Carnegie Mellon University School of Art
Term: Fall 2023
Course number: 60213
Location: CFA 303 + discord
Days / time: TBD
Professor: Paolo Pedercini (paolop)
Office: School of art 419A – 4th Floor
Office hours: By appointment
Game Studio: Real Time 3D is a hands-on intermediate course focused on immersive environments, world building, character creation, and real time experiences at the boundaries of gaming.
On a conceptual level we’ll look at practices within digital art and independent game development: virtual architecture and sculpture, walking simulators, avatar-based performances, and other playable media.
On a technical level the course will introduce you to 3D modeling for real time applications (using Blender) and game engine workflows (using Unity) as a scaffolding for advanced courses.
Students will work individually. Experience with game engines and 3D modeling is not required.
Each of the units will include a lecture/brainstorming, some technical tutorials, a warm-up workshops, self-directed work time, and a critique. Week by week schedule here (subject to change).
Assignment: Create a virtual sculpture by using 3D models found online. Look for mundane objects with baggage, history and built-in symbolism.
Speed project: Glitching hour. You have one hour to find an ordinary 3D object online and radically transform it.
Technical topics: finding objects online, clean up, basic manipulation, modifiers, sculpting, materials, Blender to Unity pipeline.
Assignment: Model an archeological item from another planet, dimension, or alternate history.
Can you avoid sci-fi or fantasy cliches? Can you imagine a world around it? Does the object suggest its own use?
Speed project: make a series of 3 abstract, or semi abstract, models. Give them titles. Are they interesting from all angles? Do they have a distinct silhouette? Are they engine-ready?
Technical Topics: box modeling in Blender, basic UV unwrapping, texturing, texture painting.
Assignment: Design an avatar/costume for a very specific circumstance. It has to be riggable as a humanoid.
Speed projects: Create a base mesh for a non-normative/conforming/stereotypical body type. Design a non-humanoid character to be animated by mocap data.
Technical Topics: character design, auto-rigging, character animations.
Speed project: starting from a found model, create a metamorphosis using blendshapes.
Assignment: Model an attention-grabbing virtual mask to be controlled with live capture. Record a short performance for it (eg: non verbal, skit, lip-sync). Post it on Tiktok.
Topics: blend shapes, face capture.
Speed project: mood blockout, block out a minimalistic environment starting from a mood-setting prompt.
Assignment: Create an expressive environment you can explore in first person. It can be a virtual monument, an art installation, or a narrative space.
Topics: level design, environmental storytelling, Unity input, blockout tool, terrain tools.
Speed project: parcour blockout, starting from a template, create a simple obstacle course game.
Assignment: Create a “high concept” virtual playground/sandbox with some form of interactivity or simulated behavior.
Topics: Unity scripting, physics, events, playtesting.
Starting from your most successful
Selected works from Fall 2022:
Upon completion of the course you will be able to:
- Scope a project according to limited time and resources
- Use game engines and 3D modeling tools for game and non game projects
- Identify promising concepts and accept failures and dead ends
- Contextualize your own work within contemporary cultural practices
- Develop your personal style and artistic identity
- Add at least one piece to your creative portfolio
-A laptop. You don’t need a powerful gaming computer but consider we won’t be working in a school lab.
-The charger is not optional.
-A 3 button mouse. You can’t work in 3D without it.
Software: all the programs used in this class are free or provided by the school. You may have to purchase some individual licenses and subscriptions to certain games or plugins depending on your project. The overall expenses should not exceed $100.
Qualitative feedback during in-class critiques is the most important form of evaluation and you will get plenty of it, but we live in a quantified society so grades need to happen.
Final grade composition
The unit score includes assignment, exercises, and class participation.
In addition to occasional reading you are expected to play at least one short game every week and two longer games throughout the semester and write a short report. The titles are related to the class topics and are mostly free or cost a few dollars. The longer games can be around $20.
I’ll ask you to read and sign a little contract. We will discuss it and amend it on the first day of class.
My well being come first, if I am sick I should stay at home.
I’m allowed to miss 4 sessions over the course of the semester. Attending online counts as absence.
I will inform the professor of my absences via email. No details are needed since there is no distinction between excused and unexcused absences.
If I miss more than 4 sessions I will consult with my academic advisor, the office of disability, or the Division of Student Affairs (which can access medical record, verify the absences, and recommend additional support).
I am responsible to catch up with the class, and to look into the material that I have missed.
I expect most of the class material to be on this website, and understand that many class activities can’t be experienced asynchronously or online.
I am aware that repeated absences may trigger additional scrutiny from the school administration.
I will engage actively in discussions and critiques.
I expect the professor to adopt a variety of critique formats to account for different personality types.
* Net addiction
I value face-to-face interaction, so I commit to not use phones and computers during lectures, critiques, and discussions, ie. any time somebody is speaking to the class.
* Computer habits
I understand that using my personal laptop will require more responsibilities on my side:
-I will disable all push notifications from social media unrelated to class
-I will reboot my system before class and close all the applications
-I will bring and use a mouse when it’s required
-I will bring and use my charger all the time
-I will make sure I have enough room in my hard drive
-I will make sure I have all the required applications installed
-If unable to meet these basic requirement I will use the lab computers
I will use the class Discord to keep up with asynchronous communications, announcements, and questions that could be of general interest.
To keep a proper record, I will use the CMU email for personal communication with the professor.
I will negotiate late assignment submissions with the professor at least 24 hours before the deadline. I understand it will have to be justified and will not be automatically granted.
I will be present and participate to critiques even if I don’t have my work.
I will be in class before the official beginning of the session.
I understand that late arrivals may affect my grade: arriving over 10 minutes late more than 3 times = 10% grade reduction.
I am entitled to a one-to-one meeting with the professor for feedback and general check-in every semester.
*Plagiarism and “collaborations”
I acknowledge that the concept of plagiarism is somewhat elusive in digital media as we working with open source tools and libraries, remixing and building upon the work of a multitude of people.
However I will not outsource the class work to other people nor plagiarize assignments and exercises from my classmates.
These statement apply to both student and instructors:
We will speak from our own experiences (make ‘I’ statements).
We will respect differences; we’re all privileged in some ways.
We agree to critique ideas, not people.
We will not assume the identity of others, nor ask individuals to speak for their perceived social group.
We will hold this as a brave space, where we take risks, be vulnerable and hold each accountable with love and respect.
We agree to have only ‘one mic’: we will listen respectfully without interrupting.
We agree to practice active listening: when someone is speaking, we will listen without also thinking about how we are going to respond/rebut.
We may share what we learn but will keep others’ stories and personal experiences in confidence.
We will ‘move up, move up’: those who tend to speak a lot will ‘move up’ their listening; those who tend
to hold back and listen will ‘move up’ their speaking.
It is my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well served by this course, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is my intent to present activities that accommodate and value a diversity of gender, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and culture. I will gladly honor your request to address you by your preferred name and gender pronoun. I commit to make individual arrangements to address disabilities or religious needs (e.g. religious events in conflict with class meetings). Please advise me of these preferences and needs early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my plans and records. Debate and free exchange of ideas is encouraged but I will not tolerate harassment, i.e. a pattern of behavior directed against a particular individual with the intent of humiliating or intimidating.
Being in an art school, you should expect to be exposed to content that challenges your moral, ethical, and aesthetic values. In case of extremely graphic content I will warn the class in advance, but if you have a history of PTSD please let me know privately if there are types of content that are known to act as trauma triggers for you.
Collaborative work and projects also fulfilling other classes’ requirements are encouraged as long as it makes sense, and the other professors agree. Official university language: Take care of yourself. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress. All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful. If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at http://www.cmu.edu/counseling/. Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.
In order to attend class meetings in person, all students are expected to abide by all behaviors indicated by CMU policies, including any timely updates based on the current conditions.
Header image from Hohokum by Honeyslug and Richard Hogg