Learn how to make games
Each year, there seem to be more options for potential games students in Australia. AIE is expanding out (they’re currently establishing their Perth campus), developers, programmers, and artists of all kinds are moving into teaching roles, and many of the independent developers working around Australia are made up of people who met in class. We’ve reached out to educators, students, and alumni around the country to talk about getting an education in games.
ANTHONY WOOD Associate lecturer and studio facilitator, SAE Brisbane
Anthony Wood’s course requires students to ship a complete game to Android by week 10.
You work as a game developer for Screwtape Studios as well. How do the two jobs inform each other? Being an active game developer running a small studio gives me a great deal of insight into the current trends in gaming. I also have practical experience shipping games and all the hurdles that come along with that. In-class I can bring up specific examples from my development and share the lessons from my students. A lot of the time people learn with small examples that highlight a specific aspect of game development but never get to put them together to make something more complete. I can push students in a certain direction because I do it myself every day.
Shipping an Android game is part of the criteria in your course. What do students take from this experience? Does it better prepare them for the realities of independent development? You can’t simulate shipping a game, which is often the most complex part of development. Because a
lot of graduates will go out and try to start their own studios, having a title under their belt puts them streets ahead and helps them stand out in a very competitive space. A lot of people are intimidated by the process of releasing a game and spend much longer than they need to polishing things that will have little value in the end product. Knowing what is an acceptable standard and being cool with shipping that is often not something you can understand without just putting it out there and seeing what works. Releasing to the public also pushes students to learn about who may play their game and to keep them in mind while developing. The best chance of being successful comes from creating value for an audience, not just having a cool idea. That’s probably the biggest lesson.
Do you encourage students to keep working on these games after the class finishes, or is the intention to release something complete and then leave it behind? Students are absolutely encouraged to keep working on their games after the class ends. They all have the potential to generate income, and making a living from games is the ultimate goal for most students, so why not take advantage of that. On the other hand, once they have made their first commercial game, making the next
one and the one after that becomes much easier as the process is better understood. If their resumes have two or three shipped games on them when they graduate, that makes them much more employable.
CHRISTY DENA Chair of Games (SAE Australia/Dubai) & Games Department Coordinator (SAE Brisbane)
What does your work entail? I make decisions about how games are taught at SAE (including equipment, pedagogy, marketing, and third-party relationships). We revise all topics that are taught and rewrite them in consultation with everyone who teaches. Basically, when major decisions happen about games then we make a decision and endorse them for the Academic Board.
How does an education at SAE prepare students for the realities of the industry? We’re all about the realities! A few years ago we switched to a studio model, which means that we simulate a studio environment and give the students briefs to fulfil by fixed deadlines. We design those briefs so they’re learning about different parts of game design or programming, and they have to produce within the constraints by the due dates. The teachers act as studio managers, project managers, and creative directors guiding the student teams. There’s a mix of individually-produced and group projects, working with audio and animation students. They learn how to speak to different disciplines, how ideas are cheap, how creative production is all about relationships, how to scale, how to keep your vision, and so on. We have high stakes for the deliveries as well, sometimes bringing in external clients or holding public exhibitions. Due dates aren’t just about submitting to the school’s online portal; it’s about industry people seeing what you’ve produced in three, six, or twelve weeks.
When talking about the industry with students, is there a focus on what local development looks like, or global? Are students encouraged to consider independent development over working at bigger studios?
We made the switch a while ago to make sure students are capable of being employees and employers. The reality is they won’t all walk out straight into AAA studios. They know that too, so we train them in running their own company as well. They do all parts of production: ideation, development, collaborations, marketing, and how business models affect design. We send out a weekly newsletter sharing info about Australian indie releases, plus festivals and events happening overseas. There is no competing interest with covering both skillsets because they’ll be better employees when they know how all the elements fit together, and better employers if they know all parts of production.
If a student isn’t sure where to enrol, why might you recommend SAE to them? They need to find the place that is right for them. Different places offer different things. What SAE offers is true industry and craft training. You’ll have a full portfolio when you leave, and many releases under your belt. You’ll understand not just how to work in teams and develop your games, but also what is unique about you. What can you do in games that no-one else is doing? What is your voice? We’re also a private institution that cares about its students. If you don’t turn up, we notice. You’re not some number; we talk with you, find out what is happening, and come up with plans to address any personal or academic issues you may have. We want you to achieve. By the time you've obtained your SAE degree you’ll know how make your own games from scratch to release and beyond.
THE REALITY IS STUDENTS WON’T ALL WALK OUT INTO AAA STUDIOS, SO WE TRAIN THEM TO RUN COMPANIES TOO