University of Advancing Technology is an elite, private college that serves its student body by fostering knowledge creation and academic excellence in an environment that embraces the young technophiles of the world. With three centers of research and a suite of technology-centered undergraduate and graduate degrees, the University is a recognized leader in technology education.
University of Advancing Technology (UAT) sat down with Student Ambassador, Katherine (Kat) Ervin to talk about her studies and how they intersect with her work and personal life.
"Going into this field has made me happier than I ever have been, and I truly get to let my passion and personality shine in my work." - Katherine Ervin
What Is your major and why did you choose it?
I am majoring in Game Design and Game Art and Animation. I have always been passionate about art and video games. I wanted to find a career path that incorporated the two and I found out that being a Game Artist and Designer wasn’t “the guy in his parent’s basement” like everyone said but was an actual job! Going into this field has made me happier than I ever have been, and I truly get to let my passion and personality shine in my work.
How many credits are you taking this semester?
I have five classes and each class is around three credits. Next semester, however, I want to turn up the heat and take seven classes in total.
Why did you want or have to work while earning your degree?
I wanted to work because I would like to be able to have more income for my projects and to help my mother out. She is a single parent and must take care of my little brother, who is still in high school and is special needs. She would send me close to a hundred dollars a week and I would feel terrible because we never had much, and I want that money to go towards my brother and the home we live in. I also needed extra money on the side for the software that I use personally, and I hated when she had to pay for it. Now I pay for it on my own and I alleviate her of having to spend extra money weekly.
Is it challenging to work while attending school?
It can get challenging sometimes. I sometimes have a hard time with time management and procrastinating on my schoolwork. Once I get behind, it gets hard to balance the incoming work along with the late assignments and then go to work on top of it. However, having the job has given me a sense of responsibility and has helped me procrastinate less. So, in all honesty, it has helped me stay stable in my grades more than drown me!
How are you working through it?
I am doing my work earlier and on days I am off, so I do not have to worry about it. If I have a late assignment, I do the work that’s recently due first so that is not late, and then I focus on each class and do the late assignments after.
What other time or monetary responsibilities outside of work and school do you have?
Outside of work I am the president of UAT’s Art Club. Other than that, I do not have much more besides my various hobbies. I draw, I play videogames, I make videogames (for fun) and I also spend a lot of time with my friends going to new places and experiencing new things.
Financially, how does working as a Student Ambassador support your life?
Working as a SA has helped a lot financially. I am now able to spend money where I need it and have leftovers to drop into my savings! It makes my personal life and responsibilities much more manageable.
Why did you want to work on campus instead of elsewhere?
My friend, Hunter, pushed me to get this job. At first, I was unsure because I did not think I would be a good fit as a SA, especially since at the time my grades were low, and I was struggling to keep my head above water. I thought about opening my commissions again, and just selling my art, but I knew it wouldn’t get me where I wanted to be financially. So, I looked into it more and I liked the idea of interacting with potential students and helping them along their journey to UAT. So, I took the interview and Ta-da! I am here now with a job I thoroughly enjoy doing!
What is the best part about being a Student Ambassador?
Honestly, I like giving tours. I know I just got tour approved not long ago, but I love meeting new people and talking to them about their interests, showing them things that might interest them and showing off places around the campus I enjoy!
How do you stay on top of schoolwork?
I like to do my work on the days I am off and before they are due. If I do it this way, then I do not have to worry about coming home from work and needing to do project work on top of it.
Do you have any free time for other hobbies?
All the time! I constantly take time for myself to play video games, hang out with friends and just kick back and relax! I play video games most of the time since it is something that brings me a lot of peace and happiness. I truly feel at home when I can play games. Right now, I am currently playing the game “Hades” during my free time!
How does working while earning your degree help someone get where they want to go over if you were just working?
I feel like working anywhere at any time will give you a good experience, even if it’s not in your work field. You can learn valuable workplace skills like communication, teamwork, and management solutions. I believe being an SA is good for me because I can work on my social skills! It’s like a bonus when working while getting a degree, so not only are you gaining real-life skills but also the skills of your trade on top of it!
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I can only hope that in ten years I am doing what I love. I hope I am working on or have made a game that I am proud of and that many others can enjoy. Games have always given me a sense of release and happiness, so I hope in ten more years I can give many others that same sense of happiness.
What advice do you have for a prospective student who is concerned about balancing school with their work and other responsibilities?
I know this may sound crazy but just go for it! If you truly want it, then adapting to the new schedule of work and school will be like second nature. Just make sure to keep your chin high, work done on time, and give yourself the time to relax and have peace in your day-to-day life.
For students at the University of Advancing Technology (UAT), completing their Student Innovation Project (SIP) is the culmination of their hard work and dedication to their degree program. These projects are not only exciting for the students, but also to their professors who witness their progression and development.
One such SIP is Mark Montenieri's Updatable Interior Mapping project. According to Professor Hue Henry, "It is a brilliant use of a cutting-edge technology to solve the problem of how to provide one of the most heavily-requested features in the MMORPG genre."
