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04/15/2006 - EWU Announces Game Development Program

Eastern Washington University’s announcement early Saturday morning, from the main stage of downtown’s GameFest Spokane 2006, struck sparks of interest -- even from the exhausted crowd of red-eyed all-night gamers. The University’s computer science department will launch, in Fall 2006, a four year degree program in 3D animation and game development. The new program is the first in the region and one of only a handful in the United States.

According to Stu Steiner, Senior Lecturer at EWU CS, the new program will fill a critical gap in the burgeoning billion dollar field of game development -- “the ability to speak ‘Artist’ combined with a bachelor’s degree in computer science.”

Steiner cited a recent job description at Obsidian Entertainment, the Santa Ana company which produces the hot selling Star Wars series of computer games. The description calls for serious programming skills in languages such as C++ and MaxScript, a bachelors degree in computer science, and “excellent” communications skills with both artists and designers. “The requirements of this position,” Steiner asserts, “are exactly what our new degree targets.”

The new program will make an ideal match for the courses, equipment, and expanded faculty in EWU CS's new building on the main Cheney campus. There, the fundamental parts of computer science underlying game development and animation will be available, as well as more specialized advanced courses in 3D animation, computer graphics, user computer interaction, and many others. EWU has offered, for several past years, courses in the use of the most popular high performance computer animation development environment, 3D Studio Max. This software enables even beginners to produce animation effects that took Pixar, in its early years, months of effort and hours of rendering time to achieve. And, like PhotoShop, AutoCAD, and ArcInfo, the software then goes on and on, into many advanced capabilities --- enough to fill several one quarter EWU classes. The new program requires three courses in 3D modeling and animation, and offers a fourth class as an elective. Yet the students will also be familiar with the deep roots of computer science, in such nitty-gritty areas as Data Structures, Software Engineering, and C and Unix programming. That way, the students will be well prepared for the constant change that is part of any career in computing related fields today

Because the new program builds on the courses, faculty, and equipment that EWU CS has already developed, graduates will appear as early as next spring. All brand new courses required for the new program will be taught for the first time next year, including the senior project course -- a serious real world project for a real world client.

For information contact Stu Steiner, at ssteiner@mail.ewu.edu.

Billie Moreland
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