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Rice receives high score for game design

By Hallie Jordan     3/18/10 7:00pm

Computer gaming - usually a top procrastination activity - is now a productive endeavor for Rice students. Rice earned a spot in the Princeton Review and GamePro magazine's top 50 schools for computer game design. Computer Science Professor Joe Warren (Sid Richardson '83) started the program 10 years ago with the class COMP 460: Advanced Computer Graphics. The Computer Science Department also offers a freshman gaming class, COMP 160, and the Visual and Dramatic Arts Department offers a 3-D modeling class, ARTS 102.

"I decided on a lark to teach a senior-level class where everyone would build a game," Warren said. "We had a great time and the students actually learned a lot."

Game design is a collaboration between VADA and the Computer Science Department and includes students from both departments, Warren said.

"It's an interesting experience for both the artists and programmers because there is communication that has to take place," Warren said. "Computer science students must learn to talk to those who are nontechnical, and the artist has to understand how to deal with technical things."

The game design classes teach a lot more than programming and technique, Warren said. "Collaboration between many students from different backgrounds is very important, and teaches students life lessons," he said.

"People learn skills that you really use in real life," Warren said. "You have to be able to talk to others and convince others that your ideas are good. You have to be able to be a communicator and work in a team."

Criteria for the rankings included the quality of the curriculum, faculty credentials, facilities and infrastructure, university financial aid and post-graduation career opportunities, according to the Princeton Review Web site.

Students create a variety of 2- and 3-D games from different genres, such as puzzle, racing, and fighting games.

"We strive for interesting and innovative games with professional design elements," Warren said

Dustin Bachrach, a member of the class, has always enjoyed playing video games.

"My favorite part of programming games is letting people play," Bachrach, a Sid Richardson College junior, said. "It is fun to see our game concepts click with people."

Jesus Cortez Jr., also a member of the class, worked with Jones College junior Skyler Johnson to build Busker, a game similar to Guitar Hero.

"It is much more musically accurate than Guitar Hero," Cortez Jr., a Jones College sophomore, said. "I love playing guitar and I love playing Guitar Hero, so I wanted to make a more realistic game."

Rice's program is still small and students should not expect to graduate as professionals in game design technique, Warren said.

"I'm not that focused on commercializing the games," he said. "That's not the point."

Warren has been playing video games since he got his first game console, the Atari 2600, in the '80s while he was a student at Rice.

"The reason I do this is because I enjoy it - it's fun," Warren said. "It's fun building the games. I think that's why the students come. It's great fun building a game and getting the chance to see it and play it.

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