PI: Sam Nielson
Co-PI’s: Seth Holladay and Justin Kunz
Evaluation of how well the academic objectives of the proposal were met
We set out with the objectives to create a fully-working slice of a video game, to develop art pieces for students’ portfolio pieces, to help students develop leadership and team skills, and give our students a chance to collaboratively work out the interlocking bits of knowledge necessary for something as complicated as a game project. In addition, we hoped the project would help students develop professional relationships, and create mentoring opportunities for students on future projects. The project hit all of these objectives and even exceeded in some areas. The most important target was to have the students bring their various abilities together to create something better than they could have individually, while learning the dynamics and downfalls of a collaborative team. In this way, this project provided experiences for the students that we can not provide in any of our classes. The funding provided by the grant was especially useful because it allowed all the menial and trying aspects of the project to move forward so that this collaboration wouldn’t grind to a halt. The completion of Relic Hunter and its success in these objectives relied on many elements like this falling into place, and it could not have gone much better than it did in those respects.
The students created a full level of the game Relic Hunter, including design, programming, and art. The game was completed on time and showed at some larger game conferences, including E3 and Game Developer’s Conference.
Part of our objective was to develop relationships between the professional world of games and the university. During the process, Riot Games and Blizzard, two of the most respected studios in the gaming world, took notice of the work we did on the project and provided direct mentoring for our students throughout the process.The success of the professional mentoring from these studios and the contacts within multiple studios made by students who were hired afterward, gives us hope that this is just the beginning of many similarly successful collaborations.
Evaluation of the mentoring environment
Students were chosen to direct and produce the game, and they took care of nearly all of the decisionmaking on the project. This freed up the faculty to both take a wider view of the problems the project faced, as well as mentor individual students through the process without interfering with how they filled their varied roles. It also gave the students in leadership positions great opportunities for valuable experience. The students were divided into multiple teams: game design, mechanics, engineering, concept, 3-Dimensional art, and music. We had faculty mentors from computer science, illustration, and animation, which provided a good variety of perspectives for the students. In addition, we had professional mentors from multiple studios to help the students with issues that were outside of the experience of the faculty.
List of students who participated and what academic deliverables they have produced or it is anticipated they will produce
We had a great cross-disciplinary collaboration on the project, as the above chart shows. Students who
were hired to work on the project to fill various needs were Evan Bryan, Dallin Blankenship, Joe
Gremlich, Matthew Johnson, Henry Lisowsky, Taylor Jordan, Andrew Putnam, and Darren Walton.
Description of the results/findings of the project
We created a finished slice of a game, which was entered into competitions and also used in individual students’ demo reels or job portfolios. At E3, which is arguably the most prestigious game-oriented conference in the world, Relic Hunter was submitted to the student game competition, and was selected as one of five finalists out of hundreds of entries. In addition to the success at E3, multiple students who worked on the project were hired by game studios such as Disney Interactive, Extra Credits, Microsoft Hololens, FXVille, and Wildworks. These jobs were in part a direct result of the experience and portfolio work the students developed on Relic Hunter.
Description of how the budget was spent
The grant funding was used to hire students for the more difficult and mundane aspects of the project, to purchase research examples, to purchase electronic drawing tablets for the artists working on the project, and on lab set-up materials. The final costs differed slightly from our projections because some of the software and travel costs were generously covered with department money, but all of the grant funding was reallocated to helping the students create and promote their project. The approximate breakdown of costs was around 70% for student wages, and 30% for the other materials and needs.