Recent Courses & Advising

Professor Phelps is currently advising undergraduate and graduate students in Game Design & Development (GCCIS), Motion Picture Sciences (CIAS), 3D Digital Design (CIAS), Film & Animation (CIAS), New Media (CIAS), and through the School of Individualized Studies. Those students interested in working with him are encouraged to reach out and contact him directly. He currently expect students to use Slack, GitHub, and a cloud repository such as Google Docs or shared server space, and students should be prepared to invest in learning these workflows if they do not know them already. His game production class is pictured below the year they worked on Splattershmup: A Game of Art & Motion, in which undergraduate producer Katie Tigue presents to guest visitor (and alum of Phelps' first games course) Anna Sweet, who at the time was a senior manager and producer with Valve.

photo of andy's production studio course

(Above: Student Kathleen Tigue presents her work as producer on Splattershmup: A Game of Art & Motion in Phelps' game production class, 2015)

(Offered through RIT School of Interactive Games & Media)

This course will allow students to work as domain specialists on teams completing one or more large projects over the course of the semester. The projects will be relevant to experiences of the Interactive Games and Media programs, but will require expertise in a variety of sub-domains, including web design and development, social computing, computer game development, multi-user media, human-computer interaction and streaming media. Students will learn to apply concepts of project management and scheduling, production roles and responsibilities, and their domain skill sets to multidisciplinary projects. Students will complete design documents, progress reports and final assessments of themselves and their teammates in addition to completing their assigned responsibilities on the main projects. (Third Year Standing) Class 3, Credit 3 (F, S)

(Offered through RIT School of Interactive Games & Media)

Description: Students will explore the use of an advanced graphics API to access hardware-accelerated graphics in a real-time graphics engine context. The course will involve discussion of scene graphs, optimizations, and integration with the API object structure, as well as input schemes, content pipelines, and 2D and 3D rendering techniques. Students will also explore the advanced use of the API calls in production code to construct environments capable of real-time performance. Students will construct from scratch a fully functional graphics engine, with library construction for game development. (Pre-requisites: IGME-309 Data Structures & Algorithms for Games & Simulations II) Class 3, Credit 3 (F)

(Offered through RIT School of Interactive Games & Media

Description: Students will explore the use of an advanced graphics API to access hardware-accelerated graphics in a real-time graphics engine context. The course will involve discussion of scene graphs, optimizations, and integration with the API object structure, as well as input schemes, content pipelines, and 2D and 3D rendering techniques. Students will also explore the advanced use of the API calls in production code to construct environments capable of real-time performance. Students will construct from scratch a fully functional graphics engine, with library construction for game development. Advanced topics will be explored, including real-time special effects, custom shading pipelines, and advanced deferred rendering techniques. (IGME-601 Game Development Processes and IGME-603 Gameplay and Prototyping) Class 3, Credit 3 (S)

(Offered through RIT School of Interactive Games & Media)

Browser based 3D technologies are a recently emerging trend that is impacted by the larger movement towards media-rich delivery via standards-based web technologies. With the development of web browsers capable of utilizing 3D hardware and traditional graphics APIs, coupled with recent advances in script engine performance, it is now possible to create deep and complex 3D experiences without the need for custom plug-ins or separate engines outside of the browser environment. However, the development of content of this type is highly customized to these new environments, and traditional techniques are being re-examined in light of new workflows, processes, and strategies that are emerging in response to these shifts in the underlying delivery model. In this course, students will explore these emerging technologies and software trends through the implementation of a rich-media game experience utilizing these tools and techniques. The construction of individual and group projects and accompanying documentation is required. Prerequisites: 4080-309 and (4080-434 or 4080-502 or 4080-387 or 4080-431)

Curriculum Design & Development

Phelps was the lead curriculum designer of both the undergraduate and graduate programs in Game Design & Development, now offered by the School of Interactive Games & Media that he later founded. The graduate degree was approved by the NY State Department of Education and accepted enrolled students in 2006, followed by the undergraduate degree a year later. Since 2009, they have been ranked in the top 10 nationally by the Princeton Review, every year since the rankings began. Alumni from the programs are found through the industry, as well as numerous other careers, graduate programs, and opportunities as detailed throughout this site. Below are a collection of materials designed by Phelps and colleagues.

In addition to his role in designing the curriculum, Phelps also led the other co-authors and faculty collaborators in this effort, shepherded these degrees through approval at department, college, and institute curriculum committees, presented the degrees before the Academic Senate and the Board of Trustees, and authored the NY State Department of Education documentation. Throughout this process he worked closely with the Office of the Provost, various deans and department heads, enrollment management, finance and administration, and other campus groups and liaisons.

