Swansea Col­lege Of Art: UWTSD

Pro­duc­ing im­pec­ca­ble re­sults through col­lab­o­ra­tive learn­ing

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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

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