Learning to Make Games at Media Design School


By: Alan Bell
Published: Thursday 19 Jul 2012 4:15 PM
 
Learning to Make Games at Media Design School

So you want to make games, eh? What now?

Last week, we published an article about Game Development. Titled So You Want to Make Games for a Living, the goal of that piece was to demystify the actual process of game development and give you a better idea of what goes on behind the scenes at your average game developer.

Very shortly after we posted it, Pascarni posted an excellent question in the comment section: "What places in NZ are good to go to in order to gain qualifications or experience to work in this kind of area?" Much in the same way NZ is becoming an excellent place to work in the industry, it's also becoming a great place to study the craft as well, with several marquee learning institutions now running full-time courses that are dedicated to teaching people how to make games.

To answer Pascarni's question, and address several followup comments, we thought we'd take a look at Media Design School, which offers New Zealand's only game art and programming degrees. In addition to being a well regarded place to learn about this stuff by international organizations, they're also well regarded by local employers, giving you a leg up when it comes time to apply for jobs in the industry.

The Basics

ased in Auckland, Media Design School provides a number of different qualifications based around various digital and creative pursuits. It's not just videogames (although that's the focus of this article), with courses on Media Design and Creative Advertising, among others, on offer.


The Media Design School, as seen on Google Street View

The Courses: Art

f you were enamoured by the "Art" section in our previous feature, Media Design School offers a Bachelor Degree of Creative Technology. A three year, full-time course, the description on their website suggests that it "prepares students for the games industry with in-depth knowledge of game art as well as the principles of art and design."

To enable that lofty goal, the structure of the course ensures that students have not only the skills required but also the experience, as both this course and the programming-centric one (which we'll discuss next) are tightly integrated in a real-world reflective manner. This gives students of both courses a chance to make a game together much as they might do when they get a job at a studio down the line.

The Courses: Programming

f numbers and arrays are more your thing than, say, throwing cans of paint at a wall to shine a light on the human condition, fret not: Media Design School have you covered, too. That's not to say you can't still chuck paint around, of course; just that, chances are, you'll be more interested in mentally calculating the optimal coverage method of said wall, than making a statement about man's inherent inability to impact the world in a positive manner (or something).

Anyway. Programming.

The Bachelor of Software Engineering degree, according to the website, "gives graduates a highly developed technical knowledge base and skill set, and the experience to confidently enter the industry as game developers and software engineers."


Halo 3 was awesome. Wouldn't it be cool if you could tell people you made it, or something like it, without having to lie?

In practice, what this means is that graduates with this degree will not only have the knowledge of the various languages used in game programming, but also the specific skills to utilize that knowledge in a way that is explicitly required in game development. Building game systems, iterative development, working with artists; as well as utilizing things like physics, middleware, and artificial intelligence.

Prerequisites

ntry requirements are detailed on the Media Design School website but, generally speaking, if you have knowledge of relevant software and enough NCEA credits in the right subjects, you're good to apply.

For high school students, these subjects are English, maths, physics, computers / digital technology, and so forth. For Game Art, you’ll need a portfolio of relevant painting, drawing, and such but the school can provide the guidelines for that.

The People

he Media Design School faculty include a host of industry luminaries with considerable real-world experience under their belts. Take Druhin Mukherjee, for example. One of the game programming lecturers, Druhin has worked at places like Rockstar and EA, and he (along with his teammates at Team Tickle) recently won a BAFTA (!) for the iPad game "Sculpty".

David March, meanwhile, is not only a game art lecturer at MDS, he's also ex-Crytek, and has a stint at 2K games in Australia under his belt. He started his career 15 years ago, working for 3D Realms in Texas, and more recently he helped ship Homefront for THQ, where he was the Lead Cinematics Animator. Chances are good, then, that if he gives you some advice as to what you need to work on to improve your chances in the industry, it's advice you're going to want to take.

Mike Porter (Programme Leader Game Art) has 15 years of extensive international experience, across multiple game platforms. Enjoy playing Halo 3? He enjoyed making it.

The team also includes Stephen McIntyre who is working towards his masters in defence and strategic studies, Steffan Hooper who led the team on the award-winning Shear Factor, Aslihan Tece Bayrak who has developed applications for the command and control systems of navy ships, and newest recruit James Manning, fresh from the UK and brandishing 15 years of experience as an educator on game design and animation techniques.

The Industry

ew Zealand, while geographically fairly spread out, is both sparsely populated and a long way from, well, anywhere else. As a result, it should come as no surprise that the industry in this country is often closely associated with the training organizations that spring up around it. That is especially true of Media Design School, who actively seek out not only experienced staff members to have on their teams, but also the direct input of Kiwi game development studios.


Made in New Zealand, Sidhe's Rugby Challenge was worked on by a number of Media Design School graduates

The longest-running and most successful studio in New Zealand, and also the one with the most shipped titles across the most gaming platforms, is Wellington-based Sidhe. Auckland and Wellington might not be close, but the same cannot be said of these two organizations; Sidhe frequently hire from the Media Design School graduate pool, and they are also actively engaged in the courses themselves. Sidhe also provide an annual scholarship to a student (or two) that involves a financial component as well as an internship.

Conclusion

If you're serious about working on games, and have no industry experience, Media Design School is definitely worth a look. Their detailed, multi-year, industry-vetted curriculum will give you not only the tools and experience you'll need to hit the ground running, but the fact that they're well regarded will also give you a leg up when competing for those hard-to-get positions come interview time.

If you have any further questions about how you might go about getting into game development (or even a related topic), let us know! We've got good relationships with industry in New Zealand ourselves, and we're more than happy to help you find the answers you're looking for.




 

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Comments (9)

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Super-Pangolin
On Friday 20 Jul 2012 12:12 PM Posted by Super-Pangolin NZGamer.com VIP
I'm already enrolled in AUT's bachelor of besign for '13, but over the past couple weeks I've been considering withdrawing and applying at MDS (possibly diploma of graphic design then creative technologies bachelor), even have a prospectus right next to me. I'm just not sure whether a background studying graphic design is enough, considered I've never touched 3D modeling and my painting/drawing needs a lot of work...
 
 
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Super-Pangolin
On Friday 20 Jul 2012 12:13 PM Posted by Super-Pangolin NZGamer.com VIP
*Bachelor of design. Haha wow.
 
 
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strawpeople
On Friday 20 Jul 2012 12:23 PM Posted by strawpeople NZGamer.com VIP
@Super - No harm in applying to MDS, I guess? If your graphic design background isn't enough then maybe they could give you some pointers? Off-topic, but have you checked out the AUT design student exhibition thingy at the Symonds Street gallery? Some of the stuff in there is AMAZING.

I had a look at MDS's prospectus too and it looks really cool. Downside of it being awesome is that places fill up pretty fast (or so I've heard).
 
 
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Super-Pangolin
On Friday 20 Jul 2012 12:40 PM Posted by Super-Pangolin NZGamer.com VIP
I haven't been there, but I spent enough time studying there to see some of the nuts stuff they do. I'll probably check it out anyway if I get the chance. It's definitely a reputable place for graphic design but I'm not sure I could spend three whole years living and breathing the major.

I guess I'll take my query and possibly an application to MDS ASAP then. :o
 
 
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Camilla
On Friday 20 Jul 2012 1:58 PM Posted by Camilla
20 July 2012, 12:40 PM Reply to Super-Pangolin
I haven't been there, but I spent enough time studying there to see some of the nuts stuff they do. I'll probably check it out anyway if I get the chance. It's definitely a reputable place for graphic design but I'm not sure I could spend three whole years living and breathing the major.

I guess I'll take my query and possibly an application to MDS ASAP then. :o
If you're looking at a career in games you'll have more than three years living and breathing it :)

It's intense, but for those with a real passion for it it is an amazing industry.
 
 
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Super-Pangolin
On Friday 20 Jul 2012 2:31 PM Posted by Super-Pangolin NZGamer.com VIP
20 July 2012, 01:58 PM Reply to Camilla
If you're looking at a career in games you'll have more than three years living and breathing it :)

It's intense, but for those with a real passion for it it is an amazing industry.
I was questioning living and breathing graphic design for three years, let alone doing it as a career haha. Game development, on the other hand, is pretty much the dream...
 
 
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synty
On Friday 20 Jul 2012 3:17 PM Posted by synty
20 July 2012, 02:31 PM Reply to Super-Pangolin
I was questioning living and breathing graphic design for three years, let alone doing it as a career haha. Game development, on the other hand, is pretty much the dream...
Ive been a full time member of the NZ game industry for the past 5 years, And I have to put it out there that the jobs are very sparse. I think the best thing for an artist is to study a generalized 3D course at MDS as its transferable to Games and Film (Of which NZ has a huge industry of). Graphic design is an over saturated market atm globally and its very hard to find work. I completed both the MDS 3D Animation and Game Dev courses. For programming Game Dev I think is definitely a must. I know that artists find it very hard getting a job in the game industry in NZ. Gameloft in Auckland would be your best bet. Most game company's in NZ tend to not hire freshly graduated artists, and focus on building up their senior roles from overseas. All that said game dev is where its at, just keep your options open and don't limit yourself to a singular field.
 
 
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Streetlight
On Friday 20 Jul 2012 7:00 PM Posted by Streetlight NZGamer.com VIP
This place looks awesome, might be something to consider when I leave high school.
 
 
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Pascarni
On Sunday 22 Jul 2012 9:28 AM Posted by Pascarni
Awesome! Thanks for the info guys, just the kind of answer I was looking for :)
 
 
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