Gaming giant THQ opens usability lab at The Guildhall

THQ logoInteractive entertainment software giant THQ Inc. has announced that it will sponsor a new, state-of-the-art usability lab at The Guildhall at SMU.

The lab will serve as a primary usability test center for all the company’s titles. THQ personnel will run the center and manage test activities, led by Dr. Karl Steiner, senior manager of Usability.

“By developing our lab at SMU, THQ is getting more than just a first-class testing facility, we’re also joining a community of dedicated gamers,” Steiner said. “We look forward to collaborating with SMU faculty members and students on test and research activities as well as contributing to the development of the next generation of gaming talent.”

THQ – the creator of best-selling titles including Saints Row, Company of Heroes, Metro 2033 and the UFC Undisputed and All-Star Karate franchises – expects the lab to be fully operational by summer 2010. In addition to enhanced game testing capabilities, the shared location will generate important opportunities for collaboration with faculty and the postgraduate community, as well as potential paid internships and research projects.

The Guildhall at SMU will be the only top graduate video game design and development program with an on-site Usability Lab.

“We are incredibly excited by this opportunity for collaboration with one of the game industry’s leading global publishers,” says Peter Raad, Guildhall founder and executive director. “THQ’s presence at SMU will have a significant impact on its faculty and students by providing valuable hands-on access to professional video game usability equipment.”

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Faculty in the News: March 16, 2010

Dennis Simon, Political Science, Dedman College, talked about the White House push for health care legislation with The Washington Examiner March 16, 2010.

Al Niemi, Dean, Cox School of Business, discussed anticipated growth for the U.S. economy – and the possibility that North Texas will outpace it – with The Fort Worth Star-Telegram March 2, 2010. He also talked about why businesses leave states, and why North Texas stands to gain from projected departures from California, with The Dallas Morning News March 15, 2010.

Michael Cox, O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom, Cox School of Business, talked about the economy and the appeal of North Texas with The Dallas Morning News March 14, 2010.

Cal Jillson, Political Science, Dedman College, discussed the March party primaries, the races for governor in Texas and the chances for Democrats in the fall with CNN March 3, 2010. On the same day, he also spoke about the Texas governor’s race and the politicians involved with KERA Radio 90.1 FM. Read the story and listen to the discussion. audio

In addition, Jillson provided expertise for a story on anticipated candidate spending in the 2010 midterm elections that appeared in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram March 13, 2010. He also discussed post-election political prospects for U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and speculation on whether she will resign her seat in a WFAA TV Channel 8 broadcast that aired March 11, 2010. Read the full story and watch the news clip. video

Peter Raad, The Guildhall at SMU, talked about the Guildhall-cosponsored Indie Game Challenge and the Guildhall’s goals and achievements with GamerLive.TV during the 2010 D.I.C.E.™ (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Summit in Las Vegas in February. Watch the video. video

Fred Moss, Dedman School of Law, provided expertise for a Dallas Morning News column by James Ragland about the Don Hill public corruption case. The column appeared March 3, 2010.

James Guthrie, senior fellow and director of education policy studies for the George W. Bush Institute and a faculty member in SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, discussed the qualities that make a good teacher and how to improve the quality of education with The Dallas Morning News Feb. 27, 2010.

David Meltzer, Anthropology, Dedman College, provided expertise for a commentary on climate change and the weather by journalist Lee Cullum that was broadcast on KERA Radio 90.1 FM Feb. 26, 2010. Read and listen to the full commentary. audio

For the win: Indie Game Challenge celebrates inaugural honorees

Indie Game Challenge logoTwo teams received $100,000 each as winners of the inaugural Indie Game Challenge sponsored by The Guildhall at SMU, the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences and GameStop Corp.. The honorees were announced Feb. 19, 2010, following the conclusion of the D.I.C.E.™ (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Summit in Las Vegas.

In attendance were representatives from each of the 12 finalist teams along with game publishers, developers and associated enterprises. The awards ceremony was hosted by Adam Sessler, host of G4 TV’s “X-Play.” Among the presenters were Guildhall Executive Director Peter Raad, AIAS President Joseph Olin and GameStop Executive Vice President of Merchandising and Marketing Tony Bartel.

The $100,000 winners are:

Screencap from 'Gear'Grand Prize, Non-Professional category: Gear, submitted by Team 3: Joshua Maiche, team lead; Mike Halbrooke, level designer; Ben Frazier, level designer; Brian Lee, designer, graphics, art and music; and Andrew Hill, level designer. All team members are students at the Digipen Institute of Technology in Redmond, Washington.

Gear is a 2D puzzle game for Windows in which the player controls a robot with the ability to change its hand into a gear. The player has to swing around sockets, ride on rails, swim and even rotate the world in order to get through 10 unique levels and beat the “boss.”

Screencap from 'Cogs'Grand Prize, Professional category: Cogs, submitted by San Francisco-based Lazy 8 Studios and a three-person team: Rob Jagnow, team leader; Brendan Mauro, artist; and Luke Gilbert, sound and music.

