Tag Archives: writing sample

UAT: UAT Student Earns Karrlin Field Scholarship

(Here is a UAT article from 2007.)

UAT Student Earns Karrlin Field Scholarship

Story by Trevor Green

A passion for technology, a love of creative arts and an unbridled drive toward a career in video games: prospective UAT student Karrlin Field had that in spades.

When the 17-year-old passed away in 2004 from cystic fibrosis, her family connected with Admissions and created a scholarship honoring the young woman. They were looking for female students excited about gaming and pursuing fruitful careers.

The 2007 spring semester recipient, senior Game Design student Erin Ali, was the spitting image of what they were looking for. Erin received $1,000 towards her tuition, which she planned to use to further her education.

“I’m really excited that I won, and I’m really happy that this is going to help towards my last semester here,” she said.

Her zeal for video games as a lifestyle and career were the subject of her essay, a two-page composition presented in a magazine-style format.

“I sat down and went through a whole biography on myself and how that experience had got me to where I am today, and with more help I could do more,” she recalled. “And then because I’m so graphically oriented, I made it look better so I didn’t just send in a Word doc – I actually sent in a layout with the text in it, somehow revolving around my life.”

Erin was awestruck after reading Karrlin’s website, viewing the games, stories and writings made in her brief life. She was inspired by Karrlin’s achievements despite her physical ailment.

“You could tell she didn’t do it because she had to or that she did it because she felt she should, but it was something she really wanted to do,” she enthused. “She did a ton of stuff, and it’s like to me small things that affect me every day to me no longer mattered when I was reading her stuff.”

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UAT Student Creates Sword with 3D Printer

(Here’s another sample from my time at University of Advancing Technology.)

UAT Student Creates Sword with 3D Printer

Story by Trevor Green

University of Advancing Technology’s campus features a wealth of hardware and software to give creative ideas life. Special topics classes like ENG 415 – King Arthur literature, taught by Professor Micah Chabner, give students freedom to display their gained knowledge in imaginative ways. Student Josh Follis decided to exhibit his fascination with medieval weaponry by using University tech in an innovative way.

Follis combined his love of sword design and the fabrication technology of 3D printers for his King Arthur-themed blade. The 4-foot long plastic weapon, created and constructed via 13 interlocking parts, is the largest design sourced from the University’s Dimension uPrint Personal 3D Printer.

He came up with the idea in the first week of class, tasked with the creation of a midterm and final project relevant to the subject matter. His list of ideas – one being a card game – conjured the memory of the 3D printer. The sword designer, with several wood-carved sabers to his credit, decided to try a new medium for his passion.

“I thought, ‘Why don’t I design a knight sword for my final?’ So I got to thinking and I figured the long sword version of it would be about right,” he said.

Follis initially planned to create a miniature sword with the 3D printer with his first concept sketch, but a change of heart led to a loftier plan.

“The idea ran across my head to make it full-scale and I got to thinking, ‘Nothing’s ever been done that big, not on the 3D printer.’ And to date, I haven’t had anybody disagree or prove me wrong that there is anything physically larger to come out of the 3D printer.”

Inspiration included designs from the Knights of the Round Table lore and more modern fare – the sword handle mimicking the Holy Hand Grenade from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The conversion from idea to physical product involved help from student Dennis Porter to recreate the plan in Maya 2012 3D modeling software. Porter drafted the complete model and broke it up into segments to fit in the printer. Lego-like extension bits were added to construct the pieces like a puzzle.

The sword took approximately 120 hours to print and complete. Three print sessions – which constructed 4-5 pieces at a time – each took 20-26 hours. (Every print session concluded with an 8-hour acid bath that dissolved the supports that held pieces in place.) The sections were then sanded and painted.

UAT freshmen saw the final product at the recent CONNECT orientation as Follis, a CLP leader, used the sword to break the ice. He relished the shocked faces when they learned it was for his English class.

“I really wish I had a camera for half of them because they’re like, double- and triple-takes and, like, ‘What? Your English final?'” he recalled. “I modeled and printed a sword for my English final!”

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UAT: Alumni Form Blue Void Game Studio

Here is an article for my employer from several months ago.

Alumni Form Blue Void Game Studio

Story by Trevor Green

UAT alumni Jessica Lang, Parish Regn-Stillwaggon and Russell Sakolsky have formed game development company Blue Void Studios, along with former UAT student Nicholas Pfisterer. Their first full game, Blink, is a first-person, puzzle platformer that puts gamers in control of a character suffering visual extinction, a neurological condition where a person cannot interpret two stimuli at the same time.

Blink is being created on Unreal Development Kit (UDK). Lang and Pfisterer are in charge of game design, level design and 2D/3D art duties. Pfisterer is also tasked with audio (music, sound effects) and programming in UnrealScript. Regn-Stillwaggon does scripting, level design and other tasks, using Hydra Development Kit to work with UDK.

Lang’s goals for Blink are for the game to be released and challenge design conventions, giving players “a fresh and immersive experience.” The visual extinction aspect affects gameplay, as players switch between two versions of the world to see different realities-though the game takes fictional liberties with the disorder.

(See the group’s Kickstarter video at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bluevoidstudios/blink-a-surreal-first-person-gaming-experience.)

“Unlike real-life visual extinction, what players cannot see really isn’t there. In one version of the world, you might see a platform on which you can stand, but in the other is a gaping crevice leading to your death,” says Lang.

The group launched a Kickstarter online fundraising campaign to raise money for development costs. The effort raised $14,580, beating their $10,000 goal. (Their backup financing plans include a PayPal option on their website, soliciting Indie Fund for assistance and (worst case scenario, according to Lang) finding a publisher.) She notes that they want to turn their hobby into full-time work.

“Game development is what we’re passionate about. Isn’t that why we attended UAT?”

Blink originated with this year’s Global Game Jam (a 48-hour contest to create a playable game), but its roots were established several years prior. The team formed in 2009 with two members (Lang and Pfisterer) dedicated to create a game for the Gamma 4 one-button design challenge.

While they did not finish in time for the contest, the endeavor inspired them to accomplish several goals by creating a full-fledged horror game that players could enjoy. Regn-Stillwaggon, a horror game fan, came onboard as programmer.

“[Pfisterer and I had] been talking about independent development for a long time and it’s what we both want for ourselves, so it became a natural fit to become a part of Blue Void,” says Regn-Stillwaggon.

A meeting with motion controller developer Sixense at the 2010 Game Developer’s Conference netted them a development kit and a second programmer in Sakolsky.

The team works from both coasts, using Skype and Google Calendar to coordinate work and schedules, a challenging feat for the members. Regn-Stillwaggon uses a set schedule to stay on task and remain refreshed.

They are shooting for a March launch on Steam and Desura digital distribution platforms, with Mac App Store availability being a possibility.

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MyGamer.com: Burnout 3: Takedown (review)

This is a game review for MyGamer.com from 2004. Do check it out!

Burnout 3 

For a few years now, there has been a hole in my gaming heart that has gone unfulfilled. It has been nearly a whole system generation since I could say I was emotionally complete. Back then, there was no PS1 or PS2 — just some thing called a PlayStation. And that gray contraption housed some of the finest arcade racers since the glory days of the arcades (you remember those, right?). Recalling the giddy thrill of no-limits, physics-be-damned joyrides such as Outrun, Pole Position and Race Drivin’, Namco’s Ridge Racer series was a stunning import to the console scene. The great graphics, tight controls, stunning techno soundtrack and drifting madness were pure bliss. But Namco tried to mature and modernize the series, neutering its fun factor in the process. Heartbroken, I tried to fill the void with the usual vices: food, Smirnoff Triple Black, Crusin’ USA on N64… nothing medicated my wounds, and one had me kissing porcelain (guess which one?).

But little did I know that developer Criterion was feeling my pain. Almost like a love letter delivered in secret, they snuck an arcade racer onto store shelves called Burnout. Despite a few flaws the game had enormous potential, as did its fantastic sequel. It was arcade racing, but with an edge- leaner and meaner than the point A-to-point B racers of old. But there was a spark missing, almost as if the developers were holding something back. And with Burnout 3– the inevitable sequel- it appears that the catalyst was being acquired by Electronic Arts. EA’s limitless coffers seemed to be that extra spark Criterion needed, crafting an utter masterpiece of arcade racing. The breathtaking graphics, licensed soundtrack, and deep game play all speak volumes of a big budget. Not to say that it doesn’t have its faults, but you can see past those when there’s so much to love, right?

There’s no real story to speak of in Burnout 3. There is the anonymous racer travels the globe, racking up cars and accolades angle, but it feels a little impersonal. I guess I’m a sucker for knowing the face behind the racecar, but it’s nothing to complain about. I mean, look at the character development of the female protagonist of Spy Hunter 2.

One thing that isn’t a source of embarrassment is the spectacular visuals. The graphics of Burnout 3 took a giant leap forward in technical prowess- not to say that the previous two were slouches. The photo-realistic backdrops will make you swear that you’re tearing up highways, battling along scenic mountainsides and power sliding through picturesque forests. Little details tucked away like realistic lighting effects-especially the insane sparks and explosions- and shadows only enhance to overall visual punch. The sensation of speed- and burring graphical touches- is remarkable; most other games can’t touch it in this department. The car models leave a little to be desired- one coupe looks like a Subaru Impreza with the rear doors magically erased- but look sharper than the candy-coated vehicles of the past games. Car damage looks realistic, and pieces of metal flying off crumbling racers are equally impressive. With all the spastic action onscreen, it’s amazing that the game’s frame rate stays rock-solid (except in Team Crush mode and, oddly enough, in the menu screens). One problem with the remarkable visuals is that while everything is so detailed, certain objects blend into the background. Imagine the surprise of colliding with a fencepost that pops out of nowhere or a yellow taxi blending with the guide arrows (and the cursing afterwards).

In the audio department, Burnout 3 benefits most from EA’s purchase. The most noticeable inclusion is undoubtedly the “EA Trax” soundtrack- a hodgepodge of scrappy bands and rock greats. Everything from the Ramones to Yellowcard is open game and provides some entertainment. Too bad that most of the newer groups sound similar, leading to a pop-rock blandness that sedates rather than energizes. It is an improvement over the synthetic cheese-rock and techno of the previous games (although it still lingers on the start screen). The sound effects pop from the speakers, with every fender-bender, friction of metal on metal and the engine roar plop you in the thick of the action. Speaking of action, there should be a lawsuit against “extreme” announcers such as Burnout 3‘s Striker. The knowledge he provides is only occasionally helpful, and his “too cool” demeanor was eye-roll inducing. Good thing you can turn him off.

Another noteworthy achievement is the game’s presentation. Receiving some tutelage from Electronic Arts, the menus and other front-end screens are crystal clear and of high quality. Throw in the major-label musicians with the stellar visuals, and Burnout 3 comes out looking like the highly polished gem its predecessors strived to be.

Showing its arcade influences, the controls in Burnout 3 are deceptively simple. Car movement is assigned to the digital pad/left analog stick and brake and gas designated to the face buttons. The R1 button handles the turbo boost and impact time (more later). The basic control structure works well here, and is very accurate. Strategies like takedowns and turbo-boosted drifts are a snap with a few effortless button presses.

The game play of Burnout 3 is the main draw here, with a sizable pedigree to live up to. Criterion wisely tweaked the various modes and play mechanics, making a fun series an all-out thrill ride.

Before you can attack the game modes with panache, you have to learn the driving essentials. Techniques like managing your turbo boost and drifting are basic in nature, but need to be mastered to shave time off your score. Your turbo boost meter is affected by the way you drive. Racing in oncoming traffic, avoiding crashes, drifting and tailgating opponents are a few ways you can increase your turbo thrust. Your opponents won’t take kindly to you finishing first, so you’ll also have to learn to drive defensively- and offensively. Sliding along walls and other cars won’t sap your speed like more technical racers. This is good for avoiding wrecks and obstacles. You engage in combative play by one of several methods including battling, rubbing against your foe, slamming and shunting (hitting the enemy from the back). The most important aspect of slowing your opponent is the takedown. With your rival against a wall or railing, sideswiping or shunting at the right angle and speed will send them airborne and out of contention for a few seconds. Special- or signature- takedowns are rewarded with extra points. Takedowns net you a huge increase in your boost meter, so taking out the competition can put you ahead in several ways. It’s all about puttin’ your life on the line, baby!

