August 15, 2018

UAT Digital Video Degree

From Game Dev Student to Game Developer

We recently invited UAT alumnus and ArenaNet 3D Environment/Prop Artist William Tate to share his career story with our game development students.

UAT Alumnus Will Tate

 

We complied Will’s top career advice for game artists and developers below:

  1. Set realistic expectations

“Look at the front page of ArtStation. Is your work of the same quality? This is who your competition is,” Will said. He added that comparing your work to your peers is important but pointed out that college is a microcosm. He made clear that the real competition is “professional artists like me and some kid in China who has been making game art every day since he was 13.”

Image: Front Page of ArtStation 08/08/18

 

  1. Get Hungry and Stay Hungry

When students first arrive on campus, they bring the enthusiasm. They’re up all night, tinkering in Substance Designer and Unreal Engine 4. But when the reality of what it takes to succeed in the game industry sets in, it is easy to lose motivation.

Will recommends looking up portfolios of artists who work at your target companies. Find them on LinkedIn. Analyze their career paths. How did they get to where they are now?

Think of your career like a project. “Bite off more than you can chew, and then take another bite.”

Prepare for late nights, reworks and lots of rejection. Will put in 25 hours a week on his portfolio on top of a full-time job.

 

  1. Own the Fundamentals

Artists who spend the time to master the fundamentals will create undoubtedly create the most polished, game-ready work. When Will reviews portfolios, he pays close attention to color theory, perspective, lighting and rendering.

Polish makes all the difference in the world. “When someone presses the space bar to make your character jump, it better feel as seamless as Super Mario Odyssey,” Will said.

 

  1. Engage with Your Peers

Will learned a lot in his classes, especially Game Production Studio, which mimics real-world game studios. He learned how to be a developer by working on teams with his friends. “Use their motivation and ambition to fuel your own,” Will recommended.

Capitalize on networking events and workshops conducted by local gamer groups and indie studies. For example, we are super lucky to have Game CoLab, IGDA Phoenix and the Game On Expo here in Arizona.

 

  1. Complete Your Projects

Employers look for discipline and consistency. Students should always be working on projects and seeing them through fruition.

Will’s steps for creating a game-ready portfolio piece:

  1. Gather references
  2. Create an asset list
  3. Set a timeline
  4. Stick to the timeline
  5. Polish
  6. Repeat steps 4-5 until completion

Cacti by Will Tate

 

  1. Seek Feedback

Build meaningful relationships with other devs. Send them your work. Ask for feedback. Remember, no one owes you feedback; you have to go out and get it.

“Critique is a cheat code to making something look better.”

Look into Facebook groups AKA “the wild west of game dev feedback.”

 

  1. Compete

Participate in challenges, game jams and festivals.

For example, Will competed in a Riot Games environment art competition and placed third. He didn’t land an internship with Riot like he wanted, but he did gain recognition and walked away with a job offer from Social Point, a Spanish mobile gaming company that noticed his work.

 

  1. Be Adaptive

Like many students, Will wanted to work at Blizzard. He spent hours developing portfolio pieces specifically designed for Blizzard. Then one of his mentors told him to “go somewhere else for a bit.” He gained tons of hands-on experience at smaller indie studios.

“Don’t be afraid to take on opportunities that you may not have originally considered,” he advised.

Pro tip: Seattle, Austin and LA are friendly to recent grad game developers, and Phoenix’s indie game dev scene continues to grow.

 

  1. Be Humble

Will knows an amazing developer who got fired because he refused to do anything about his body odor. He also knows several young developers who boast about being the best. He advises checking your ego at the door. A lot of developers have been making games longer than some young devs have been alive.

“Treat everyone like a human,” Will said. And once you’ve made it, give back to students and young developers. Share advice. Give feedback. Build community.

You can view all of Will’s advice and the Q&A session on the UAT Game Studios YouTube channel.

Want to learn how to create beautiful game art like Will? Check out our Game Art & Animation degree program.

Making Mobile Apps for Medical Students

Garrett Reuscher gets a kick out of surprising dental hygienists when he refers to his teeth by their number. Garrett has picked up a lot of medical terminology since he started working as an educational applications developer at a Western University of Health Sciences university, where he develops games and simulations to train medical students.

Garrett primarily works with Unity, a tool he learned while earning two bachelor’s degrees in game programming and advancing computer science at the University of Advancing Technology. He works with a team to make apps and games for a variety of platforms, including WebGL, mobile phones, the HTC Vive, the AR platform Vuforia and the Microsoft HoloLens. He also gets to experiment with exiting emerging technologies such as haptic gloves and 3D printers.

