SMU Guildhall

Tune In: Fighting cancer with Minecraft

What if you could help fight cancer by playing a video game? Thanks to a partnership between SMU Guildhall and a team of scientists from the SMU Department of Biological Sciences, you can.

Gary Brubaker, director of the Guildhall, Corey Clark, Guildhall deputy director for research, and John Wise, associate professor of biological sciences, gathered in Plano for a special Facebook Live event on Sept. 28, 2017. Watch their discussion of how their partnership has turned the popular game Minecraft into a vehicle for cancer research – and effectively doubled the computing power available for this work.

> Learn more from the SMU Guildhall homepage

SMU, LIFT team in semifinals for $7 million Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE

 

An SMU and Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) team has been named one of eight semifinalists advancing in the $7 million Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation. The XPRIZE is a global competition that challenges teams to develop mobile applications designed to increase literacy skills in adult learners.

> Learn more about the semifinalists at the Adult Literacy XPRIZE website

SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development and Guildhall graduate video game development program are working with LIFT to design an engaging, puzzle-solving smartphone game app to help adults develop literacy skills. The SMU and LIFT team, People ForWords, is one of 109 teams who entered the competition in 2016.

Drawing upon the education experts at SMU’s Simmons School, game developers at Guildhall and adult literacy experts at LIFT, the team developed Codex: The Lost Words of Atlantis. In the game, players become archaeologists hunting for relics from the imagined once-great civilization of Atlantis. By deciphering the forgotten language of Atlantis, players develop and strengthen their own reading skills. The game targets English- and Spanish-speaking adults.

> Learn more about the Codex: The Lost Words of Atlantis team at PeopleForWords.org

Students at LIFT, a North Texas nonprofit adult literacy provider, have tested and provided key insights for the game during its development. According to LIFT, one in five adults in North Texas cannot read, a key factor in poverty. Dallas has the fourth highest concentration of poverty in the nation, with a 41 percent increase from 2000 to 2014.

Testing of the eight semifinalists’ literacy software begins in mid-July with 12,000 adults who read English at a third grade level or lower. Selection of up to five finalists will depend on results of post-game testing to evaluate literacy gains among test subjects. Finalists will be named in May 2018, and the winner will be named in 2019.

> See the full story at SMU News

> Download the Codex: The Lost Words Of Atlantis app for Android at Google Play

Check out the Codex gameplay with this gallery of screen captures:

SMU Guildhall’s 2017 Spring Exhibition takes place Friday, May 19

SMU Guildhall hosts its annual showcase of video games developed by graduating students on Friday, May 19, 2017. The 2017 Spring Exhibition honors Cohort 25 – 36 master’s degree candidates who specialize in art creation, level design, production and programming – and will take place in Building 2 of the SMU-in-Plano campus at 5232 Tennyson Parkway.

Tanya WatsonThe Exhibition includes two Capstone games that are now shipped titles. The 3D platformer Dawn and VR puzzle game Mouse Playhouse both won approval through the Steam Greenlight process for free distribution through the popular Steam gaming platform.

The invitation-only Graduate Reception takes place 6-9 p.m. on Friday evening, following the exhibition. This year’s keynote speaker is Tanya Watson, co-founder of Squanchtendo. The speech and graduation ceremony can be seen live on the SMU Guildhall Twitch channel starting at 6:45 p.m.

These events are open to the public:

  • 2:30-4 p.m.: Exhibition of student games
  • 4-5 p.m.: Capstone Team games presentations
  • 5-5:30 p.m.: Honors Awards

> Learn more about the 2017 Spring Exhibition at the SMU Guildhall website

Research: Gamers join researchers in the fight against cancer

John Wise, Pia Vogel and Corey Clark

SMU researchers (l-r) John Wise, Pia Vogel and Corey Clark are tapping the power of an online gaming community to fight cancer. Photo: Hillsman S. Jackson

The massive computational power of an online gaming community has even more clout than supercomputers in the fight against cancer, according to SMU biochemical researchers and video game developers. The two groups are partnering with the world’s vast network of gamers in hopes of discovering a new cancer-fighting drug.

