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Animation, gaming program at NHTI gets students to next level

  • Matt Shumway demonstrates his and Dan Stefanski's game that uses a Kinect to determine the player's arm placement during NHTI's animations and graphic game degree's  "show of games" on Friday, May 9, 2014 where seniors presented their final projects.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Matt Shumway demonstrates his and Dan Stefanski's game that uses a Kinect to determine the player's arm placement during NHTI's animations and graphic game degree's "show of games" on Friday, May 9, 2014 where seniors presented their final projects.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Lukas Kuligowski demonstrates his classmate Matt Shumway's game called "Kung Hue Ninja" during NHTI's animations and graphic game degree's  "show of games" on Friday, May 9, 2014 where seniors presented their final projects. Shumway's game featured a red ninja and a blue ninja battling each other and when players wear the tinted glasses, they can only see their ninja, making it difficult to attack their opponent.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Lukas Kuligowski demonstrates his classmate Matt Shumway's game called "Kung Hue Ninja" during NHTI's animations and graphic game degree's "show of games" on Friday, May 9, 2014 where seniors presented their final projects. Shumway's game featured a red ninja and a blue ninja battling each other and when players wear the tinted glasses, they can only see their ninja, making it difficult to attack their opponent.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Matt Shumway demonstrates his and Dan Stefanski's game that uses a Kinect to determine the player's arm placement during NHTI's animations and graphic game degree's  "show of games" on Friday, May 9, 2014 where seniors presented their final projects.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Lukas Kuligowski demonstrates his classmate Matt Shumway's game called "Kung Hue Ninja" during NHTI's animations and graphic game degree's  "show of games" on Friday, May 9, 2014 where seniors presented their final projects. Shumway's game featured a red ninja and a blue ninja battling each other and when players wear the tinted glasses, they can only see their ninja, making it difficult to attack their opponent.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

Visitors to NHTI on Friday were given a sneak peak of a video game called The Outlanders. It featured archers, barbarians, three-dimensional battle landscapes and, occasionally, blood.

Graphics in the multiplayer game were crisp; its characters had multiple attack moves and the musical score was original.

It featured many industry standards, but don’t expect to see the game on store shelves any time soon.

“There are no plans to market the game,” said senior Colin Hatch, one of nine students completing NHTI’s Animation and Graphic Game Programming associate degree program this year. Friday’s “Show of Games” featured student presentations for senior projects.

After graduating, all students will either pursue a bachelor’s degree in a related major or find employment in the growing gaming or computer science fields. Two students have been accepted to the prestigious DigiPen Institute of Technology, a global leader in education and research in computer interactive technologies, in Washington state.

“It’s a tough school. You get out of there and you’re talking $100,000-a-year jobs. That’s just how good the school is,” said Rodney Fellafelice, professor of animation and graphic game programming.

A sampling of gaming and graphics companies that recently offered jobs to graduates includes Disney Animation Studios, Oracle and gaming companies Blizzard Entertainment and Sucker Punch, a subsidiary of Sony.

Matt Shumway, who won the program’s outstanding senior award, demonstrated his game, Kung Hue Ninjas, on Friday. Wearing stereoscopic 3-D glasses, two players controlling a red or blue ninja threw ninja stars at the opposing player. Making it difficult was the fact players could only see the ninja they controlled. “The glasses filter out the colors on the screen. Each player sees the screen differently,” Shumway said.

“We do the technical stuff related to the games,” program coordinator Terry Simpkin said. “Even though you’re seeing some art, these guys are not contemplating going into the industry as an artist.”

The business of game development in the United States has passed $25 billion in annual sales, according to NHTI. More than half, $15 billion, comes via software sales. The game development industry is growing, and the NHTI program prepares students for a wide range of industry applications such as simulation development in the medical fields, educational training and assessment, military training and deployment, advertising, entertainment, and digital media.

“Thinking back, we would never have thought we would be at this moment right now,” Hatch said.

Completion of the program requires a website portfolio used to display individual and team projects. The portfolio work is used for job and college applications, Simpkin said.

“Usually about two-thirds will go on to a bachelor’s degree. The last thirds are getting jobs,” professor Greg Walek said.

NHTI built the gaming and animation program on computer science, with an added emphasis on computer programming and interactive animated applications.

“This is serious programming,” Simpkin said.

The capstone project presented Friday was completed using industry standard platforms, with all coding, networking, character creation and music done by students. “The tools they are using are an upgrade of what I was using at Raven, just to give you a context of what you’re about to see,” said Walek, referring to Raven Software, gaming company.

The program attracts about 40 new students every year and has between 60 and 70 students enrolled, Simpkin said.

The curriculum includes courses in programming languages, advanced data structures, database design, math, physics and industry standard graphical engines.

“Not all courses are necessarily focused on games,” Dellafelice said.

Not all students were math standouts in high school, but courses like Dellafelice’s math and physics for game programmers uses real-world applications. “We basically turn a parabola into a baseball traveling through space. We turn math into reality,” Dellafelice said.

(Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or iwilson@cmonitor.com.)

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