UAT Alumnus Garrett Reuscher

“No matter what project I’m working on, I always learn new technical skills and new tidbits of medical knowledge,” Garrett said. While working on his most recent eye simulator project, Garrett learned that the eye has six different muscles. The project, a browser application that emulates the muscles and nerves that control the human eye, helps students understand how each muscle affects eye movement.

What’s next for Garrett? He is hoping for a virtual reality project: “Either a program for identifying surgical tools or an app to view Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) files in VR.” He also makes time for his passion projects, including a Pokémon fan game and strategy board game.

Concept Art from Garrett’s Board Game Project WARP!

Garrett gained a lot of technical and programming skills during his time at UAT, and he learned a lot about teamwork and SCRUM in his game production studio classes. “Having courses that are structured like real-world work environments is the next best thing to an internship,” Garrett said. But he also appreciated the general education classes. “I’ve had a much easier time with public speaking and presentations after all of the professional development courses and workshops available at UAT.”

Garrett’s advice for current students? “Push yourself to do extra. Don’t stagnate. And make connections.” He remembers professors and staff members encouraging him to network while he was in school. He was hesitant at first, but then realized it works.

“Within the first six months at my job, I recommended one of my fellow UAT grads to come work with me. Had we never met, he might still be job searching.”

Do you want to learn how to make mobile apps and games that shape the future of education like Garrett? You can learn more about our Game Programming degree program here.

Demand for Robotics Engineers Is Growing, and It Pays Well

In the depths of the Antarctic Ocean, robotic scientists deployed autonomous robots where no human has gone before with the goals of uncovering the speed of ice loss, obtaining samples of “salinity and temperature, oxygen and some optical properties of the water, [and predicting] future sea level rise,” according to CNN.

The field of robotics stretches far beyond the lair of the Emperor Penguin. Roboticists utilize emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to create smart robots that provide companionship to the elderly, help with search and rescue, crawl into small spaces, fix airplane engines, cook your food, entertain humans with their acrobatics and move potted plants in and out of the sun.

Robotics is hardware, but it’s also software, embedded systems programming, problem solving, design and debugging multiple iterations,” said Dr. Jill Coddington, Program Champion of Robotics & Embedded Systems, Advancing Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence and Web Design, of the University of Advancing Technology (UAT).

“The definition of a robot, and what robotics encompasses, is huge. Your little autonomous vacuum that runs around your house and vacuums for you is a robot. A slot machine is a robot. The field of robotics is expanding so much, it covers more than it ever before,” Dr. Coddington said.

What the field lacks is the talent to support its exponential growth.

According to Sokanu, the robotics engineer job market is expected to increase by 6.4 percent between 2016 and 2026. And over the next 10 years, the U.S. alone will need 12,500 engineers in the field. “The demand for automation and robotics will continue to fuel these high paying jobs, and we expect this to continue for the next 20 years,” Coddington said.

So why aren’t more people jumping at this opportunity? Coddington believes it’s a misperception of one’s skillset and that the ability to enter a field that is beyond their reach. In reality, “The only barrier to entry of robotics is education,” Coddington explained. “Because we need so many roboticists, once you have that education, companies know you have the basics, so you can get an entry level job. That company will train you on the specifics of what they are doing.”

Dr. Jill Coddington

Coddington said the type of person usually drawn to the field of robotics is a detail-oriented problem solver who is good at design and iteration and likes to tinker. If you think about it, every robot needs to be programmed, and every robot needs someone to maintain, care, iterate, build and design them.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a robotics engineer with a Bachelor of Science degree earns an average of more than $81,000 per year, and a robotics technician with an associate degree earns an average of $60,000 per year. Having experience in the field of robotics or at a manufacturing company can elevate your opportunities for positions, and the skillsets easily transfer from one employer to the next.

Coddington also debunked the notion that robots will take all of our jobs.

“The robotics industry has found that robots may replace some jobs, but they are mostly manual, dangerous or super high heat jobs. And we’re finding that the jobs we are gaining are the managers of the of the robots, where you care for or fix the robot. We’re getting higher paid jobs because of the robots,” Coddington said.

UAT Student William Bryant & Murphy the Robot

Taking the leap to enter the field of robotics takes curiosity, initiative and passion.

“The sky isn’t even the limit. We use robots to fix our satellites and explore the deep sea. Robots are becoming more pervasive in our lives. We’re going to see more and more robots all the time.”

UAT offers online and in-person Robotics and Embedded Systems degree classes that teach you real-world skills needed for a position in the robotics field from day one. Students need little to no knowledge in robotics to start their education and will gain hands-on exposure to the latest technologies used in the current job market.

