Presentation Abstracts

2:20: Game Development to Motivate Computing I.
Andy Harris: Ball State University.

Many students are drawn to computing by their love of video games.  The promise of creating your own game is quite appealing.  Yet, game development is one of the most challenging disciplines in programming, and it's often either not considered a part of a computer science curriculum or pushed back later in the academic career.

I will discuss our work on a version of the CS120 Computing I course that will follow the same common syllabus as the other sections of this course but will use game development as its focus.  I'll describe the compromises we will be making as well as the technical stack we are using. 

Particular challenges will include:

2:40: Back Then: My Early Days in Games
Antonio Sanders: Ball State University

I grew up playing games and watching cartoons. Saturday morning cartoons and holiday specials were a weekly must. Intellivision, Atari, Colecovision, Sega, Nintendo, and PS1 were the systems I played growing up. I was fascinated by the art and stories of games, but never really thought of working in games. My dream job would have been to work in animation.

I took every art class I could growing up. I wasn’t really sure what my job would be, I only knew I wanted to be an artist. My first job after college was designing phone book ads on the swing  shift. From there I got what I consider to be my first real art job as an illustrator for a toy company. I was illustrating custom packages for monthly diecast toy car lines. The company I was working for acquired another company and decided to move production to Iowa. I did not want to move to Iowa so I started hunting for my next opportunity. I sent about 10-15 boxes of toys and resumes to various companies including a small video game company in the far western suburbs of Chicago. NuFX became my first game job. NuFX was hired by EA to make some of their NBA titles.

I started making games for the PS1.The development process was much simpler back then. Model, UV, and texture was the development process for characters and environments. I started as a texture artist. My job consisted of painting textures in Photoshop. There was no lighting in games back then all the lighting information came from the textures and how they were painted. The tools of game development have evolved and in some ways simplified the artistic process while at the same time making it more complicated.

3:00: Next Level Jobs Require Next Level Game Education.
Zebulun M. Wood: IU Indianapolis

Games education goes far beyond games entertainment.  This presentation will highlight homegrown games projects that instigate community service, historical preservation, education simulations, and emerging technology that could trigger big investment in our back yard. 

Games education can be transformed from a gateway to careers in entertainment (and the export of our talented young minds from the state) into elevating the at home career outlook for our students. Our responsibilities as educators extend to teaching state leadership timely investment and how games are central to great careers for our state’s corporate interests and taxpaying constituents.

Games will be a central catalyst towards transforming Indiana industries into modern 4.0 enterprises, instigate the creation of new opportunities, and the relocation of large interests into our backyard. The future can be bright and bulletproof for Hoosiers, we need to create it.

3:20: The Dissonance of Eco-critical Play and Narratives in the Horizon Series.
Ian Gonzales and Josh Fisher: Ball State University

Open-world games are fundamentally about space and how these spaces are designed to be contested spatial experiences. In these designed environments, the play space is portrayed as “Terra Nullis,” a land without a master. In this supposed virgin land, players are incentivized to assume the role of colonizers engaged in conflict with the environment, exploring and mapping “unknown lands,” extracting natural resources, and expanding political influence. These imperialist ludic elements fuel both narrative progression and character progression. While the commodification of the play environment and its denizens is problematic throughout the genre, as is evidenced by Denham and Spokes’s case studies (2019 and 2021) of Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption 2, these generic elements are especially limiting within ecocritical media. This is evidenced within Guerrilla Games’ Horizon series, which explicitly condemns technocratic capitalism and its exploitative relationship with our planet, and yet incentivizes players to engage in exploitative resource gathering, undermining its ecocritical narrative. This essay will discuss open-world ludic elements of the Horizon series and how the violence portrayed in its open-world systems and the conceived relationship between the player and the open-world game space are inherently antithetical to its ecocritical narrative themes.