Biochemistry professors Pia Vogel and John Wise in the Department of Biological Sciences and Corey Clark, deputy director of research at SMU Guildhall, are leading the University’s assault on cancer in partnership with fans of the best-selling video game Minecraft.

With 122 million copies of the game sold worldwide and more than 55 million active players each month as of February 2017, Vogel and Wise expect deep inroads in their quest to narrow the search for chemical compounds that improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs.

“Crowdsourcing as well as computational power may help us narrow down our search and give us better chances at selecting a drug that will be successful,” said Vogel. “And gamers can take pride in knowing they’ve helped find answers to an important medical problem.”

Up to now, Wise and Vogel have tapped the high-performance computing power of SMU’s Maneframe, one of the most powerful academic supercomputers in the nation. With ManeFrame, Wise and Vogel have sorted through millions of compounds that have the potential to work. Now, the biochemists say, it’s time to take that research to the next level — crowdsourced computing.

A network of gamers can crunch massive amounts of data during routine gameplay by pairing two powerful weapons: the best of human intuition combined with the massive computing power of networked gaming machine processors.

Taking their research to the gaming community will more than double the amount of machine processing power attacking their research problem.

“With the distributed computing of the actual game clients, we can theoretically have much more computing power than even the supercomputer here at SMU,” said Clark, who is also an adjunct research associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. In March, SMU Guildhall was named No. 1 among the world’s Top 25 Graduate Schools for Video Game Design by The Princeton Review.

“If we take a small percentage of the computing power from 25,000 gamers playing our mod we can match ManeFrame’s 120 teraflops of processing power,” Clark said. “Integrating with the Minecraft community should allow us to double the computing power of that supercomputer.”

Even more importantly, the gaming community adds another important component — human intuition.

Wise believes there’s a lot of brainpower eager to be tapped in the gaming community. And human brains, when tackling a problem or faced with a challenge, can make creative and intuitive leaps that machines can’t.

“What if we learn things that we never would have learned any other way? And even if it doesn’t work it’s still a good idea and the kids will still get their endorphin kicks playing the game,” Wise said. “It also raises awareness of the research. Gamers will be saying ‘Mom, don’t tell me to go to bed, I’m doing scientific research.’”

The Vogel and Wise research labs are part of the Center for Drug Discovery, Design and Delivery (CD4) in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. The center’s mission is a novel multi-disciplinary focus for scientific research targeting medically important problems in human health. Their research is funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

— Margaret Allen

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

Tune In: SMU Founders’ Day Weekend 2017 in photos

From Perunapalooza to Pony Preview, from Meadows Museum Family Day to the Luck of the Loydians Residential Commons celebration, and from the Red-Blue Scrimmage to Mustang Fan Fair, SMU Founders’ Day Weekend was packed with activities for the entire community. Take a look back with these photos by Kim Leeson and Guy Rogers III.

SMU celebrates 2017 Founders’ Day Weekend April 6-9

Athletics Football Spring GameSMU celebrates 2017 Founders’ Day Weekend April 6-9 with a full slate of public activities for alumni, students, friends and the entire community.

All are invited to join the annual celebration of the University’s founding in 1915 at these events:

  • Meadows Museum Family Day, with free arts and craft activities for adults and children featuring the drawings of Spanish artist Jusepe de Ribera
  • The free Mustang Spring Football Game, featuring an SMU intra-squad scrimmage and players and coaches on hand for photos and autographs on the field after the game
  • Mustang Fan Fair, with inflatables, food trucks, photos with Peruna, and the opportunity to play new, award-winning games from the SMU Guildhall with their student designers
  • Performances of the Meadows School of the Arts’ Spring Dance Concert, featuring the Paul Taylor masterpiece Mercuric Tidings

In addition, the George W. Bush Presidential Center will offer guided bluebonnet tours of the Native Texas Park on the grounds of the center.

