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Unreal Sizzles at ACU!

Have you seen our new sizzle reel for the Unreal Engine 2023?

Students in the Digital Entertainment Technology major at Abilene Christian University created a lot of content over the last year. Here are the highlights from projects made with Unreal.

We have a more sizzle coming that will include animation, modeling, VR, mobile games, and so much more! All made with Blender, Unity, Unreal, and Adobe Creative Cloud.

The Call of Christianity in Media

God calls us in whatever we do, that we do it with all our might and for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.

Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Here in the Digital Entertainment Technology major and as representatives of Abilene Christian University, we value incorporating our values into the games that we make and the working environments that we are called to serve in. Within the confines of game creation or virtual production, especially working for a big company, it can be daunting for the individual Christian to overcome the culture that is proliferating around us. The ways that we can contribute to the media that circulates comes in a variety of forms.

First and foremost, remember that you aren’t alone in the industry. There are plenty of Christians in the creative realms of digital media. Since media is so prolific in today’s society, we should in fact seek places that contain such high influence on our culture today as Christians. We are called to not ignore or even rewrite the culture that we inevitably have to live in, but instead be the counter cultural piece that can turn things for good.

As it was with the story of Onesimus who was the fugitive slave of Philemon: Onesimus ran to Paul, whom Philemon held in a high regard. Instead of Paul telling Philemon that he should free Onesimus from being a slave (even as our current culture might wish that to be the case), Paul took into consideration the culture of the time (which was a hierarchy that essentially protected the underclasses as property underneath the master or head of a household) and wrote to Philemon to take Onesimus back as a brother in Christ and to treat him as such. So Paul chose to help change the way that Philemon viewed Onesimus instead of single-handedly abolishing the entire hierarchy of slave ownership with a letter. Paul cannot change the culture and the structure that has been built up for centuries, but he can counter some of it. As can we, and here are a few ways how:

Create your own company: there are indie Christian creators out there in the world and you could be one of them! The great thing about Indie creation is that YOU control the content that you create. There are Bible story video games and films made by Indie companies, but there are also very lovely low key Christian creators that incorporate values into fun and creative games that can reach any audience. The subtle moral messages presented in games like these can be a way to share values with a much larger audience and have a much more welcoming open hand. Here are some Christian gaming companies for reference!

Creating the culture in a bigger company: if you are a part of a larger media company, chances are you probably aren’t calling the shots in the decision making processes of development. But as Christians, we can make differences just in the culture of the office. Showing love and kindness goes a long way in the industry, and earning respect comes from respecting and including others. These qualities are showing of good leadership. So if you become the light, people will follow. Earning a respected opinion will give you the chance to change and influence media for the better, and influence the lives of the people around you.

Creativity goes a long way: Create scripts that tell an amazing story; tell the stories you want to tell. When script writers or character designers create something that doesn’t spread positivity, come up with better solutions and blow the other ideas out of the water!

Character development: relatable, realistic characters that the average player can insert themselves into is one of the best ways to help the player or viewer to personally connect with your story.

Psychology and design: create stories that make you think deeper and care about the person in the story, value human life, and value treating others like you would like to be treated. Create intentionality and new perspectives with maybe some psychology that you learn. Things like level design, dialogue, character design can all be aspects that can be improved by the use of Psychology.

So whether it be for game development, virtual productions, or any genre of digital media, there is a place for you as a Christian.

The Importance Of Good Design In Video Games: The World of UX/UI

The Importance Of Good Design In Video Games: The World of UX/UI

When you think of making a game, the typical ideas that come to mind are programming, art, and story. But what people often miss is the design portion of the development process. The game needs to be fun for the player. This may seem obvious, but the world of User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) is hard to navigate and takes time to get right. From menus that help the player navigate through the game to heads-up displays (HUDs) that show the player what they need to pay attention to while playing, displaying information is a pivotal part of video game development that can make or break a game.

