When was the last time you saw a developer’s motion- capture studio and it was painted with the colours and emblem of a local university? Well, that’s precisely how Houston’s TimeGate Studios, developer of the sci-fi shooter Section 8, has decorated its new facilities, which were built as a joint project between the studio and the University Of Houston. ?It’s a powerful symbol of the close ties between Texas’s game development community and educational institutions.
TimeGate’s senior leadership is also helping the university’s computer science department develop the curriculum for an upcoming game development master’s programme, as well as offering work experience in the form of large internship classes at its Sugar Land-based HQ. In return, the developer is able to use the mocap studio for its own commercial purposes.
“The motion-capture studio served as the classroom for this internship programme,” says Adel Chaveleh, TimeGate’s president and CEO. “Over the course of that semester [starting August 2011], they built an entire game and leveraged the motion capture for their project. But they were in the environment of a game studio, as opposed to a lab on campus, which I think adds a special edge.”
TimeGate president and CEO Adel Chaveleh (left) and BioWare Austin executive producer and VP of production Richard Vogel
Just as the building of a successful game requires extensive collaboration between a studio’s various disciplines, the building of a successful regional game industry requires equally close collaboration between game companies and the education system that’s feeding talent into the system. As such, the University Of Texas at Austin recently rolled out a game degree of its own. “I have been working with other people in the gaming community to establish a programme at UT for ten years, and finally it is now becoming a reality,” ?says Richard Vogel, BioWare Austin’s executive producer and VP of production, who sits on the programme’s advisory board. The first group of students to have that game design specialisation will graduate in 2013.
Texas A&M University’s department of visualisation takes a balanced approach, cultivating both artistic and technical skills in tandem. Its graduates go on to work in game and film studios all over the world. “We’re a bit different from other programmes,” says Viz Lab department head and associate professor Tim McLaughlin. “Many programmes have ?a computer science emphasis where art and aesthetics is minimised. Others have an art and design angle where tech and logic are a minor part. We treat them as equal parts across the board.”