October 16, 2015

Educational Spotlight: Academy of Art University

By Luis Cataldi

Academy of Art University


Institution: Academy of Art University
Department: School of Game Development


Program Description: 


The Academy of Art University, School of Game Development provides students with the array of skills and experiences required in today's demanding game industry. The school offers Associate, Bachelors, and Masters level degrees with concentrations in programming, art and design.  They offer a world-class curriculum in a hands-on environment.  Lead by professional faculty working in state-of-the-art facilities with professional tools such as Unreal Engine 4, Academy of Art University places a strong focus on portfolio development across all concentrations. 

Game Dev Class

AAU Concentrations

Instructor Spotlight:

Charles Huenergardt - Online Director, School of Game Development

Charles Huenergardt

Professor Charles Huenergardt began in the games industry in 1996 at Sega as a Quality Assurance Analyst (Tester). Over the years Charles worked his way into the role of Game Designer and Project Lead. Charles has worked on games such as God of War, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Project: Snowblind, Shrek the Third, 25 to Life, Army Men, Pictionary for the Nintendo Wii and SpiderMan: Web of Shadows for the XBOX 360.  Charles started using Unreal Engine 1 back in 2003, Unreal Engine 3 in 2005, UDK in 2009, and presently Unreal Engine 4.  Charles primarily uses Unreal Engine to create level examples and systems examples for students and to work on pet projects in his spare time. 


Pryce Jones - MFA Director


Pryce Jones

After receiving his Bachelor of Architecture from Syracuse University and working in that field for several years, Professor Pryce Jones realized that making entertainment art looks more fun, and that many of the techniques he’d learned for designing real buildings would work for virtual worlds. He then embarked on a career in video game development and has spent the past 11 years as an environment artist, concept painter, and art director. He’s worked on games such as Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Legacy of Kain: Defiance, Tomb Raider: Legend and the next-gen version of Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings.

Individual Student Spotlight:


Natalie Crabtree – During her time in the Game Development Online MFA program at Academy of Art, Natalie found specific interest and passion in modeling environments.  At the Academy of Art University, students spend roughly 3 semesters working on their thesis.  Natalie poured herself into this thesis project in Unreal Engine and grabbed the attention of her instructors and fellow students.  It was clear to see that as she applied herself to the work, her skills improved dramatically.  Natalie's projects have been featured in the School of Game Development’s Spring Show exhibition.  She proudly graduated from the Online MFA program in the spring of 2015.    

Natalie Crabtree

Cargo Bay MFA Thesis Project (Unreal Engine, Maya, Photoshop)  

Group Student Spotlight:
Starship Enceladus:


Starship Enceladus is a 3D dungeon explorer set in a sci-fi universe. The development team saw an opportunity to create a different type of RPG, similar to Diablo and other popular action RPGs, but using sci-fi themes and settings to draw on many futuristic video game, movie, and TV show tropes and iconic elements. The primary goal for the project was to create a game with a great story, character development, and a sense of humor, all done in UE4. 

Start Ship Enceladus Header

Starship Enceladus was a project that met the requirements to be developed in a collaborative course structure.  Each semester the department builds a class around projects that have been previously approved at a department wide “pitch night” event.  Collaborative courses are the backbone of the program and are where students get a chance to flex their skills and experience a real-world world production environment with all of the deadlines, stress, victories, and team synergy that it brings.

Enceladus Playthrough Video:



Core Team Members:

Pryce Jones, Instructor

Matthew Greene, Instructor

Alexander Barnes, UI Designer, Writer

Robin Dao, Character Modeler, Animator

Additional Student Assistance:

Anlex Angel, Luis Alberto Gonzalez, Andrew Rieger, Armaan V. Bhati, Brad Corbet, Dakota Nelson, Dan Giglio, Daniel Corralez, Dan Kelly, Davin Hans, Denmark Gibbs, Duo Ruan, Dustin Boyle, Duy Ngyuen, Elliot Piccarello, Erica Awai, Gerry Padilla, Gilbert Mendoza, Hunter Hemingway, Jacob Baumann, Jakub Stopyra, Justin Salonga, Kevin Wiratama, Kyle Salinero, Leonora Moran, Mahsa Abbasi, Matthias Oberg, Paolo Trelles, Paul Francis, Pedro Serrano Filho, Samuel Fernandez, Thomas Pisapia, Yusef Yatim


Visit the Academy of Art University website.