Since the capstone project is team-based, the School of Interactive Games and Media encourages collaboration by giving second year students a capstone space that encourages collaborative work. This facility is used by second year students through both the first and second capstone project courses. The benefits of a capstone facility include the ability for students to work closely with each other as well as a convenient location where faculty may interact with students on a daily basis to see how the capstone project is developing.
A Culture of Team-Based Work
First and foremost, it should be noted that students will not come to the capstone experience devoid of experience with team based projects. Coursework in several areas relies on team-based projects, some only a few weeks in duration, others to run the entire semester. Projects in 2D and 3D graphics, animation, and AI have all used this model in-class prior to a student's work in the capstone portion of the degree. Additionally, the concept of team dynamics and planning are integral to several of the core courses that are required of all students in the program. Team-based work is reflective of the entire degree as well as the entire field of Game Design & Development. To work effectively in the field, students must demonstrate mastery in not only technological implementation, but in communicating and interacting with the rest of the development community, and we feel that this skill is so critical that it has led us to the idea of the team-based capstone experience.
Individual Assessment of Group Work
At the outset, it is important to note that our definition of a “team based capstone” does not release a student from requirements for individual review. Rather, it enforces the notion that the requirements are both individual and group in nature, and both of these must be fulfilled in order to complete the degree. It must be stressed that students will still be evaluated on an individual basis by the faculty. They will work in teams to create completed works within the field of Game Design & Development, but they will do so in clearly delineated roles of specialty, with individual responsibilities and deliverables. Students in the program will have completed the core degree program along with electives in a given area of study, preparing them for roles in the capstone development teams, as well as a colloquium series that introduces the breadth of game design and development. The Capstone Experience occurs during the second year of study and students present their work at the end of the Spring semester both public and private presentations.
Following the presentations and the submission of group and individual deliverables, the faculty chair of the development team, as well as the other faculty in attendance at the private presentation, will meet and assign a grade to each student in the cohort for the capstone development course, thus fulfilling the remaining requirement for graduation.
Individual Questions Related to Team-Based Capstone Design & Development
Q: What if one student doesn’t pull their weight?
A: Then that student may not pass the capstone component, and depending on the circumstances will have to complete additional work, or may be unsuitable for graduation from the program. The projects are team-based, but the responsibilities of each student are individual.
Q: What if students aren’t ready to present their work at the end of Spring semester?
A: There will be a trailing show late August for students that need the extra time to complete their project. In very rare circumstances, it may be the case that only one student of a team will need to complete their portion of the project, in which case that student would defend later than his peers, provided he has met the group submission requirements at the earlier date.
Q: Why do this at all, why not have a traditional capstone experience?
A: The Masters in Game Design & Development is a practitioner’s degree, fundamentally focused on students that choose to work professionally in the games industry or a related field. In consultation with several major game development firms, they reiterated to us our suspicion that it is teamwork and interaction, more than any other skill, that is key to successful long-term viability within the industry. In fact, employers identified this as their number-one reason for both dismissal and hesitancy to hire fresh graduates. In seeking support for this program, the team-based philosophy found throughout the program, and in particular in the capstone design, has been the number one selling point of the proposed curriculum.