Making the Game, Then Making the Grade
by The Guildhall


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Imagine standing before a group of game industry professionals explaining the concept and techniques behind your latest game project from the back story to how you used dynamic per pixel lighting and normal mapping to achieve the look you were going for. Now imagine that same roomful of pros actually playing your game, then telling you what was uber cool and explaining how to make it even better.

Recently at The Guildhall at SMU, more than 70 students experienced that thrill, presenting their games to 34 game development pros who came to the school specifically to review and critique their work. A key part of The Guildhall program, students work in teams to create three complete games during their 18-months at the school. They receive grades from their professors and then formally present their work to industry experts for review. With this level of scrutiny, graduates leave the program with professional-quality portfolios a must if you want to land a good job in the industry. According to students in the program, this game development and review process at The Guildhall is a primary reason they decided to attend the school.

Ryan Champ, a cohort one student gearing up for graduation in December, says the only thrill bigger than building your own game is the rush you get presenting it to pros from the industry. "Game review night is the most exciting thing about studying at The Guildhall," says Champ. "Our team missed many hours of sleep over the past six months to get everything done," he says, "so it felt incredible to stand up there presenting the final, polished version and hearing professional developers tell us they really liked it."

Ensemble's Paul Jaquays points out that the game project reviews aren't just exciting for the students. "Game reviews are often a developer's first contact with The Guildhall at SMU program," he explains, "and those professionals tend to become excited about what's going on at The Guildhall when they see firsthand the potential inherent in the program and its students." On top of that, he says the review sessions also provide an amazing 'scouting' opportunity for developers looking to check out future hires.

Industry professionals have been a vital part of The Guildhall program since it began in the fall of 2002 when pros such as Richard "Levelord" Gray (Ritual Entertainment), Tom Hall (Midway Games), Paul Jaquays (Ensemble Studios), and John Romero (Midway Games) met with SMU curriculum writers to create the foundations of the program. Since that time, many other notable game developers have gotten involved, including Graeme Devine (Ensemble Studios), Jason Manley (Massive Black), Randy Pitchford (Gearbox), and Sandy Petersen (Ensemble Studios). A selection of industry testimonials about The Guildhall at SMU is available on the school's website.

According to Ritual's Richard Gray, the two most important contributions industry leaders provide The Guildhall are establishing the curriculum that define the educational projects and then reviewing those projects at completion to give students feedback and further guidance.

"Making games is an intensely technological and highly creative endeavor and the skill sets required to make them are not something that can be simply learned on the streets as they were 10 or 20 years ago," says Gray.

"Today, people who want to make games professionally need a bonafide education," he says. Gray explains that The Guildhall helps insure students receive a cutting-edge education by involving actual game developers in the process. "You can't get better guidance than from the masters themselves!"

The Guildhall faculty also consists of expert game developers, recruited from top studios to ensure students have an intense, professional experience during their time at the school. The program offers three tracks of study that match the primary careers in the industry: art creation, level design and software development.

With demand high for artists, level designers, programmers, and others who create video games, The Guildhall at SMU has come along at the right time. The program has been getting significant national attention from Business Week and Newsweek to CNN Headline News and nearly 200 newspapers across the country.

For more information, visit The Guildhall online at http://guildhall.smu.edu/ or call 214-768-9950.

This is a sponsored article provided by The Guildhall staff and faculty.

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Date this article was posted to GameDev.net: 7/8/2004
(Note that this date does not necessarily correspond to the date the article was written)

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