• Computer Games Art

BA (Hons) Computer Games Art

UCAS code: W212 BA/CGA

Are you creative and love computer games? Want to combine your traditional art skills with cutting-edge creative technology? The computer games artist creates a game's characters, assets, environments, creatures and vehicles, as well as producing concept art and storyboards at the planning stages.

The popularity of computer games shows no signs of slowing down with the regular release of new sophisticated and innovative products – many are developed in the UK. The appeal of games has also broadened with the increasing popularity of exercise and educational releases. Smartphone apps are also another growth area.We help you develop your artistic skills and explore specialised areas including:

  • 3D character modelling
  • environment modelling
  • vehicular modelling
  • basic real-time animation
  • 3D effects.

*This course has a Foundation Year for applicants who don’t meet the requirements for Year 1 entry.

More about the Art Foundation Year Games and Animation

Professional accreditation

Creative skillset We are delighted to announce that this course is accredited by Skillset, the industry body that recognises courses that deliver an education that fulfils professional criteria and best prepares students for the world of work.

View the part-time programme structure

Modules

Year 1 core modules

Concept Visualisation for Games

This module teaches you the creative processes of planning and developing concepts and related artwork for computer games and animation using a variety of methods, including hand-drawn and digital illustration.

You develop digital illustration work using industry standard image manipulation software.

You discuss and explore the pre-production process focusing particularly on scriptwriting, storyboarding, and concept art through a series of lectures and studio based sessions.

We introduce you to other areas of development such as planning and budgeting, design, research techniques, idea generation and layout, cinematography and art direction.

This module aims to:

  • encourage creativity, imagination and research in the development of concepts
  • introduce you to a range of drawing techniques, both traditional and digital
  • give you a basic understanding of the pre-production process for animation and computer games and their component parts including scriptwriting and storyboarding
  • introduce the concept and importance of project planning and budgeting.

This module will help you develop ideas for scripts, storyboards, characters, environments and props as well as give you a broad understanding of the entire process involved in the production of a computer game or animation.

Assessment
There is an individual in-course assessment which includes much of the work you’ve produced over the course of the module during tutorial sessions.

There are three distinct parts, a script, concept art, storyboards and an animatic. You are given each part during the relevant block of lectures.

Game Mechanics & Level Design Pre-production

You explore why people play games, what makes them fun and how you can apply this knowledge to add depth and playability to mission design.

You incorporate a combination of knowledge of game theory and psychology with techniques such as scripting, timing and game balance to enhanced game design.

We use ready-made assets within an existing game engine to generate and test the your mission designs.

A single in course assessment measures your achievement. This takes the form of an individual assignment where you are asked to construct a range of game level missions within a current game engine. The levels will be created within a game engine using pre-constructed objects; no actual 3D modelling is required for this module. The use of 3ds Max is for conversion purposes only.

You are required to produce a design portfolio including a written report of between 500-1000 words outlining the design decisions, problems, and solutions.

History of Games

You take an historical view of the development of computer games from their inception to the present day. You learn about their origins in traditional board games, electro-mechanical games such as pinball and paper-based role-playing games.

You look at how computer games have evolved alongside hardware developments in personal computers (PCs), hand-held games, consoles and arcade games as well as the associated peripherals.

The various genres of game are explored, their characteristics and how they have, and are combining, evolving and spawning new genres.

The impact of improvements in computer graphics is also explored from raster and vector graphics through to 3D modelling.

You also discuss topical issues in the gaming community, the development of the games industry as a whole and where games might develop in the future.

In addition, there is an emphasis on the development of professional skills including teamwork, report writing and delivering presentations. You also undertake structured and supported personal development planning (PDP) activities such as self-assessment, planning and reflection and you are encouraged to record such activities in your e-portfolio.

You are assessed through an individual portfolio of game reviews and a group presentation on a contemporary game issue.

This module involves viewing flickering/flashing images, and animations/games that may induce motion sickness.

Introduction to Animation for Games

In this module we introduce you to the skills you need to produce animation for computer games.
We emphasise developing core animation skills and applying them to a variety of different gaming environments.

