3D Game Development: September Update

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The ideaSpark gaming course is delivered in two parts this school year. During the fall semester, students are learning the basics in programming and game development. They will learn to create 3D characters and games starring their characters. With the basics under their belt, students will have more creative freedom in the spring semester to create their own unique 3D game, with support from their mentors and teammates.

What are students creating this month? 
Students started by creating 3D shapes like a sphere, cube and cylinder in Javascript, a popular programming language. Then, they learned to combine these shapes into characters, or avatars in gaming speak. Students can now control the avatar’s movements and will soon create a ‘world’ for the avatar to exist in.

How did they create and animate the avatar?
Yes, math was involved! Basic geometry and artistry are used to create the shapes that make up each student pair’s avatar. To give a 3D effect, students learn to position avatars on an x, y, z coordinates plane. We also introduce programming concepts like variables and functions, which help students write code once and use it repeatedly in their game program. It’s also  important to note that students are using coding tools that professionals use every day, like an integrated development environment (or IDE). 

What new skills are students developing?
By working in pairs, students grow in their ability to communicate and problem solve with another person. They are able to exercise their creative and artistic side, while working their left-side logical brain. Students also gain experience using programming basics that are common across any language or project.

Why are we teaching game development?
It’s hard not to find a kid (or adult) who is not passionate about games. We knew this course would keep students engaged and would offer a fun, creative project for them to share with others. (“Play my game!”). Did you also know that game design and development is a popular area of study at many universities, including UT Dallas, and a fast-growing career? In fact, over 30 gaming companies call Dallas home, including Gearbox Software and Zynga, maker of Words with Friends. Ultimately, the computer science and 21st century skills students learn in this course will help them success in any career or field of study.

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