3:40: Enlisting Pirates & Pixels to teach Engineering in the Navy
Mathew Powers and Todd Shelton: IU Indianapolis

“The Mystery of Vee Island” is a new educational training game brought to life through a partnership between the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, located in Crane, Indiana and the IU Luddy School of Informatics’ Media Arts & Science n436 Game-Production class. In this Spring of 2023 class, 20 students from the fields of game design, programming, character/creatures design, sound, and website design were guided and mentored by MAS professors, Todd Shelton and Mathew A Powers, while they worked for a team of engineers from Crane. This collaboration all came down to creating a fun and original game to teach new personnel the process and design elements of the widely used MBSE (Model-Based-System-Engineering) protocols used at the base. In talks with their chief contact, Digital Engineer for Crane, Scott Thompson, PMP a visually engaging and approachable classic 16-bit Point-&-Click, Side-Scrolling, Adventure game, filled with Pirates, Parrots, Steampunk, and Pirate-Ships to fix all using MBSE information was developed and now employed at the base. The game was a hit at Crane put on display at the IU MAS PopCon booth here in Indianapolis over the weekend of August 25th  through the 27th 2023. The public and convention attendees were allowed to playtest and critique the game for both parties. This talk will showcase the design elements, problems, successes from this this four-month endeavor. It will examine and speak on how to manage such a large team of students and how to bridge an undergraduate class to the military and civilian worlds through the creation of a game. It is exciting for all involved as there are currently in talks to create a Chapter-2 for this game in the Spring of 2024.

4:00: Exploiting Memory Corruption to Upgrade AI Opponents in a Classic RTS Game
Jonathan Craton: Anderson University

The metagame of many classic videogames has evolved beyond what the game's creators envisioned was possible. This can create a jarring disparity between play styles of human opponents and the built-in computer opponents that have remained nearly unchanged since the original release. This work explores one attempt to upgrade the stock AI opponents in a classic real-time strategy game to more closely mirror the modern human metagame. Reverse engineering of the original design of the AI scripting language and bytecode was performed in order to develop improved agents. While in-memory or binary patching is an option for distributing the updated bots, this requires players to download additional software. Therefore, in addition to providing traditional patches, an alternative approach is made available that exploits memory safety issues in the design of custom maps to allow automatic patching of all game clients when starting a multiplayer game. This mechanism allows for an upgraded play experience on official servers with no additional software required.

4:20: "As an 'A' slide": Classroom critique vocabulary and scaffolding.
Travis Faas, Mathew Powers, and Jacob Dobson: IU Indianapolis

In this presentation we will describe how we adapted the TAM design critique vocabulary to courses on gameplay programming and tabletop role-playing design. In these classes students use vocabulary focused on the technique, aesthetics, and meaning of their work during their small-group critiques. We scaffold the introduction of this vocabulary by building on an early focus on technique (or the ability to control the instruments of the work), later working on work aesthetics (or a focus on the experience), to finally asking students to consider the meaning of their work. We will discuss how we modified the four focuses of the EOTA (experiences, observations, theories, and advice) feedback method, to incorporate the use of the TAM vocabulary. We will emphasize combinations of the two where students make effective contributions to the game critiques, such as technique-observations being an effective focus. Finally, we will show how these strong combinations map to student student learning outcomes of developing technical skills and design sensibility. We will ground this critique method with anecdotes from the first running of the pair of classes that employ this approach. Due to the different nature of each class, we will talk about how aesthetics in games education differs in a board game prototyping class compared to a technical programming class, and offer suggestions on how to aide students in making the leap from board game prototyping to gameplay programming.

4:40: "i’ the clout, i’ the clout–hewgh!" Word(2vec)play, Game Design Thinking, and the College English Classroom
Jason Parks: Anderson University

The following pedagogical presentation highlights various ways I've integrated games into my English courses over the last 15 years. I will share a piece of interactive fiction my Introduction to Literature students created using Twine. The students rewrote the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" and created new endings for the story. I will also show how I've used fantasy map software (Inkarnate) in my first-year composition classes to increase engagement. I also have examples of a board game based on banned books I made for my Book History Class and a Frankenstein chatbot I created (and am currently working on) using Python.

As a creative writer, I've also been researching/working on adapting my children's fantasy novels into 2D and 3D video games (GameMaker Studio & Unity), though this hasn't been a central part of my teaching. However, what I've learned in the process of adapting my own fiction into video games has opened up new ways of thinking about how designing and playing games helps inspire all of my creative work, inside and outside of the classroom.