You are taught the technical issues regarding the different types of animation required within a computer game, and the tools available to achieve it.

Also we encourage you to appreciate industry processes and the implications of continued improvement of both hardware and software.

This module aims to:

  • provide you with an understanding of the techniques used in producing animation for computer games and the different types of animation required
  • enable you to differentiate between the various types of animation used within the production of computer games
  • provide an appreciation of the tools available to produce effective computer game animation
  • develop both technical and creative animation skills for use within a gaming environment.

Lectures cover issues on animation design and planning for computer games, alongside videos to illustrate points and generate discussion.

They also cover issues on the changing requirements of industry plus opportunities to hear visiting speakers.

We emphasis the learning techniques and practices commonly employed in the computer games industry.

Lectures are supported by lab based practical sessions in which you complete a set number of exercises and the practical elements of the module’s in-course assessment.

You are expected to complete tutorials and work on your assignment independently. We’ll give you feedback in the practical sessions.

Assessment
The individual in-course assessment is in two parts. You are required to show a thorough understanding of the animation process for use in a computer game environment and produce a report (approximately 1,500 words).

You are also expected to keep a regular blog covering the work and development through the module delivery, and include it as an appendix to the report.

Introduction to Asset Creation for Games

Here you discover the fundamental principles used in the production of 3D models for use in a real time game environment including the creation of suitable textures.

You create a range of assets which can be used as props in a game engine and other real-time applications such as virtual reality.

Lectures explain the principles of the modelling tools available in advanced modelling software and give you to examples of how these techniques have been used in the production of finished computer games.

In practical terms, you are helped by the use of industry standard modelling software and hardware with specific attention being given to those parts which are used by practising game modellers.

Use of 3ds Max and Photoshop are our main practical focus.

This module aims to:

  • introduce fundamental principles for the design and production of low polygon models and associated textures for use in computer games and other real time applications
  • enable you to establish a set of criteria for the design and production of low polygon models and their associated textures
  • ,li>enable you to use the capabilities of industrial standard computer modelling tools for the production of low polygon models
  • identify the importance of low polygon modelling in real time computing environments
  • identify and establish the link between the artist, programmer and the designer within a computer games development team.

A series of lectures introduce you to the basic principles involved in the production of low polygon models for use in real-time applications.

Lectures are supported by lab-based practical sessions in which you complete a set number of exercises and the practical element of the module’s in-course assessment.

Assessment
A single in-course is an individual assignment in which you produce a range of models, and associated textures, for use in real-time applications.

The number of models you create depends on the complexity of the models in association with current industry standards.

We give feedback in tutorial classes and on the online message board.

 

Year 2 core modules

Character Production for Games

In this module we look at the construction of 3D characters for use in a game engine.

You create multi-resolution models and follow common techniques used in industry. Skills you acquire include character modelling, normal mapping, rigging and importing into a game engine for immediate use as an asset.

Software used includes 3ds Max, Photoshop, and Unreal 2007.

This module aims to:

  • enable you to design and produce fully textured multi-resolution 3D character models using industry standard software and hardware
  • teach you to identify and discuss solutions to modelling problems and select appropriate methods for specific scenarios
  • allow you to discuss the role of the 3D artist within a computer games development team.

There is one hour lecture and a one hour supported lab tutorial each week. We provide a forum on the module website for all general module matters.

Assessment
There is one individual in-course assessment for which you design and construct one or more multi-resolution character models complete with surface textures and rigged ready for animation.

You submit the design process and finished products as a portfolio along with a written report of no more than 1,000 words.

Environment Production for Games

This module follows on from the Environment Planning for Games module and you now go on to construct a full game level within a current game engine, Unreal 2007.

You then appraise how effective your original planning documentation was and whether any changes were needed.

You are expected to gain experience in 3D modelling, texturing and the creation of ambient animation within a real-time game engine.

The main software will include 3ds Max, Photoshop, and Unreal.

This module aims to:

  • teach you to construct a playable 3D game environment within a current game engine
  • implement ambient animation found in a 3D game environment to enhance gameplay
  • further develop your skills in both asset management and time management when constructing a 3D game environment.

