As we are having two exciting new degrees starting next year (Games Programming and Business Computing) I will blog about the work we are doing to develop them, so that you can keep updated about them.
At the moment I am working on deciding what development environments will work for BSc Games Programming. The rise, in the last few years, of indie game development has been fantastic for students. It means that professional game engines aren’t just targeted at high end studios any more, they can be used by anyone. That means that you, as students, can use the same development environments as the pros, and who knows, you could be releasing your first indie game before you graduate (maybe even that is a bit late, we’ve had students release mobile games in their first year).
I’ll talk about some of the game engines we are thinking of using.
Unity is the hot game engine for indies at the moment. It is easy to use, with built in 3D modelling tools that integrate very easily with the scripting engine. The free version has plenty of features (physics, terrain engine, lightmapping, custom shaders) that make it possible to develop professional looking game for PCs, macs, consoles and web browsers (you have to pay a one off fee of $400 for iphone and android development).
Unity is a great engine for beginners. The only drawback as a teaching tool is that you can’t directly write code in C++ the hardcore programming language that the real pros use.
Unreal has been one of the most important engines for a long time, but it doesn’t shine for me as a student development environment. The learning curve is much steeper than Unity but the free version doesn’t let you access the hard core details of the C++ SDK so you won’t really be using the version the pros use (and the full version is only licenced to high end studios for lots of money).
Cryengine is my current favourite for 2nd and 3rd year students. It is a very powerful, cutting edge engine but the full version is free for students and indie developers, who only pay when their game starts making money. That means you will be working with exactly the same version as the pros using all the same C++ development tools.
Finally, there is something that may be the future of casual and possibly even hardcore games. The new HTML5 standard has massively improved the 2D graphics capabilities of everyday web technologies and the 3D capabilities are developing fast. HTML5 is easy to develop and very easy to deploy as it can run in any browser including mobile browsers (you can even bundle HTML5 games as phone apps for the app store/android market). It may not be up to the pro engines quite yet, but it is one to watch. All our students learn HTML5 in the first term, so you will definitely have some experience developing on this platform.
Hope this is useful/interesting to some of you,
Marco Gillies, Director of Studies