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VG247 Scotland issue #2: Educating Scotland

Friday, 14 February 2014 11:11 GMT By Dave Cook

VG247 Scotland continues with a look at the nation’s game development courses, the wealth of careers to be found within the industry, and all your regular news and updates from across the country.

VG247-Scotland-Sized

Missed VG247 Scotland issue #1: Where’s the Best Place to Sell Games? Just hit the link to check it out.

Last month; our panel session focused on the best place to sell games. It’s true that marketplaces aren’t as clear-cut as many people first assume. Steam’s becoming saturated, iTunes is rife with cloning and both Sony and Microsoft are opening their doors to smaller teams. There was a consensus however; that it’s becoming easier – as a developer with skill, time and resources – to bring your game to market and potentially see a return on investment. That’s one of the reasons why more people are getting educated with the skills needed enter the industry. This is a serious vocation.

Scotland’s Abertay University has long-stood as a centre of excellence for game courses in the UK education sector, and with good reason; it has a high rate of graduates moving into paid positions within the industry, and if they’re not getting jobs off the bat, they’re setting up their own studios and projects. It’s not just Abertay either; there are now more institutions across the wider UK offering game development courses, and both politicians and educators alike are coming round the idea of games as a valid career path.

In this month’s panel we discuss the range of development courses across Scotland, and explore jobs within the industry that aren’t strictly focused on coding. Game studios now employ writers, actors, artists, musicians, community managers, and people with various other talents needed to make games in today’s market. You needn’t be a coder to make games, and today, there are options open to you, no matter where you are in Scotland, or indeed the world. Scroll down to watch the panel session.

But first…


News

Monstrum: new survival horror game from Team Junkfish gets first trailer
Monstrum is a new survival horror game from Team Junkfish that sees players escaping from a vicious beast inside a derelict ship. Players will have to use their wits to survive, and as an added incentive; there’s also perma-death.

To make things even creepier, there’s also procedurally generated levels so you’ll never quite know where the beast is coming from. You’ll need to either distract it or avoid it completely to survive.

Monstrum is being developed in Unity3D and is coming to PC, Linux and Mac in Q3. It also has Oculus Rift support.

genes_in_space

Play Genes in Space, help cure cancer
Earlier this month we reported on a game called Genes in Space, a game developed by Scottish developer Guerilla Tea in collaboration with Cancer Research. It sees players guiding a starship through levels littered with asteroids. What they’re actually doing is helping scientists to read gene microarrays, cutting countless man hours out of the quest to cure cancer. Download it through here and help this most-worthy of causes.

Squares_of_black_space

Squares Of Black Space: Alpha Square out now
Pixel Sword’s wonderfully titled Squares Of Black Space: Alpha Square is out now on Windows Phone for free. It’s a fast-paced arcade game that sees you obliterating squares of empty space using a colourful stream of magic. It’s got a neat retro visual style and is also bloody difficult if you’re looking for a challenge that doesn’t involve flapping birds. Watch the release trailer here.

XBLgamerhub

XLBGamerHub relaunches, offering reviews, community events & more
Scottish gaming site Xbox Live GamerHub has relaunched with a new look, new team and a ton of new content. The site is dedicated to Xbox platforms and focuses on events within the community and bringing players together through their love of gaming. Stop by, pay them a visit and leave them some love.

Moray_game_jam

Moray Game Jam poised for March 14-16
Moray College UHI, Hunted Cow Studios and Screen Hi have teamed up to launch an all-new game jam in March, with the promise of the winning game being brought to market. Hunted Cow will mentor the project to sale, which presents aspiring game-makers with a rare and potentially fruitful opportunity.

I’m on the inaugural judging panel, along with other key figures from the Scottish games industry and press, so expect a full report after it’s done. For now though; you can get more details over at the Moray Game Jam site.


Panel session: Educating Scotland

This month I’m joined by Daniel Livingstone, Programme Leader at the Digital Design Studio, Glasgow School of Art and Gregor White, Director of Academic Enterprise at Abertay University, Dundee.