Lectures are supported by lab based practical sessions in which you complete a set number of exercises and the practical element of the module’s in-course assessment. You are expected to supplement your learning by actively researching current working methods and techniques used in industry.

Assessment
There is a single in-course assessment which is a group assignment. Together you construct a playable game environment within a current game engine. This is built using either the Environment Production Document created in the Environment Planning for Games module or a pre-existing planning document.

You have to reflect on your experience in a written report of no more than 1,000 words.

Feedback is given in tutorial classes and on the online message board.

Journeyman Project

You work in a team with other students to produce fully playable game levels within a current game engine (for example Unreal 2007).

You gain the experience of working within a production environment and have the opportunity to target specific production skills in your chosen field of study.

A single in-course assessment is used to measure your achievement. This takes the form of a group assignment where you are asked to construct a playable game environment within a current game engine. You develop a 'Making of...' design/art book in electronic format as part of this process.

You are required to reflect on your individual experience through a written report of no more than 1000 words.

The main software you will use includes 3ds Max, Photoshop, and the Unreal Development Kit.

Lighting & Texturing for Games

In order to recreate photorealistic environments it is essential that you have an understanding of how light reacts with surfaces and moves throughout a scene.
You look at how to create lighting rigs which mirror both real world and cinematic situations. You also look at the construction of photorealistic textures and their impact on the lighting developed within the scene.

This module is appropriate for working in the computer graphics field but in particular if you are interested in developing assets for the computer games industry.

You are assessed by an individual assignment in which you create a high dynamic range image for two lighting scenarios and analyse these for lighting information. You then select a number of 3D models from a module library, apply suitable UV mapping, and associated surface materials. Models are then lit by the lighting rigs developed earlier and compared to the HDR image. You document the process including any problems and solutions found.

Mechanical Asset Creation for Games

In this module we look at all mechanically based models and their associated animation.

You gain an understanding of how various mechanical assets are developed for use in game engines

The modelling, rigging, and animation in this module is limited to that found in vehicles, spacecraft, weapons systems, and associated mechanical areas.

The main software used is 3ds Max, Photoshop, and Unreal 2007.

This module aims to:

  • introduce you to the concepts found in developing mechanical assets for use in a current game engine
  • enable you to implement animation appropriate to mechanical assets to enhance gameplay
  • further develop your 3D modelling and texturing skills for use within games development.

Lectures are supported by lab based practical sessions in which you complete a set number of exercises and the practical element of the module’s in-course assessment. You are expected to supplement your learning by actively researching current working methods and techniques used in industry.

Assessment
There is a single in-course assessment in which you construct one land based vehicle, one aircraft, and one weapons system for use in a current game engine. You produce a design portfolio including a written report of no more than 2,000 words outlining the design decisions, problems, and solutions.

Feedback is given in tutorial classes and on the online message board.

 

Final-year core modules

Advanced Games Development

You gain the experience of working as a member of a games development team that is as close to industrial practise as possible. We simulate the working criteria and mix of development skills that are required to produce a computer game.

The assessment is a group assignment in which team members develop a working game, product specification and individual report. This will consist of two components weighted at 70/30.

Computer Games Project

This module is a large scale, individual piece of work, which you undertake under the supervision of a member of the academic staff.

It takes place over 20 weeks, starting near the beginning of the academic year and involves the production of a substantial artefact and culminates in the writing of a report and a viva consisting of the presentation, demonstration and discussion of the artefact.

You are guided to develop an appropriate sense of work-discipline coupled with a professional outlook. We expect you to take responsibility for the planning and execution of an extended piece of work including the consideration of associated legal, social, ethical and professional issues.

You are able to explore in depth a chosen subject area, and demonstrate your ability to research, analyse, synthesise, and creatively apply new and existing knowledge while demonstrating critical and evaluative skills and professional awareness.

This 60 credit practical project is specifically intended to allow you to achieve considerably more in terms of the scope and depth of your product development.