If you’re curious about programming, electrical engineering, digital maker or fabrication, UAT will help you take your skills set to the next level. You can learn more about earning your Robotics and Embedded Systems degree at UAT here.

Wearing Many Game Development Hats

When Austin Shamp started playing and making video games, he never imagined his passion for game development would lead him to the world of professional bull riding. As the Head of Operations for 8 to Glory, the official game of the Professional Bull Riders (PBR), Austin oversees marketing, monetization, post-launch maintenance and all communications with PBR. “Essentially, I am a producer. Three Gates is a relatively small studio, so I wear many hats,” Austin said.

UAT Alumnus Austin Shamp

Austin earned his bachelor’s degree in game design and master’s degree in game production in management at the University of Advancing Technology, where he worked on multiple mobile and PC titles. He blogged. He presented at the Southwest Video Game Showcase. He networked. He interned a lot.

Video: 8 to Glory, PBR Investment LLC

“Nothing can prepare you for a career as a game developer than literally making games,” Austin said. UAT Game Studios gave Austin the opportunity to create awesome and not-so-awesome games. “The safety net to experiment, fail and learn from the failure over and over again is incredibly helpful,” he said. It usually costs real money to make video games, so the university setting provides a safe space for practice.

“Learning to hit that development speed bump, recover and move forward as a team without totally imploding is super valuable in the real world.”

Austin’s multiple internship experiences and commitment to growing his network while still in school set him up for success. He worked on diverse projects from IoT devices to enterprise applications, and he crushed the conference scene. “I was essentially a shoe-in at my first job as a producer for 8 to Glory mobile at the original publisher because my mentor was in charge of hiring.” When that publisher went under, Three Gates kept Austin on the team because of his knowledge and passion for the project. (He is also a really cool dude.)

Currently, most of Austin’s time goes into Three Gate’s first console game launch. (More info coming soon!) But he also makes time to give back to the Arizona indie dev community and grow his side hustle. As the Community Manager and Assistant Program Director of Game CoLab, Austin fosters a collaborative environment for game developers to create, learn, show off and change the world through games right here in Arizona. Austin founded BattleAxe Interactive in 2017 to help indie studios around the world monetize and market their games effectively.

Austin’s advice for aspiring game developers? Find your passion and do your homework. Austin encourages students to routinely read through job descriptions, identify their ideal role and then focus on improving the skills that they are missing. “For example, if you want to be a level designer, but most job postings require strong art skills that you don’t currently have, go practice your art,” he said.

“Structure your education plan and supplementary practice around the skills required for your target jobs. If you do that, your dream job will be obtainable.”

Want to harness your passion for game development and prepare for an exciting career making video games? Apply today!

How does Blockchain Impact Privacy?

Blockchain believers hail the distributed ledger technology as a transformative means to enhance trust and transparency. But how does it impact privacy?

Cyber Security Expert and UAT Adjunct Professor Damian Chung empowers his students to develop blockchain solutions for real-world problems. Despite his enthusiasm for blockchain technology, he still preaches caution:

“Companies looking to implement blockchain solutions will have to consider how much anonymity and privacy is required so that the proper architecture is designed. The more restrictive the environment, the lower the user adoption rate. Naturally, a permissioned blockchain would have less nodes but contain better privacy. Even in a privately managed blockchain, would you trust the company who controls access to the system?”

Image: Oasis Labs

Several startups that aim to solve the blockchain privacy problem are popping up. For example, Oasis Labs recently garnered $45 million in VC funding. Their mission is to create a “privacy-first cloud computing platform on blockchain.” They have already began testing their ideas by initiating new privacy safeguards at Uber. Developers can apply now to join the Oasis Labs private “testnet.”

Image: Bitcoin

Bitcoin, the world’s first decentralized digital currency, enjoys a sort of pseudonymous privacy. Web merchants leak data about purchases. Online wallet service providers remain prime targets for hackers. Government entities seek to increase regulatory requirements on exchanges, which could open access to users’ personal information. Professor Chung breaks it down:

“Bitcoin transactions are easily searchable because the blockchain is publicly accessible. The identities of individuals may be hidden by use of a public crypto key, but it is not impossible to draw a connection to a real identity. As soon as that real person goes to exchange a cryptocurrency for hard dollars, they have to reveal themselves.”

He poses this question to his students: “Should you trust anyone even when everything is encrypted?”

If you want to develop blockchain solutions that protect people’s privacy, check out the University of Advancing Technology’s cyber security degree program here.