Educational Spotlight: iD Game Design & Development Academy
iD Game Design & Development Academy
Institution: iD Tech
iD Tech, a leader in summer technology programs, offers game development courses in Unreal Engine 4 for students of various ages, including C++ Game Programming with Unreal Engine and 3D Level Design with Unreal Engine 4. Students work in a hands-on environment to create, code, design, and develop video games in Unreal Engine 4. They leave the programs with foundations in professional tools, a gaming portfolio, and the head start they need to thrive in the field of game development.
Jon Griffith - Curriculum Writer
Since attending the University of Advancing Technology, where he received a B.A. in Multimedia with an emphasis in Game Design, Jon has been immersed in game development. He’s been developing curriculum for three iD Tech Unreal Engine courses for the last four years. After writing the curriculum, Jon heads out to camp to teach students at the iD Game Design & Development Academy held at Stanford University. He has also developed on Xbox Live Arcade while working at CrunchTime Games. When not instructing or writing, he has made projects with the Unreal Development Kit and Unreal Tournament 3 for Epic's “Make Something Unreal” contest.
"I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to develop the curriculum for Unreal Engine. Thousands of students get to learn from my knowledge and expertise—and that’s incredibly humbling. I have been an avid user of Unreal in all of its incarnations for over a decade, and Unreal Engine 4 is an extremely exciting piece of software. The ability to see your work and changes in real time, like lighting and geometry, makes the whole process streamlined and efficient. This easy-to-use workflow keeps students engaged.
The new Blueprint visual scripting system has also been a blast to work with. You can create events, such as automatic doors, very quickly, and then use them in multiple places within the level. Blueprints have all the power of working with the C++ source code but in an easy-to-read shell.
With this being the first year [of iD Tech] using Unreal Engine 4, I was impressed to see that students are already pushing the software to its limits. One student created a 3D side-scrolling game from scratch, complete with respawns, checkpoints, and more! Another student recreated a level from BioShock. He made custom materials and textures to get the effects he wanted.
Building games is a pretty complex undertaking, but Unreal Engine’s ease-of-use really helps students get comfortable quickly and achieve a sense of accomplishment. Students realize they can create what they have always imagined and will devour all the information available. Besides learning how to use a leading game engine, students get a taste for what it’s like to work in the game industry.
Becoming skilled in Unreal Engine 4 will set students apart as they begin a career in game development. Students are also gaining vital 21st century skills: they use critical thinking to develop a coherent game with intricate architectural design. Some of the parameters for their projects really push them to think in ways they haven’t before. "
Don Squires - Instructor
Don Squires, Lead Instructor at the iD Game Design & Development Academy, has been an integral part of this program held at Stanford University for the last five years. During this time, he had the opportunity to teach Unreal Engine to dozens of aspiring developers. With his background in digital entertainment and game design, Don has inspired his students to create fully realized and detailed 3D worlds with Unreal Engine.
"I love teaching Unreal Engine 4 because it does a very good job of breaking down the barriers between a student’s ideas and the technological skills needed to bring those ideas to life. I’ve been using Unreal Engine since about 2005, and I love sharing my experiences and passion for Unreal with students. Specifically, the tools are easy-to-use while having an incredible amount of depth. For example, while a beginner student can easily set up a simple toggling Blueprint, an advanced student can explore linking together multiple steps to get a layered, detailed event. Students this year have also really enjoyed using the Material Editor and decorating their levels with static mesh—especially once I showed them how real-world objects, like lights connecting to a power socket with a plug, flow together.
I also thoroughly enjoy inspiring my students and empowering them to continue experimenting. One exciting story from this year is 14-year-old Nathan. When he started in my course last year, Nathan was brand new to level design and had never touched Unreal. This year he returned to iD Game Design & Development Academy and excitedly shared his work in Blueprints and how hard he pushed himself during the off season. He told me about how he spent days figuring out how to accomplish his street-creating Blueprint, staying focused until he got it to work exactly how he wanted. Seeing him find that deep passion and love for game design is incredibly inspiring and pushes me to take it to the next level for the next group of students."
Nathan Kaplan - When he was 14, Nathan took 3D Level Design with Unreal Engine at the iD Game Design & Development Academy. During his program, he created a free-for-all deathmatch and capture-the-flag level in UE4. But that wasn’t enough for this advanced teenager. With his CTF level, he tried to give the world two separate gravities, one pointing down and the other up. “I envisioned players looking up and seeing opponents fight on the ceiling, bullets flying at you from every direction imaginable.”
Nathan was excited when Unreal Engine 4 was released because of Blueprints, which he learned how to use by watching the Unreal Engine YouTube video tutorials. One of the videos was about procedural generation, and the lightbulb turned on. Nathan realized how to use Blueprint to generate a city that automatically and randomly builds unique worlds every time the player starts the game. As soon as the game loads and the user hits “PLAY,” a fully randomized city appears with streets, street lamps, and other decorations. This changes with each play-through, making a new, exciting experience each time.
Behind the scenes, Nathan worked some programming magic to create several different, layered Blueprints, one of which chooses a building’s location, rotation, number of floors, and which static mesh will be used for each story. He used a second Blueprint to randomly create roads. Within these systems, Nathan used the Spline Tool to have roads appear throughout his worlds. As the roads appeared, they would automatically demolish buildings in front of them to create a clear path for a straight road.
If that wasn’t enough, Nathan coded a third-person camera for Epic's Shooter Game sample in C++. Much like before, Nathan was able to utilize the Unreal Engine forums to interact with the community and create his camera. With Nathan’s natural game design talent and his keen imagination, the sky’s the limit.
For more information about iD Game Design & Development Academy, please visit the iD Tech website.