Game design is no child's play
Juha-Matti Vanhatupa and a game development platform that
can be used, for example, to design action games.
Juha-Matti Vanhatupa became a game researcher to pursue his dream of creating his own computer game.
Computer games boast magnificent graphic effects and challenging functions that take days and weeks to create. Programming requires perseverance and willingness to learn. Teaching Associate Juha-Matti Vanhatupa started his career as a game researcher by playing traditional board games.
"I've played more strategy and role-playing games than computer games. They help develop logical thinking".
Vanhatupa agrees that it is essential for game programmers to be interested in new technologies. Programmers typically use ready-made game engines and it takes a while to learn how to use them. They also use a range of programming tools that may be difficult to operate. In addition, there is a great deal of programming involved. Despite all this, Vanhatupa is not daunted by the challenges, because the work feels meaningful.
Dreaming of his own computer game
Spurred by a lifelong dream of designing his own computer game, Vanhatupa applied to study information technology at TUT, with software engineering as his major subject. Now the 28-year-old has already set his sights on a doctoral degree.
"In my own research project I'm developing tools used in game programming. Researcher Teemu Heinimäki and I have created a game engine that students can use while working on the end-of-course assignment of the Game Programming course."
Learning to manage extensive software projects
Students who attend the Game Programming course are given an extensive end-of-course assignment. It is usually done in pairs but may also be completed individually. The mean value of the grades awarded for the assignment and exam determines the final grade.
As their end-of-course assignment, students have designed games across a broad range of genres, including strategy, action and role-playing games and even a game intended for commercial distribution. Some twenty students complete the course every year.
One of the key learning outcomes of the course is that students learn to manage an extensive software project. They also learn how to use the necessary tools, because modern game design does not start from scratch.
"A computer game incorporates several areas of software engineering, such as artificial intelligence and computer graphics. In addition to a standard programming language, a script language is typically used, too."
The plans for even the most sophisticated games are created with pen and paper and take a lot of brainpower.
"Good planning is essential, because it determines the quality of the end product. No amount of technical finesse can save a poorly planned game", says Vanhatupa.
Vanhatupa says that programming is no career for people who see learning as a burden.
"Software engineering is an interesting field of study but it takes commitment."
Did you know: Learning by playing
In 2005, Research Assistant Timo Lehtonen from TUT developed a game that helps players learn Java programming. Test the game.