We look at the topic of education in Scotland, and the options available to aspiring game developers looking to get educated and seek work within the games industry. More and more young people want to become game creators and there has never been a better time to seek the skills needed to achieve that dream.

From teaching yourself coding using Game Maker and Unity, to applying for course in coding, art, music production and more, we touch upon this increasingly broad route to market, and we even discuss what happens after you graduate – from setting up your own studio, to seeking employment. If you want to work in this industry, you’d do well to watch our discussion panel.

too_easy_games

Developer interview: Too Easy Games

In keeping with this month’s theme of education and gaining the skills to work within the industry, I spoke with Trap Mansion developer Too Easy Games, a team formed in 2012 by graduates out of the University of Abertay in Dundee. I spoke with co-founder Bill Rountree about the team’s experience of being educated in game development in Scotland, and the trials that awaited them at the end of their course.

Bill himself admitted that Too Easy’s respective members were in “no way prepared,” for setting up their own company, but today they continue to create games on their own. Such autonomy is permitted in today’s industry thanks to the wealth of readily-available game creation tools, start-up support and vast banks of shared knowledge online, yet; this is still a difficult industry to succeed in.

“I think we all agree that this was the most enjoyable project during our time at the Uni as we were actually working in a studio style work environment. The group projects in our courses directly led to the founding of our company since we enjoyed working together so much.”

Regardless, I was keen to pick Rountree’s brains as to just how effective his education has been since he and his colleagues set up shop, and to perhaps offer some advice to those looking to break into the industry. He explained that he started at Abertay in 2008 after finishing a Game Development college course in Ireland, and that his tutors were helpful in explaining his options. Since then he has seen game education in Scotland and indeed the wider UK blossom.

“I can only really speak for what I’ve seen in the 5 years I’ve spent [in Dundee],” Rountree said, “but even in that time the course I studied – Games Design & Production Management – has grown and improved. Some modules have been refined, some removed and new modules have even been added, all of which seem to have helped to improve the course in some way.

“There are definitely more options out there too, more courses have popped up all over Scotland (and the rest of the UK) since I moved here. As for doing things better: The games industry is a completely different monster from the one that existed when I first started at Abertay.

“We worked in groups and built prototypes over entire semesters. With the way the industry is now, I would love to see those modules require student groups to develop smaller scope projects and bring them all the way to the market, releasing them under the University’s name.”

Rountree added that the one aspect of game development that was overlooked during his course was the process of actually releasing a product at market. Developing a prototype was a key part of his studies, but then what? Naturally, the ability to effectively sell games, understand monetisation, the way the market works and how to effectively communicate that your product exists are vital to gaining a return on investment.

“There is also the bonus of all the students having a released title on the market before they graduate,” he added, “as well all those titles being a showcase for the talent under the Uni’s roof. I think it’s completely plausible and would be an invaluable experience for the students.”

Digging deep into what Roundtree’s course involved; he explained that he was accepted into Abertay with a ‘National Diploma in Games Development,’ which is the equivalent of three A-Levels. Over the years he learned how to use Photoshop, Maya, Flash, Unreal Engine, Blender and more. The four would-be Too Easy Games founders also worked on a prototype in third year. The experience proved invaluable.

“It is true you don’t need to be able to code, but I don’t think it’s something the industry should shout from the rooftops. In fact, I think everyone should have a little coding knowledge. A designer could prototype a basic concept before approaching others about it.”

“I think we all agree that this was the most enjoyable project during our time at the Uni as we were actually working in a studio style work environment,” he said. “The group projects in our courses directly led to the founding of our company since we enjoyed working together so much.

“Another upside to being in Dundee was the amount of local studios, which allowed me to pursue any work I could find. My tutors were also very understanding and helped in whatever way they could to allow me to continue my studies while working at the various studios that hired me.”

Also; each semester involved group evaluation sessions called ‘Pitch & Crit’ that saw students sharing ideas and giving feedback on each other’s work. Rountree stressed that this group work proved to be the most invaluable aspect of his course, giving an idea of what it’s like to work in a team. “This was a stupidly valuable experience,” he added, “especially for an aspiring designer. If you can’t convince a group of strangers that you care about your own work, why should they?”

