DMA Central


Game Development: Conquering Whole New Worlds

Course: Game Development

DMA Instructor: James Taylor

Education: The Art Institute of Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh, PA (Major: Computer Animation)

Professional Profile: James Taylor is a well-established university instructor of 3D art and design, with heavy ties to the video game industry. After short stints working as a cel animator and a web designer, James joined the industry in 2000. During his decade of experience, his career has touched every aspect of the game-development pipeline. James has created art for  “Mortal Kombat,” and break-out franchises such as “Karaoke Revolution,” “Blitz the League,” and “NBA Ballers,” and directed the creation of projects like “Game Party 2” for the Wii. He’s also an in-demand speaker at industry events such as Microsoft’s XNA Conference and Midway Games Art Director’s Summit. James now instructs students in the Chicago area at both DePaul University and Columbia College – where he focuses on building the next generation of game artists.

DMA Campus Location: University of Chicago


According to James Taylor, video game development has gotten pretty unreal lately, in more ways than one. “This summer I’m excited to teach four classes that revolve around the game development process with Unreal 3,” says the instructor, who’s looking forward to another incredible summer teaching at Digital Media Academy’s Computer & Digital Arts Summer Camp.

So why is James so jazzed about Unreal 3?

Digital Media Academy’s very own James Taylor worked on the blockbuster video game, “Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe.”

“Epic developed the Unreal 3 technology specifically for use on the Xbox 360,” he explains. “It instantly became the standard for ‘next-generation’ consoles such as the 360 and the PS3. The Unreal 3 look was synonymous with next-gen, and the tools were well built and easy to use. It’s no wonder that companies desperately wanted the game engine, and it was widely adopted for development.”

And why does James think it’s so important for young people who want to learn video game development and get into the game industry to be sure they know how to use Unreal 3?

“Originally, Epic’s Unreal engine was just meant for first-person shooters – but now it’s showing up in fighting games, adventure games, wrestling games and even MMOs. Many of the developers in the industry now require a working knowledge of UE3.”

A required knowledge of UE3? Now, that’s a game-changer…especially when some video game summer camps don’t even offer intensive UE3 training, or can only deliver a watered-down course of study. DMA’s game development classes are taught by highly credentialed professionals, so students not only learn the ropes of the latest software, but also receive the benefit of learning from instructors’ vast industry experience.

Incredible image detail goes head to head with enhanced game play, courtesy of the UE3 game engine. DMA’s 3D Game Creation classes put you on a path to creating your own best-selling video games.

“The 3D Game Creation classes will introduce students to the UE3 tools and professional development practices, giving them hands-on experience in game creation,” says James. “And the brand new Advanced 3D classes expand on that knowledge to take the students even further inside the game development process, preparing students to develop their own indie games, or creating a strong foundation for a job in the game industry itself.”

DMA’s courses concentrate on level design, character design and Advanced 3D Game Production. Students are free to design their own characters, backgrounds and sounds, or use pre-built content from top graphics libraries. Additional topics covered include game planning, path-based movement, collision detection, dialogue, inventory and playability.

Different courses concentrate on certain key aspects of game creation, an approach that James likes. “DMA’s focused study really appeals to me,” he says. “Focusing on a single topic, such as environment creation in Unreal 3, allows the students and myself to really dig deeply into the subject matter. And packing all that learning into a single week means that all the information remains fresh and the pace of the class stays dynamic.”

James’ enthusiasm for the subject of game development is contagious – and helps DMA students become even more passionate about video games and working in the game industry. “The Digital Media Academy programs are exactly the sort of classes I would have jumped at as a teenager!” he says. “It’s exciting to be able to share what I know and to work with teens to create this sort of experience for them.”

DMA offers computer and visual arts summer camps and courses in which students build their own cool 3D and 2D games – including side-scrollers, pinball, and racing games. And there’s a great team spirit to the work, with students helping each other play-test the games they create. Learn more or register for a summer camp by visiting Digital Media Academy.


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Tron: Legacy and the Greatest Videogame Programmer, Ever

It’s likely you’re too young to remember him or maybe, you haven’t even heard of him. But you should know who he is. Meet Kevin Flynn. The real star of Tron: Legacy and the greatest videogame and computer programmer, ever.

In the world of Tron, bits and bytes make up the virtual landscape.

Who is Kevin Flynn and what makes him so special? Flynn was the video game Steve Jobs of the post-Atari and arcade era. So why haven’t you heard of him? Well, in a story that sounds like it was ripped from today’s headlines, Flynn was just a game or two shy of starting his own video game company (or becoming the CEO of ENCOM, the software company he worked for), when he was side-swiped by a rival co-worker – Ed Dillinger. Dillinger stole Flynn’s brillant programming code and got promoted to CEO, while Flynn was let go by the company he helped build. Shortly after he vanished.