There is a whole new stable of racers to play with in Burnout 3. Starting out with the compact cars- i.e.: hatchbacks- you work your way up to more powerful vehicles. Coupes, muscle cars, sports cars and off-roaders are just a few choices to toy with as you go along.

New to Burnout 3 is the impact time. As with most games of the post-Matrix era, impact time is a slow-motion play mechanic. Unlike most games, it isn’t purely for show. Impact time can have an influence on the race itself. Crashing your car starts the impact time, in which you can slow the game down and do one of two things: take in the sights and sounds of destruction, or maintain some control over your car ala crash aftertouch. In crash aftertouch, you can send your careening car towards oncoming vehicles. If used effectively, you can perform takedowns with your mangled wreck and knock out the nearest rival for a bit. It is a useful technique for advanced play.

Another major addition is within the Crash mode itself. Brought back from Burnout 2, there are a few new tricks to learn to have success. There are several parts to the Crash mode: regular Crash (one player), Double Impact, Party Crash (two to eight players) and Team Crush (two players working together for the best score) modes. The objective is still to crash and rack up expensive damage, but part 3 takes a more complex approach. Power-ups now add boost, increase the cash and multiply the total score. Crash aftertouch plays a major role, as well as the exclusive “Crashbreaker” feature- earned after hitting several cars. The crashbreaker is literally a self-destruct for you car, sending it skyward. Used in tandem with the crash aftertouch, you can hit multiple cars and grab otherwise unreachable power-ups- which will send your score skyrocketing. This adds a ton of strategy, but also requires memorizing every nook and cranny of the crash site for the best crash point. This is a change from the car go boom, watch cars fly now tactics of part two, which had its own merits. I wish there was an option for playing both types, as I kind of missed the simplistic- but by no means easy- nature of old.

There are four main modes of play: Burnout 3 World Tour, Single Event, Multiplayer and Online. World Tour is undoubtedly the time-waster, packed to the gills with a diverse selection of events and tracks to conquer. Spanning three parts of the world- the U.S. of A, Europe and the Far East- there are more than one hundred and seventy different events. These are spread out over several categories: the standard race (up to three laps with five opponents), Road Rage (getting a set amount of takedowns before time runs out/totaling your car), Faceoff (you and one rival battling on one lap), Grand Prix (two or three consecutive races), Preview Lap/Special Event (one lap fighting the traffic), Eliminator (five laps, with the loser of each lap exploding), and the various Crash events. These modes are spread out over different racetracks, which branch and overlap within the same layout cleverly like Ridge Racer. The Single Event loses the career mode aspects of World Tour, but still has most of its events. Multiplayer houses the Race, Road Rage, and the three buddy-friendly Crash modes. Online mode puts you and up to five other racers on numerous tracks. Either playing solo or with some friends- in the same room or across the globe- is equally a blast. You can track your progress, stats and even how much damage you cause- a plus for stat-freaks and completists.

Placing in the top three of each event nets you a gold, silver or bronze award. Netting an award unlocks cars and events, as does earning a set amount of points and takedowns. There are dozens of cars and hundreds of events to unlock, greatly adding to the replay value. To earn the better cars and novelty rides, be prepared to put in a few dozen hours of play. The more advanced rides are better equipped at handling the gradual challenge of the game, but never get to the point of overexerting yourself on either end.

I did have a few small gripes with the game play. When performing some of the actions (drifts, shunts), seeing it highlighted in big letters onscreen was distracting at first. Eventually, I learned to squint past it. I also didn’t like having to redo the training modes when entering a race or crash event (in single event), and there should have been a marker in my profile to prevent that. I also wished there was a damage meter, as the visible car damage is a little deceptive. The rubber band AI of the opponents- keeping them in the game no matter how far back they are- isn’t bad for an arcade racer such as this, but having them pop out of nowhere (after being assured that they are seconds behind) is a little annoying. And why in the heck isn’t there an onscreen map? I can’t be the only one that wants to know where the opponents and finish line are. Again, these are minor setbacks, and can easily be corrected for…Burnout 4!

