Microsoft backing University of Derby games expo

University Of Derby

A games expo showcasing the work of around 100 students and graduates of the University of Derby will be sponsored by Microsoft.

Games@Derby, in the Midlands, UK, is a free public exhibition taking place between 3pm and 7pm on Wednesday, December 19. Indie developers set up by Derby alumni, such as Indieskies and Pillowdrift, will join undergraduates to show off their latest titles. Microsoft staff and other game industry professionals will sit alongside academics on a panel dishing out awards which will include a prize for the best game in the show.

“For me, first of foremost the question is whether the game is fun to play,” says judge Dr Tommy Thompson, Programme leader for the BSc (Hons) Computer Games Programming course at Derby. “I have a lot of confidence in our students when it comes to their technical ability as programmers. They use C++ and C# and we see them moving on to XNA, Unity and the Unreal Development Kit, so they are very versatile.

“We want them to find the ‘fun factor’. That’s one of the things you are trying to sell in industry when a big, ugly publisher comes to see the alpha build.”

Many of the games featured are the result of 12 weeks of intense collaboration between students of BSc (Hons) Computer Games Programming and BA (Hons) Computer Games Modelling and Animation. It’s a steep learning curve in terms of team-working and cross-disciplinary understanding, but the results have been encouraging, according to Jon Pledger, senior lecturer in Computer Games Modelling and Animation. “What some of the students have achieved is ‘wow’,” he tells us. “It’s amazing. We are blown away.”

Get Into Games: University of Derby

Jon Pledger, senior lecturer in Computer Games Modelling and Animation, and Dr Tommy Thompson, programme leader for the BSc (Hons) Computer Games Programming

Pledger, who will also judge awards at the expo, says students showing original problem-solving can expect to be rewarded. “Art-wise we are looking for attention to detail, the quality of the assets and the texturing,” he says. “It’s about the extra bit of polishing across the board, though. So, for example, there was a team that had the idea of making a character get stuck in a room, with a timer counting down 30 seconds after which you would be let out. Rather than having a counter on the screen on a HUD, they put the counter in the environment.”

The game development module leading up to the expo matchmakes five programmers with five artists for a 12-week push. Some go down the indie route, while others attempt to create a snapshot of a big-budget title. “They create a small part of gameplay and one of the games this year [SS Eternity] is a cross between Bioshock and Portal. Their attention to detail is spot on,” says Pledger.

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