Swansea College Of Art: UWTSD
Producing impeccable results through collaborative learning
The Swansea College Of Art hosts an MArts/BA (Hons) Creative Computer Games Design course aimed at students with skills in art and design and familiarity with the game industry. Senior lecturer and programme director John Carroll has forged a partnership with Sony’s PlayStation First academic programme, and the course now provides students with access to leading VR and motioncapture technology.
What makes UWTSD the right choice for students?
I think our approach to assessing the work on the MArts/BA Hons Creative Computer Games Design is what makes the course the most effective. Learning to not only develop their own individual strengths throughout the three or four years of their study but to also work effectively within a production team gives them an edge when moving on into the game industry.
What are the main benefits to working within production teams?
Since changing our course to this more focused approach we have had a 100 per cent record of graduating students for the past five years. This is due to the students focusing on their own individual strengths within a balanced production team, rather than trying to achieve all aspects of the design process on their own. Now that we are part of the PlayStation First programme, our students benefit further because they have an industry-standard development environment to build their ideas on. It also allows our students to collaborate with all the available cohorts within our faculty like Music Tech, 3D Computer Animation, and Film & Television to produce more in-depth projects.
In a constantly evolving industry like games, do you find yourself having to adapt your approach to teaching?
I believe the general principles of art and the theory of design never really change, and it is those principles that should remain the most important aspect of any academic achievement, no matter what the course subject is. That said, how those game ideas are delivered and presented at the end of the process needs to be in line with the developing trends within the industry of the time and it’s the technology itself that we adapt to the most. Our students developed two distinct VR game demos this year, with one team developing a more traditional arcade-platforming game. The PlayStation First programme will allow one of our teams in the next academic year to develop a PlayStation VR game demo for which they are currently in pre-production over the summer before starting on their third year in October.
What attributes does a prospective Swansea student need?
Dedication and enthusiasm are high on the list of attributes we look for in all of our potential students. The students are committing to a significant length of academic study, and they should be passionate about what ideas they want to present throughout their time on the course. We interview all of our potential students and ask them to bring along a portfolio or any other examples of their work to each interview.
Which tools do you focus on most?
On the course we teach 3D character and environment modelling and texturing using Autodesk Maya, ZBrush and Substance Painter. Game Animation again uses Maya, as well as level design, gameplay mechanics and gameplay theory using Unreal Engine 4, HTC Vive, Oculus and PSVR. We have also started to introduce the process of delivering to game development kits with PlayStation First.
Finally, when students leave, what do you hope they take away from their time at UWTSD?
I believe the collaborative nature of our course gives our students a better understanding of what it is to work as a team within a production, and what is needed to apply their own strengths in relation to those they have to work with. The principles of design, game theory and good practice can potentially set them ahead of the curve.
“Dedication and e nt husi asm ar e hi gh on t he li s t of at tr i but e s we l ook f or ”
UWTSD alumni have gone on to work on such blockbuster games as Alien:Isolation and GTAV