Student Day in the Life: The Art Institute of Vancouver's Phillip Meilleur
May 26, 2006
My name's Phill and I’m a 19 year old game design student at the Art Institute of Vancouver. My love of writing and passion for video games has landed me in this constantly moving world of the gaming industry. I honestly can’t picture myself doing anything else.
The alarm yells at me to get up, and I crawl out of bed. No morning class today so I get to sleep in an extra hour. I eventually make it downstairs for breakfast and the morning email check.
After sifting through spam and links that friends insist I must check, it’s time to get some work done.
I’m in my last semester at The Art Institute of Vancouver, and just putting together my portfolio for the ensuing job hunt. As a designer, there is a heavier emphasis on documentation which keeps me in Microsoft Word a good deal of the day. I decide to start by going over one of my concept documents, so I fire up iTunes and fly at it.
After reworking the essence statement and adding another key feature, I decide to put the doc away for now and move on to something else. I start up the Unreal Tournament 2K4 level editor and open up my portfolio show piece.
I’ve been working on this map for a few months now and it’s almost finished. I’m just going over the last aesthetic touches and making sure it still conveys my initial design. It’s a concept level for a game IP I’ve made and as such is a little more challenging that a basic Unreal game type like CTF or Bombing Run. My main concern is to make sure the map reflects my supporting documentation and vice versa.
After I tweak my map around for a while I decide to head to school. So I stuff my external hard drive in my bag and step out the door.
My commute is around 40 minutes to an hour depending on the busses and Skytrain, which isn’t too bad. Some of my friends have a two-hour commute at least, which I doubt I could do. The transit system in Vancouver is developed really well, and keeps my mind off the rising cost of fuel.
I eventually step off the bus, and walk into school. One of the great things about this school is its casual atmosphere. The whole place has a nice laid back attitude.
My first class starts at one so I slip into one of the other classrooms to kill some time before lunch. There’s a portfolio class going on, but the instructor is pretty cool about other students dropping in to do work. I slip in and log in to one of the free computers beside a classmate of mine who had the same idea. We quietly chat and pass ideas back and forth until noon rolls around, when it’s time to round up the guys for lunch.
There is a building owned by IBM right beside the campus, and it’s become a routine with some of the guys from school as of late to meet up for Thursday lunch at the cafeteria there. It’s a nice change from the hot dogs at school. Around five or six of us show up and the usual conversations ensue about portfolio worries and games we’re currently playing. There’s such camaraderie with this group that I wasn’t expecting to find in school. We’ve helped each other so many times with coming up with ideas and critiques on work were doing. I know I wouldn’t have as much to show as I do without them pushing me every step of the way.
It’s almost time for class, so we start to head back to campus for Designing Interior Spaces.
1:00PM - Designing Interior Spaces
Designing Interior Spaces is the final of three advanced modeling classes designed to go over techniques used in both character and environmental modeling. For the most part I’ve learned a lot in the class, but there seems to be a stigma following this particular classroom it’s taught in. Miscellaneous technical problems seem to pop up at the beginning of each class making sure we don’t start instruction until at least thirty minutes in. Most of us are prepared for this though and have projects we're working on already up and running. I decide to start revising the rule set for the board game I’m putting together, and start up Microsoft Word again.
The Instructor eventually starts the lecture, and today’s lesson is a continuation on UV mapping a low-poly character. The lesson ends and I have my orc wearing a nice pair of jeans. The last hour of the class is usually spent with us critiquing previous graduate demo reels. I like this part of the class because it’s a great way to clearly see what I should be striving for and what I should be avoiding in terms of demo reel content. Class wraps up, and we have an hour until GPW class (Game Production Workshop) starts.
6:00PM - Advanced Game Prototyping
Most of the students arrive early for this class, and by six we’re all ready to start. This is the second semester we’ve had a GPW class, and it’s a continuation of what we had worked on previously. The objective of the class is to produce a working game demo using the Unreal engine. It’s taking all of the skills we’ve developed in the previous five semesters and putting them to practical use.
The class is divided into two teams to produce two separate game demos. I’m working on a game called Dry Town. It’s a side scrolling, sci-fi western starring a giant alien bug. It’s really hard to lose my enthusiasm over this class.
|Concept Art from Dry Town|
After a quick team meeting and milestone review with the instructor, we all set off on our current tasks. My role in the team is assistant producer. My main tasks include keeping up to date progress reports, creating document templates for the team to use, and assisting the producer in task scheduling, milestone creation and general troubleshooting. My weapon of choice for this class is (surprise surprise) Microsoft Word.
Once again I get Microsoft Word going, and start on a bug report template for the team to use. We’re nearing the end of the production phase, and our lead wants us to start bug testing soon.
I get the bug report document done as well as a data base for our programmer to use. We’re well into class now and, I decide to take a break.
I sit down on the couch in the student lounge with a can of coke and giant vending machine cookie for dinner, and think about how I need a proper diet.
Running off a sugar rush, I touch-up the bug database, and start the progress report for this class. The team lead and I usually finish this together at the end of class, so I start walking to room. I like this part of class because I get to reconnect with the team and see the progress of the game. There are no major problems this week, and I end up discussing HUD screen designs with our art director.
9:55 - End Class
Class is gearing down, and I finish up the progress report after a quick recap with the team lead. After that’s done I pack up my stuff and walk to the bus stop. Our team lead Dave and I have the same commute, so we usually end up going over something about Dry Town on the ride home. We’re both a little tired and giddy from the long day, so most of the ideas we pass back and forth are a little more outside than box than usual.
11:15 - Make it Home
I eventually make it home and crawl into my bed, thankful that I don’t have a morning class tomorrow either.