The Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day is a great tradition at UMBC. It celebrates creative work done by UMBC undergraduates through posters and presentations. This year’s is Wednesday April 25th.

The game developers club has long presented their creative works at URCAD. This year, we’ve got an extra dose of game. The featured alumni speaker is Joshua Barczak. Josh is currently a Senior Graphics Engineer at Firaxis Games. He got his BS (CMSC 2003) and MS (CMSC 2006) at UMBC. His talk is during the general session, 12-1 in UC 312. Be sure to check it out if you can!

UMBC has earned an Honorable Mention on The Princeton Review’s third annual list of undergraduate schools to study game design, placing it in the top 32 undergraduate schools for game design and development in the U.S. and Canada.

The list, “Top Schools To Study Video Game Design For 2012,” salutes 50 institutions (32 undergraduate and 18 graduate) for their outstanding game design and development programs.

Compiled by The Princeton Review, one of America’s best-known education services companies, the 2012 list names 10 undergraduate and 10 graduate schools in ranked order and 22 undergraduate and 8 graduate schools as Honorable Mentions. The list is published on The Princeton Review’s website at

The Princeton Review chose the schools based on a survey it conducted in the 2011-12 academic year of administrators at 150 institutions offering video game design coursework and/or degrees in the United States and Canada. The survey, which included more than 50 questions, covered a wide range of topics from academics, curriculum, and faculty credentials to graduates’ employment and career achievements. School selections were based on a comprehensive analysis of data that analyzed the quality of the curriculum, faculty, facilities, and infrastructure, plus the school’s scholarships, financial aid and career services.

Said Robert Franek, Princeton Review Senior VP/Publisher, “It has long been our mission to help students find – and get into – the schools best for them to purse their interests and develop their talents. For the burgeoning number of students aspiring to become game designers, we highly recommend UMBC as one of the best and most innovate institutions to study and succeed in this exciting field. We also salute the faculty and administrators at UMBC and the other schools on our 2012 list for their extraordinary programs and commitment to students. “

We have a streaming feed from the Global Game Jam at UMBC at

Check it out!

Participants at Global Game Jam 2012 at UMBC listening to the keynote presentations…

Microsoft is offering a great incentive for Global Game Jam teams at UMBC who make a Windows Phone game this weekend: a Windows Phone. Come early Friday (at 4pm) to UMBC ENG 005 to see a pre-jam demo on developing Windows Phone games. There will be a Microsoft representative on site this weekend to help you out if you have problems, and any team that makes a Windows Phone game gets a free phone!

Or sign up online and come at 5pm for any of the other ways of developing game jam games: Microsoft XNA Game Studio, Flash, Unity (free Pro trial available for game jammers), GameMaker (free HTML 5 version for game jammers), or any other freely available game development tools.

To help everyone get ready for Global Game Jam 2012 this weekend, here’s a shout-out video from around the world. UMBC is at about the 4:36 mark.


Want to see what you can do in 48 hours? Game portfolio feeling a little thin? Have a feeling you’ll need a break by the time you’re two days into the Spring semester? Well, the Global Game Jam is entering its 4th year, and for the 4th year, UMBC will be one of the world-wide host sites January 27th-29th.

This is a 48 hour event, where teams from around the globe work to each develop a complete game over one weekend. The first year had 54 sites in 23 countries. The second year had 124 sites in 34 countries. Last year was up to 169 sites. The UMBC site is open to participants at all skill levels, and it is not necessary to be a UMBC student to register. Just go to <> and register for “United States – Maryland – Baltimore – UMBC”. Participation will be limited to the first 40 registrants.

The jam will start at 5PM on Friday, January 27th in the UMBC GAIM lab, room 005 in the ITE building. At that time, the theme for this year’s games will be announced, and we’ll brainstorm game ideas and form into teams. There is no need to come as a team: each individual has an equal chance to pitch their game ideas, and you can join the team whose game you like best. Teams will have until 3pm on Sunday, January 29th to develop their games. We’ll have demos of each game and selection of local awards, wrapping up by 5pm Sunday. Thanks once again to generous support by Next Century, there is no registration fee for the this site, but you must register for the UMBC site in advance at

Hope to see many of you there!