Cogs is a puzzle game for Windows in which players build machines from sliding tiles. Players can choose from 50 levels and three gameplay modes. New puzzles are unlocked by building contraptions quickly and efficiently.

Screencap from 'Altitude'Category winners include:

  • Technical Achievement ($2,500): Altitude, an aerial battle game for Windows, Mac and Linux submitted by professional team Nimbly Games headed by life-long friends and Las Cruces, New Mexico, neighbors Erik Measure and Karl Sabo
  • Achievement in Art Direction ($2,500): Cogs
  • Achievement in Gameplay ($2,500): Cogs
  • Gamer’s Choice Award ($10,000): Altitude

The recipient of the Indie Game Challenge SMU scholarship will be announced later this spring. The winner of the Gamer’s Choice Award Sweepstakes will be selected from all eligible sweepstakes entries and announced March 19.

Read more about the winners at
Find a complete list of finalists
See The Guildhall at SMU online
Learn more about the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences
Visit the GameStop Corp. website

Guildhall, Dedman Law host summit for video game industry

Games-Business-Law Summit logoVideo game industry leaders will share insights on evolving legal and business issues during the 2010 Games::Business::Law Summit, set for Jan. 27-28 in the Hillcrest Room of SMU’s Underwood Law Library.

Hosted by SMU’s Dedman School of Law, The Guildhall at SMU and The Center for American and International Law, Game::Business::Law will bring top game industry leaders, developers, publishers, lawyers, and members of the venture capital and financial industry from around the world to discuss current business trends and legal issues in the games industry.

Jay Cohen, president of development with Jerry Bruckheimer Games, will serve as the keynote speaker. SMU Law Dean John B. Attanasio and Guildhall Executive Director Peter Raad will provide opening remarks.

Conference officials have confirmed Gregory Short, executive chairman of Electronic Entertainment Design and Research, and Delores M. Etter, director of SMU’s Caruth Institute for Engineering Education, as featured speakers. Short’s talk, “Innovations in the Due Diligence Process for Funding and Greenlighting Games,” will be presented at lunch on Jan. 27. Etter will speak on “Innovation Using the Skunk Works Philosophy” at the Founders Dinner that evening, using three studies SMU students have recently conducted for the U.S. Marine Corps and Lockheed Martin.

Other scheduled speakers include:

  • Zack Karlsson, NAMCO BANDAI Games America, Inc.
  • Chris Charla, Foundation 9 Entertainment
  • Bob Loya, Activision Blizzard
  • Joe Minton, Digital Development Management
  • Roxanne Christ, Latham & Watkins, LLP
  • Keith Boesky, Boesky & Company
  • Stephanie O’Malley Deming, XLOC
  • Alex Marquez, Intel Capital
  • Andrew S. Ehmke, Haynes and Boone
  • Jennifer Archie, Latham & Watkins, LLP
  • Jason Kee, Entertainment Software Association
  • Shane McGee, Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal, LLP
  • PJ Putnam, Gearbox Software

Mark Methenitis of The Vernon Law Group will facilitate a round-table discussion on the financial and legal crossroads of digital delivery with guest speakers Robin Bynoe, Charles Russell, LLP; Sean F. Kane, Kane & Associates LLC and Jeffrey A. Levenstam, Ernst & Young.

Read more from SMU News
Visit the Games::Business::Law Summit homepage

Guildhall announces student game based on ‘Braveheart’

Screenshot from 'Braveheart: Primae NoctisThe Guildhall at SMU has announced the upcoming debut of a student-designed game based on Mel Gibson’s Academy Award-winning film “Braveheart” (1995), created in cooperation with Paramount Pictures.

Students enrolled in The Guildhall, SMU’s graduate video game education program, participate in a simulated design studio in the course’s final semester. The assembled design teams must produce a working prototype game prior to graduation, demonstrating skills learned in art creation, level design, and programming.

One of this year’s projects, Braveheart: Primae Noctis, was made possible through an educational arrangement between SMU and Paramount.

“We believe this to be the first project of its kind where a university has been able to develop a prototype game for educational purposes based on a major motion picture,” says Peter Raad, Guildhall executive director. “The opportunity for our students to work on a globally recognized concept like ‘Braveheart’ is extraordinary by any measure.”

Gaming aficionados will have a chance to preview and play Braveheart: Primae Noctis at the Guildhall’s 2009 Fall Exhibition, which takes place 1-5 p.m. Dec. 18 at SMU-in-Plano. For more information, visit the Guildhall at SMU homepage.

(Above, a screenshot from Braveheart: Primae Noctis.)

Faculty in the News: Dec. 8, 2009

Cal Jillson, Political Science, Dedman College, spoke with KERA 90.1‘s Shelley Kofler about how Houston Mayor Bill White’s candidacy could change the race for governor. The broadcast took place Dec. 3, 2009. audio

Peter Raad, Executive Director, The Guildhall at SMU, was interviewed for a Fort Worth Weekly story on the emergence of the highly profitable game industry. Sandy Petersen and Elizabeth Stringer were among the Guildhall faculty members featured in the story, which appeared in the Weekly‘s Dec. 2, 2009 edition. In addition, Raad participated in a video interview about game development in academia with Visualize This! for the Intel Software Network Dec. 4, 2009. video

Simmons School, Guildhall to help Arboretum design children’s garden

Mary Brinegar of the Dallas ArboretumA new partnership between the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society represents a winning opportunity for SMU students and school children throughout North Texas.

