Ceased Trading. 12th Sept 2013
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Educators: Game Related Courses

Whether you are an educator or a careers adviser, this section is aiming to give you an understanding of some of the key issues that surround adequately training people to work in the industry. We have also included here a section of downloadable support material that we hope to continuously expand.

It is our intention here to offer support and guidance for the teaching and creation of games-related courses. This broadly means the main game development disciplines of 2D art, 3D art (modeling and texturing), animation, audio, game design and programming. However, some of the material might be equally useful for students on courses not directly aimed at careers in games, for example Computer Science, Illustration, 3D Animation, Maths and Physics.

This information is intended primarily for those teaching the 18+ age group, although we hope that much of it will be of use to school and college teachers as well. We would particularly welcome your feedback on this section of the site.

Blitz, like many other game developers, receives far more requests for assistance than can be accommodated - requests for talks, course input or wholesale design, professional briefs and for many other forms of advice or guidance. Our intention here is to create a site that will expand and develop over time, and which can be used by students and educators to identify and improve the core skills needed in game development. We hope that the library of downloadable professional briefs, in particular, will be useful to students and teachers alike.

In such a new and fast-moving industry, it's really important that those teaching the skills remain in constant touch with those using the skills, so we encourage all educators to develop and maintain relationships with game developers. This is perhaps most critical when a course is being created.

Some of the information here will echo the Careers Advice page (which we urge you to read, along with the information on the Skillset website), and greater detail on the core skills can be found on the relevant job description pages; but our intention here is to focus on the issue of quality.

Game development is now a highly professional, competitive and mainstream industry. Timescales are often extremely pressurised, while budgets are growing and teams are usually now anywhere between thirty-five and two hundred people. The technology used to create games, as well as that used to play them, is incredibly powerful. Consumer expectations are higher than ever before, and rising every year.

Quality

The primary attribute for a game developer always has been and always will be creativity - but that's never enough on its own. To this crucial quality we must now add equally vital soft skills: communication (both verbal and written), problem-solving and the ability to work successfully in a team.

All of these are essential skills for any job within development, from a Junior Artist to a Lead Programmer. From here on, however, the skills become specialised and their levels of quality become extremely demanding.

We often hear the phrase: "I just like playing games." from aspiring developers, and with that attitude, sadly, aspiring is what they are likely to remain. Making games is a complex and difficult process, which can also be great fun and hugely satisfying - but it mostly has little to do with actually playing games. Students should be taught to think of themselves as good artists (or programmers, or animators, or whatever) above all.

Critical evaluation

Whatever you are teaching, whether it's life drawing or C++, Human Computer Interaction or level design, 3D modeling or shader construction, rigging or MEL scripting, the best thing you can do for your students is to be honest with them, and sometimes brutally so, both about the quality of work that will be expected of them, and the techniques they can use to improve their work.

A major part of this lies in encouraging students to learn how to be constructively critical, both of their own work and that of others - in other words, to be responsive to critical evaluation. This is something they will be exposed to from their first day in development, so the sooner they get used to the idea that their work can always be improved (the schedule and budget allowing), the better. However, the benefits go beyond that simple fact, because constantly questioning their own work frees them to become better: to develop their artistic eye, to get a feel for what works and what doesn't in game design (and why), to learn to write code that is fast and clean as well as effective...

Perhaps the most obvious example of this is 3D Artists. When someone applies to a games company as an Artist these days, they aren't just competing with other Artists in the UK, or even Europe; they are competing globally. That means that they are up against the best in Malaysia, America, Argentina, Finland, China... And the best are very, very good and getting better (see the CG Society Forums for example). As a developer, why wouldn't we hire the best? This goes for all the disciplines, of course.

So as a start, we have made available professional briefs for a few 3D models. These can be downloaded. The idea behind these is that they can be tackled by almost anyone; what is important is the quality of the finished article, within the constraints of the brief.

We hope to continue this series with downloadable animation assets and other support materials, eventually covering all the development disciplines.

Specialisation

A last word about specialisation: games companies repeatedly insist that they want specialised developers, and this is true. We want to hire a really good C++ Programmer, for example, not someone who knows a little bit of Java and a few MEL scripts and can draw a bit. That said, secondary school may be too early to be specialising, unless the student really knows exactly what they want to do. There is nothing wrong with foundation courses or 'sampler' courses where students get to try out a bit of everything, as long as by the time they are about 18 they have decided to excel in one specific discipline. Ideally however, they should work out what they are good at and start practising their core skills - drawing, maths, etc. This doesn't lock them into a career in the games industry, but it does give them an excellent basis for a number of careers - including games, should they choose to do that!