‘Why?’ indeed. Roundtree concedes that he is trying to improve his own coding on an ongoing basis, and that his strengths lie more in design. While it is true that graduates can work on game projects without being coders themselves, some knowledge of the process is absolutely advised. He suggested that even designers should have some grasp of coding.

“Well, this a bag of worms,” he cautioned. “I definitely couldn’t code to save my life, but I can’t deny having some basic programming/scripting ability would be incredibly useful and it is currently something I am trying to rectify in my free time. Even if you do a quick search and look at current Game Designer or Quality Assurance openings, the vast majority are asking for applicants with some coding knowledge.

trap_mansion

“It is true you don’t need to be able to code, but I don’t think it’s something the industry should shout from the rooftops. In fact, I think everyone should have a little coding knowledge. A designer could prototype a basic concept before approaching others about it, an artist could write a script to better improve their work flow and make their lives easier. A QA Tester with a better understanding of code could spot and isolate bugs with greater ease.”

I closed our chat by asking Rountree for some insight into how Too Easy Games was formed after its founders graduated and if they felt they had been taught the necessary skills to set up shop. “We were in no way prepared,” he admitted, “but we were very lucky to have met a business advisor through Aaron who took us under his wing and helped us get the ball rolling.”

“I think we would all agree that we wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for his help. There is a lot of help out there for those who want to start a company of all shapes and sizes. The only problem is that it takes a good bit of googling to actually find what you’re looking for.”

Rountree’s last point about Google is important; because while getting a foothold on any career path or industry may seem daunting, there are always people out there online who have done it before. There’s a wide range of stories, articles rich with advice and cautionary tales out there for those who wish to seek them out. For start-ups, Scottish Enterprise and Business Gateway are your friends.

That information is becoming more-readily available to obtain thanks to the continual growth of games education in Scotland today, so it stands to reason that the path to getting a job in the sector – while still dependant on a lot of hard work and grit – has become much clearer. That certainly bodes well for the next wave of graduates coming through the system and beyond.

Next month; we will be taking a closer look at what happens once you graduate and start looking for work within the industry, or if you decide to set up shop on your own. Look out for VG247 Scotland issue #3: ‘You’ve graduated, now what?’

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2 Comments

  1. Cort

    http://static2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20111115203649/sims/images/2/2f/Tumbleweed.gif

    #1 1 year ago
  2. Brizee

    Definitely an interesting point raised by Bill, as an Abertay Grad myself who has now worked on titles to release (and after). I’m inclined to agree that for any discipline (Art, Code, Design etc) It would be really useful to carry a project through to release.

    Apart from the obvious effect on your CV, it teaches you about the standards of your audience and market reception in a way no lecture ever could. Though it’d be interesting to see how the University couldn’t implement it without exploiting teams or individual students. Particularly if monetisation were involved.

    #2 1 year ago

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    Hopefully, you pre-ordered the Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain Collector’s Edition in the UK already. If not, you are likely out of luck. According to GAME, the pack which contains the Half Scale Replica of Snake’s Bionic Arm has sold out in the UK. The retailer confirmed the news to Videogamer this morning. […]

  • Far Cry 4 Complete Edition coming June 19 for PC, PS4 to the UK

    A Far Cry 4 Complete Edition has been announced and it includes the full game as well as the Season Pass. This is the sku which popped up on Amazon Germany earlier in the week. The Season Pass provides access to five separate pieces of DLC. Here’s a refresher on the DLC content: The Syringe: […]

  • The Witcher 3: live Q&A stream with CDP, new monster dev diary inside

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is out in just two weeks, and if you want to know more about Geralt’s latest adventure, CD Projekt is hosting a live Q&A now on Twitch. There’s also a new developer diary below which focuses on monster in the game. The Witcher 3 is out on May 19. Huzzah! […]

  • Forza Horizon 2′s Alpinestars Car Pack has five cars and is ready for download

    The Alpinestars Car Pack for Forza Horizon 2 is out now on Xbox One and its the only way you will ever be able to afford a 1992 Bugatti EB110 Super Sport. Unless, of course, you win the lottery or are left in some rich person’s will. In that case, I’ll take the ’53 Corvette, […]

