We declared April 2022 Animation, Game Design & Development month in the HS4CC CS, IT, Cyber and Tech Facebook group and WOW what a month it has been! Below you will find a recap of some of the links, information, videos, software, education resources, summer camps, classes, degrees, and more, that were shared with our members to help our families and their students explore or pursue a career in this burgeoning field!
TWO April Technical Panels + Bonus Video
We had TWO Tech Panels this month and I feel like we could’ve done 20! It is such a vast, interesting field of study! The link to the 2-hour recorded events can be found in the Videos section of the Homeschooling for College Credit website in Section 5. We also have a bonus video from one of our students in the HS4CC community.
- Our FIRST April Tech Panel held on 4/12/22 featured our special guest speaker, Mark Anderson! His resume includes World of Warcraft, Halo, Doom, Call of Duty, God of War + many others! This was an amazing session, from a seasoned professional in the gaming industry. Mr. Anderson spoke about his own career path, an overview of the game design process from art through production, and types of jobs – as well as those top-paying jobs that are in high demand. He spoke in-depth about the art side of the industry, in particular, how to get started, suggestions on education, getting “discovered”, software used in the industry, and so much more! He also answered every question from our large audience. I know that this recording will continue to help so many people find their place in the industry!
- Our SECOND April Tech Panel held 4/19/22 featured Christopher Curra, who spoke about his game design venture Lunarfalls and the upcoming release of their game The Mysterious Misadventures of Mollie and Mordecai, education and the game design industry, and his company Defungify, which facilitates adding NFT’s to video games for game designers. Think Ready Player One!
- Bonus video from our HS4CC Game Design Student Ambassador, Xander B., discussing software and hardware students interested in game design will need, and what he has used for some of his college classes. I reached out to Xander to help me prepare for our Monthly Tech Panels, and to understand the industry a bit more. The next day he made this video to share with all of us, he also joined our Discord server as a mentor for other students, and he helped line up the speaker for our 2nd interview and co-hosted with me! I can’t wait to see what Xander does with the rest of his life – he’s a go-getter and definitely has a passion for game design!
3D Modeling Software
- Maya (3D Modeling and Animation software used in the industry):
Maya FREE Student Account (you may be asked to prove student status, see tip below): https://www.autodesk.com/education/edu-software
- 3DS Max (3D Studio Max) – see the Maya tip above, as this is also an AutoDesk application
- ZBrush – Digital Sculpting and Painting software used in the industry. The link is for the student software discounted to $475. This is the lowest price we’ve found, so far.
- Blender 3D Modeling Software – FREE. Great place to start and knowledge ports nicely to Maya
- PhotoCatch – App written by the adult son of one of our HS4CC members – thank you for sharing! The app converts a series of photos into 3D models.
Pro Tip: Not a college student and no student ID or transcript yet? Here are a couple of possible workarounds for products that need proof of student status (Maya and 3DS Max have a specific list including things like a transcript or registration receipt, student ID, etc):
- Take CIS194 Online Business Technology Fundamentals 1cr course* from ASU Universal Learner:
- pay $25 to transcript it
- Use the ASU transcript to get a free student account with AutoDesk
- This should get the student 1 year of free access. You’ll be asked each year to validate student status, but hopefully the student will be in other college courses by then.
- Or enroll locally at a community college, or at one of the schools offering discounted dual credit nationwide. Or take one of the other ASU UL courses in their lineup for $25 to start and optionally pay $400 to transcript it if you like the grade at the end.
- If the student just needs a .edu email address, the same steps above work, but no need for the course. Applying for an ASURITE ID will get you a student email address, as with many colleges.
Digital Art – Drawing and Painting Software
- Photoshop – another piece of software used in the industry for things like concept art. Link is to the discounted student license for $19.99/mo, for 20+ Creative Cloud products.
- Clip Studio Paint – this is an app that my daughter uses all the time for digital painting and drawing on her computer with her drawing tablet. It can be used on multiple types of devices, she says, but she tends to use Procreate on her iPad. Free trial, pay after that. We bought the $200 version for comics and 3D tools for my daughter, on sale for I think $149 or maybe $99 right before Christmas last year. There is also a $49 version with less tools. Watch for sales on this – that’s how we bought it.
- Procreate – drawing and painting app. My daughter uses this software on her iPad Pro w/her Apple Pencil. I think we paid $10 for this in the app store, and maybe a few bucks on some extra brushes one time. It comes with quite a lot of tools with the base version.