The Golden Age of Video Games

Welcome to 1982. Practically nobody plays video games at home anymore – and believe it or not, this is the golden age of video games. Now, arcades rule and yet-to-be classics like Frogger, Pole Position, Galaga, Ms. Pac-Man, Centipede and Donkey Kong Jr. dominate malls, movie theaters and pizza parlors. And even though it’s less than a year away from being announced to the public, the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is unheard of – the home video game console market having been demolished by the Atari 2600 and shovelware.

It’s a good time to own an arcade and Kevin Flynn decides to do just that. Flynn’s also happens to be one of the most popular. In his make-shift home and office above the arcade, Flynn starts hacking ENCOM’s computer mainframe to dig up the evidence he needs to prove his co-worker wrongdoing. Then the unthinkable happens.

Kevin Flynn, the video game programmer and hacker who designed some of the most cutting edge video games of the day, gets zapped inside his incredible 3D virtual world to battle his own creation. Keep in mind, this was twenty years before massive mulitplayer online worlds like World of Warcraft or other virtual world concepts, like The Matrix, came along. Kevin Flynn, like Steve Jobs would do years later, introduced us to a whole new digital frontier.

Becoming a Game Programmer

Today gamers and future programmers have great options to jump start a career in video game or computer programming. You can start by creating game levels using industry standard tools or creating game characters. Have you already been hacking code on your own and want to learn advanced programming techniques to create 3D worlds? You can.

The next Kevin Flynn is out there, could it be you?

Developing Cyberspaces

It’s the dream of every video game programmer (and for that matter, every video gamer), to actually live, or play in the computer game world they’ve created. And Kevin Flynn did it before anybody.

Computer programmer Kevin Flynn looks in on his creation, the world of Tron and Tron: Legacy.

Played by Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski, Crazy Heart), Kevin Flynn was the young anti-hero for a sci-fi flop called Tron, a movie that became video game and computer programmers Star WarsTron was the first movie to truly visualize what might be possible in future video game worlds.

In the Disney film Tron: Legacy Flynn will once again take moviegoers and video game junkies into a computer generated world unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, courtesy of 3D.

Will you see Tron Legacy? Are you ready to become a video game or computer programmer? Tell us!


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NES 8-bit Turns 25: 25 Reasons It’s The Greatest Video Game System Ever

25 years ago the Nintendo Entertainment System was released. The revolutionary video game system didn’t look like much from the outside but this little gray box was destined to change video games forever. The NES has even come full circle — today gamers can enjoy many of its classic games on Wii’s Virtual Console.

Game systems have changed a lot in 25 years, transforming from 2D side-scrolling epics into 3D cinematic powerhouses worthy of blockbuster movie status. In fact, the gaming industry has grown by epic proportions since Mario’s first encounter with a Koopa Trooper.

If you got one of these babies as a holiday gift in the mid 80s, you officially ruled your block for the next year.

The Couch Potato Magnet Goes High Tech
Video games have shattered their reputation as a waste of time, now they’re used for everything to training Air Force pilots to teaching third graders math. They entertain, innovate and educate. And they’ve found a way to adapt to the changing times and grow outside of their own market – and in part, thanks to the Nintendo 8-bit NES.

The 8-bit goodness of the action-packed entertainment system (and Mario) dazzles another family.

Paying Respect
Games like World of Warcraft, Halo, Ratchet and Clank and practically every other video game icon owe much to Nintendo and their portly plumber. Today Mario predecessors dominate PCs, the internet, hand-held gaming consoles, even smart phones. Gamers are making their own games too and in many cases looking to the Nintendo classics for inspiration – addicting games like the iPhone’s Doodle Jump or Angry Birds, both of which, with the touch of a button are downloaded wirelessly and instantly – ready to play in seconds.

All hail the king!

Where would we be if Mario if hadn’t come along when he did? Maybe a better question might be what would Mario look like if he had just come along today? 3D Modeler Justin Buonvino may have an idea, his Still The Best page on deviantART gives you a peek, plus a chance to grab some awesome 8-bit Nintendo inspired wallpapers for your computer.

His Videogame Lordship – Mario, in glorious 3D!

