August 25, 2015

Unreal Engine Educational Workshop Takeaways

By Luis Cataldi

On August 9, we held the SIGGRAPH-sponsored Unreal Engine Educational Event at the JW Marriott in LA Live. The all-day workshop was chocked full of great presentations and valuable information by noteworthy presenters from both Epic Games and the educational community.

Dr Cynthia Marcello kicked off the presentations with a deep and insightful 90-minute exploration into "Teaching UE4 using Quest-Based Learning." This presentation spurred much interest and discussion amongst the attendees, many excited to explore QBL in their own UE4 classes.

What is QBL?

Why QBL?

We are very excited to continue to support her as she develops additional tools and materials to share with the educational community teaching Unreal Engine.     

Michael Zyda of USC GamePipe Lab was up next to share success stories from their amazing program. We were excited to learn about USC students’ achievements with UE4 in his presentation, "Building Game Developers."

Epic Games CTO Kim Libreri then took the stage for a fireside chat about "Teaching Today's Job Winning Skills with Unreal Engine."  Kim has a rich background in feature filmmaking, including winning two Technical Achievement Awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts for his work on The Matrix films.  Prior to joining Epic Games, Kim was the Chief Strategy Officer at Lucasfilm, where he was responsible for the company's Star Wars technology strategy and innovations in interactive storytelling, including the highly-awarded 1313 prototype.

These days at Epic, Kim oversees our tradition of fusing fantastic technology with the pinnacle of visual artistry, and for defining Unreal Engine as the platform of choice for all types of interactive experiences including games, movies, visualizations and virtual reality.  During his presentation, Kim described the key attributes and skills new developers must hone in order to be valuable to the ever-evolving games and real-time graphics industry.

Core skill for studentsNick Whiting, Lead Engineer on VR and Visual Scripting for Epic, conducted the next presentation, “Best Practices and Lessons for UE4 and VR in the Classroom.” Nick is a compelling speaker, and his insights from working with VR in the classroom with Stanford University earlier this year yielded many great lessons.

Two distinct teams at Stanford worked to build level editors for Unreal Engine in VR. Nick broke down lessons learned by both groups in their efforts to extend UE4 functionality and also gave takeaways from his own perspective.

Lessons in VR

Lessons in VR

Lecturer Diana Ford, from the UCLA Games and 3D Real Time Lab, presented next. Diana teaches a CS class focused on VR and AI in UE4 combined to expose students to a unique classroom and project environment. The outcomes of her courses are noteworthy considering the technical skills the students need to develop in a short period of time and the expected quality of experience of deliverable for the class.

Epic Games Education Evangelist Luis Cataldi added another learning talk, "An Educator's Guide to Unreal Engine Learning Resources."

Luis's presentation covered key topics intended to help attendees better understand the overall learning resources being made available from Epic Games on a regular basis. With such a steady stream of learning content, it can be easy to miss or overlook many valuable learning resources that can be utilized by both instructors and anyone in a classroom to help develop mastery within UE4.

Learning resources guide

Again, this is a worthwhile presentation to review for updates to learning resources across documentation, videos, in-editor help, and a number of other avenues.

Finally, the day concluded with a three-hour presentation on level design best practices for the classroom using Unreal Engine and the Unreal Tournament Editor by Epic Games veteran designer and developer Alan Willard.

Alan covered many of the core principles of designing a level for Unreal Tournament. He spoke about the skills typically involved in the process, as well as the tools typically used in the engine.

UT in the classroom

Alan covered the layout phase and a few of the ins-and-outs of greyboxing a space for Unreal Tournament multiplayer gameplay. He also discussed the need to  playtest and refine the space, and showed how levels are brought to such high levels of visual fidelity while still being able to maintain frame rates of well over 60 to 100 fps by using in-engine evaluations tools such as the lighting and material complexity view modes to evaluate performance in key areas of the maps.  

Alan concluded his workshop with helpful hints and tips on the many important aspects of polish and optimization, with a strong focus on playtesting and making the hard choices that bring everything together into something fast, fun, and special.       

Overall, we received a lot of great feedback on our Unreal Engine Educational Event, and we look forward to continuing to build and support the educational community through these types of events.