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Monday, May 14, 2012

Using Moviestorm to teach Games Design in Ohio

imageJohn Bowditch teaches Digital game design and game development at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.  He recently started using Moviestorm to enable students to create storyboards and pre-visualize game levels. “It may seem odd to use a film-making tool in a games course,” explains John, “but it’s actually very useful.  It helps with level design, world creation, and character creation, as well as the more obvious applications to cut-scenes and visual effects.” 

He discovered Moviestorm in an unusual way. “One Friday evening, I was watching a behind the scenes featurette about the movie Battle: Los Angeles, and they mentioned Moviestorm. I was blown away by the concept and checked it out. The price was irresistible, so I bought it right away. By the end of the weekend I had completely adopted it.”

John’s students took to Moviestorm rapidly.  “I was surprised at how easily they picked it up and found features I had not found. Some of them learned formally by using the online tutorials, but most of them figured it out by tinkering.  It was pretty native for them from the beginning. They weren’t in the least discouraged by the fact that it doesn’t look as good as what they can do with Maya, ZBrush or the other high-end tools they use. They realized from the start that the purpose of this tool is not for production ready, “Blu-ray quality” distribution.  They know it’s a pre-production tool.  In this regard, they find it irreplaceable: it saves them hours of pre-production work and truly helps them prepare their games more effectively.”


Moviestorm has now become an essential part of the course methodology. “Almost every game cut-scene and complex playable action sequence is first tested in Moviestorm, with students working both individually or collaboratively. It has removed the need to create storyboards and time consuming pre-viz models.  It is a perfect tool to because it bridges a wide divide for both games and film.  Historically, if you wanted to pre-visualize a shot or series of shots, the minimalist approach would be to draw storyboards. The alternative would be modeling and animating a scene from scratch.  The gap between storyboarding and creating a 3D animation from scratch is enormous, but Moviestorm is the best of both scenarios.  It requires a minimal amount of effort yet produces, and often exceeds, the quality of 3D animated pre-visualizations. We are now planning on expanding its use to other classes.”

John is keen to stress the benefits for teachers as well as students. “Using Moviestorm has saved me at least four hours of lecture time.  That’s 5% of my course that I can now devote to other areas, so the return on investment is clear to me. If you’re teaching a course like mine, just play with it for an hour.  The amount of applications you can use this software for will become evident to you quite quickly.”

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