Burnout 3 is, without a doubt, one of the best racing games to grace the current generation of consoles. EA’s acquisition has paid big dividends in the qualitiesBurnout 3 exudes, as well as exposing the critically acclaimed series to a wider audience. The Burnout series always captured the essence of action-packed racing, and the third installment ups the ante in almost every aspect. The already great arcade-bred game play is tweaked to near-perfection, making for a enthralling and addicting experience. The superb graphics, sharp audio and precise controls make the time spent that much better. Everything comes together in a way that only Namco’s best could accomplish. They always say that the third time is the charm, and Burnout 3 has made me fall head over heels. I guess you could say that hole in my heart has finally been filled.

Review by Trevor Green on 15 Sep 2004

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UAT: DIGITAL VIDEO PROGRAM CREATING MASS EFFECT FILM

This is one of my newest writing samples, a preview of a student film created and produced for my former employer. Enjoy!

MASS EFFECT FILM

DIGITAL VIDEO PROGRAM CREATING MASS EFFECT FILM

Story by Trevor Green

More than a dozen people mill around a dirt lot next to University of Advancing Technology’s campus. Flanked by several portable green screens, two actors in futuristic-looking space suits linger as UAT students position camera equipment, move green-covered set props and tend to wardrobe. The costumed actors stand parallel to the green screen with guns pointed at the blank canvas until the snap of a slate announces the start of filming. The word “cut” is heard after a few minutes and the tension melts. Discussion points to the next scene for filming: camera equipment is moved once more; actors wait for their cues and grips move props for staging.

This was during a day of filming on the Digital Video program’s newest film, Red Sand, a prequel to the Mass Effect video games. The movie takes place approximately 50-100 years before the events of the first game. More than a dozen UAT students are involved with production, from filming to computer graphics and sound.

“I think it’s great. The story is great,” says student Ariel Navarrete, lead 3D artist and art director, regarding the first Mass Effect game. “I think it’s a good video game to make a film about. People are going to love it.”

The Story of Red Sand

Red Sand features two parallel storylines centering on planet Mars. Colonels Jon Grissom and Lily Sandhurst defend a military base from Mad Max-like marauders known as Red Sand, humans addicted to a substance called Element Zero. (Element Zero, or eezo, is a key part of the Mass Effect series, fueling weapons, ships and-when mixed with the planet’s dust-biotic powers.) The marauders want the base because it sits on a rich underground vein of eezo. Meanwhile, a team of scientists, led by Dr. Averroes, hope to attain the last secrets from the Prothean ruins to fully utilize the ancient technology. Both parties are racing against time before they are overrun by the marauders.

DeNigris was inspired to do a fan film after seeing Portal: No Escape, a tribute to the first-person shooter. He felt that his students could do better.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we did an awesome fan film with all that we can do here and all of our facilities and all of our technology and all of the skills that we have here in the program? Because it would be great to have 7 million views on YouTube for something we’ve done,” he says.

Student Caleb Evans, a Mass Effect fan, created the prequel’s story in fall 2011 after Digital Video Professor Paul DeNigris asked students in his DVA492 (Digital Video Production Studio II) class about doing a video game fan film-offering BioShock or Mass Effect for selection. Evans’ love for the game series was reflected in his dedication to writing a movie that could stand apart from the games-a challenge he noted because of the limitations of the University’s equipment.

“I found a way to give us some creative liberty with it by doing a prequel around the time where there really is no information on what went on,” he says.

This includes a focus on Jon Grissom, familiar to Mass Effect fans for his namesake on a military academy, a female counterpart to Grissom in the form of Lily Sandhurst, and various elements from the series-including color hues (blues, purples and oranges) and related weapons and costumes. The most evident example is incorporating the mass relay interstellar transport system, which plays a pivotal role in the games.