> Find detailed information on all Founders’ Day Weekend activities at smu.edu/FoundersDay

 

SMU Guildhall named #1 for game design in The Princeton Review‘s 2017 rankings

SMU GuildhallSMU Guildhall, No. 1 graduate program ranking has risen to the top spot among the world’s best graduate game-design programs in The Princeton Review’s eighth annual report, published March 21, 2017.

At No. 1, SMU Guildhall ranks above the No. 2 Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy at UCF. Other schools in the top 25 include the University of Utah, Rochester Institute of Technology, USC, NYU, Drexel, Abertay University (Dundee, Scotland), DePaul, Michigan State, Ohio State, MIT, the University of Malta in Msida, and the University of Pennsylvania.

In addition, SMU Guildhall ranks higher than two other top-25 graduate programs in Texas: the University of Texas-Dallas (No. 14) and Texas A&M (No. 17).

> See the full list of graduate and undergraduate game-design program rankings at princetonreview.com

The Guildhall created its Master of Interactive Technology degree as the only program of its kind in the world. Designed with ongoing input from industry professionals, the graduate degree provides a rigorous preparation to enter the game development industry at a two-year experience level.

“Becoming the No. 1 graduate game-design school is a tribute to faculty with deep experience, bright and motivated students, a robust network of successful alumni, stellar industry support, cutting-edge curriculum, and a commitment to continual improvement,” said SMU Guildhall Director Gary Brubaker.

The Review determined its rankings based on its 2016 survey of 150 institutions in the United States, Canada, and abroad that offer game design coursework and/or degrees. The 40-question review asked schools to report on everything from academic offerings and faculty credentials to graduates’ starting salaries and employment experience. Curriculum, faculty, facilities, career services, and technology were all among criteria The Princeton Review weighed to make its selections.

The Princeton Review’s reporting partner, PC Gamer magazine, will include a section on the top schools in its May 2017 issue, available on newsstands March 29. It will feature information on degree programs, class offerings, events, prominent professors, and alumni.

> Read the full story from SMU News

SMU Guildhall students choose 2016’s top 10 video games

Final Fantasy XV screen cap

Vivid characters and deeply detailed worlds are longstanding elements of the Final Fantasy game series. The latest installment, Final Fantasy XV, has been voted one of 2016’s top 10 games by students in the SMU Guildhall digital game development program.


SMU Guildhall students in art, programming, level design and production have named 10 outstanding titles – from the augmented-reality mobile adventure Pokémon GO to a reboot of the genre-defining first-person shooter Doom – as the Top Video Games of 2016.

The students – all Master of Interactive Technology or Professional Certificate candidates in digital game development – each chose their five favorites from a list of 50 of the year’s most talked-about games of every type and for any platform, says Marc Mixon of the Guildhall Student Activities Committee. Results were tabulated with an instant-runoff scoring system, in which descending numerical values were assigned for each place from first to fifth.

Overwatch screen cap

In Overwatch, a motley six-person crew fights missions together in colorful locations ranging from the Temple of Anubis to the Rock of Gibraltar to a Hollywood backlot.

Winning first place easily was the critical and commercial hit Overwatch, a shooter in which players form six-person teams online and complete missions together in a colorful, diverse and lived-in world. The reimagined edition of the classic Doom, once again created by Dallas-based iD Software, was not far behind. The remaining titles were closely grouped, with each receiving several votes.

There are many different measures for what makes a game great, Mixon says, whether a well-balanced experience for multiplayer titles or a compelling story for a single-player game. The students’ game choices reflect the best of their respective genres, he adds.