- Krita – free open source drawing program. My daughter’s local digital art classes (Studio Art House) used this program. She has used it, but says she prefers Clip Studio Paint on her computer these days.
- Paint Tool SAI – free, good for the computer. It apparently has good brushes and is reliable. No updates since 2008 but still used by a lot of people, according to my daughter.
- MediBang Paint – PC, iOS, Android. Free, good tools for illustration, and comics. Another recommendation from my daughter.
- Toon Boom: Harmony 21, Storyboard Pro, and Producer 21: for animation, storyboarding, and production.
Game Engine Software
There are 2 primary game engines used in the industry: Unity, and Unreal Engine. These are used by small to medium-sized game design companies. The large companies with established games typically write their own – but that’s not something you can pick up and just do or learn as a student. Students interested in programming in the gaming industry will want to have a solid background in C, C++, and C#! These two engines are how students and most people get their start – and they’re FREE!
Unity has a large number of FREE step by step tutorials on the use of their software, including templates, free assets (characters and things to use in your projects), and microgames. My daughter and I followed a tutorial for a micro-game, Lego-style a year or so ago. It was very easy to follow and enjoyable. At the end we had a functional single-level game that we could add on to – it took about 30 minutes, once we installed the software. That particular tutorial did not require any programming. Students interested in programming could follow one of Unity’s free Pathways to learn how to build games on their engine from very beginner to more advanced techniques. They also have a community to share and exchange ideas, get help, and interact with other developers.
Unity Engine Software (2021 LTS) – Student or Personal versions are FREE up to $100k in sales and are fully functional. As I recall, some of the metrics gathered on the backend are not available for games you have published – that is the only difference between free and paid. You don’t need these as a student. 2021 LTS is the current stable release.
Unity Junior Programmer Learning Pathway (FREE, self-paced tutorials): https://learn.unity.com/course/create-with-code-live-spring-2022/?tab=overview
Join Unity’s FREE Live sessions, an optional companion to their self-paced Junior Programmer Learning Pathway: https://create.unity.com/jr-programmer-create-with-code-2022
- Unreal Engine
Unreal Software (FREE up to $1M in sales):
Unreal Student Resources: https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/students
Unreal Engine FREE Tutorials and Online Development Community: https://dev.epicgames.com/community/learning
Highlights of the latest release of Unreal Engine 5 by Unreal Sensei – he has some free tutorials on YouTube, also.
I attended my first ever VR meeting this month – it was amazing! It was held on AltSpaceVR, a platform I’d never heard of, and a poll showed approximately 50% of the attendees found out about it from ads on the platform. Who knew? We spent a bit of time in an auditorium watching a slide show, then jumped through a couple of portals to a cabin in the mountains, and then some ruins. While AR/VR has been around for a while, the bulk of this burgeoning industry is ahead of us – it feels very much like we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg. Very exciting stuff going on!
Unity Live Learn: Road to the Metaverse – FREE Live sessions. Recordings are available after each session. The people running the Junior Programmer Live sessions have indicated that a similar thing is coming for the VR side soon!
Meta Gaming Showcase for games and applications coming out this year for Meta Quest 2 – note that Meta bought Oculus, and their VR goggles have been rebranded as Meta Quest 2.
Horizon Worlds by Meta (Facebook) development tools/tutorials.
$10 million dollars for independent developers and studios to develop for their platform.
Build a Virtual World for VR with Unreal Engine with this tutorial:
VRUpload is a YouTube channel that talks about all things AR/VR. I’ve been listening to some of their videos and gradually picking up on the terminology and technology, challenges in the industry, new games coming out, etc. If one is interested in AR/VR, it seems like a great resource to learn more. This particular link discusses Horizon Worlds, the purchase/rebranding of Oculus Quest 2, and the future of VR and VR Platforms.
Links to various classes can be found in the HS4CC CS, IT, Cyber, and Tech group.
Animation and Comics
In addition to the software and hardware listed above, we have a few resources that have had good reviews:
Animation Mentor – this resource was recommended for animation classes leading to a career in the field by both of our April Tech Panel speakers. They’re pricey, but apparently worth the money, if the student is serious about an animation career.
Animation Production Group – offering online and in-person classes with live components and group interaction.
