Epic MegaGrant Awarded for ITP's Newest Course ITP-499: "Game Programming in Unreal"

Eric Perez | September 10, 2021

Well-known video game company "Epic Games, Inc",  has awarded Professor Sanjay Madhav and ITP for the development of ITP's newest video game programming course, ITP-499: “Game Programming in Unreal.”
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Epic Games. Inc. is a video game and publishing company based out of the United States. Epic Games is the organization responsible for developing the Unreal Engine, a commercially available game engine which powers some of today’s most popular games in the industry, including games like Fortnite, Rocket League, and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, among many others. 


Who is Sanjay Madhav?


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Sanjay Madhav is an Associate Professor of Information Technology Practice and teaches several programming and video game programming courses. His flagship course is an undergraduate-level game programming course that he has taught since 2008, but he has taught several other course topics including game engines, data structures, and compiler development. He is the lead faculty for the Video Game Programming minor and is heavily involved in the Computer Programming minor.

In addition to being an Associate Professor of Practice at USC, Sanjay consults with game companies, mostly during the Summer, while he is not teaching classes at USC.  For the past few years, Sanjay has worked on games that were programmed in Unreal Engine (The Pathless and The Artful Escape), giving him a vast amount of experience using the platform. From discussions with other faculty members at ITP, a clear gap was identified in USC's Video Game curriculum, being a severe lack of courses at USC that included Unreal as part of the required course work.

In Various Video Game Related courses in ITP, students would even opt to use Unreal Engine in their capstone projects, but they would have to self-teach themselves in how to leverage Unreal Engine for their games. Given Sanjay's professional experience programming games in Unreal, it seemed like a good idea for him to help develop and teach this course.


What is an Epic MegaGrant?


Epic MegaGrants are part of Epic’s initiative to support game developers, enterprise professional, creators, students, and educators that are doing amazing things with the unreal engine, and this is where the Information Technology Program (ITP) comes into play. Epic's Unreal Engine includes a comprehensive suite of creative tools for video game development, architectural and automotive visualization, linear film and television content creation, broadcast and live event production, training and simulation, along with other real-time applications.

ITP’s newest video game class ITP-499: “Game Programming in Unreal” is an exploration of intermediate game programming techniques through the prism of Unreal Engine. This course was designed and developed for students who want to expand on their existing game programming knowledge and to help them become comfortable with programming C++ code for developing games using Unreal. Over the duration of the course, students will learn the fundamentals of how Unreal’s game systems works, including the game framework, characters, collisions, behavior trees, animations, user interfaces, and networking. 

Another important consideration behind the creation of this course is that most other programming courses at USC have students largely programming from scratch. While that's very important to learn the fundamentals, Sanjay along with other ITP colleagues understand that building programs from the ground up doesn't really emulate the development process in industry. Typically when students go out and work as game programmers, they will work within the constraints of a large and established codebase. Learning how to do programming in Unreal more effectively emulates what it's like to work professionally as a programmer as opposed to working on smaller and self-contained assignments.

The grant awarded by Epic will be used to help fund further curriculum development so that the course's lecture and assignment materials can be released under the Creative Common Attribution-Non-Commercial License, which will benefit educators and students worldwide.