Back To The Future
Everyone in video gaming continues re-inventing it seems, including Nintendo – who next year will release the first ever 3D handheld system (the 3DS) and whose groundbreaking Wii proved, well so groundbreaking, it spawned a new genre of video gaming (motion control – many say it’s also the future) – and the PS3 Move and Xbox Kinect copycats.

25 Reasons To Love The NES:
Video game development has been in constant evolution since it began, but in 1985 Nintendo took the reigns and guided an industry with the greatest video game system ever. Here’s how:

25. Bad to the Bone Box Art. This Mega Man box art didn’t do the game justice, for that matter, box art in those days didn’t do any games justice (ok, we’ll give you the Konami classics like Metal Gear, Contra and Rush’N Attack), but they sure fired up your imagination.

24. Contra. This side-scrolling shoot-em up set the standard for shooters long before the term even existed.

23. Codes. No save points. No memory cards. You wrote down a code or you didn’t…and had to play through what progress you had made, all over again.

22. R.O.B. the Robot. Google it.

21. The Nintendo Seal of Quality. There wasn’t a game that shipped out Nintendo’s warehouse door that didn’t get play tested to meet Nintendo’s quality standards, and if it wasn’t up to snuff, it didn’t get approved – Nintendo’s system of third-party approvals is still in use today.

20. Donkey Kong. Finally we could stop wasting our quarters in the arcade!

19. Metal Gear. The ultimate in stealth action, this game set the groundwork for action games for years to come.

18. Dragon Warrior. This game not only defined the console RPG but it would start into motion and standardize RPG game mechanics.

17. The NES controller. Sure, you take them for granted today, but back in the day Nintendo introduced this thing called the directional pad and controlling video games with clunky, less than accurate joysticks was finally a thing of the past.

16. The NES Advantage. This controller was sold separately and introduced gamers to the thumb-saving rapid fire!

15. Subtitles and Classic 8-bit Game Dialogue. Need to move the story along? Do it in text, that what’s the NES did – and by the way Mario we forgot to tell you, “our princess is in another castle.”

14. Castlevania. The original vampire hunter is still our favorite undead slayer.

13. Super Mario 3. Everything from Happy Meals to Saturday morning cartoons screamed, “Mario!” in 1990. Mario was at the height of his popularity when this sequel hit stores. Racoon suit Mario, anyone?

12. The Legend of Zelda. Aside from Super Mario Bros. no other 8-bit title captured the joy of exploration like this game.

11. Metroid. Samus chasing aliens are some of our best video gaming memories — and shocker! The hero is really a girl! Talk about cutting edge.

10. Final Fantasy. The series premiered on the NES.

9. Mega Man. The little blue dynamo also made his debut on the system.

8. The Power Pad. Long before the Wii Fit or Dance Dance Revolution this pad allowed players to control a game using their feet – and get plenty of exercise in the process.

7. The Power Glove. Sure, it was cheesy and worked only half the time but name another video game system that has it’s own glove controller?

6. The Zapper. This gun-like attachment turned your TV into a shooting gallery with games like Duck Hunt.

5. 8-bits! The NES didn’t need a super computer or CD drive, it made magic happen with a measly 8-bit processor.

4. Near Perfect Home Arcade Conversions. For the first time ever video gamers had the chance to play near perfect conversions of arcade hits like Galaga and Mappy(shown above).

3. Nintendo Fan Art. No other group of video game game fans is so respectful of their heritage – or more eager to share it with others.

2. Super Mario Bros. Packed in with every NES, the game became an icon for a generation and inspiration for gamers everywhere.

1. Mario. He’s the most successful video game franchise in history, selling over 225 million games and a bazillion game systems.

What are your best video game memories from the last 25 years? Then tell us about them.


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Tips From DMA Pros: Building a Pong Video Game in Multimedia Fusion 2

In our Summer Digital Media Adventures Program for kids (9-13), we offer two Video Game Creation Programs. We cover several media and game-creation tools, and spend a lot of time in Multimedia Fusion 2. In this video, I’ll create a Pong Clone to show you the basics of MMF2′s interface. Unlike computer programming, MMF2 is more graphical and straightforward, and you can see direct results as you shape the game. Computer programming is much more abstract, but the basic concepts of programming are present in MMF2. In our Video Game Creation class, we teach students about game balancing and collaboration, and how to reach a deadline with a glitch-free game. In the advanced course, we go into how to manage games that quickly get very large, and how to build them well from the start. We look forward to seeing you this summer!

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Digital Media Academy Inspires Teen to Pursue Video Game Design Career

Andy Hoffman is currently a junior at Carnegie Vanguard High School in Houston, Texas and will be graduating in the Spring of 2010. Andy has known since he was 10 years old that he wanted to find a college that would allow him to get a degree in Video Game Design and allow him to go into the gaming industry.