“We all love the story. We all thought it was great: it had a lot of action; it had some cool sci-fi concepts, great opportunities for visual effects and would be a challenge to shoot,” says DeNigris.

Evans fleshed out the story with DeNigris and Professor Sharon Bolman to make it accessible to fans and novices.

“If you’ve never played a single minute of those games (you don’t even know what those games are)… you’re still going to be entertained by this and still going to be engaging right from the get-go,” says DeNigris.

DeNigris let Evans run with his vision of a Mass Effect-inspired universe, putting him in the director’s chair. Evans previously directed projects with as many as six people, and he enjoyed his first large-scale role and the demands that came with it. He credited the cast and crew for their teamwork and efforts.

“It was great—a lot better than I thought. It’s stressful because you’re being pulled in a lot of different directions, and basically if you’re not there then everybody’s like, ‘Well, what do we do now?’ because you keep everything moving.”

The Crew

Students from DeNigris’ Digital Video Production Studio I-III classes (some having roles on DeNigris’ previous production, Parallax; others are on their first film) and alumni have pitched in with various production roles. Work on the movie began during the fall 2011 semester, with the DVA492 (Digital Video Production Studio II) class devoted to pre-production.

Graduate Zach Robinson played a marauder in the film and worked off-camera as a grip. He will do 3D compositing, rotoscoping and other computer graphics effects for the movie in post-production.

“It’s actually not bad now because I do grip work when I’m not acting and then the acting stuff comes first, I guess, because they have 12 other grips to do work. So it’s been easy: I suit up when they want me to and I help out when I’m done suiting up,” says Robinson.

Student Paul Gandia did sound and grip duties for the film’s shoot, and he is bouncing between post-production editing and sound work. He desired to experience as much as possible.

“I want to be on set even though I’m going to be the editor. That’s why I took sound, so I can see what’s going on and learn a lot for editing as well.”

Navarrete says concept art for the 3D models is finished and they are doing post-production work while they are filming.

The Cast

DeNigris recruited actors from previous works (like Aynam Samman from 2011’s Parallax) and the Phoenix community. He reached out to Mark Meer, a television, improv, sketch and voice actor-best known as playing the voice of Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect series, for a character new to the games’ lore. The script interested him, particularly the opportunity to play an action hero, noting that he is “a scrawny, nerdy voice actor.”

“This is quite fun, you know, getting to handle the weapons,” he says of the filming experience. “It’s been very fun working with this crew. It’s a great bunch, and the cast has been lots of fun as well.”

Phoenix-based actress Amy Searcy was thrilled to indulge her love of acting and science-fiction-particularly one that involved blank backdrops.

“For me, I mean, this is the ideal role, and I get to fight, which is even more fun. So yeah, it’s very cool working completely on green screen. I’ve never done an entire movie on green screen.”

Samman mentions the same intrigue in working with the green backdrops. His interest in the role of Dr. Averroes, a scientist bent on advancing humankind at any cost, came from the script and the character’s dedication to his research-a self-described “soldier of science.”

“He’s so dedicated to his work and to knowledge that he doesn’t care if he dies in the process or how many people die, so long as we figure something out that will make humankind better,” he says.

“He doesn’t care if he dies in pursuit of knowledge… And villains don’t think that they’re villains; they believe in something that is evil to other people.”

Promotion

While Red Sand is in post-production, promotional efforts are underway to whet fans’ appetites. The film’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MassEffectRedSand) offers behind-the-scenes pictures and designs. A teaser trailer featuring Meer will be online in the next few weeks along with a dedicated webpage.

Unlike the DV program’s last few movies (including FALLOUTFlight of the Melvin), Red Sand will not be screened at festivals. DeNigris wants the film to be seen by the game’s fans, and he hopes it goes viral.

“I think it’s going to work the way we want it to and definitely take the DV [program] and UAT out to a bigger, broader audience out on the web and reach a lot more people than a festival run could reach. That’s ultimately what this film’s about,” he says.

The team hopes to have the movie done by the end of spring 2012 semester.

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