UMBC computer science students should have gotten an email from me including the game development track classes this Spring. A few of those could be of interest to area game developers as well. There are options to take UMBC classes as either a graduate or undergraduate non-degree-seeking student. The ones I think could be particularly interesting to those of you already working in the industry:

  • CMSC 483 / CMSC 691 Parallel Programming (MW 5:30-6:45)
    This is probably the most appealing, at least among the PC game segment. We’ve been named an NVIDIA CUDA Teaching Center, and will have all new systems with spiffy new GPUs in our GAIM lab to show for it. We’ve revamped our parallel programming class to have a significant GPU computing component, though it will also cover multicore and cluster parallelism.
    Prerequisite: a college-level OS class
  • CMSC 479 / CMSC 679 Introduction to Robotics (MW 2:30-3:45)
    This class doesn’t really have a game spin to the content (you build a robot!), but there’s a ton of crossover between autonomous robot AI and NPC AI.
    Prerequisite: college-level introductory AI class or permission from the instructor
  • CMSC 491 / CMSC 691 Graphics for Games (MW 1:00-2:15)
    I’m teaching this one. It will consist of a bunch of advanced graphics topics relevant for games (mostly for AAA-level games). These will include light baking (path tracing, importance sampling, etc.), spherical harmonics, MLAA and other antialiasing methods, texture filtering and compression, shadows, normal map filtering, animation (skinning, inverse kinematics, quaternions), and data representation issues (floating point error, data oriented design, cache issues, etc.).
    Prerequisite: college-level graphics programming class (could be taken at the same time, though I expect that’s more classes than any working developer could handle), or at least enough knowledge of graphics that this description isn’t total greek (aka permission of instructor).

For all of these, the 4xx number is the undergraduate version and the 6xx number is a corresponding graduate version. Typically, these will have shared lectures but different assignments.

New data is out from the Entertainment Software Association. UMBC GAIM is in good company as one of 343 universities offering degrees in game design, development or programming. It’s not surprising so many universities are offering game development-focused degrees. The industry is continuing to grow, with a record $25.1 billion in revenue last year.

Their “2011 Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry” report has some other really interesting data as well. The average game player’s age is 37. Game players do skew male, but not as much stereotypes might make you think (58/42), and for frequent game purchasers, it’s almost even (52/48). Also, the top selling console category is action (21.7%), but for PC games it’s strategy (33.6%). There’s lots more in there (mostly graphs and 40-point numbers, so pretty easy reading).

This is not really a game or graphics topic per se, though it does have some connections to implicit modeling. I’ve seen a bunch of blog posts, tweets, G+ posts, etc. about something that seems to have been dubbed the batquation. It’s an equation that is supposed to look like the batman logo when graphed. I’ve tried to track down the original source, but have not had much luck (if you know, let me know!). Sadly many of the posts about this use a low-resolution thumbnail of the photo or a zoom on the graph, so you can’t actually read the equation itself. Here’s one of the better versions I’ve found:

A word on how this seems to have been constructed: It’s symmetric in x, so use |x| everywhere. Each term is responsible for one part of the logo:

Find a function f, where f(x,y)=0 is the right shape for one of the curved segments. Everything except the sides of the wings are of the simple form f(x,y)=g(x)-y or y=g(x). For example, the first term is responsible for the sides of the wings. Without the square roots, that term looks like this:

That gives you the segment, but also stuff outside of it you don’t want. So find a function h(x,y) that’s positive in the area where f(x,y) should apply and negative where it shouldn’t. Then |h|/h is a nice step function, 1 where h is positive and -1 where h is negative. Take the square root of that, and now it’s 1 where h is positive and imaginary (actually i) where h is negative. Use that to limit the scope of f(x,y) to the region of interest. The wings actually have two of these trimming functions, one in x and one in y (shown in color where each is imaginary)

The trimmed version (where the entire first term = 0) looks like this:

Repeat for each segment. Multiply all of those segments together, and you get a function that’s zero along the batman logo and non-zero everywhere else.

A bunch of the posts and stories on this are of the form “this is cool, does anyone have a graphing calculator to check it out”. Thanks to the nasty numerical properties of the trimming terms (with values 1, 0/0 and i), Mathematica has trouble at at the edges of those terms. I cheated here by explicitly excluding the imaginary regions, but this is what it’s raw un-tweaked output looks like:

I’m not sure a graphing calculator would cut it, but cool none the less.

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