Below are several of the documents he prepared as a part of the degree proposal process, with financial and enrollment information redacted. While serving as Director of Interactive Games & Media Phelps revised these degrees in collaboration with Dr. Christopher Egert (Associate Director) and IGM faculty in preparation for semester conversion in 2013.

bullet_image Masters of Science in Game Design & Development (MSGDD) Full Proposal (Blue Cover). [PDF 285M]
bullet_image MSGDD Summary for Academic Senate (Orange Cover). [PDF 863K]
bullet_image MSGDD Graduate Capstone FAQ (Purple Cover) [PDF 879K]
bullet_image MSGDD Implementation Details (Red Cover) [PDF 942K]
bullet_image MSGDD Overview Presentation (Red Cover). [PDF 6.7M]

BS GDD full proposal thumbnail BS GDD Senate Report thumbnail

In addition to the graduate documentation above, the full undergraduate proposal is available (left), and the abbreviated report presented to the full RIT Academic Senate is also available (right). These are some of the most successful degrees on the entire campus, having grown to a combined student body of over 700. This in turn has attracted numerous additional faculty, research opportunities, collaborative proposals, minors, and drastically altered the facilities footprint of the entire campus. The impact of these programs on RIT as a campus cannot be overstated: they are a crown jewel of the Institute.

Personal Statement of Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy can be essentially summarized in the slogan I established at the MAGIC Center: “We Learn by Making Things”. What this means to me is a deeply contextualized form of constructionism and constructivism – a general approach that I began to adhere to in graduate school studying work like Seymour Papert and Randy Pausch, and later a host of other researchers and designers. I believe it is at the core of the ‘maker movement’, and essentially any design field, and I have been very fortunate over the past two decades to be able to engage students directly in learning to build the very thing that captures their interest: video games and interactive experiences. I think probably the best way to describe how I approach teaching is to explain a little bit about the curriculum I designed: the values and norms I hold are (I hope) self-evident in the goals and objectives of the program.

President Destler and Dr. Rebecca Johnson visit Andy's class

(President William Destler and Dr. Rebecca Johnson visit Phelps' class with undergraduate student Joe Coppola and play Hack, Slash & Backstab, 2016)

The undergraduate degrees that I founded and helped design and nurture at RIT are based on a fairly simple principle, which is a broad core of study for undergraduates that asks them to do, essentially, a ‘little bit of everything’ and then specialize in years 3-5 (it is a cooperative education program spread out over 5 years with planned absences for work experience). The idea here was not only that students would gain core skills in computing, animation, art, design, math, physics, technology, language, psychology, writing, etc., but also that they would experience things outside their comfort zone, and learn a little bit about the various roles and communities that comprise a multidisciplinary, design-centric, high-tech field like games. The important thing to me in this context wasn’t just core skills to advance, but that right from the beginning students were forced to learn a little bit of everything – the gifted programmer had to draw, the gifted artist had to code. I didn’t expect they would all be good at everything, even at an introductory level – I was hoping that they would learn a little bit about each others roles. The other core components of the program was that students would start building things right away: that the curriculum would meet students directly at their passion in a very immediate way.

Later that transitions to specialized roles on multidisciplinary teams, building games at ever increasing scale, in ways that test professionalism, communications, and integration. Formalized structures of reporting, clearly identified roles, discrete task-based assignments towards long, open-ended projects, group decision making and individual leadership, use of professional tools in context – these are the hallmarks of my upper division game studio courses. We focus on production, and apply skills and knowledge in context. This can vary across content and form: art games, serious games, health games, pure entertainment games, etc. One of my personal passions is what I would term ‘experiential learning games’ where I’m looking to explore a particular subject or feeling in a way where merely playing the game itself conveys the concept. Splattershmup is an attempt at this – a way to explore line, motion, space, and context merely by playing, relating a familiar thing with an unfamiliar style.

At the graduate level I’ve worked to incorporate those same principles of applied production, multidisciplinary collaboration, and specialized roles and marry them with an applied research focus and pursuit of fundamentally new processes and concepts. This can take many forms, across all of Boyer’s various classifications of scholarship and discovery, but the fundamental shift is a move away from an undergraduate focus on innovation and invention, into a more structured research methodology and analysis. But this can and does need to operate in harmony with a production focused, product-centric approach.

When I look at the students I’ve had the pleasure of teaching, the thing I am most proud of is not just their accomplishments, their contribution to the medium, or even their successes beyond their careers in families and living and citizenry and making the world a better place. I think every educator has to have the passion for those things, the ability to want for their students a better world and to want to help them succeed beyond measure.

The thing I am most proud of is that for so many of my students they explore the intersection of computing and the arts, and come out on the other side of that with a newfound appreciation for both. I’ve worked my entire career to help students bridge this divide, to construct curriculum that flows back and forth across these fields, and to design experiences that engage students in situated learning directly through construction and production. The thing I am passionate about is helping student learn, directly, to respect both technology and the arts, and most importantly their intersection. I am passionate about helping them make the things they are driven to make. Because in the end, we learn by making things.

Andrew Phelps, 2018

Other Things At Andyworld