The following is an interview with Andy. Read showcasing how Digital Media Academy inspired Andy and helped him acquire great skills that will allow him to pursue his passion.

DMA: How old are you?

Andy: 17

DMA: How many summers have you been attending DMA?

Andy: This will be my fourth summer.

Andy has taken the following game creation courses at DMA:

In summer of ’09 he is taking Web Design and Flash Scripting for Game Design.

DMA: Which DMA location did you attend?

Andy: Stanford University. I enjoy the campus environment, it’s very easy to get around and a relaxing environment.

DMA: Prior to attending DMA, did you know what career path you wanted to take?

Andy: Somewhat. The main issue that prevented me from deciding to go into game design prior to attending DMA was the practicality of it.

DMA: Describe your experience at DMA.

Andy: In the past three summers I’ve learned a lot and had fun doing it.

DMA: How has DMA helped you in deciding what you would like to do when you “grow up”?

Andy: Meeting other kids with similar interests, and the instructors and speakers who came and spoke to us about the game design industry really inspired me.

DMA: Do you know which University you would like to attend?

Andy: Through the help of DMA and my high school counselor, I found several incredible options that are considered prestigious in the game industry. I’ve now narrowed my search down to Savannah College of Art and Design, Ringling College of Art and Design, Southern Methodist University, The University of Texas at Dallas, and University of Southern California. SMU offers a 5 year program that includes a masters degree as well.

DMA: What stands out the most for you from your time spent at DMA camps.

Andy: Being in high school, but living on a college campus for a few weeks out of the summer doing what I will hopefully be doing a year or two from now when I’m actually in college.

DMA: Describe the quality of the facilities, computers, instructors, etc.

Andy: Beyond expectations.

We also got a chance to talk to Andy’s mom, Joni Hoffman.

DMA: As a parent, please describe your experience with DMA.

Joni: My son Andy has been interested in Video Game Design since he was 10 years old. He attended several local video game creation computer camps offered in Houston. We found that Andy knew more than the instructors, even at a young age. He would ask questions they simply could not answer. We soon learned that Andy needed a more serious and rigorous program than what we had locally. I was thrilled to find DMA. It has been an incredible experience for Andy.  This summer will be his 4th summer and unfortunately his last. He will be a senior. However because of DMA he is pursuing a degree in Video Game Design. The portfolio he has created from what he learned at DMA has helped him become a serious candidate for scholarship money at several universities that offer Video Game Design as a degree.

DMA: Do you feel that DMA is your typical camp? Explain.

Joni: NO. Living on the Stanford campus was an incredible opportunity.

DMA: Do you feel that DMA has opened your son’s eyes to know which career path he wants to pursue?

DMA attracts kids literally from all over the world who have a similar passion and interest. Andy has had roommates from the UK, Canada and France.  These same kids may even reconnect someday once they are in the real world pursuing their dreams of being in the gaming industry.

DMA: Would you recommend DMA to others?

Joni: Absolutely

DMA: Anything else you would like to comment on about DMA?

With the state of the economy, many “stable” degrees no longer offer a guarantee of landing a good job after graduation. It’s more important than ever to pick from degrees that are going to have jobs available. The video game industry is booming and probably only going to get stronger. I think Andy is fortunate that his passion for this industry has great potential for a very successful career as an adult.

I truly believe that DMA helped shape Andy’s future and his DMA experience has definitively given him a competitive advantage in the college admissions process. Not to mention he had a blast. Kudos to the staff and counselors at DMA!

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3d Video Game Design Experience at DMA Summer Camp

Watch an actual student talk about his experience at DMA’s Teen 3d Video Game Design Program. He used 3ds Max to create a 3d Mario World and 3d characters to match. 


Learn more at

Become a Video Game Designer at Digital Media Academy!


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Careers in Video Game Creation – An Inside Look

By Dave Bittorf – Lead 3D Modeling, Animation & Game Design Instructor

I’ve always been passionate about art and also curious about how games are created. If you ever wondered how artist create the amazing 3D images you  see on your favorite video game then check out the game creation classes at Digital Media Academy! I’ve been working in the 3D industry for about 5 years now. The software that we are using for these classes are the real deal. Maya, 3D Studio Max, Z-Brush and Unreal have been used to build  games such as Gears of War I and II and Unreal Tournament III. Click on the image below to check out a video that  gives you an idea about what a career in game creation is all about.

Click to see behind the scenes

Click to see behind the scenes

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