry and vehicles, plus models of US soldiers and Afghan civilians.

More commercially oriented sites like TurboSquid are marketplaces for the buying and selling of 3D models – prices vary dramatically but there is a lot of low cost and free content to be found, and the quality is sometimes of a very professional standard.

2D Textures and Images

You can search Flickr for Creative Commons licensed photos, but the photos are not normally very good for use as textures. Wikimedia Commons is another good source of photos, but few are ideal for use as textures.

In comparison, CGTextures specialises in textures that can be used in game development – and has thousands on offer. Free for commercial or non-commercial use. The only use that is explicitly not allowed is in creating your own texture packs (e.g. you can use some of these textures to build something in Second Life that you will sell commercially, but you are not allowed to create an in-world texture pack to sell or give away)

HasGraphics links to a small but quite high-quality range of sprites, tilesets and other 2D graphics resources, while Moosader has posted a range of her own creations under public-domain license at OpenArt.

Keith Ditchburn has collected more links for 2D textures and 3D models over at Toymaker. You can also always do a search for images licensed for reuse at Flick or on Google.

Music and Sound Effects

Freesound is home to a huge number of Creative Commons licensed sound effects, while ccMixter homes similarly licensed music samples, loops and mixes. Also check the Free Music Archive and the Creative Commons audio blog.

Back at OpenArt, Moosader has collected (and produced some of) a small range of retro-styled music files suitable for games.

OpenSim and Second Life Specific

There are two OpenSim specific archive formats – OAR and IAR. OAR files archive complete regions – including terrain and all objects including textures, scripts, sounds and more. IAR files archive users’ inventory – again including all data required to fully restore the items (scripts, sounds, etc.).

A third archive option (for which I’ve been unable to find a specific name) is the xml format used when backing up objects from Second Life or OpenSim using the export option in Imprudence and other 3rd party client software. (See discussion e.g. here). While most online discussion of this format is based on how to transfer your own objects, it also provides another way to share OpenSim/Second Life objects.

OAR files

Four sources for OpenSim Archives (OAR files, Hypergrid Business)

OpenSim Creations (OAR files, IAR files, XML objects, terrains files, textures. Includes many NSFW)

OpenSim Terrains – Flickr Set

OSAvatars – Avatar textures, parts and clothing

UWS Degree show – Digital Futures 2011

The annual degree show for UWS animation, games, and music technology students will be taking place at the University’s Paisley campus on the 14th of June. There should be some interesting work on show – hopefully including some of the fun stuff students have been doing with Kinect, and possibly including some degree year work alongside the honours projects.

The current schedule for the day is as follows:

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Open Access Again

Peter Miller reminds us that it’s Open Access week again, and shares instructions in a nice and brief tutorial that will get you set up with OpenSim on a USB stick and loading and saving sim archive OAR files. Very handy. Peter also points out usefully that OAR has some limitations – notably that it does not preserve (for now at least) information on who actually created the objects in the archive. I guess that that is one area where OAR (and OpenSim itself) could be improved – with the ability for objects & entire sims to preserve real IDs for creators, and attached licenses.

My own contributions for Open Access this year are little to do with virtual worlds – but over on 3dgamedev.wordpress.com I’ve been posting tutorials, labs and comments on 3D game development with OpenGL.

Yet another blog…

This blog is overall pretty quiet of late – other things keeping me busy. One of them is http://3dgamedev.wordpress.com/ . I started this over a year ago, intending to put together a book based on my OpenGL classes. This didn’t get very far. So I’ve rebooted – instead I’ll be posting bits and bobs from my classes as and when I can. Powerpoints, handouts, examples. Bits and bobs.

Many of my notes use content that I’m not free to repost online, so don’t expect to see a complete course appearing there in the immediate future – but I’m starting to replace this content with stuff that I generate myself or that is CC.

If enough stuff ends up there, I can always rework it into something resembling a book format later :-)