Any gamer who has traversed the
dazzling virtual worlds of Battlefield, Bioshock or Skyrim knows that a truly
immersive experience is all about the perfect environment.
Games like these inspired future
game designer Kyle Chansler, and when he discovered Irvine Valley College’s
Immersive Game Design program, he knew he’d found his own perfect environment.
“I think what IVC does really
well is that they give you the foundation to pursue your dream job,” says the
talented game environment designer, currently working toward a bachelor’s
degree at Cal State Fullerton. “I learned all of the industry-standard software
from IVC. And having those on your resume really helps you land that job.”
In the competitive gaming
industry, it is critical for professionals not only to develop high-level
skills, but to stand out creatively. Through IVC’s Game Design department,
students are empowered to build a professional portfolio from independent,
hands-on class projects.
Students begin by building
proficiency in Autodesk Maya, the industry standard for 3D. For animation, they
gain a strong foundation in Unity, which “unifies” assets into a game. They
also pick up a bit of Unreal Engine, a more “hardcore” professional game design
“Our students can put together a
demo reel showing they can make the same kind of quality as you would expect
from a game you would buy at the store,” says IVC Graphic Communication
instructor Colin McCall, who teaches intro courses in game design. “What we
promise is that by the time you’re done with the class, you’ll be able to get
an entry-level job.”
This past May, Game Design
students represented Irvine Valley College as the only community college to
participate in the IEEE GameSig competition. Up against some of the most
respected four-year programs in Southern California, and with less than half
the time to prepare, IVC managed not only to hold its own, but make the finals.
“We were competing against UCI
and USC, and they’ve been working on these games for an entire year,” says
Chansler, who acted as the team’s Lead Environmental Artist and Level
Developer. “We just had about five months to make something. The fact that we
got to the finals was a really cool experience.”
McCall, co-advisor for the IVC
team, credited Chansler’s leadership, as well as the group’s overall
persistence, for the sparkling result.
“Kyle was a leader in his group
who built the programming for the game from scratch,” says McCall, adding that
the team very nearly won the graphics area of the competition. “We taught them
how to make the game look pretty, but they taught themselves how to make it
functional, which was a big deal.”
For the competition, McCall
reached out to his network of game production professionals and asked them to
lay out a framework for his students. “We structured the project so that they
were working on a schedule, which imitates what people actually do in the
industry,” remembers McCall. For students, the real-life game design immersion
was more than just fun – it was a glimpse into the future.
“It was basically what it’s like
in a real game studio,” says Chansler.
The team leader attributes IVC’s
success to faculty like McCall, who come directly from the industry to share
their expertise. “They really helped us … to push our individual strengths and
bring our own ideas out,” Chansler says. To the future game design star, IVC’s
triumph in the competition just proves how far the school is ahead of the
“These programs are the same
exact thing you would get at a four-year art school,” says Chansler. “So you’re
getting the same education at a fraction of the price.”
“We’re not just teaching people
how to be artistic,” adds McCall. “We’re teaching them how to be professional.”
IVC gaming classes are geared
toward production and working effectively as a team. So when students go into
industry, according to McCall, they’re going to be on the “same wavelength” as
their colleagues, “from day one.” The IEEE competition was the perfect crucible
to test students’ skills, and he plans on mentoring another team next year.
Though many members of the IVC
team have since graduated and gone on to four-year schools or started careers,
they’re still game for more.
“We want to get the group back
together, push out a game and launch it on Steam,” says Chansler. Not only
would having a game on the juggernaut platform help them boost portfolios while
reaching more than 94 million active users in 35-plus countries, he says, it
would also be tremendous fun to reunite.
“We fancied ourselves a little
studio,” says IVC grad and teammate Jeffrey Plizga, who created the famous bear
character for the IEEE competition. “It was a lot of good experience, seeing
how all the different parts are meant to fit together, and how you have to
support each other.”
Plizga has gone on to create his
own range of 3D-printed game miniatures, and he’s also developing his own video
game, currently gearing up for Steam launch. Utilizing assets he made in his
visual programming class at IVC, he created a “really fun” retro tank wars
game. “Everything but one piece of script, I’ve done myself,” he says. “I
applied everything that I’ve learned through my whole attendance at IVC to make
On top of being a gaming
entrepreneur, Plizga is applying to a variety of gaming studios, and he says
the networking support he received at IVC is giving him the edge. After the
IEEE competition, the school paid for the team to attend the Gaming &
Interactive SIGGRAPH conference. The group represented its game at the event,
while getting the opportunity to hobnob with industry professionals.
“It was an amazing opportunity,
and the tickets were not exactly cheap,” Plizga shares. “Colin helped us with
introductions and mentored us through the whole process.”
With those contacts in hand,
Plizga is excited to reach out to the indie gaming companies he’s met and
jumpstart his career.
“Jefferey is a passionate and
skilled artist who always went the extra mile in his assignments,” says McCall.
For Plizga, the grand design – a
career in video games – was never in question. But until he found the Irvine
Valley College Game Design program, he admits that the path was foggier than
the Kryptonite level in Superman 64.
“Were it not for my time at IVC,
I would still be watching YouTube videos and just hoping that I kind of knew
what I was doing,” says Plizga. “Now, I have a very firm understanding of what
I'm doing. And I'm much better for it.”
See IVC Gaming Skills in motion with Kyle Chansler's Wild West midterm.