Learn how to make games

Hyper - - NEWS - By James O'Connor

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.


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