NHTV BREDA UNIVERSITY OF APPLIED SCIENCES
Location: Breda, The Netherlands The game school set up by developers to fill a gap in the market
“WE DECIDED INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE SHOULD TAKE PRECEDENCE. SO FAR, THIS HAS WORKED OUT REALLY WELL!”
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