Branching skill tree
Combining programming and design at Plymouth
Since a young age I've always been interested in games and how they work. I never previously had the opportunity to do games development but at every stage of education I always chose computer science and was dissatisfied with how design-based it had been – I am bit more artistic and visual than the average computing student.
When I saw that you can do games development at university I was massively inspired and knew that this is what I wanted to do.
I did a lot of research into game development courses. I’ve always been very interested in computing but wanted it to be more visual, more design-based.
Plymouth easily had the best course to combine my interests – great student satisfaction rates and looked great online, too. I came to an offer holder day and had a look around and got to see current student projects from that year and this was a massive inspiration for me.
The course gives you every opportunity to show your skills. If you’re good at design, you can show that off. If you’re good at programming, you can show that off. As I am a mix of both the programming and the design sides, this is perfect for me.
Take aim and fire
The genesis of Slidey Tanks
Slidey Tanks was a second year project where we were tasked with making a brand new, innovative gaming mechanic. It is an arcade machine game where players use the recoil of their shots to move around varying levels. In this multiplayer tactical shooter, you have to make sure to use your shots in the most effective way possible to dodge incoming enemy fire, and traverse around the different environments available to play on.
Inspiration came from the Wii Play Tanks! minigame which we were playing at lot at home. This tied in with the course getting an arcade machine, so I mashed the two together. I created versions on the arcade machine and for PC – joystick versus mouse – which meant I had to rewrite the entire control system.
Demo or die
The power of peer review
The Slidey Tanks project is available to download online and I have had over 200 downloads so far, which is surprising for a second year project and really motivating to get feedback from the general public, as well as people on the course. Feedback from staff is always very helpful and constructive, as are our regular demo or die sessions.
Every couple of weeks we get asked to put our project up on the computer and everyone comes and plays it and says if there are any problems or if they don’t like anything.
I have been able to have demo or die sessions where all of my feedback has been very positive. I have had Slidey Tanks on the arcade machine and on a computer and people have said it is really fun to play and everybody is getting really competitive, which is a highlight for me because making something and seeing someone enjoy it as well is brilliant.
I definitely recommend to talk to your course mates as soon as possible. It is amazing how helpful it can be to talk about your problems, your ideas and solutions as well.
A big bit of our second year is our teamwork project and it is great to know each others skills so you know which skills complement each other.
Jacks in the Box
For our live client project, Aden Webb, Jack Brewer and myself, formed a team for Rhythmic Learning. We produced a mobile app following an agile development methodology which impressed the client.
“This team of three showed extraordinary skill, enthusiasm, organisation and professionalism. Each student understood their particular responsibilities and was able to deliver a high-quality product efficiently. They also reacted with vision and flexibility to changing situations, even at short notice. A very productive and invaluable process.” – Caroline Stephenson, Director, Rhythmic Learning
Getting prepared for the industry
Develop your portfolio as early as possible. At the start of the second year you are required to start networking via your website portfolio, LinkedIn and Twitter. So getting out there as soon as possible and building up your portfolio early are the right things to do.
My aim is to find a job as a graduate game designer at a larger company in Devon or Somerset, because I really like the area, while combining this with my own creative freelance work. My final year is setting me up massively to do this because I will have a great network in place – although we are still students, we approach everything as if we are a business.
Create your own apps, indie releases and serious games and build your profile as a software developer.
Study BSc (Hons) Computing & Games Development* (course title now