DMA Central


Adventures in 2D & 3D Video Game Creation

Course: Adventures in 2D & 3D Video Game Creation & Game Modding

DMA Instructor: Katy Mayer

Education: Montclair State University; Montclair, NJ (Major: Family & Child Studies, w/ Concentration in Elementary Education). Certified to teach Early Education and recently received her certification to teach Gifted & Talented students, from the University of California San Diego.

Professional Portrait: A versatile instructor with a wide range of technological and educational interests, Katy Mayer has spent the last two years teaching 4th Grade at La Jolla Elementary in San Diego, CA. During this time, she has shown her passion for the digital arts by teaching the Seminar class “Multimedia Fusion 2,” and by serving on the Technology Committee at her school. (She also attended the California Computing Educators or “CUE” Conference this year for Digital Media Academy.) Katy matches her classroom excellence with a variety of vigorous athletic pursuits, she’s a surf instructor of five years and also operated a surf clinic. She has also coached a high school varsity lacrosse team sports and served for two years as the head coach of a lacrosse camp.

DMA Campus: UCSD


Katy is just one of Digital Media Academy’s instructors who not only possess outstanding educational credentials, but also have backgrounds that reflect their diverse training and personal creativity. When Katy’s not teaching during the regular school year, she spends her summers with DMA at the University of California at San Diego.

As a local 4th Grade teacher, Katy Mayer knows how to bring out the best and brightest in kids.

“I was hired for the instructor’s position after working for DMA as a teacher’s assistant,” she recalls. The teacher’s assistant position was for DMA’s Jr. Adventures program in Game Creation. That same year, she was also serving as a TA for the Adventures in Surfing and Filmmaking Summer Camp. In that summer camp program, students shoot surf video using state-of-the-art video gear and then edit the footage into their own extreme surf film. Katy was also a TA for Digital Media Academy’s Adventures in Robotics program. At last year’s UCSD session, Katy taught Jr. Adventures in Art & Digital Photography and Adventures in 2D & 3D Game Design and Game Modding.

As part of her school’s Technology Committee, Katy keeps current on the latest software breakthroughs and emerging teaching methods. Katy is very excited to be gearing up for her third summer with DMA, and the prospect of working even more intensely with the technology she loves.

Katy’s passions are technology and helping children use it to tap into their natural creativity.

“I look forward to the four weeks when I’m able to work with students hands-on with a project-based curriculum and state-of-the-art technology,” she says. When asked about one of her most memorable experiences at DMA, Katy mentions last year’s 2D & 3D Video Game Creation class. Students started the program by learning how to make their own basic version of “Breakout” (the timeless 70s Pong-like classic where you hit a white dot across a screen to literally “break out” a playfield of bricks). That was just the first step though.

Campers then developed increasingly more sophisticated games as the week-long summer computer camp for kids continues (that’s right, kids aren’t making leather and beaded bracelets anymore). The interaction during camp – between the student and instructor, as well as between students – helped spark ideas that refined the games even further. By the end of the week, students had tangible proof of their expanded skill set.

“Not only do the students learn how to make a video game, but they are able to bring that game home to show their friends and family.”

This summer, Katy anticipates that aspiring game designers will again start the week of camp making a “Breakout”-like game. It’s a guided process that teaches kids the basics of game creation. Students will then add their own images and create a game theme. “After we build the complex and exciting parts of the game,” says Katy, “Students are given the freedom to independently create their own game using what they’ve learned. Many students are able to create three or more games by the end of the week. Not only do the students learn how to make a video game, but they are able to bring that game home to show their friends and family.”

The camp quickly brings students up to speed on game design basics, help them develop problem solving techniques and gets them on the path to creating their own ideas. Students test and play each other’s projects, sharing ideas along the way. The finishing touch is adding sound effects and then standing back and watching campers being blown away by what they’ve created.

Katy and the next generation of game makers – DMA’s 2D & 3D Game Designers, Class of 2010.

Katy enjoys DMA’s total approach to the digital media camp experience. When not in the classroom instructing this summer, chances are you will find her helping another Jr. Adventures class as a teacher’s assistant, or outside enjoying some recreational fun with Jr. Adventure campers. She’s delighted to welcome each summer’s new game designers to DMA, but Katy’s really overjoyed when she sees students coming back for more. “This will be my third year at the UCSD campus and it’s a thrill to see students return year after year to advance their skills or to take another course.”

Digital Media Academy offers one-week and two-week-long summer computer camps for kids ages 6-12. DMA is also a Certified Apple Training Center and offers one-on-one training for budding game designers of all age groups, in a wide range of creative areas. DMA instructors are industry and educational professionals with quality credentials that count. Like Katy Mayer.


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posted by DMA Jordan in 3D Game Development,News Blog and have No Comments

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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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments

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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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments

Thinking of going to school to learn 3D? Don’t gamble. Do DMA.

By Kevin Appel, Digital Media Academy Instructor.

*Note: I am not advocating DMA as a replacement for a college education. Rather, I am suggesting it as an appetizer, if you will, to make sure you’ll like the main course.

I’ve never been much for gambling. The prospect of taking something valuable of mine and putting it up against the unknown on the off chance that my bet paid off never seemed like a particularly savvy thing to do. Therefore, it may come as some surprise to some to learn that one of the biggest decisions I have made to date in my life was a bit of a gamble.

