Friday, 17 March 2017

The third annual UCLan Game Jam 2017 is upon us!

This is a dynamic and organic learning experience for our students where they gain experience in working in teams and face the challenge of completing a playable game to a deadline.

Students have 4 weeks to create any game of their choice. 1st year and 2nd year Game Design students work together on this project along with Music Production students and Screen Writing students.
Students are free to pick their game platform of choice – whether it be a 3D engine such as Unreal Engine 4, Construct 2 or a table top or paper game – it is up to them to decide what your strongest platform will be to present a game idea.
We have visiting speakers from industry joining us for presentations and offering advice during the event.

Our Alumni Sarah Akers and William Butterworth will be visiting on March 30th to share their experience of working at PawPrint Games in Chester and are just about to launch their new VR game.

We also have Pete Bottomley and James Burton, our Associate lecturers from White Paper Games working on the staff team along with Josh Wright , Josh Taylor, Marcus Izaquias ,Will Hunter and Bev Bush.

Industry professional and Alumni, Peter Field of Media Molecule has agreed to judge the games and give out prizes to be won at the Finale where each group must submit a complete, playable game. 

The games will be judged on play-ability, accessibility, design, visuals and team collaboration.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Top Down Shooter Games Design Plans

Our first year BA (Hons) Games Design students were tasked by Tutor, Josh Wright, to create a top down level design document that contains at least one level, with supporting level flow instructions.


• It is important that the document is clear, easy to follow and understand.

• Illustrated in 2D.

• Includes a level flow in the document.

• The level should be planned to take the players 10-20 mins to complete.

In this brief, students learn about creating a top down level design on paper. They are given a set of mechanics to structure their level design around. The level design has to have a start and a finish, with all key game-play clearly numbered. Students also provide a document explaining any key game-play that they include.

The aim of the brief is to help students understand the process of creating paper level design plans. Students are encouraged to try multiple designs before settling on the one design to present as their final piece.

Here are a selection of their final designs in answer to the brief.

BA Games Design at UCLan

Uclan’s BA(Hons) Games Design course offers a dynamic and friendly creative environment where students are encouraged and inspired to play, learn and think creatively, to reach their potential for employment in the industry. Many of our graduates had paid work and lead roles in a variety of games design studios.

We’re at an exciting time with the games course, where staff and students work harmoniously within a carefully planned course schedule and our Alumni are proving very successful. Our combination of experienced staff and young dynamic visiting professionals is excellent for student motivation. We aim to maintain the community atmosphere of the course where students work hard in a relaxed and creative environment.

We aim to maintain collaboration between academia and industry, as we believe that this is the right formula for success for our students. The games industry owns a universal platform, which opens opportunities for visual communication and interactivity on a level, which can go beyond ‘play’ and aid understanding on a variety of issues.
The combination of academic study and the development of industry skills to high standards is very powerful and can lead to great innovation! We’re pleased to be part of a big games design community where creative ideas which are shared and discussed, and where students can generate companies and games societies for the future.

Our Games Design staff are skilled in design education and have more than 40 years combined industry experience involving Game Design, Environment Modelling, Animation, Concept Art, Background Painting and Level Setup. 
A range of visiting staff with educational and professional backgrounds broadens and supports the input to the student experience.

We have two female staff on the course. Both tutors have extensive industry experience, having worked on several award-winning games titles and Bev Bush is named in the ‘Top 100 Women in Video Games’ published in MCV magazine . We like to reach out to young female designers and encourage them to consider a career in games design, as a rewarding and worthwhile profession.

All students have the opportunity to study abroad and study visits are also arranged to cities closer to home such as London and Manchester. The course also offers the opportunity to study for 1 or 2 semesters in partner colleges in the United States and Europe.

The Course.

Our course is unusual in that it offers a combination of games design and game art, with an opportunity to specialize in year 3, through the Honours module
The current course provides a substantial which equips graduates with the necessary skills to be a successful games designer or games artist.

Simply put:
The course covers three main areas of activity:
This module encourages students to communicate visually and ranges from sketching as an aid to creative thinking to develop initial ideas' to the production of finished concept art for publication.
Digital modeling
This covers the game specific requirements for developing 3D digital assets for games.
Game Mechanic Design
Thinking of scenarios and subjects for games can be easy, but developing the mechanics, rules, and methods needed to create games, is a complex task specific to the discipline.

Upon successful completion of the course, graduates will have a portfolio of work, which is highly suited for the many roles a game designer may be required to undertake. Each graduate folio will display their unique creativity and their personal interests and skills. Graduates will have a portfolio of work, which is highly suited for the myriad of roles a designer may be required to undertake. Students then often go on to win awards and forge successful industry careers with companies such as Sony and Travellers’ Tales Ltd.

Broadly speaking folios will contain evidence of:

Traditional and digital drawing/painting necessary for the initial development of game ideas

Digital modeling
Familiarity and capability in this area is a key skill for games designers.

Game Design documentation
This represents abilities to identify, innovate, develop, propose and produce games concepts.

For a more detailed overview:
Course Curriculum Content
The course follows a continual assessment format with module grades based upon the submission of a folio of work at the end of a module. The majority of the course work being design projects, with some written assignments in support of this activity. There are no examinations. Assessment is based on portfolio submission.

Year 1

The first year seeks to challenge attitudes to games, where students design and play through a series of games design exercises. From the very outset, they will be work on their own ideas for games under the guidance of staff in order to develop your ability to design games. During the first year of study, any visualisation skills are addressed that they may need to develop, improve, or consolidate. There are also annual live briefs in collaboration with industry.

Games Design [Double Module]
This is a core double module which is project based. Students will typically undertake projects which will explore many aspects of game design in order to develop their design awareness. For example, these briefs may cover areas such as game mechanics, game narrative, marketing, culture, games engines, and the use of blue-prints, paper games, board games, white boxing, non-conflict games, and level design. This module will provide a platform for developing ideas and an opportunity to consolidate all design skills. Some of these projects are group activities. Students will also have the opportunity to use games related software such as Epic’s ‘UE4’ game engine, ‘Sketchup’ for planning and designing levels, and Scirra’s  ‘Construct’ to gain technical awareness of game design tools.

Creative Thinking [Double Module]
This module develops creative thinking and visualisation skills. This starts with traditional manual methods of idea illustration. These activities then lead on to digital drawing methods utilised in modern practice. Students will experience three-dimensional digital modeling and the methods used in game asset generation. Students will learn to use software such as Autodesk Maya for basic 3D modeling and Adobe Photoshop for conceptual painting techniques. They may also create assets for mobile games using software such as Scirra’s ‘Construct’ or explore the use of 2D paper games creation in game engines such as UE4 .

Contextual Studies – [Single Module]
Students will explore a broad range of idea generation exercises through a series of lectures, seminars and activities, which will include formal and informal methods of idea generation. These methods are invaluable to the games designer in their task of generating new and innovative game concepts for both characters and environments.
This module provides students with a working context for their academic and professional practice. This module explores the impact of games and gaming within society. This is delivered in a series lectures plus a supporting seminar for each lecture, culminating in group and individual presentations based on specific topics from the lecture series.

Drawing for Games - [Single Module]
During this single module, students follow a series of drawing exercises and workshops where they practice and develop their observational drawing skills including studies of the figure, including portraiture, anatomy, movement and composition, plus the use of perspective in drawing the environment from life. Most work will be created on paper with a mixture of drawing materials but there may also be some printing and digital painting involved.

Year 2

Year two of the course builds upon the skills and experience students have developed in year one. The main activity still centres on design projects but now there is more latitude (and requirement) to input your own ideas into the projects. Projects use an industry standard model of the Games Pipeline, which seeks to develop professional practice. In year two a full third of the course deals with digital modelling and all the aspects related to asset generation within games. We also aim to include live briefs and workshops in collaboration with industry.

Games Development [Double Module]
This is a core module, which follows on from the first year Games Design module. In this module students begin to undertake larger and more involved game design projects. The nature of the briefing in this module encourages them to include more of their own ideas about game content and style. They become familiar with the process by which commercial game development is undertaken. Creating and presenting their work using the Games Development Pipeline furthers their knowledge and understanding of the commercial aspects of realising a game proposal. This may include the design and development of a range of documents: prototype concepts (within a team), games pitch documents, user interface design, level design, and level design and blue prints within the UE4 game engine and VR technology.

3D Modeling [Double Module]
In this module, students fully develop skills in digital modelling for games and all the aspects required for successful games modelling. Through a series of structured tutorials and exercises they will acquire the skills necessary to design, build, texture, and light environments, create and animate characters and design all types of assets for games including modular pieces. This includes the use of game related software such as, Autodesk Maya and ZBrush, Substance Painter and Epic’s UE4 engine, plus Adobe Photoshop for creating hand painted textures.

Visual Skills [Single Module]
This module deals with contemporary issues in design as well as professional and commercial practice. This is delivered in a series of lectures and workshops that help students promote their work and prepare for employment. They undertake a variety of projects, which explore user interface, layout and composition in order to develop their visual awareness.

Character Design [Single Module]
This is a single module dealing specifically with character development and illustration. This involves exploration of concept and design through sketch-work and the use of digital imaging tools to produce the final solution for a range of character designs using digital painting techniques and presentation skills.

Year 3

The final year of the course revolves around two large projects, with the intent to demonstrate a chosen specialism and consolidate student games design skills. These are presented in a public show of work at the end of the year. This work will form the portfolio, which is a necessary item for successful application to the games industry.

Games Proposal [Double Module]
This module is defined by students in collaboration with their tutors. It represents the totality of the activities of a games designer and is a platform to show their abilities and ideas about games. It will draw upon all aspects of the course they have studied and provide a strong platform to display their game design ability. This will also be part of their final portfolio presentation and as such, should reflect their areas of interest.

Honours Project [Double Module]
Students, in collaboration with their tutors, define this module. This module gives students the opportunity to specialise in an area of games design, which interests them most. Whether they wish to pursue digital modelling, concept art or pure games design, this module is designed to support their aspirations to develop a unique body of work for their final portfolio.

We include as many Live Industry briefs as we can into the curriculum.
Our students continue to work with a number of internationally recognised companies to develop engaging and innovative game concepts.
Below are just some of the companies we work with:
Sony Entertainment, Travellers Tales Ltd, Soccer Manager

Selections of students take up paid internships with UCLan to design games and Apps with small businesses in the North West as part of their work experience. Tutors mentor them and work with the client to ensure a high quality product.
 We also conduct Skype calls with industry professionals, where student s can ask questions and discuss industry values.

Equipment, Resources and Software

We have our own Games Design studio with a dedicated PC lab currently running Autodesk Maya, Adobe Creative Suite, UE4, ZBrush, Substance Painter and Construct with access to other software packages available over the University network.
We also provide access to books, graphics tablets, a variety of consoles, video games; video cameras for recording presentations and board games. A small number of iPads, inklings, and Cintiq's are also available for student access. We also have an interactive touch Smart board, a large 3D TV Screen and various games consoles including PlayStation 4, plus VR equipment such as the Vive and Oculus Rift.
We have a ‘Lecture’ and ‘Drawing’ Studio for non-digital work, which we feel, is just as important as the technical tools.

We have access to motion capture equipment, Green Screening, Rapid Prototyping machines, laser cutting, textile printing, digital embroidery, fabric printing and many other facilities located within the design area.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

European Women in Games Conference 2016

Bev Bush, Senior Lecturer in Games Design at Uclan, was pleased to be invited to take part in the Animated Women UK - Panel: Careers in animation and visual effects / VFX at European Women in Games Conference 2016 last Autumn, 7th Sept in London. The event was hosted by the University of Greenwich. A wonderful venue where Queen Elizabeth the 1 was born 300 years ago this year.

In June 2016, Marie-Claire Isaaman was named as the new chief executive of non-profit WIG and is working on many initiatives to promote the group along with David Smith. Lindsay Watson, chair of AWUK said they were proud to partner with this successful event, which hosts hundreds of women annually. WIG secured Europe's leading speakers for the event including Anne Morrison (BAFTA Chair), Terry Reintke (German MEP) and Jessica Curry (The Chinese Room) along with many others.

Conference panels and workshops from the event were streamed on Twitch during the European Women in Games conference 2016 and the videos have now been published on YouTube  - 8 Feb 2017.

Bev took part in the Animated Women UK Conference Panel: Expanding horizons - Careers in animation and visual effects / VFX
alongside Angela Salt, Dr Maria Stukoff, Juliet Tzabar, Lindsay Watson and Una Marzorati.

Lindsay Watson, Founder of AWUK introduced herself and they then discussed various questions.
Lindsay Watson
Animated Women UK - Founder & Chair (animation)
The mission of Animated Women UK is to positively support, represent, celebrate and encourage women in the animation and visual effects (VFX) industries in the UK. We now consist of a volunteer board of women from a healthy mix of backgrounds; animation and VFX production, finance, legal, festival, educational and career development. Our 5 key aims are: Mentoring, Networking, Showcasing, Recruitment and Education. In November 2015 we had around 1000 women on our newsletter list; around 70% of women in Britain’s’ animation and VFX industries.
Lindsay would like to see more female characters on screen, more women running businesses and more women in technical and leadership positions.

Angela Salt

Fun Crew - Co-Founder
Independent content creator based in Liverpool. Author of the graphic novel "Spooky Skaters", illustrator and educator. Recently wrote, co-produced and launched an adorable, new pre-school animated comedy show, 'Bear, Bud & Boo'.
Angela talked about creating female characters for children's media. Angela recommended the 'Children's Media conference to get to know supportive people in the industry. She wants to do justice in her writing, to all the fantastic women she has met. She wants to creating strong female characters on screen to show girls in school, what they can be and quoted Gina Davies, 'If she can see it, she can be it.' Angela is developing a comedy action show about 5 girl gamers who want to have fun.

Bev Bush
UCLAN - Senior Lecturer, Games Design
Bev Bush is a Senior lecturer in Games Design at Uclan. She has credits on many published games and BAFTA award-winning titles in games and ChildrensTV from Cosgrove Hall Films for Thames TV and Travellers Tales Ltd. Bev has worked with many large publishers, including BBC, ITV, Disney Interactive, Sony, Jim Henson Interactive, on games such as Mickey Mania, Crash Bandicoot and Lego Starwars.Prior to that she worked within the Animation Industry as a Background Artist and has credits on titles in animation for childrens TV such as DangerMouse, Duckula and Wind in the Willows and HRH Prince Charles film of his book, Legend of Lochnagar.
Bev talked about cross over elements that are important in interactive experience. She emphasised that this has too elements, the technical side and collaboration.
Bev outlined the differences in the production pipe-line between animation and games and the importance of working with others as a team to bring a variety of skills to a project, rather than trying to do everything yourself. She encouraged animators and games designers to communicate and see how they can support one another. She also recommended mixing traditional skills with digital and technical skills to bring a more organic quality to a product.

Dr Maria Stukoff

BBC Academy - Head of Digital
Strong strategic head with creative vision to make projects happen. Experienced programme curator able to schedule projects to fit business direction. A mentor and supporter of enterprises that support digital inclusion and has inspired the next generation of games designers to produce content for Playstation content.
Maria spoke about championing a belief in ourselves, creating opportunities and following them.
Meeting up with others and networking is important and taking your own path and making your creativity count. Maria encouraged us to identify our skills and find opportunities to use them, to celebrate what we can do and communicate our ideas to others.

Juliet Tzabar
Plug-in Media
CEO & Owner
Oversees Plug-in’s growth and success since 2006, and most recently have been driving its strategy into original IP development, capitalising on the company’s experience within the kids content sector to originate, produce and publish original IP across multiple platforms from mobile to online, TV to physical products. Speaks internationally about Plug-in’s work. Serves on the advisory committee for the Children’s Media Conference and am on the board of Wired Sussex. Was a finalist in the Women in Technology Entrepreneur of the Year award 2011.
Juliet Tzabar discussed details that need to be considered when delivering narrative for cross platform media, from broadcast information to games. Juliet recommends immersion in the brand from all aspects for creatings Apps from TV shows. Her team look at TV show themes and character activity to get an authentic experience.

Una Marzorati

SEGA Europe - Video editor, Designer & Animator
Video suite assistant at Sega Europe. Designer, Storyboarder and Animator (TV series, documentaries, Internet). Lecturer in Computer Games Design. 3D Artist with a Degree in Computer Science.
Una described how animation comes into play while creating new projects. She likes to be creative and intuitive in her work but also has technical skills which she uses to successfully cross between the animation and games design industry.

Bev Bush also lead a Workshop during the conference with Animated Women UK.
Each of us have an important career path to take and whether in games, animation or VFX, we can use our passion for what we do to help each other.
In this interactive 40-minute session participants were asked to use 'Dixit' game cards and 'Rory's Story Cubes' to help share ideas when asked:
'How can we use visual story-telling techniques to help our career progression?' 
The focus was on moving forward with your own development whatever stage of work you are at. Participants were encouraged to work in groups, recording their own thoughts and discussing with others as part of a directed framework.

Also, during the conference, winners of the Student Competition were awarded by Debbie Bestwick MBE along with Helen Kennedy, Head of the School of Media, at the University of Brighton:
Congratulations must go to our recent graduate, Steph McStea MA Game Design, University of Central Lancashire – for being amongst the winners.