Video games continue to rake in consumers’ entertainment dollars, according to the industry’s largest lobbying group, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). Total U.S. revenues for the industry hit $23.5 billion in 2015, which represented 5% growth over the previous year. ESA data show that more than 150 million Americans play video games and 63 percent of households are home to at least one person who plays video games regularly (at least three hours per week).

Fortune: Level Up! Video Game Revenues Soar in 2015

Following is the complete list, in descending order, of the SMU Guildhall’s Top 10 for 2016. Descriptions include the developer/publisher, genre or genres, play mode, ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) rating and the game platform or platforms on which it runs. (Note that the ESRB does not rate online interactions for multiplayer online games.)

1. Overwatch
Blizzard Entertainment
Genre: First-person shooter
Mode: Team-based multiplayer
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Platforms: MS Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

2. Doom (2016)
iD Software/Bethesda Softworks
Genre: First-person shooter
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Platforms: MS Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

3. Pokémon Sun and Moon
Game Freak/The Pokémon Company
Genre: Role-playing
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Dark Souls 3 screen cap

The “withered beauty” aesthetic and heart-pounding combat of Dark Souls III earned it a place among the SMU Guildhall’s top games of 2016.

4. World of Warcraft: Legion
Blizzard Entertainment
Genre: Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG)
Mode: Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Platforms: MS Windows, OS X

5. Dark Souls III
FromSoftware/Bandai Namco Entertainment
Genre: Action role-playing
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Platforms: MS Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

6. Pokémon GO
Niantic Labs/The Pokémon Company
Genres: Augmented reality, location-based
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
Platforms: iOS, Android, Apple Watch

SMU Pokestops

The SMU campus is a map of Pokéstops – with Dallas Hall as a Pokémon gym – in a screen from the augmented-reality game Pokémon GO, which makes real-world landmarks a part of the gameplaying action.

7. Stardew Valley
ConcernedApe/Chucklefish Games
Genres: Simulation, role-playing
Mode: Single-player
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Platforms: Linux, MS Windows, Nintendo Switch, OS X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

8. Final Fantasy XV
Square Enix
Genre: Action role-playing
Mode: Single-player
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

9. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: Action-adventure
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Platforms: PlayStation 4

10. Battlefield 1
EA DICE/Electronic Arts
Genre: First-person shooter
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Platforms: MS Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

By | 2016-12-20T15:14:23+00:00 December 19, 2016|Categories: News|Tags: , , , , |

Student-designed games debut on Steam Greenlight, available for public play-testing at 2016 SMU Guildhall Spring Exhibition

The SMU Guildhall hosts its biannual graduate exhibition showcasing video games developed by graduating students on Friday, May 13. The 2016 Spring Exhibition will honor Cohort 23: master’s degree candidates who specialize in art creation, level design, production and programming.

The day’s schedule is as follows, and all events take place at SMU-in-Plano, Building 2, 5232 Tennyson Parkway. The public is welcome to attend each event, and admission is free:

  • 2:30-4 p.m. Exhibition of student games
  • 4-5 p.m. Honors Awards
  • 5-6 p.m. Capstone team games presentations

Both Cohort 23 Capstone games have debuted on Steam Greenlight, a community service of the Steam online gaming platform that allows gamers to vote on new content. Both Guildhall games will be made available for download and play through Steam if they receive enough votes. Follow the links below each game description to learn more and vote:

Gravitas is a first-person physics-based puzzle game in which the player manipulates gravity in order to navigate the realm of a mad artist known as “The Curator.” In a revolutionary art gallery built in space using groundbreaking technology, the player character receives a special glove that can control gravity and must use the new power to explore this world.

The Guildhall game creators, collectively known as Space Shark Studios, chose to build a puzzle game because it allowed them to focus on a single core mechanic and polish it to an extremely high quality. They built Gravitas in Unreal Engine 4 over a span of six months.

The production of Gravitas gave Space Shark Studios the opportunity to work within a simulated game development environment with all of its ups and downs. Throughout the project, they learned to communicate effectively as a team of 13, as well as develop within a very constrained timeline.