First, let me show you what a good design looks like. These are games that took their time developing what they need to show the player. Creating an easy, user-friendly, way of showing the player what they need to know at any given moment when playing.

Overwatch (the first one)

Overwatch is a prime example of a good HUD that doesn’t overwhelm players with information. When playing Overwatch there are only a handful of critical things that need to be readily referenced when playing: Health (bottom left), Abilities (bottom right), your Ultimate (bottom center), and the current Objective (top center). By having these strategically placed at the edges of your screen you have lots of free space in the middle for your player to see what’s going on while also having the ability to quickly dart their eyes to these critical things at a moment’s notice. Not only is the placement a great design feature, but the use of color is also another excellent example.

The use of red for enemy objectives and highlighting around the players triggers the player to pay attention to them more. The use of yellow for your ultimate is another eye-catching color, making it easier to quickly reference in the heat of battle. As well as the use of having more of the UI be see-through makes it not overly distracting when playing. Having it blend in with the environment just a little makes it not stand out when you are focused on playing the game at high speeds.

Now let me show you an example of a poorly designed UI from the sequel, Overwatch 2.

Overwatch vs Overwatch 2 Ultimate indicator

This here shows the ultimate indicator from Overwatch and Overwatch 2. Very little has changed between the two, but by looking more closely you realize that the efforts to simplify their UI ultimately (no pun intended) lead to a worse design. To begin let’s talk about the color change, in Overwatch the highlight color in the game was yellow. Including that into the UI fit nicely within the context of the HUD. In Overwatch 2 they changed that color to orange, which meant changing the HUD feature. Making the quickly noticeable yellow indicator now a bland darker orange.

Next, would be the design of the outer circle, in the first game, it was more like a dial being filled, with the small gray areas popping out slowly when the circle fills up. In the second game, they shot for a more simplistic design by just having a circle with nothing changing inside of it other than the orange bar going around.

Finally, the text inside of the circle, in the first game displayed the percentage by showing you in big font the number and then a “%” next to it. In the second game, they kept the font but took away the “%”. For old players, this may seem OK because they would already know what the bar was for. But for new plays who have played Overwatch, they might confuse it for another feature in the game.

This is just one game where the line between good and bad design can be easily crossed with simple changes. It’s important to have these thoughts in the front of your mind when making games so you can make the experience of the player more enjoyable. So next time you’re playing a game, pay attention to how it’s laid out. Do you know what’s important to pay attention to? Or what to push when something happens?

Looking at Animation Frame by Frame

Looking at animation frame by frame:

Animation has been around as long as anyone in our generation can remember. Literally! One of the first animations was made back in 1908, the short animation “Fantasmagorie”. Anyone can create an animation, it is just either successive drawings (for 2D) or positioning a puppet (3D stop motion) to create an illusion of movement when shown as a sequence. – (Oxford Dictionary).
If this sounds like something interesting to you, then look no further than the Spring Semester, DET 230 – “2D Animation for Games and Storytelling class”. The class will prepare you with the basic knowledge you need to get started, such as the 12 Principles of Animation ( These are a greeting starting basis for how an animation will work and the processes it takes to make it look good.

The class was streamlined, after we learned the basics we went straight into animating. Students are allowed to create whatever type of animation they wanted, they just had to go at the pace of the “check-ins”, which were basically milestones for how your animation was coming along.
The first milestone in the animation process is to plan out a storyboard and create the character’s design. Looking at your animation as a whole will help you pace your story and visualize the scene you are trying to create. Animation has a wide variety of angles, spaces, and people, so it is best to pre-place them in rough drafts before finding yourself 12 frames in and realizing it doesn’t work.
Character creation on the other hand is a whole different step. You want to make your characters as simplistic but complex as possible- easy, right? What I mean is you can make an interesting character, just don’t do ten-thousand small details because you will be animating those small details every frame. But if that doesn’t bother you, then go right ahead. For those who don’t want to suffer, your character can have bigger details (i.e belt, wings, hat, etc….) that are easier to animate but still give your character flare.

The next milestone is the drafting phase when you finally put your ideas into software. You can choose from a wide variety, depending on what you want to do (i.e Procreate, Photoshop, Adobe Animate, or any drawing software that has an animation function). Here you just begin to put your frames from the storyboard into the timeline. Don’t worry about the transition frames, we will get to those. Here in this phase you just focus on the mainframes of the story, those you drew out. Here in the major frames, you will also begin to draw out the little details of movement (i.e eye blinks, hair moving, breathing, hands tightening, etc…), whatever the character would be doing within that frame.

The final milestone after drafting is finally putting your draft into the software. Along with being able to choose what you create, you could choose how you create it. However, depending on the application you pick will decide how you animate your project. You could either do a frame-by-frame animation (i.e Procreate, Photoshop) where you draw each individual frame for your entire project or use Adobe Animation software and rig your drawings with “bones”, where you create a skeleton structure to specify the virtual parts that allow the character to move. Using these methods you can now work backward, working from the main big scenes and creating the in-between transition frames. This step did take longer than the rest, having to draw entirely new frames without reference, just guessing, and then animating the in-between. There are a lot of the Principles that can help you with transition framing to help the entire piece flow better. But the ending result is worth it!

Virtual YouTubers – Comes to 2D Animation

Recently, the Virtual YouTuber industry has risen in popularity. A Virtual YouTubers industry, also called VTubers for short, has recently exploded in popularity and demand. A handful of people dream of making a living off YouTube yet have their concerns of trying to keep anonymity on their channel. As it is possible to become popular on YouTube without showing your face, it becomes exponentially easier when your face is showing as it allows for your expression to aid in show of emotions.

This is where the concept of VTubers come in. A VTuber is defined as “An online entertainer who uses a virtual avatar generated using computer graphics.” – Wikipedia. Through the use of this virtual avatar, users are able to stay anonymous while showing their expressions through real-time motion capture technology. With two different types of VTuber avatar types being either a 2D or 3D model, DET230 – “2D animation for Games and Storytelling” introduced the process of creating a 2D VTuber avatar from scratch into the curriculum for the Spring 2021 term.

Due to the concept of VTubers being taught in a classroom environment being the first time for this class, students within the class were given a choice of either creating an animation or a VTuber model. The process of creating a VTuber model starts from creating a design for your character. This can be done through any Graphic Drawing software that has layers such as Adobe Photoshop, Clip Studio Paint, Krita, etc. Students would have to tinker with several designs till they find a design they like.

After creating the model design, the next process would to be to clean up their design and separate their model into their individual parts with each being on individual layers. This is because VTuber models are animated through deforming the individual parts. For example, the eye can be divided into eyebrows, eyelashes, iris, sclera, and the highlights in the eye. After doing this for each individual part of the model, the next step is to animate the model.

Animating the model is the most time consuming out of the three stages. The current mainstream software used in animating a 2D VTuber model is Live2D. Live2D is able to create meshes for deforming each layer and the deformation of each layer can be stored in different parameters. While custom parameters can be set up, any software for using a Live2D VTuber model has default parameters. Some examples of these are, ParamAngleX, ParamAngleY, and ParamAngleZ for the direction of the face, ParamEyeBallX and ParamEyeBallY for the direction of the eyes. The process of animating a VTuber model requires the person to go through every single parameter and set them up.

Example of the Live2D screen (Text is in Japanese)

My version of a vtuber model can be seen here:

Artstation/Portfolio Showcase!

Click the pictures to view their portfolios!!

Kelli Norris:

Jael Morel:

Camilla Rodrigues:

Come Home

Colleen Gostomski:

Noah Massie:

Voxel Skeleton

Jonah Norcross:

Barrels, Crates and Miscellaneous Game Assets

Alyssa Davis:

Axolotl Dragon

Michael Thorson:

Stylized Pirate Town (Material Showcase)

Tanner Web:

Western Vignette Unreal Engine