Professor Henry continued, "The use of cubemaps as a way to display interior spaces is a relatively new innovation in the game industry. Mark's project takes that to the next level by applying it to user-created spaces, such a player housing in a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). However, these features are often prohibitively expensive. Mark's innovation makes it possible for many thousands, even millions of players to decorate and display their in-game homes in a way that is feasible with current MMO technologies and bandwidth limitations."
Read on to learn about how Mark arrived at the idea and his future plans.
What is the purpose of your SIP and your claim to innovation?
My SIP aims to make in-game cities and towns appear more alive by offering updatable images instead of static pictures on storefront windows and doorways. It also benefits densely packed player housing, such as an apartment building, by removing the actual housing to another part of the map and only showing recently updated images overlaid on windows and open doorways. Players would approach the doorways and enter the associated room or apartment via a portal method, which teleports them to the actual room, far away. This helps game performance by only rendering the room for players inside it and not to everyone who walks by. Anyone who’s played a multiplayer game and entered an extremely busy arena or town has experienced lag from the game having to render the space for every player simultaneously and my SIP aims to improve that aspect of multiplayer gaming.
Watch his final presentation:
What inspired your project?
My wife and I used to play a game called Ultima Online (late 90s?), and we loved the player housing feature. As the game fell out of favor and changed to the point it was unrecognizable, we moved on, looking for a new game to play that still offered great player housing. Here we are, 20 years later and still haven’t found what we’re looking for, so I wanted to come up with an idea that would allow game-makers to offer housing while keeping lag to a minimum, since the number of people playing online games has skyrocketed.
What part of your SIP are you most proud of?
The fact that this has never been done at scale in an MMO, at least to my knowledge, is what I’m most proud of and hope it’s something that may be incorporated into a shipping game one day.
What parts have been difficult and how did you solve the problems?
I suppose the most difficult part is that my SIP uses the Unreal Engine. Since I started using/learning Unreal in 2017, I’ve been what I call a ‘Hobby-level programmer’, never rising to the point where I felt comfortable calling myself a game programmer. Learning Unreal Engine is difficult because it’s so complex, but being a student at UAT and having used the engine in multiple classes to create complete or near-complete games has helped my confidence and increased my proficiency quite a bit.
What are your future plans for the project?
For now, I’ll be sitting on the idea while I work on a larger project but may incorporate it as a feature before I ship. If it turns out that it’s not a good fit, I may create my own game that utilizes my SIP concept.
What are your plans after graduation?
Ah, the million-dollar question. Honestly, I’m not sure where my path leads, but having degree in hand should surely open doors previously unavailable to me. I look forward to exploring options and opportunities once my journey at UAT is complete.
Mark is graduating with his Bachelor Degree in Game Programming in Fall 2022. We're excited to see where he lands and his continued innovation after he leaves UAT!
Considering a career in gaming? Check out the following for more information about UAT gaming degrees.
When students leave UAT, they typically aren't heading out to search for an entry-level opportunity. Our grads have invested their time here creating and innovating (on their own and through internships) to such a degree that a great job or entrepreneurship venture is a natural next step.
Such is true for Randall Tatum, UAT alumni and Founder & CEO of Titanomachy Studios, LLC. Randall is an excellent example of how our students take what they learn and really go for it in the "real world". With a Bachelor’s of Art Game Design as well as a Master of Science in Production Management, Randall is not only achieving his dream, he is also helping others by advocating for independent developers in the game industry.
Randall Tatum, CEO of Titanomachy Studios
We caught up with Randall to ask what it's like owning his gaming company, plus to find out why he feels getting an education in an often do-it-yourself field helped him get to where he is now.
Titanomachy Studios is a fully remote indie studio based out of Avondale, AZ and Stroudsburg, PA but with a team from around the globe. We are made up of people from all walks of life and backgrounds from Canadian pixel artists to English writers to UAT alumni programmers. We focus on creating game development. Our focuses are creating our own titles, like the upcoming SRPG, Condors Vs Ocelots, and Indie Publishing. We strive to make games that are fun and memorable experiences for everyone.
Titanomachy Studios has a very diverse team from all walks of life and experiences. From the top: Ben S. – Web Developer; Tyler S. – Programming Lead; Tyler T. – Programming; Garrett H. – Programming; Merlin C. – Programming; Hunter D. – Programming; Michael M. – Art Lead; Alethea H. – Artist; Peter G. – Artist; Yoorina S. – Artist; Ibrahim A. – Writer; Max S. – Assoc. Producer/Game Design; Jeremiah B. – Level Design; Colt B. – Level Design; Box Monkey Studios – Audio and SFX; Wayne D. – Finance/Legal; Randall T. – Project Lead/Producer
Hunter Derrick, Programmer at Titanomachy Studios
My education has simply enabled me to not only think in new ways, but also to give me a baseline on how things should or should not go based on my resources and effort. I used my degree to work in the field, but it wasn’t until I pursued my Master’s at UAT that I began to think about disrupting markets and being an entrepreneur and really just making my own path instead of following others. If it was not for the things I learned in my education, I would have been sorely prepared and educated on how to start and operate a business.