  • Shadow of Mordor – Game of the Year Edition is now available in North America

    Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor – Game of the Year Edition has been released in North America. It will be made available in the Europe on May 7 and in the UK May 8 for £49.99 on consoles and £34.99 on PC. As previously announced, this edition contains all previously released DLC content as well as […]

  • Two GAME exclusive versions of Halo 5: Guardians now available for pre-order

    GAME has announced two exclusive versions of Halo 5: Guardians, and both are now available for pre-order exclusively through one of the retail chain’s 318 stores or online. The £79.99 Limited Edition Halo 5: Guardians, which delivers new digital content wrapped in a steel book. There’s also the £199.99 Halo 5: Guardians Limited Collector’s Edition […]

  • Deals with Gold: Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Bioshock Infinite, more

    Microsoft has announced its latest Deals with Gold discounts for Xbox Live Gold members. Franchises on sale include Far Cry, Call of Duty, along with individual titles Assassin’s Creed Unity and Bioshock Infinite. The full list is below. Bioshock Infinite discounts are available for both Xbox Live Gold and Silver members. Xbox One Far Cry […]

  • Wolfenstein: The Old Blood has released, watch the launch trailer here

    Wolfenstein: The Old Blood has launched on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. You can watch the launch trailer for it below. Boxed copies in Europe arrive from May 15, and in Australia/New Zealand on May 14. You can grab digital copies from the following online services: Steam, PlayStation Network, Xbox Store.

  • GOG’s online service GOG Galaxy is now in open beta

    GOG Galaxy, the DRM-free online gaming platform from the folks at GOG, has left Alpha and is now in open beta for all to try. As previously announced, the online service, similar to Steam, is option. Players do not need to play online as all games are stored by the service and can be played […]

  • DayZ-inspired Goat Simulator DLC GoatZ is out this week on Steam

    Goat Simulator players can download DayZ-inspired DLC this week called GoatZ. According to Coffee Stain Studios, GoatZ is “the only survival game on Steam that isn’t in Early Access.” Jokingly of course. The DLC features: Mandatory crafting system because everyone else is doing it. Zombies that bug out. There’s a pun here about actual living […]

  • No, Far Cry 4 is not currently free on PSN

    You may have seen a few Tweets from people saying that the PS4 version of Far Cry 4 is available to download from PSN for free. This is not true. A few readers have tipped us off to what looked like a glitch on PSN that allowed players to download the full version of Far […]

  • Metal Gear Solid: The 1984 Collection confirmed to be a clothing line

    Konami is teasing a Metal Gear Solid thing called “The 1984 Collection.” The Metal Gear Solid Facebook page posted this image about an hour ago: The caption reads, “Step back into the 80′s with our new MGS collection coming very soon! Stay tuned!” This is supposedly in reference to the clothing line that was announced […]

  • Portal, The Simpsons, Jurassic World & Scooby Doo packs listed for Lego Dimensions

    Lego Dimensions is likely getting a few unannounced content packs. One of which is themed around Valve’s Portal. A set of unannounced content packs for the upcoming Lego Dimensions have been revealed by US retailer Walmart. The listings include packs for The Simpsons, Scooby Doo and Jurassic World, and most interestingly, Portal. The listings have […]

  • This is the most authentic recreation of GTA 2 in real life ever

    Affordable drones have many uses. Most of them are not nearly as exciting as recreating GTA 2 in real life. I am surprised it took us this long, but someone has finally captured footage using a drone that resembles the protagonist’s experience in the classic GTA 2. These aren’t just shots of cars from a […]

  • PlayStation 4 sales reach 2m in the UK

    Sony has sold 2 million PlayStation 4 consoles in the UK, faster than it did with the PlayStation 2 – the company’s best-selling machine in the country. MCVUK is reporting that as of last weekend, 2 million PlayStation 4s have been sold in the UK. The data is based on GfK Chart-Track estimates. This makes […]

