Face to Face with Faculty: Morten Nobel-Jørgensen

Morten_Nobel_JørgensenWe can hardly wait for fall 2015. And while we do fancy æbleskiver, gløgg, and the Danish autumn air, we are excited for something entirely different… Our new Computer Science program, which will run for the very first time! The core course, Game Development: Programming and Practice focuses on students learning to design and develop a game, with an interactive lab corequisite, and a week-long study tour to Germany. To gain some insight on the most exciting aspects of the program, we interviewed DIS faculty member Morten Nobel-Jørgensen. Morten is a passionate practitioner of game development, and is ready to share his love for this creative technology with student this fall:

DIS: Why is Denmark an interesting place to study Computer Science, and specifically, game development?

Morten Nobel-Jørgensen: Denmark has fostered a number of famous computer scientists, such as Bjarne Stoustrup, the inventor of the C++ programming language, Anders Hejlsberg, the lead architect of the C# programming language, and Lars Bak, the author of the V8 JavaScript engine used in the Google Chrome web-browser.

Denmark also has a number of innovative game companies, such as IO Interactive (the Hitman series), Playdead (Limbo), Kiloo (Subway Surfers) and the indie game company Knapnok Games (Affordable Space Adventures). Denmark also contains a huge range of small, enthusiastic independent game developers who work hard to make the next big hit. One reason for the high number of game developers is the large amount of talent available both within computer science, graphics, sound, and game writers.

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Photo by DIS Student Photographer, Kei Helm, Kenyon College

DIS: Tell us about the lab component of the Computer Science program. How will time be spent in the Game Development Lab?

MNJ: When teaching game development, hands-on experience is extremely important. This is where you get to try out the theory and find out which techniques will work in practice.

The lab consists both of traditional exercises and small game projects where you can try to implement your own game ideas. The learning objective is that you will be able to create your own games.

DIS computer science student

DIS: As we understand it, you will be using Unity as a platform. Tell us about Unity. We know it was developed in Denmark!

MNJ: Unity is currently the most widely used game engine in the world. It was originally developed for minor projects, but is now also used for some of the medium sized game titles like Dreamfall Chapters, Wasteland 2, and RollerCoaster Tycoon World.

The company was founded in Denmark and still has most development happening in the middle of Copenhagen. The company is now located in 18 locations spread all over the world, with their head quarter located in San Francisco. Unity currently has over 4.5 million registered developers and over 600 million gamers have played one of the many games made using the game engine.

Gamers using Unity, taken at a Global Game Jam in Tokyo, photo by Morten

DIS: We’ve heard that your students might be involved in some ‘hackathons’ or ‘game jams.’ Can you tell us about these?

MNJ: Game jams, where a group of people with different skills get together and create a game over a weekend, has become very popular in Denmark. It all began with Nordic Game Jam – a yearly event hosted in Copenhagen. In the beginning the number of participants doubled each year. This year, 600 people participated in Nordic Game Jam – the biggest game jam on Earth.

Related events are hackathons, except that these are not restricted to games.

The students will get chance to participate in a game jam where they will get a chance to collaborate with Danish game developers, artists, and hobbyists.

DIS: We are curious to hear about Kickstart Games, as you are the owner. What do you do there?

MNJ: I created Kickstart Games when I was a master student at the IT University of Denmark. I mainly do contract work, such as the game Miniature Golf that I created for Spigo. During my Ph.D studies there haven’t been any activity in the company, however I do have some new projects scheduled for the future.

DIS: Where does your passion for game development come from?

MNJ: Computers and video games have always fascinated me. There is this magical aspect to it. When I at some point had to decide which carrier path to pursue I was actually afraid of that some of this magic would get lost when it became a full-time job. Fortunately, this has not happened yet. Working in the game industry is very rewarding, challenging, and fun.

DIS: You have a specific interest in 3D game programming. Will DIS students get to work with this through the course of the semester?

MNJ: One of the real challenges in video games is 3D graphics. A significant part of my lectures will be centered around 3D graphics. The topics includes how 3D geometry is composed, the math behind the graphics, and how the graphics card can be programmed using a shader programming language. All the theory behind 3D graphics also applies to 2D graphics. It is crucial to have a good understanding about 3D when building games.

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Photo by Kei Helm, DIS Student Photographer from Kenyon College

DIS: What are you most looking forward to about teaching at DIS?

MNJ: I’m really looking forward to meeting the students and introducing them to game development. I can promise that it will be fun, challenging, and rewarding. I’m also excited to see the games they will create during the semester.

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