Staffordshire University London Student Excels as Finalist in Grads in Games Competition

Oliver Scott, a second-year student studying BSc Computer Games Design, emerged as a finalist in the Grads in Games, Rising Star competition.

A male student wearing glasses.

Oliver Scott, a finalist in the Grads in Games, Rising Star competition.

The opportunity provided by Grads in Games should not be overlooked. I truly believe I have made some great connections from the event and got some invaluable experience with industry-level interviews

Oliver Scott, BSc Computer Games Design student

Grads in Games, Rising Star stands as one of the premier game development challenges in the industry tailored for university students who have yet to reach their final year at university. Oliver Scott, a second-year student studying BSc Computer Games Design at Staffordshire University London, recently made waves as a finalist in the prestigious competition as a Game Design finalist.

The 2024 Grads in Games competition featured multiple category options covering various game development disciplines, each accompanied by its own development brief and project guidelines. These categories included Games Programming, Game Design, 3D Character Art, 3D Environment Art, 3D Animation, and Games VFX.

Participants like Oliver, also received project briefs curated by industry professionals, reflecting the demands studios seeking entry-level portfolios. Specific challenges, such as developing and releasing a C++ game project or crafting a multi-stage character motion sequence, tested the skills of aspiring game developers. The top-performing students in each category were invited to Grads in Games’ Finals Day showcase event, where they discuss their skills, knowledge, and game development aspirations with a panel of industry experts.

Oliver’s innovative game, Word Warden, caught the attention of judges and peers alike with its unique blend of tower defence and word games. Oliver shared insights into his journey and the development process behind Word Warden. He revealed that the game was conceived as a result of the competition's brief, which challenged participants to merge two distinct ideas into a cohesive game concept within a limited timeframe.

"Word Warden was a combination of tower defence and word games. I chose a tower defence game because I was comfortable making them, and I knew that I could make a good one within the 30-hour timeframe we were given. The prototype would then be assessed around creativity, polish, fun, UX consideration, and originality. The word game part came about when utilising AI tools to spew out ideas for genres that I could combine with the Tower Defence genre. As soon as I saw linguistic games pop up, I knew that I could heavily expand upon this genre fusion”, Oliver explained.

Oliver credited his coursework, particularly the Systems Design for Games module from the first semester of his second year, for providing the necessary foundation and techniques crucial to developing Word Warden. The module was designed to develop student knowledge of scripting techniques and the design of complex systems for games, "Interfaces, Event Dispatchers, Enums, Structures, are all elements which I learnt from this module that are now critical to everything I make in Unreal”, Oliver cited.

Despite his success in being chosen as a finalist, Oliver acknowledged the challenges he faced during development, particularly in implementing the word validation system. "The biggest challenge for me was actually the technical challenge of validating which words were in the grid. I had to compare sequential letters in the grid against a dictionary to check if the player had formed a valid word. It's safe to say it took a lot longer than expected”, Oliver said.

Nevertheless, Oliver perseverance paid off as Word Warden reached its Minimum Viable Product (MVP) stage, allowing for crucial playtesting and refinement. "Playtesting is so essential to a project, and that didn't change here. Through playtests, I found that the balance of the game was completely off, which meant I had to rebalance the game a lot, taking more time than expected”, Oliver emphasised.

Reflecting on his experience, Oliver expressed gratitude for the opportunities presented by Grads in Games. While he narrowly missed securing a placement and didn't clinch victory in the competition, he remains undeterred. "It’s a shame that I didn't win this year, but it doesn't discourage me from entering again next year. I will be working hard over summer to make another portfolio piece and hope to enter the competition again in my final year".

Oliver also highlighted the networking opportunities and industry-level interviews offered at the finals day, stressing the importance of seizing such chances for aspiring game developers. "The opportunity provided by Grads in Games should not be overlooked. I truly believe I have made some great connections from the event and got some invaluable experience with industry-level interviews”, Oliver advised.

As Oliver continues his journey at Staffordshire University London, he remains focused on honing his skills and seizing future opportunities in the gaming industry. With his talent and determination, there's no doubt that Oliver Scott is a name to watch out for in the world of game development.

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