  • H1Z1 gets female characters, skin colour options planned

    In an effort to improve diversity in the game, H1Z1 developer has added female characters. Female survivors can now be found throughout the world of H1Z1. Developer Daybreak added the new feature in a patch released last Friday. You will be able to choose a female avatar in the main game and in Battle Royale. […]

  • Possible teaser site for Castlevania creator Koji “IGA” Igarashi’s new game opens

    Either Castlevania creator Koji “IGA” Igarashi is working on a soon-to-be-launched Kickstarter for his new game, or someone is pulling an elaborate prank. At PAX Prime last year, during Keiji Inafune’s Mighty No. 9 panel, a flyer was handed out to attendees that showed what appeared to be a 2D game of some sort with […]

  • Destiny weekly reset for May 5: Heroic and Nightfall strikes detailed

    Tuesday is here and Destiny’s weekly reset is also here. Bungie announced that your weekly Destiny grind has now begun. The Nightfall and Heroic strikes are now live too. This week’s strike is Winter’s Run. Rainbow burn is back for the Nightfall, which means you do more damage with all elemental weapons, but also receive […]

  • PC version of Project Cars delayed in Australia due to severe weather

    Recent weather conditions in Sydney, Australia are responsible for a slight delay of the PC version of Project Cars in the country. Sydney recently suffered from storms that caused flooding in some areas. One of those is the place where publisher Namco Bandai was storing PC copies of Project Cars. The stock was “severely damaged,” […]

  • Twitch’s new process makes it easier for streamers to appeal flagged content

    Twitch has updated its appeals process concerning videos that have been flagged by the audio ID system. Towards the end of last year, Twitch introduced a new audio recognition system that scans archived streams and automatically mutes the audio whenever copyright music is identified. The system has been in-use ever since and Twitch has today […]

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has a day one patch, but it’s not a major one

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will indeed have a day one patch, to make the first-time experience as smooth as possible. Like many modern games, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will have its day one patch. According to the developer however, it wasn’t born out of necessity. Miles Tost, level designer at developer CD Projekt […]

  • CoD: Advanced Warfare owners get free pistol today

    Advanced Warfare developer Sledgehammer Games is adding a new pistol to the game, free to all players. The M1 Irons is a new pistol that comes to Advanced Warfare starting today. The weapon is offered as a thank you gift from the developer. Sledgehammer says the Irons is good at range and packs a punch. […]

  • Fall down the Skullgirls Big Band music video rabbit hole with me

    Skullgirls is a pretty amazing fighting game, but did you know it’s also a passable music creation suite? Earlier today I was idly perusing an episode of PlayStation Underground showing off Skullgirls 2nd Encore, a re-release of the indie fighter packing in loads of new features and coming to PS4 – with full cross-play! – […]

  • The many uses of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood’s pipe weapon

    Wolfenstein: The Old Blood adds a sick new weapon to BJ’s arsenal: a pipe. In Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, a pipe is not just a pipe. Not only can you bash nazis with it, you can use it to climb walls, reach hatches, and even break through some walls. Plus? You can dual wield it. […]

  • Mortal Kombat X teaser gives first look at Predator

    Mortal Kombat X’s next celebrity guest was teased during the latest Kast. Today’s Mortal Kombat X Kast was mostly about all about Jason, but also included a very brief nod to Predator. You can watch the full livestream to see the tease in situ if you’re really keen, but IGN shared this convenient edit: There’s […]

  • Rock Band 4 has count-ins, drum fills and vocal harmonies

    Rock Band 4 will more closely emulate the feeling of being a real musician with some neat personalisation touches. For Rock Band 4, Harmonix elected to double down on player ownership of their experience rather than technical precision. To this end, it has implemented a number of cool new features. I am wildly envious of […]

  • Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, Lost Planet 3 developer shuttered

    Spark Unlimited has gone down with all hands. The Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z and Lost Planet 3 developer has been shuttered and all staff laid off. Chief technical officer John Butrovich confirmed the news in a statement issued to IGN. “Spark Unlimited is closing as a video game developer. The ongoing opportunities for smaller mobile […]