> Vote for Gravitas on Steam Greenlight

Scrapped is a single player, third-person 3D platformer developed in Unreal Engine 4.8.1. It stars Robot C-23 (get it?), who must solve his way out of a dangerous junkyard after inadvertently failing a quality inspection.

After being tossed out like garbage and trapped within an expansive scrapyard, the “quantum force”-powered robot encounters a robotic light bug named Fritz. Using Fritz’s glowing guidance, C-23 must repel and attract across hazards, dodging saws and swinging over bottomless pits to make their way across the perilous terrain. With each force-powered leap or slide, C-23 and his friend draw closer to a new home.

The student team, Get Out Alive Games, designed Scrapped with the intention of constructing a short yet extremely professional and polished experience. Over the course of six months, they learned to work with an industry-sized team, gained experience developing a professionally focused project, and formed an understanding of pipeline process and interdisciplinary collaboration.

> Vote for Scrapped on Steam Greenlight

Other Guildhall cohorts will also put new games up for public play-testing. Watch SMU Forum for additional information on these titles:

  • Knightly Burden (Cohort 26)
  • Azimuth (Cohort 25)
  • For the Family (Cohort 25)
  • Iron Games (Cohort 25)
  • Velocirapture (Cohort 25)

Kate Edwards, IGDAExhibition Day will conclude with the Guildhall’s graduation reception and presentation of degrees to students receiving the Master of Interactive Technology degree in digital game development. This year’s keynote speaker is Kate Edwards, executive director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) and one of Fortune magazine’s “10 Most Powerful Women” in the game industry.

Edwards is also the founder and principal consultant of Geogrify, a Seattle-based consultancy for content culturalization, where she uses her expertise as an applied geographer, writer, and corporate strategist. As Microsoft’s first Geopolitical Strategist in the Geopolitical Strategy team she created and managed, she was responsible for protecting the company against political and cultural content risks across all products and locales. Since leaving Microsoft, she has provided guidance to many companies on a wide range of geopolitical and cultural issues and she continues to work on a variety of game franchises. Kate is also a regular columnist for MultiLingual Computing magazine.

In October 2013, Fortune magazine named her as one of the 10 most powerful women in the game industry. In December 2014 she was named by GamesIndustry.biz as one of their six People of the Year in the game industry.

> Visit the SMU Guildhall’s new website: smu.edu/guildhall

SMU Guildhall rises to #2 in The Princeton Review’s 2016 graduate game-design program rankings

The Guildhall at SMU exterior, February 2015The SMU Guildhall has risen to the second spot among the world’s top graduate game-design programs in The Princeton Review’s seventh annual report, published Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

UCF’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy ranked #1 on the graduate school list in the Review’s 2016 report. At #2, the Guildhall ranks above the University of Utah (#3), USC (#4), New York University (#6), Rochester Institute of Technology (#7), Drexel (#8), Michigan State (#10), Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland (#12), DePaul (#15), MIT (#18), the University of Pennsylvania (#19), Ohio State (#20), and higher than three other top-25 graduate programs in Texas: UT-Dallas (#9), Texas A&M (#14) and St. Mary’s University (#25).

> Read The Princeton Review‘s full 2016 game design program rankings

The Review selected the schools based on its 2015-16 survey of 150 institutions in the United States, Canada and abroad that offer game design coursework and/or degrees. The 40-question survey asked schools to report on a range of topics, from academic offerings and faculty credentials to graduates’ employment and professional achievements. In addition, the Review weighted more than 40 data points to make its assessments, with criteria focusing on academics, faculty, technology and career services.

The Princeton Review’s reporting partner, PC Gamer magazine, will include a section on the top schools in its May 2016 issue. The issue will feature information on degree programs, class offerings, events, prominent professors, and alumni. The print edition will be delivered to subscribers this week and will be available on newsstands Tuesday, March 29.

> Visit the SMU Guildhall online

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