Much like a video game developer tests an emerging product, Northwestern State University professor Jason Powell is searching for bugs and fixes this summer in the Computer Information Systems program’s latest course — CIS 4200 Game Development.
NSU offered the game development course for the first time this summer, and Powell aims to mold the class into a permanent CIS elective in the near future.
“The course came about because a lot of students expressed interest in game development,” Powell said. “Current NSU students and potential students at recruiting events asked about a game development course because they heard some other universities were offering courses if not concentrations in game development.
“This is an exploratory course. We’re going to be learning and experimenting — discovering a lot of things.”
Powell projects the course to be offered again in Spring 2018 and Summer 2018, and then be included as an elective in one regular semester and likely every summer.
Students interested in enrolling need to have an idea for a game they will strive to develop over the duration of the semester
“I don’t ask them many questions about their game because the information is proprietary — it’s their work and their copyright,” Powell explains. “The first step is project planning — something that all industries tell us is important for students to have.
“The student plans out the entire semester themselves, and then I hold them to their deadlines.”
Powell said it’s not likely that a students will finish developing an entire game in one semester, but he’s looking for students to be creative and plan and execute a project while having fun diving into game development.
“It’s real-world situations, it comes to planning a project and then revising that plan if a student can’t complete it,” Powell said. “Students will use skills like programming, creativity, user interface, marketing, constructing a narrative and deal with legal issues like copyright.
“Developing a video game requires working in a multi-disciplinary environment with skills from programming to graphic design. Employers like CIS people with technical skills, but they also want people who can relate to and work with others as well as be creative.”
Powell leaned on professors in graphic design, marketing, business law and English when developing the course.
Students will also submit tutorials on concepts they learned to aid current and future students, building a foundation of information after a few semesters.
The class also leads into an augmented/virtual reality course Powell is hoping to add in the future.
The class will use Unity 3D and C Sharp programming language software.
“Students will see that it’s easy to get started on something with this software because it takes care of a lot of the game physics for you,” Powell said. “The most important thing is for students to have fun with it.”
For information on Northwestern State’s Computer Information Systems program, visit cis.nsula.edu.