Lo­ca­tion: Breda, The Nether­lands The game school set up by de­vel­op­ers to fill a gap in the mar­ket

EDGE - - TIME EXTEND - JACCO BIKKER As­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of en­ter­tain­ment tech­nol­ogy, NHTV www.nhtv.nl/ENG/home


Jacco Bikker has a decade of in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence. NHTV’s as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of en­ter­tain­ment tech­nol­ogy started his ca­reer at Lost Boys (the stu­dio that would later spawn Kil­l­zone cre­ator Guer­rilla Games). He was hired af­ter writ­ing to the at-the-time 2D-fo­cused stu­dio to tell the de­vel­op­ers that, in no un­cer­tain terms, they needed his 3D en­gine and ex­per­tise. Be­fore join­ing NHTV, he worked at Van­guard Games and com­pleted his PhD on the topic of ray trac­ing in re­al­time games. Here he tells us how NHTV Breda fell into game ed­u­ca­tion.

What do your two game de­grees en­tail?

We cur­rently of­fer two cour­ses: a four-year bach­e­lors pro­gramme named In­ter­na­tional Game Ar­chi­tec­ture And De­sign, which has been run­ning for eight years now, and, start­ing in Septem­ber, a one-year masters pro­gramme, Mas­ter Game Tech­nol­ogy. Right from the start, we hired in­dus­try people with sig­nif­i­cant ex­pe­ri­ence. We at­tracted de­vel­op­ers from all over the world, which greatly con­trib­uted to the in­ter­na­tional cul­ture of the pro­gramme. Ob­vi­ously, one can only hope that these pro­fes­sion­als can also teach, but we de­cided that ac­tual in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence should take prece­dence. So far, this has worked out re­ally well!

How does the mas­ter dif­fer?

It’s a dif­fer­ent beast al­to­gether: rather than cre­at­ing an ‘IGAD+’, we wanted to have a more high-level pro­gram. The mas­ter is of­fered in two vari­a­tions, Pro­gram­ming and Vis­ual Art. For the vis­ual art stu­dents, we fo­cus on tech­ni­cal art, tak­ing into ac­count re­quests from the game in­dus­try: the main topics in the com­ing years re­volve around pro­duc­tion ef­fi­ciency, and so we train people that can build to­mor­row’s de­vel­op­ment tools, bridge art and pro­gram­ming, and are able to con­struct al­go­rithms for pro­ce­dural art.

How does hav­ing in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als af­fect the course?

Ini­tially, the pro­gramme started some­what by ac­ci­dent, when a stu­dent and jour­nal­ist asked the academy di­rec­tor why there was no game school in our re­gion. The same ques­tion was pre­sented to the lo­cal govern­ment, af­ter which the academy di­rec­tor ba­si­cally said, “Let’s do this.” We then hired people from Ubisoft, Play­logic, Van­guard and oth­ers. Later on, these com­pa­nies were in­volved in ad­vi­sory boards and took on in­terns. As a re­sult of those early choices, stu­dent-teacher re­la­tions are great; teach­ers rep­re­sent a ‘goal’ for stu­dents and speak the same pro­fes­sional lan­guage. And teach­ers are train­ing stu­dents to be people they’d hire. We have ex­ten­sive net­works, too, which is great for guest lec­tures, in­tern­ships and jobs.

How has the course evolved?

Eight years ago, we for­bade the use of de­vel­op­ment tools that didn’t let you use C++, be­cause we were con­vinced a good game de­vel­oper needs to be able to talk to the ma­chine at the low­est level. We still [are], but we now make ex­ten­sive use of Unity… [though] all tech­ni­cal cour­ses still use C++ ex­clu­sively.

Through its pro­gram­ming and art course com­po­nents, NHTV en­cour­ages spe­cial­i­sa­tion. But its new in­die mod­ule ac­knowl­edges the broader skills needed for work­ing in smaller stu­dios or as a lone de­vel­oper

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