This module aims to:

  • develop an appropriate sense of work-discipline in the planning and execution of an extended piece of work
  • allow deeper exploration of your chosen subject area, to the extent you acquire the expertise to discuss its issues authoritatively
  • develop your documentary communication ability in preparing a comprehensive report on the project
  • where appropriate, build upon your experiences in your work experience year
  • provide you with the experience of undertaking a substantial individual practical piece of work from conception to conclusion
  • develop your ability to research, analyse, synthesise, and creatively apply what you have already been studied
  • give you an opportunity to demonstrate critical and evaluative skills
  • allow you to develop and demonstrate a professional outlook on and approach to the production of a significant artefact.

Assessment
We assess the submitted written project report in terms of both subject matter and its presentation. The assessment of the report will contribute 50% to the overall project mark. It will be read by the supervisor and a second reader (another member of academic staff). The two assessors are expected to agree a mark for the report.

The artefact-related assessment consists of a viva (to include the presentation, demonstration and discussion of the artefact in an ‘exhibition’ context) and will account for 50% of the total mark. This part of the assessment is the responsibility of the Supervisor and Second Reader together.

Generic guidelines on the management and assessment of this artefact-related element of the project are provided.

Concept Art

You develop your drawing skills to a high level and are able to specialise in an area of particular interest.

Tasks emphasise the development of a personal style and you are encouraged to approach your work in a creative and experimental fashion.

You submit a portfolio of images at the end of the year for assessment.

Contemporary Studies in Games

You carry out an exploratory project in games using equipment and resources that are not necessarily built into the curriculum but still have relevance to your main subject area and within the market place.

A formal proposal, of no more than 200 words is required by week 3, outlining the area of investigation.

You produce a written report of no more than 2500 words summarising your investigation. You also keep a written journal which must be regularly updated throughout the duration of the module, and edited to 1000 words for final hand-in.

 

Modules offered may vary.

How you learn

For each module you learn in lectures and tutorials. The lecturers provide you with specific theoretical information related to the subject while the tutorials focus on developing your practical skills. In the later tutorials you will work on assessments and use this time to get feedback and advice from tutors. Further support will be offered online in the form of extra learning material. You are expected to manage your time to complete work outside the tutorial sessions.

In your second year you take part in our unique Journeyman Project, highly praised by industry, in which all games art students work with games designers in a simulated game studio experience, outsourcing various essentials such as assets and animation to specialist teams. You work on games in UDK and Unity to strict milestones in a scenario that is as close to industry practice as possible within an academic environment.

How you are assessed

We believe that is essential for you to learn through the experience of doing. Assessment for all modules is in the form of practical projects, which you work on throughout the year. You will develop a portfolio of games art throughout the course. In year 2, the Journeyman group project provides you with essential teamwork skills ready for industry. The Project in the final year allows you the freedom to set your own project based on your skills and interests.

Professional placement

During your degree we advertise a variety of paid placement opportunities (subject to availability). You can apply for a year-long supervised work placement between your second and final year. A placement gives you a valuable opportunity to improve your employment prospects by developing new skills and deepening your understanding of your subject.

Student selection is carried out by the employers through competitive interviews and often skills tests. Placements are not compulsory but are assessed and contribute to your final degree award.

Our placements team gives you help and support throughout the placement process, including guidance on applications and interviews, to help you get a placement that suits you.

Our students have been placed in games companies, such as Microsoft, Rare, and Ubisoft Reflections.

Career opportunities

This highly specialist degree offers the skills you will need for a career in the games industry, and also provides generic skills which open up numerous other career paths in digital media – typically areas of film, TV, advertising and multimedia – through to architectural visualisation.

Graduates from our games degrees have gone on to work as artists, level designers, 3D modellers and texture artists at a wide range of games companies including 3rd Dimensions, Atomic Planet, Bizarre Creations, Blitz Games, Codeworks, Eutechnyx, Halch, Media Molecule, Microsoft Rare, Rebellion, Rockstar North, Sega, Streamline, Traveller's Tales, Ubisoft Reflections, Venom, Weta Digital and many more.

Entry requirements

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For additional information please see the entry requirements in our admissions section

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Course information

2014 entry

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