  • PS Now subscription available on PlayStation 3 this month, Vita coming soon

    PlayStation Now’s all you can eat service has finally been dated for PS3. Subscriptions to PS Now, Sony’s cloud-based gaming service, will be available on PS3 from May 12 in the US. The all you can eat package will also be made available on select Bravia TVs and Sony Blu-ray players on the same date. […]

  • GTA 5 is even better with a gravity gun

    GTA 5 modders have made a dream come true, adding a gravity gun to your arsenal of mayhem-causing weaponry. GTA 5 isn’t ready for this. It looks like a heck of a lot of fun, but the poor old Los Santos po po can’t deal with the resulting carnage at all. If Rockstar were ever […]

  • “Mod makers should be able to make money from their creations,” says DOOM creator

    DOOM co-creator John Romero has weighed in on the paid mods debate. Paid mods are a hot issue right now. For years, Valve has been enabling content creators to make money from their work on Counter-strike: Global offensive, Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2, but when it partnered with Bethesda to offer the same for […]

  • Watch WRC driver Kevin Abbring smash through a DIRT Rally challenge

    WRC driver Kevin Abbring has been participating in Dirt Rally’s daily events – and kicking ass. Dirt Rally seems to have ticked one of the most difficult to attain boxes of racing development – creating something professional drivers like to play, and which rewards their years of experience. Codemasters published the video below showing Hyundai […]

  • Mortal Kombat X patch to bring PC version up to console standard

    Mortal Kombat X PC will be fixed tomorrow, NetherRealm has promised. The PC version of Mortal Kombat X has come under fire for poor performance, including stuttering frame rate and bugs as plenty. About 45 minutes into a recent Twitch stream, NetherRealm boss Ed Boon said an update will drop tomorrow to address many of […]

  • Destiny House of Wolves: all new Crucible maps detailed

    Destiny’s House of Wolves DLC will add four new maps to the Crucible, the game’s competitive multiplayer mode. Let’s take a look at all of them. Alex brings you new footage showing all of the four maps that will drop with House of Wolves. He goes over the layout, landmarks, gameplay styles, and other important […]

  • Custom Xbox One Star Wars controllers look very tempting

    Microsoft is celebrating May 4 by showing off concept designs for Star Wars-themed Xbox One controllers. May 4 is of course Star Wars Day and the controller concepts you’re about to see are just that, concepts. Or at least that’s what they said they are. There are four designs and they don’t look very practical. […]

  • Project Cars launch trailer is an anthology of race cars, set to the beats of Deadmau5

    Project Cars comes out this week and there’s just enough time for one last trailer. Project Cars, Slightly Mad Studios’ ambitious racer that has been in development for ages, is finally coming out this week. The racer received plenty of changes throughout its development based on community feedback and the final product will be in […]

  • Star Wars Battlefront dev reveals planet Sullust

    Sullust, a planet that has not been previously shown, will be featured in one of Star Wars Battlefront’s maps. Star Wars Battlefront developer DICE revealed today that planet Sullust will be one of the game’s locations. The planet was mentioned in the films and other Star Wars works, but was only shown today. DICE posted […]

  • Destiny House of Wolves: Tower vendor changes

    House of Wolves will change the inventory of some of Destiny’s vendors and add new roles to others. Here’s everything that has been announced so far. You know that House of Wolves will bring a new social space to the game in the form of The Reef. But did you also know that the good […]

  • Nintendo apologises for Amiibo shortages, will reissue some out-of-stock figures

    Nintendo released a statement today to apologise for fan’s frustrations in finding some Amiibo figures and promised to handle distribution better going forward. Nintendo has been criticised recently for its lack of communication when it comes to new Amiibo figures. Something which has lead fans to not know if certain figures are limited to some […]

  • Halo: MCC “a black eye for us,” Halo 5 won’t suffer the same fate, says franchise director

    The development of Halo: The Master Chief Collection was of an “outrageous complexity,” which was one of the reasons it suffered a horrible launch. None of that will happen with Halo 5: Guardians, according to Frank O’Connor. Frank O’Connor, Halo franchise development director opened up to Xbox Achievements about the difficult task of developing The […]