Sam Houston State University’s computer animation classes in the art department are rapidly attracting attention from students. A new degree in computer animation is being offered, and students have the opportunity to experience hands-on video game designing.
Assistant professor David Dawson is a video game art designer and is lending his skills to teach an advanced course in computer animation. Geoff Melon of Vicarious Visions is an expert in his field and fellow designer and will be assisting Dawson with lectures. Melon’s lectures will be recorded while he is working in his studio.
“It’s a new approach. We’re hoping it works. It’s kind of exciting. It’s to kick off the BFA in animation,” Dawson said.
The lectures will be broadcast to students to show how he works in his studios. Dawson will answer questions, and Melon will help critique students’ assignments via Web cams and Web sites.
The advanced course is ideal for graduating students since they will have already taken the introductory course to computer animation and has software knowledge. Some of the research will include actually playing video games to gain an understanding of styles and graphics. This is not a blow-off class for eager gamers, though.
“It’s definitely not for pleasure’s sake; it’s research. They’ll look for how the texture was painted,” Dawson said. “It’s going to be quite a bit of work.”
Dawson has designed game art for the past 10 years and has worked on the characters, buildings and concept art on video games for Nintendo and Play Station 2. Two examples include Maximum Force and Duck Dodgers. Before the world of Nintendo and Play Station, he designed the art in arcade games. He’s already been working at Sam Houston for two semesters and has high hopes for his students.
“I hope one day they’ll be interacting with a lead artist at a game company and deal with someone in the industry, not just a professor,” Dawson said.
By the end of the semester, students will have their own games to run through with the help of game engine Unreal Editor (put out by Epic). From there, they should be prepared for the fast-paced world of video games.