CMSC 491/691: Computer Graphics for Games

Spring 2014, TuTh 11:30-12:45, MP 104

Instructor: Dr. Marc Olano (
ITE 354 (455-3094); Office Hours: W 3:00-5:00

Recommended resources:
Akenine-Möller, Haines and Hoffmann, Real-Time Rendering, AK Peters, ISBN 978-1-56881-424-7.

Developer blogs:,, blog list
General game development concepts: Bob Nystrom, Game Programming Patterns, online text:


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 algorithms. 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.

Course Outcomes

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


Grades will be based on class participation (10%), one in-class presentation (10%), programming assignments (30%), and a final project (50%).


Programming assignments 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
Assn 1 10% Physically Based Rendering Feb 21
Assn 2 10% Proxy Geometry Mar 7
Assn 3 10% Multi-pass Mar 28

Students taking the course for graduate credit (CMSC 691) will be expected to do extra parts on each assignment and more complex work in the final project.

Use CVS for all classwork and submit your work by the appropriate deadline by checking it into the class CVS repository. All assignments should be submitted by 11:59pm on the due date for full credit. Any assignment can be submitted up to two days after the deadline for a 15 point penalty. No work will be acceped more than 48 hours after it is due.

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 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.


Date Topic Assn Project Presentations
Jan 28/30 Overview, Presenting    
Feb 4/6 Graphics Application Walkthrough, Shading     Tu Olano
Th: Blenkhorn
Feb 11/13 Physically Based Rendering
(Normal distributions, Energy conservation)
    Tu: Maselko
Th: (snow)
Feb 18/20 Precomputation, Fitting & Approximation
(Monte-Carlo, Spherical Harmonics, Schlick)
Th: Nichols
Feb 25/27 Proxy Geometry
(Occlusion culling, Volumes, Relief mapping)
    Tu: Vorontsov
Th: Zhang
Mar 4/6 Rendering Passes
(Reflection, Shadows, SSAO)
Th: Metevier
Mar 11/13 Rendering Passes
(Deferred Shading, Skin)
    Tu: Boyer
Mar 18/20 SPRING BREAK      
Mar 25/27 Graphics Hardware
(Coherence, Memory systems)
  Tu: Taylor
Th: Makmak
Apr 1/3 Shadows
(Shadow volumes, Cascaded shadow maps)
Apr 8/10 Filtering
(Fourier, Antialiasing, Prefiltering)
  Topic Tu: Adams
Th: Garbarino
Apr 15/17 Quaternions
(Rotations, Slerp)
    Tu: Raabe
Th: Hutchinson
Apr 22/24 Animation
(Splines, Blending)
  Update Tu: Plante
Th: Harting
Apr 29/May 1 Skinning
(Linear blend skinning, Dual quaternions)
May 6/8 Final Presentations   Final  
May 13 Final Presentations