I think that, an education is important for many reasons. Obviously the technical instruction in your desired field is possible, but more than that, learning new ways to think about and solve problems and situations has helped me immensely. Videogames, like any other technical field, is just that--technical. Having an education not only facilitates learning new ways of thinking, but it also instructs on at the very least the basics, so that doing your own skill polishing and “leveling up” is possible.
A degree in the game industry is important for the same reasons a degree in the medical field is necessary. Not to say that making video games is on par with saving lives; however, I certainly wouldn’t hire a career plumber to be my lead game designer when his education is in plumbing. It applies here. When I interview people to work with us at Titanomachy, a degree doesn’t get you the job. Merit does, however, when two applicants are equal, the game degree wins out in most cases. I know that that person is instructed and SHOULD know what I’m saying when I say it.
If you have a dream, follow it. No one is waiting for you to pursue them so follow your heart and use your head to navigate. Otherwise, stay organized. School is hard work and preparedness cannot be underrated.
Your portfolio is the single most useful thing you can offer any place you apply to. Make it big, make it varied and make it good.
Five years ago, we released our first ever title, Stacker. It was an abysmal mess of spaghetti code and disorganization. It was also the proudest moment of my career, because I had a dream, I took the steps, and I achieved it. That feeling is irreplaceable.
I had a dream, I took the steps, and I achieved it. That feeling is irreplaceable.
We started out remote, if for no other reason than to keep our overhead costs down. There are a lot of learning curves and communication barriers that are easy to forget, but critical issues arise from them often. There was a learning curve that I think would give most people a shiver or two, but after 5 years, when Covid came around, we were ready to stay safe, healthy and developing.
Michael Monchamp, ORU lead sprite artist at Titanomachy Studios
I am biased here because I think Condors Vs Ocelots is my favorite, but I have been enjoying Terraria, Legends of Runeterra, and Valorant.
I think what I look for the most in games is a compelling story and interesting mechanics. I come for the narrative, but stay for the awesome gameplay.
Thank you Randall for your inspirational words! If you are a student or alumi and would like to share more about your experience, comment and let us know!
Want to know more about our Game Studies Degrees? Email email@example.com to get started!
What is your major(s)?
The Major that I chose is Game Programming. The reason I chose this
degree is because I want to make video games. I have played video games ever since I was little, and it was always fun and created good memoires with friends and family. I want to do the same where the games I make people remember have fun and make good memories either by themselves or with others. To this day my reasoning is still the same for making games. Now there is tons of things that make a game art, coding, design but the reason I chose game programming instead of the others is because you get to create make it all work. Have characters move, health systems, enemies, inventory weapons and more you get to make things work and that’s why I chose that certain degree because I like to see things happen come to life.
What made you choose UAT?
The reason I chose UAT is because of the advanced technology they have the teachers are all expert facility and have worked in the industry before, so they know what it takes to get in and the build the classes around that to help you get in the industry at an easier rate. I figured with the knowledge the teachers have along with the technology they would help me achieve my goal and give me the knowledge to make games. Along with connections as well if they have all worked in industry then they know people that I could network with making it even easier to get a job since having connections is another huge thing in getting a job.
What factors do you attribute to your successes?
I am in my last semester here at UAT and this are some of the things that I did to achieve my goal. When you start out here try to meet as many people has you can and make friends. Having a group of friends within in your major and others can be a big help. They can help you with your homework and you can start projects together and make things with your portfolio plus you have connections once you graduate that could help you find jobs. Take a degree specific class and basic classes because the degree specific is where you want to learn knowledge to advance your career and will get busy as time goes. You want to balance a hard class with easy ones.
Organized by Adam Moore, the jammers used Discord to communicate, form teams, and help each other out. The 2022 theme was Duality, with 16 games uploaded to UAT’s jam site at https://globalgamejam.org/2022/jam-sites/university-advancing-technology/games.
The Global Game Jam concluded on Sunday, January 30, at 3:00 p.m. Arizona time. Wrap-up included presentations and awards, followed by streaming the games on Discord.
The following are UAT’s site winners:
Best Design: Mirror Block
Game Programmers: Darin Palermo, Lyndsey Boggs
Game Artists: Kaulana Lee, Lyndsey Boggs
Game Designer: Darin Palermo, Lyndsey Boggs, Kaulana Lee, Raul Montes
Best Art: Harm Charm
Art by Morgan Kitay and Nick Campbell
Design and Programming by Jeremy Johnston
Best Technical: Polarity
Made by CatWithAKeyboard in less than 24h
Best Audio: NoThinkingThing
Development and Production credits to William Bailey and Wyvern Studios and Entertainment, LLC.
Art contributions made possible by Epic Games and Wyvern Studios and Entertainment, LLC.
Weirdest Game: A Shadow Named Nyct
Music, Art, and Code by Carter Brinkley
Great work to all of the jammers! And remember, you don’t need any experience to participate in these events. Be on the lookout for the next opportunity to join the fun—and games!
Considering a career in gaming? Check out the following for more information about UAT gaming degrees.