This course is an introduction to some of the computer graphics methods commonly used in 3D computer games. Computer graphics encompasses a wide variety of algorithms and techniques, many more than can be covered in just one or two courses. This course is similar in style and scope to CMSC 635/Advanced Computer Graphics, but uses computer games as a focus and motivation to explore a different set of graphics algorithms. Topics include graphics data structures, design of interactive applications, and real-time graphics. Students will learn several common algorithms in each topic area in sufficient depth for implementation.

Note that (as the course title says), this is a course about computer graphics, specifically 3D graphics, as used by many games. It is not a class about playing games, nor about all of the other equally important aspects of creating a game (AI, art, game play, interface design, ...). I expect that the class will be a lot of work, but hope that you will find it rewarding.


On successful completion of this course, students will

  1. Know a variety of advanced graphics techniques used in games
  2. Apply a selection of these techniques
  3. Integrate an advanced graphics technique into a game environment
  4. Present technical topics to a knowledgeable audience


Instructor: Dr. Marc Olano <>
ITE 354 (455-3094); Office Hours: TuTh 4:00-5:00

Grader: Isha Potnis <>


There is a Piazza site for this class. Everyone enrolled in the class will be added to this site. Class announcements will be made there, so you should either check this site periodically, or make sure it is set to send you messages by email. You should also use it for public communication with your classmates, and the instructor. Questions on concepts and algorithms, especially relating to the assignments, should be asked on Piazza.

Please only post messages appropriate for the entire class to see. Be sure to send messages about grades or other private matters directly to the instructor or grader.


MATH 221 (Linear Algebra), CMSC 313 (or other class covering C or C++), CMSC 341 (Data Structures)

Recommended but not required: CMSC 435/634 (Introduction to Computer Graphics)


None Required

Possibly useful


Grades will be based on programming assignments (40%), one in-class presentation (10%), presentation feedback (20%), and a final project (30%).

Students taking the course for graduate credit (i.e. CMSC 691) will be expected to do extra readings and extra parts on each assignment.

Academic Honesty

By enrolling in this course, each student assumes the responsibilities of an active participant in UMBC's scholarly community in which everyone's academic work and behavior are held to the highest standards of honesty. Cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and helping others to commit these acts are all forms of academic dishonesty, and they are wrong.

For the individual assignments, you are allowed to discuss concepts, assignments and algorithms, but the actual programming is expected to be your own work. Submit a readme with each assignment describing the assignment and also any and all help you received.

The group project can use additional external software and libraries with prior instructor approval. Combining this project with projects in other classes is also OK, as long as you get prior approval from both class instructors. Outside of approved exceptions, everything else you submit should be your own. If you are required to have a written submission, all text, figures and images should be your own.


Programming assignments will be built within the Unreal Engine game engine, but will require the use of the C/C++ programming language. These assignments may be time-consuming. START EARLY! A tentative list is given below:

Assignment Weight Description Due Date
assn1 10% Baking Computation Sep 8
assn2 10% Code Scripting Sep 22
assn3 10% Volumetrics Oct 6
assn4 10% Post Processing Oct 20

Assignments are to be submitted electronically by 11:59 PM on Friday of the week listed. Assignments submitted up to two days late (by Sunday) will be penalized 15 percent of the possible score. Assignments more than two days late will receive a score of 0.

Tentative Schedule

Date Topic Due Presentations
Aug 31 Overview    
Sep 5/6 Presenting; Shading
assn1 Tu: Olano
Sep 12/14 Working in a big codebase   Tu: Jarzynski
Th: Udwin
Sep 19/21 Proxy Geometry
(Occlusion culling, Physics, Volumes, Relief mapping)
assn2 Tu: Vhotkar
Th: Lawrie
Sep 26/28 Rendering Passes
(Deferred Shading, Skin)
Th: Sulimanov, Heckman
Oct 3/5 Rendering Passes
(Reflection, Shadows, SSAO)
assn3 Tu: McLaughlin, Jones
Th: Adum, Suon
Oct 10/12 Shadows
(Cascaded shadow maps, PCF, PCSS)
  Tu: Bukka, Nabulsi
Oct 17/19 Physically Based Rendering
(Normal distributions, Energy conservation)
assn4 Tu: Battini, Natti
Th: Thummala
Oct 24/26 Precomputation, Fitting & Approximation
(Monte-Carlo, Spherical Harmonics, Schlick)
Team/Topic Tu: Li, Stevens
Th: Ackerson
Oct 31/Nov 2 Graphics Hardware
(Coherence, Memory systems)
  Tu: Yum, Somers
Th: Pitts
Nov 7/9 Filtering
(Fourier, Antialiasing, Prefiltering)
Update Tu: Eller
Th: Slavov
Nov 14/16 Quaternions
(Rotations, Slerp)
  Tu: Ede
Th: Napolitano
Nov 21 Skinning / THANKSGIVING
(Linear blend skinning, Dual quaternions)
  Tu: Coleman
Nov 28/30 Animation
(Splines, Blending)
Final Checkin Tu:
Th: Boyer
Dec 5/7 Final Presentations    
Dec 12 Final Presentations