1.12.2017

Learn Unreal Engine 4 Development from Professional AAA Devs via Game School Online

By Leo Gonzalez

Hello, my name is Leo Gonzales and I am the co-founder of Game School Online (GSO). GSO was created by three developers working in the AAA games industry, Senior Designer Larry Charles, Lead Environment Artist Brandon Pham, and myself, a Senior Environment/VFX Artist. We all met while working at the same game studio in Los Angeles, CA and between the three of us, we’ve collectively worked on a variety of notable franchises including Call of Duty, Bioshock, Halo, and XCOM.

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A New Way To Learn

Many years ago we started having discussions about the ways people learn the essential elements of game development while also learning how to become professional developers. As one might imagine, the discussions got pretty in depth. How does someone get started learning to create games? Where do you go to learn? Who’s going to teach you? What qualifications should an instructor have? Are all instructors and schools the same?

Having shipped next-gen console and PC games, we realized that we could use our experience and knowledge to teach from a more experienced perspective than other methods. Our experience teaching at the college level has revealed a connection between a professional developer and the student that is vital to the learning process. Some of the issues facing game development education today are that it tends to be sporadic, disorganized, and lacking structure. In addition, there’s generally a large gap between devs working on the bleeding edge of technology, and most full-time instructors in schools. While online tutorials via platforms like YouTube or Vimeo are certainly helpful, there are distinct pros and cons to this kind of learning. The pros being that the content is generally free and there’s a good chance you might actually learn something useful. The con is that you won’t be able to learn the best practices or professional techniques needed to create a professionally shipped product. Unfortunately, this critical aspect of becoming a development professional simply can’t be communicated by someone who doesn’t have years of experience working in the entertainment industry. This is one of the key differentiating factors that makes the services offered by Game School Online unique.

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The Challenges of Learning and Teaching

Learning to create computer graphics, whether for games or film, is extremely difficult. Throughout the learning experience, we found that the majority of students would have many questions they’d like to ask a professional, which most simply don’t have access to. This confirmed our suspicion that most people have a similarly frustrating experience. At GSO, we asked ourselves why? We love our careers and the projects that we’ve had the privilege to work on, but why does it have to be so difficult and elusive for a student to discover what we do and learn how to do it well?

Most working professionals put in an incredible amount of time completing AAA projects, leaving them with very little extra time to spend with their friends and families. This fact makes it difficult to find a professional dev who is currently working on blockbuster titles to teach you. This is when we found the disconnect between the developer who is making the game you love to play, and the full time instructor that is trying to teach you how to make games. So we began to wonder why this couldn’t be the same person? What if you could be trained and mentored by an industry professional? A pay-as-you go education that doesn’t require you to commit to a 3 year college and one that will grant the student up-to-the-minute information on the latest industry development techniques. 

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Next-Gen Training and Education

While introductory learning materials are essential to any aspiring developer’s success, gaining insight from those that have actual industry experience is a crucial part of the process. With GSO, our goal is to create a paradigm shift in the educational industry by teaching students how the industry itself creates multimillion dollar projects and how individual developers are a part of the process to meet the associated challenges successfully. Our entire course has been created by AAA devs, which allows us to empower our students with the confidence and experience we’ve gained through shipping successful games. Our hope is to elevate the standard and set a new bar for education, one that meets the same quality standard set by the likes of Epic Games and the UE4 community has cultivated.

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Dev Grants and Epic Community Support

We personally believe that UE4 is the greatest advancement in real-time engine technology to hit the industry. One potentially overlooked fact about UE4 is that it’s a cutting-edge engine that has been developed by one of the world’s most successful AAA studios, having shipped some of the biggest games in the industry.

As if offering access to this amazing tool for free wasn’t enough, Epic Games has also set aside $5 million as part of Unreal Dev Grants. This program is another way Epic is helping to foster talent and grow the community by awarding no-strings-attached grant money to UE4 developers who are making innovative, impactful contributions to the Unreal ecosystem. Earlier this year, I was awarded an Unreal Dev Grant for the work I produced on the UE4 educational front over the past couple of years. It’s this level of support that encourages us to follow our instincts and create GSO.

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The Present and Future of GSO

We’re now launching WeMake, an amazing training course that gives you three disciplines to learn. When you sign up for WeMake, you get free access to all classes: Design, Environment Art, and UI. While students are free to focus on a particular area, such as Design, they may also be curious about another subject, like Environment Art, which they can also investigate within the WeMake course. The course runs for 12 weeks and features new lessons every week. You won’t be on your own either as our industry pros will provide you with personalized feedback and assistance every week throughout the course. Don’t want to commit to three months of learning? No problem - reserve a AAA dev to mentor you for as little as an hour. Want portfolio feedback to see if you have what it takes to get into the industry? Curious how to break into the industry? Want to learn how to network and grow your industry connections? Reserve a mentor today and get the answers you need!

Future plans for GSO include adding more disciplines for WeMake, including VFX, Animation, Character Art, and more. These are all included once you have purchased the WeMake course. We’re also catering to our friends outside of the games industry; Enterprise developers such as those working in film, VR, visualization, manufacturing, and science who need to get the most out of UE4 technology can take advantage of our Enterprise Courseware.

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What Now?

If you’d like to know more about GSO and our educational efforts, you can check out our main page, our WeMake course, or reserve a AAA mentor today!

Want to know more about us and what makes developers tick? Check out our game developer podcast, Game Dev Unchained! We have a new podcast every Tuesday, and provide interviews with some of the biggest talent in the games industry as we tackle real topics like Burnout with Diablo 3 Game Director Jay Wilson and How to Win Over Recruiters with Jim Rivers. Plus, we approach a wide variety of relevant topics, including talking to Lead Environment Artist Nelson Plumey from Treyarch about how to stay fit while crunching on Call of Duty Black Ops III.

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No matter where you’re at on the road to becoming a gaming industry professional, we hope that Game School Online can be a valuable resource for you on your journey. Thanks for taking the time to learn about GSO! We hope to see you online!

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