Review of Animation Production Group classes from HS4CC member Grace N. “My girl is in her second semester with them and has learned so much. She started online last year at age 11. They get to share their work and comment on others’ work. During voiceover meetings, students collaborate on a storyline online.”
I suggest looking at local art studios and libraries for classes as well. 4 years ago, I signed my daughter up for digital art classes at Studio Art House, a small local chain. The price was a tad high, but the classes were small, which allowed for one on one interactions with the teacher. She made friends that she still has through those sessions, and it gave her a huge leap forward in digital art. That small investment, though it didn’t seem small at the time, has turned into a potential career in digital art, animation, or gaming. We also looked at local job opportunities and verified that she could, in fact, make good money in this field. It’s an important consideration, given that “starving artist” can be a real thing. 😉 She has not fully refined her career path yet, but art is likely to be involved!
And we would be remiss if we did not mention Webtoons in the realm of online indie comics:
Webtoons Animation Interviews and resources:
Rachel Smythe, creator of Lore Olympus (one of my teen DD’s faves – note the webtoon is rated Teen+, I’ve been reading it – so far the content is not worse than things on TV. I see why she enjoys it – it’s engaging.): ON THE AIR w/Rachel Smythe
and Creator 101: How to Promote Yourself featuring: Lore Olympus and Soul on Hold Creators.
More interviews with Webtoons creators from the Creator Summit.
…and an interview with GRAVEWEAVER author of “I’m the Grim Reaper” (parents – vet the cartoon content for yourself, it’s obviously a dark toon, but this interview itself is quite interesting and useful in terms of how to put together a plot, story and character development, etc – warning – this interview does have the s-word in it.)
Wellness video series – how to deal with anxiety, comments, etc. I love that Webtoons created these resources!
Downloadables from Webtoons: Handbooks, character sheet, publishing checklist, character design, etc…
Whether an asset (ie character, vehicle, etc) will be used in animation, VR or game design, an essential step between 3D Modeling and being able to utilize an asset in an environment is Rigging. Rigging is how a designer defines how an asset will move, bend, and interact with its surroundings. A 3D model of a human form, for instance, would require rigging to define how a knee bends, or fingers move.
- Free Tutorial on Rigging by Unity. (image above from the Unity course)
Learn how to create a character animation rig with Unreal Engine’s new Control Rig Mannequin sample This process uses Python as the programming language!
- Ugee Tablet – this was my daughter’s very first drawing tablet. It was very affordable. You draw on the tablet and watch on the screen, like the WACOM tablets.
- Huion Kamvas 13 – drawing tablet with a built-in screen (not a touch screen, it’s a digital screen tablet). My daughter’s current drawing tablet. It’s basically a monitor with pen pressure sensitivity so you can get different thicknesses of lines by adjusting pressure.
Someone asked which tablet is best for a left-handed person. Both tablets work for a lefty via the driver under workspace, which allows you to flip the tablet over to put the buttons on the other side. Most tablets should have this option.
A course on Blockchain from MiT (one of our speakers, Chris Curra, has a startup, Defungify, for adding NFT’s to video games – this course was suggested as a great primer for understanding the world of Blockchain and NFT’s by HS4CC member Kate B. Thank you Kate!)
And a follow up to the previous article “Why artists hate NFTs“, as we attempt to present various viewpoints on the subject.
Classes and Summer Camps
The classes and camps listed below were shared by HS4CC members, who may or may not have first-hand knowledge of the camps. Please vet them accordingly. Where possible, we have included reviews from our HS4CC community. Some may be duplicated from above.
Animation Production Group Summer Classes for 5th-12th grade.
Offering online and in-person classes with live components and group interaction. Review from an HS4CC Member Grace N.: “My girl is in her second semester with them and has learned so much. She started last year age 11, online“
Animation Mentor Tutorials/Classes (for pay $$$$, but used by people in the industry): https://www.animationmentor.com/
Pycon US 2022: 4/27 – 5/3
Unity Jr Programmer Pathway (live and/or self-paced) – FREE!
Did you know? We have an HS4CC Facebook group specifically for those of you with teens considering college credit, credentials, degrees, or career guidance in the Computer-related fields. If you haven’t already, be sure to join that group, it’s already bursting with great information!!
Did you miss a prior monthly computer panel event? Watch the recording – Section 5 Monthly Tech Panels is your guide to past events!