Building Virtual Worlds' goal is to take students with varying talents, backgrounds, and perspectives and put them together to do what they couldn't do alone. The key thing is that there are no "idea people" in the course; everyone must share in the mechanical creation of the worlds. Students use 3D modeling software (Maya), painting software (Photoshop), sound editing software (Adobe Audition & Pro Tools), and Unity3D, to display our virtual reality worlds. The course uses unique platforms such as the Head-Mounted Display and Trackers, Microsoft Kinect, Touch Screens, camera-based audience interaction techniques, Motion Capture, and others.
Note that the course does not try to teach artists to program, or engineers to paint. Teams are formed where everyone does what they're already skilled at to attack a joint project.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The worlds section shows samples of student work: each of these projects was done by a team of 4 or 5 students, who had 2 or 3 weeks (maximum) to create the work seen. The course culminates in a raucous stage show, where a juried selection of the best work is shared with the campus community. The videos show the students "performing" their worlds in front of a live, 500-person audience on Carnegie Mellon's campus.
Jesse Schell is the current co-instructor of the class and faculty of the Entertainment Technology Center, where he also teaches classes in Game Design, and leads several projects including the Game Innovation Database, a systematic study of the history of videogame innovations. He is also the CEO of Schell Games (an independent game studio in Pittsburgh), and the Chairman Emeritus of the International Game Developers Association. He was the Creative Director of the Disney Virtual Reality Studio, where he worked and played for seven years as designer, programmer, and manager on several projects for Disney theme parks and DisneyQuest, as well as on Toontown Online, the first massively multi-player game for kids.
SPRING AND FALL
Chris Klug-in the beginning, trained as a theatrical lighting designer, Chris Klug worked on Broadway, in regional theater and opera, and toured with various 70's rock n' roll bands. Through the intercession of a photographer friend, in 1981 Chris took a part-time job designing RPG adventures for a NYC game company, Simulations Publications, Inc. Afterwards he was asked to join the game design staff, and he began assisting with the design of Universe (a sci-fi role playing game), then moved on and designed the 2nd edition of DragonQuest (a fantasy RPG and winner of a Game of the Year Award), Horror Hotel (something's lurking in the shadows of an old Victorian guest house) and Damocles Mission (a sci-fi strategy game). While at SPI he also edited the role playing section of Ares magazine. When TSR bought SPI in 1982, Chris and the rest of the SPI staff moved on to form Victory Games. There Chris headed up the role playing games division, and designed the James Bond 007 role playing game (a winner of a Game of the Year award as well) and oversaw the entire Bond product line. At Victory Games, Chris designed a half-dozen more titles and was, for a time, Design Director.
After leaving Victory Games, Chris became a freelance computer game designer and worked for SegaSoft, TSR, Hasbro Interactive, 3W, THQ, Simon and Schuster Interactive, Target Games, h2o Interactive, Gizmo Games, Westwood Studios, EA, GT Interactive and Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment. Some of his computer game design credits include Star Trek DS9: Dominion Wars, Europa Universalis, Duke Nukem: Time to Kill, Diamond Dreams Baseball, Aidyn Chronicles: First Mage (winner of RPG Story of the Year), Earth & Beyond, and Stargate Worlds.
Chris is a member of the Writer's Guild of America West, and a playwright.
SPRING: This semester welcomes undergraduates and graduates from other disciplines and universities to join.
Ruth Comely is an alumnus of the Entertainment Technology Center and is now the first Building Virtual Worlds teacher in the history of the class to have taken BVW herself as a student.
For more than ten years now, Ruth has been giving students the education that they need to survive in the gaming industry. She has taught 3D computer graphics classes in both the Media Arts and Animation Department and the Game Art and Design department at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Ruth is a 'jack-of-all-trades' in modeling, texturing, lighting, animation, and compositing; her focus is teaching others these skills.
Before this, Ruth worked for the IBM Corporation in Poughkeepsie, NY. There she was an Associate Programmer working on the Work Load Manager development and testing team.
Her MET was completed at the Entertainment Technology Center, Carnegie Mellon University. She received her BS in Computer Science at The State University of New York at Plattsburgh. Also, she completed an Associate in Specialized Technology degree majoring in Industrial Design Technology from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
In recent years, Ruth has turned her life long hobby of scaring people into a profession. Her and a close-knit team design, build, and manage a local haunted house during the Halloween season. In past years she has produced The Art Institute of Pittsburgh's Khymira Experiment and Khymira II as well as the Nightmare in North Versailles. Here in the realm of darkness and shadow, Ruth uses all of her skills in art and technology to weave together characters and storylines that prey upon mans deepest fears. "When in the graveyard - beware of a sinking feeling, for the ground may be trying to claim you."
She is an active participant in the Pittsburgh community theater group Stage and Steel, for which she writes all the plays, and designs all the stage combat and the digital onstage special effects.
Mk Haley is a former co-instructor of the class, and faculty of the Entertainment Technology Center, where she also served as the Associate Executive Producer, and lead several student projects. Mk has worked for the Walt Disney Company for 16 years, primarily with Walt Disney Imagineering, starting in the Virtual Reality Studio, and currently supporting the Disney Research Labs, Pittsburgh, with roles in Special FX, R&D, and the Creative group along the way. Mk has also served on the Executive Committee and / or Conference Committee for ACM SIGGRAPH for more than 15 years.
Dr. Randy Pausch is the former instructor of the class as well as the co-founder of the Entertainment Technology Center. Randy has done sabbaticals at Walt Disney Imagineering and Electronic Arts, and was the founder for Alice, a rapid-prototyping environment for interactive 3D graphics and virtual reality, previously used in BVW before Panda3D. Unfortunately, Dr. Pausch was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer; he passed away on July 25th, 2008. More information about his experience is available on his personal website.
How it All Began
Dr. Randy Pausch, founder and former instructor of the class, explains the origins of BVW during his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon: