The game courses at this East Midlands university are putting students through their paces

Training Spotlight: University of Northampton

The University of Northampton is relatively new to games education, but already it has attracted support from the likes of Crytek and Jagex.

The institution’s course in games programming (BSc/HND Computer Games Development) opened September 2012, and a new course in games art (BA Games Art) is due to begin this September.

“What makes these courses unique from other institutions is that they each have a joint element of group projects, where artists and programmers work together to make games, from the concept idea through to release,” subject leader Martyn Simmons explains.

“Team work is so important in this industry and this gives our students the opportunity to work with others with different skills sets.”

In the first year, the focus is mainly on the development of 2D games aimed at the web or mobile devices. In year two, the focus switches to 3D gaming, where students explore the latest software used in modern triple-A titles.

Finally, in the third year, students direct their 3D skills towards the social gaming experience, with a view towards developing their own MMO – a feat which sets Northampton apart from its contemporaries.
And that’s not all.

“Along with this, we always encourage our students to work on live projects. Simulation is good but nothing can beat the experience gained from creating games that will be played by others. So we encourage all our students to create games that can be hosted for others to experience,” says Simmons.

The university is equipped with two up-to-date computer rooms for games development, that host the most current versions of software used in the industry today.

Each machine contains the latest software from the Adobe and Autodesk portfolios. It also has access to CryEngine 3, UDK and Unity game engines, as well as consoles and Windows Mobile devices for live testing. What’s more, it also has access to 3D technology, that gives students the chance to develop games with the latest VR tech in mind.

These courses are new to the University of Northampton, but Simmons says a number of students from other courses go into the games industry.

“We are positive this will start to increase once the current cohort of programmers complete next year,” he explains. “As a university, 96 per cent of our students are in employment or further study six months after completing their course.”

Developers including Jagex, Crytek and a local independent company called Cinders UK are offering advice and guidance to ensure the course provides students with the necessary skills to make it in the industry today.

Next up for the course and its students is the creation of their very first MMO in two years’ time, with advice and guidance from Jagex. Simmons hopes this will not only give the students experience of creating games, but also the post-production and management skills required when approaching this genre.

“We always aim to offer our students real experience and not just a simulated exposure to the industry. We are lining up more live projects in the areas of mobile gaming and looking to make an impact in the serious games sector, creating MOOKS and virtual simulations,” says Simmons.

“We also insist that student work should be available for others to play and we believe that students should have the opportunity to showcase their work to the public. We are certain that the University of Northampton will be well known for its games development courses very soon.”

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