That decision was deciding what to study in college. The question, “what do I want to do when I grow up?” rears its ugly (hideous, even) head for everyone at some point. And one day, I’m sure that question will probably come up for me, too.

But that question’s evil little sibling of a query is “what am I going to go to school for?” I consider myself lucky, because at the tender age of I-forget-how-old-I-was-when, I saw some Saturday morning TV show that left a permanent impression on me. If I can recall correctly from my days as a second-grade terror (I think that’s when it was, at least), that show was titled “Movie Magic,” or some such. And it made a part of my weekly routine. On some network or another, every Saturday, they’d fill my little head with dreams of creating movie visual effects.

As I grew up, my experiences with computers grew. I became a nerd, and got into online gaming. I became a bigger nerd, and got into mods for those games. I became a bigger nerd still, and learned how to edit them myself. For the most part, I would edit textures on 3D models in games to change my favorite characters’ shirt, or face, or edit my face into a hockey game so I could be a bigger nerd.

Eventually, though, I came to realize that as computers got bigger and badder, 3D animation did, too. And not only that, but video games kept getting better and better, and soon games and movies were using a lot of the same 3D animation techniques. So, now-17-year-old-me thought, “I keep with this hobby, so I can work in either field when I grow up!”

And so, I made my gambit. I applied to a big fancy-shmancy school that had enough money to buy all the latest and greatest software and workstations and labs. And with big, fancy labs came big, fancy tuition.

I am happy to say that I was right. For me, the gamble paid off.  I did love 3D modeling and animation. The desire to create fantastic wonders the likes of which I’d seen in countless movies as a kid stuck with me all these years, carried through my college education, and has now brought me to DMA.

My gamble was that I chose to get an education in 3D animation (and some other stuff) without ever knowing if I’d actually like it. What if I could not grasp the software? What if it was all too complex, if I was no good at it? All of my tuition dollars would have been wasted, at least for my freshman year, after which I would have had to transfer to another major (assuming my University would have allowed it), or go to another school, or jump through any number of hoops just to try to find something else that I liked.

College is expensive, especially if you’re looking at a very technical field like 3D animation and want to have access to the newest tech. For me, it was a necessity. I didn’t have access to the software I needed, or more importantly, the know how and instruction I needed to make the sorts of crazy things I’d always dreamed of. It is possible to dig through this stuff enough to learn it on your own, eventually, but what if I had had an alternative? How much more sure of myself could I have been, coming into college, if I had had the chance to get my grubby little paws all over Maya, or 3D Studio Max, and start pushing polygons around so I could make the animation, video game level, or random abstract whimsical thing that I wanted to?

A 3D thing I made once.

For me, the gamble paid off. I did love 3D modeling, and I could eventually make stuff like this.

I didn’t have that option – but today, Digital Media Academy offers fancy PCs, the latest software, and experienced teachers who’ll answer all the questions you can throw at them without investing in 4-5 years and many thousands of dollars.  That’s not to say a one-week summer camp takes the place of a full education.  But it helps to get a taste before committing to school. I’m proud to be one of those teachers, because my gamble paid off and I hope I can make the choice and learning curve easier for some grubby-pawed kid to make the next great animation or game for the still-nerdy, present-day version of me to enjoy.

See you this summer, everybody…but please, wash those grubby paws before you lay hands on our computers. They’re shiny. (Just a suggestion.)

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments

Camp Fairs Raffle (Drawing #2) Winner Announced!

Announcing the Second DMA Camp Fair Free Tuition winner!

Congratulations to Darryl Sanjeant (Dominic) for winning the raffle for free tuition to the Digital Media Academy from our second round of camp fairs! Dominic can choose from our many great courses.

DMA attends many camp fairs across the country. Attendees are able to enter their name for a chance to win a free summer camp course by Digital Media Academy.

summer camp fair

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments

Camp Fairs Raffle (Drawing #1) Winner Announced!

Announcing the first DMA Camp Fair Free Tuition winner!

Congratulations to Tiffany Miller for winning the raffle for free tuition to the Digital Media Academy from our first round of camp fairs! Tiffany can choose from our many great courses.

DMA attends many camp fairs across the country. Attendees are able to enter their name for a chance to win a free summer camp course by Digital Media Academy.

summer camp fair


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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments

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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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have Comments (2)

Z-Brush "The Lastest craze in Game Design"

Thinking about becoming the next big game designer? DMA’s Advanced Video Game Creation class is a must for anyone serious about learning the advanced techniques that major studios are using. Don’t just take my word for it – check out this interview with Epic Games talking about the new Gears of War 2. They Explain how they used Z-Brush in their production pipeline to create the incredible detail you see in the games.

Epic Games Interview – Gears of War 2



Next-generation game production tools and techniques

This advanced video game production class integrates the big three applications of next-generation gaming technology. Topics covered include digital sculpting with Pixologic’s ZBrush and advanced digital painting and texture mapping with Adobe Photoshop. You’ll learn essential techniques for creating architecture, characters, creatures, vehicles and pick-up items. We’ll also teach you industry techniques for normal mapping, grunge-color maps and specularity maps are also emphasized.

The course features in-depth discussions on unifying game designs using fine art principals such as color theory, layout compositional design, form and structure, as well as other techniques to expand your understanding of the art of game design. We’ll study game play and level flow techniques, with each student continually testing and refining their creation in a group setting. On the last day of class, we’ll spend a game day play-testing and critiquing our designs.

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have Comment (1)

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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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have Comment (1)

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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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments