I'm starting a masters in Indie Game Development at Falmouth University

2020-09-19

Wanting to learn more

I like making games, and back in July I created a new entry in my personal Trello called “Learning about game design”. Here’s the description:

I want to sharpen my game design skills and had a look at various online learning options:

An OU Open Degree will have the benefit of being accredited, and I can tailor it with subjects I want.

https://www.rit.edu/ had an EdX game design course, but sadly it doesn’t exist anymore. Apparently, they’re highly regarded as a game design school. Not sure if they do distance learning. They have a micro masters in Design Thinking, which seems really interesting: https://www.edx.org/micromasters/ritx-design-thinking and it might open the doors to a masters at the school.

Staffordshire Uni has this full time course and it costs £9,250 per year. Full time makes it a no-go.

Falmouth has a masters in Indie Game Development, so I’m not sure how design-oriented it is. I’ve requested a call back from their course advisor. It’s £10,900 per year, part time for 2 years.

I’ve applied for the CGSpectrum game design free trial. They rank their access to industry mentors quite highly. Next intake is mid August.

Coursera has these two, and I might just start one of them right now:

The entry at the very bottom of that list, the specialisation: I got that, but felt the level of detail and peer assessments lacking.

I enrolled for the CGSpectrum trial too, but week 1 clashed with one of our camping holidays. The instructor 1-on-1 webinar was scheduled for week 2 at 1AM my time, and I only realised this at 21h50, which is roughly 10 minutes before my bedtime. I promptly and regretfully cancelled. I caught up on the videos, but they were very conversational/anecdotal. Who knows - the rest of the course might have been great, so perhaps I missed out on a great education, but sadly it started badly.

Falmouth replies

That said, Falmouth replied to my query, and here I’m sitting today, officially a Falmouth masters student. The course is called MA Indie Game Development, and officially starts on Monday. Needless to say, I’m super excited.

I quote my personal statement:

I chose this course because it is so flexible in terms of where I choose to conduct my studies - perfect for the covid era as well. I also really like the fact that Falmouth is one of the top schools in the world for this particular field, which means it will attract lots of like-minded students who can partake in the discourse - something I’ve found to be lacking in some other online learning environments. Furthermore, since I make games as a hobby currently, I’m doing as much as I can to learn as much as I can about game design: I’m half-way through this Coursera specialisation: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/game-design, and I own various books on game design which I’ve now thoroughly thumbed through, but I do think that this course at Falmouth will be more rigorous and be the perfect environment to learn more and put everything I’ve learnt so far to the test.

My day job is backend engineering contractor/freelancer, but in real life I’m creative and I would love to make more games in an official capacity, and go beyond the hobby stage. Since I’m making games already, my plan is to focus on one of my more promising games, and bring the game to market in a professional way, applying everything I’m learning during this course to make it happen - the course curriculum seems ideally suited for this! Ultimately, one day I’d have made a game which is known for being educational without being called an “educational game”, e.g. in the same way SimCity educates you about economy and city planning. I also understand that indie game development success isn’t overnight, so I’m perfectly happy to chisel away at this for many years before I have a large enough portfolio to sustain me financially. Since I’ve been a contractor/freelancer for the past 7 years, I hope that I’m quite adept at working for myself already, but am quite excited about what I might learn in terms of “the business of games” during this course.

For the consumer, games are the ultimate form of entertainment. However, for the maker, it is the ultimate form of self-expression, marrying illustration, story-telling, music composition, programming, design, and crazy inventiveness. Apart from making games, I also like to draw and write stories, and have composed music for some of my games. Please see https://juanuys.com/ for more examples of those. As I alluded to before, I’m already very technical, and use all manner of technologies for my games. Please see my LinkedIn profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/juan-m-uys/ and online CV at https://uys.io/cv/ for a more thorough rundown of my career history. I do the occasional online course to further my knowledge, and I studied artificial intelligence at the University of Johannesburg, so I’m quite used to learning in my free time, and also in a university setting.

I’m excited to get started on this course, start bouncing ideas off my cohort and mentors, and evolve from a games-maker to an indie games developer.

What do I want to achieve?

Apart from game design, I want to learn how to assemble a team of creatives, and delegate components to persons best suited for the job. I want to really understand game design, by learning from the greats (in the West and East alike) and challenging myself more (more game jams?). And then there are all the topics this course has to offer, so I’m very much looking forward to the next 2 years.

I believe the best educational games are not called educational games. Education also doesn’t just have to be about “school subjects”, e.g. you can learn about city planning in SimCity, or a good game can educate you about yourself (hold a mirror up). I hope Falmouth will help me build a nice new network of co-creators and acquaintances, deepen my appreciation of games, and teach me how to set up or join an indie games shop that makes meaningful games.

Frankly, I have to find a way out of my comfort zone as a contract full-stack developer and have to find a way to make game dev a financially viable career (without resorting to tactics I would normally look down on, like ads or pay-to-play), so perhaps there’ll be some hard questions along the way, or nuggets of wisdom and insights, hopefully leading to the career I think I’m meant to have.

I would like to continue making games where there’s a strong focus on things I’m interested in or able to do myself. I know I won’t be able to learn all the disciplines that go into making a AAA title, hence why I’d like to continue advancing my current skill-set:

  • illustration
  • narratives
  • music
  • programming
  • web-based games
  • 2D games
  • AI

So, the skills I might have to forego at this stage are:

  • 3D modelling
  • rigging
  • 3D games
  • other AAA things which doesn’t immediately come to mind right now

That said, I might very well end up working in a team where someone else is responsible for the latter. Let’s each play to our strengths, and all that.

In fact, there’s one thing I haven’t explored before, which I’m really excited about digging my teeth into soon: AR. Augmented Reality.

I love board games, and almost all of use have a smartphone nowadays, so why not focus on tech which can really spice up your table-top experience?

Conclusion

This post explains how I got here. The rest of the posts tagged “ma” will be part of my reflective practice relating to my modules as the course progresses.

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