The Arboretum plans to begin construction in early 2010 on the new $43 million. seven acre Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden. The area will be the largest science education garden in the country, filled with concepts that correspond to state and national standards in earth science and life science for kindergarten through sixth grade, says Arboretum President and CEO Mary Brinegar (’69), who holds an elementary education degree from SMU.

“One of the best days we ever had was when we had an opportunity to talk with Dean David Chard about having a working relationship with SMU. We are very interested in making sure that we have the latest in evaluation techniques and are up to date with the latest ways of teaching,” she said.

The school and its students will rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of the garden’s teaching activities to make sure the lessons are retained. she explained.

Chard put Brinegar in touch with Peter Raad, executive director of the Guildhall at SMU, the premier graduate video game education program in the United States. Guildhall students, education students and Arboretum educators will work together to design technology-based activities that will reinforce the outdoor lessons and be located in a new teaching building within the garden, she said.

The Arboretum’s staff of degreed teachers currently presents formal lessons to more than 70,000 students a year. Brinegar hopes the partnership with SMU will help the garden become a national tourist destination like the famous Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco.

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Guildhall, AIAS announce Academy Scholarship

guildhall-logo-200.jpgThe Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) and The Guildhall at SMU have announced the establishment of the Academy Scholar program, designed to build a force of new talent in interactive entertainment.

aias-logo-200.jpgThe program, which will begin during the Fall 2009 semester, will award $10,000 per semester for 2 semesters to a graduate-level Guildhall student. The scholarship “will honor an outstanding applicant who exemplifies the AIAS’ spirit and commitment to advance the worldwide interactive entertainment community,” according to a joint news release from AIAS and the Guildhall.

“SMU and AIAS have a shared vision and responsibility to further the industry and support the next generation of game makers,” said Peter Raad, Guildhall executive director and founder. “Our mission has always been to produce future industry leaders and the very best game professionals. We are honored to have the AIAS as a partner in helping us fulfill this mission.”

“There is no better time for us to invest in the next generation of game makers,” said Joseph Olin, AIAS president. “We want candidates who can share their vision and goals for this industry – our future influentials who will address the challenges of game creation and inspire new ways of making games.”

To be considered for an Academy Scholarship, a combined panel of senior AIAS members and an SMU review board will evaluate and rank each admission portfolio. The applicants with the highest rank order will be invited to submit an essay for consideration to win the scholarship.

The AIAS is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to “promoting awareness of the art and science of interactive games and entertainment.” Its Board of Directors includes senior executives representing Sony, EA, Nintendo, Microsoft, THQ and Ubisoft as well as the independent development community.

Read about the Academy Scholar announcement at the 2009 D.I.C.E. Summit (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain)
Learn more about the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences
Visit the Guildhall online

For the Record: Feb. 5, 2009

Robert Krout and students at Hope Town School, BahamasLori White, Vice President for Student Affairs, has been nominated as a Pillar of the Profession by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and the NASPA Foundation “in recognition of her many years of outstanding service to higher education.” She will be honored at the 2009 NASPA conference scheduled for March 7-11 in Seattle, Washington.

Peter Raad, Executive Director, The Guildhall at SMU, has been named to the Board of Directors of the PC Gaming Alliance (PCGA), a nonprofit corporation “dedicated to driving the worldwide growth of PC gaming.” Among the organization’s goals are to create hardware guidelines, improve consumer experience, and offer guidance to help resolve industry challenges such as piracy, cheating and security. Read more.

Robert Krout (right), Music Therapy, Meadows School of the Arts, spent the month of January volunteering in music and music therapy at the Hope Town School, a primary school in Hope Town, Bahamas. His class, a mix of regular and special-needs students, also put on an outdoor concert for parents.

Guildhall students, alumni name 2008’s best video games

Cover art from Fallout 3Students and alumni of The Guildhall at SMU have released their top ten video game gift list for the 2008 holiday season.

Sequels dominate the Guildhall’s top 5 with Fallout 3 leading the list, followed by Fable II at number two. Rounding out the top five are Gears of War 2, Far Cry 2 and Rock Band 2.

Despite the economic meltdown this fall, video game sales are up 26 percent through October over last year and are expected to be big sellers this holiday season.

“Consumers find a better return on investment in terms of hours of gameplay through video games than outside entertainment,” says Peter Raad, Guildhall founder and executive director. “It costs less to buy a video game than to take a family of four to the movies with concessions.”

Raad urges gift-givers to consider two main factors when purchasing video games for friends and family: what type of hardware is required, and the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) rating that provides information about content and age appropriateness. Both can be found on the package.

See the Guildhall’s complete 2008 list below the link.

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