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April 2015

Colchester Gazette

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ast week we were approached by Colchester Daily Gazette for some information about what we’ve been up to, and photo-op…little did we know that we’d end up being the centrefold of the lifestyle pull-out! Read a transcription below:

 

The gaming industry is the UK is expected to be worth £68 million by 2017. No longer the stereotypical mainstay of geeky boys and men sat in their bedrooms staring at a computer screen, gamers now come in all shapes, sizes, ages and genders. You can eve have a conversation with someone on the other side of the world while playing alongside them on the screen.

And games are being enjoyed not only on computers, but increasingly on mobile devices, which even politicians have been caught out playing.

But to keep up with demand, this fast-growing industry needs more companies designing games, and where better to fuel the fire for creation than the countys own Essex University. Vanessa Moon speaks to one games designer who took part in a new programme to encourage enthusiasts to design and launch their own games businesses from the universities Parkside Development in Colchester.

Frazer Merrick has no intention of becoming a games designer. The music graduate had his heart set on becoming a composer, but when he returned back home to Essex from university in Huddersfield, he decided to try something new.

The results have not only been unexpected, but set him on the road to gaming success.

Frazer, 24, says: “I came across the Games Hub online at the Eastern Enterprise Hub’s website and thought maybe I could make music for the games people were designing. But I soon realised its impossible to make music for games which don’t exist! So i got involved in the games development side of things and now do all the artwork for the games we design.

“There are so many people who play games now. Even if you play Candy Crush on your phone you are classed as a gamer, but people don’t realise that. The demographic of players is also changing for the better and gaming is losing its stigma.”

Frazer joined a new programme established by the Eastern Enterprise Hub (EEHub), in partnership with Steven Huckle at Shark Infested Custard and supported by the university, Colchester Borough Council, Birketts and BDO.

The idea behind the six month Games Hub origramme, which runs at Parkside, at the university’s Knowledge Gateway development in Colchester, is to encourage students and members of the community who are interested in naming to come up with their own ideas for games. They are then supported through the process of not only designing their games so it can be played, but also finding out how to launch it and run a successful business designing games. Experts are on hand to advise students including those from local programming companies, 3D artists, business advisers and representatives from the gaming trade body, UKIE.

In total 15 people took part in the first programme, which ran from October last year The 15 were split into three teams.

Frazer who grew up playing Playsation 1 and GamesBoys, joined with three others, one of joined with three others, one of whom subsequently dropped out of the free, one day a week course. The remaining three, inducing Aidan Randall and Scott Taylor, called themselves teaboy Games and came up with the idea for Fallen, an arcade-style game for mobile phones.

With advice from industry experts and tips on how to run a business, the teams pitched their games to a judging panel at the end of the six months and Teaboy Games managed to secure funding to develop their game further. They hope to launch it in the coming months.

Steven Huckle of Shark Infested Custard, a gaming business which also educates and trains people on the industry, was one of the drivers behind the Games Hub.

He says: “I have been in the games industry for 25 years and used to work in this area. Throughout the Eighties and Nineties there used to be games companies in Saffrom Walden and even in Colchester, but its all done and I really wanted to try to set something up again and give people the opportunity to set up games companies in this area .

“We have a real problem with brain drain here. Graduates come out of university, look around and see no jobs relevant to their skills and what they enjoy, so they go elsewhere. The idea behind the Games Hub is to show people they can use their skills and stay here.”

Steve hopes to continue to six-monthly programmes and promote the gaming industry as a valid and lucrative career option in this area. He wants to launch another Games Hub in Norwich and between the two hubs, generate five or six successful gaming companies in the coming years.

Frazer hopes Fallen will appeal to gamers looking for an addictive, fun game that you can dip in and out of.

“When we started this programme we were attending for the requisite one day a week, but we soon found that didn’t give us enough time to work on the game, so it increased to two, three, four days a week.

“We all had part-time jobs too, and while the game isn’t earning us money at the moment, the dream is it will when its released and we can commit to designing games.”

He still has ambitions to become a composer, but is happy he diversified his skills.

“I had a lot of rubbish jobs before designing games is creative. We have al had to learn about it from scratch. I came onto this course as a composer and sound designer and I’m leaving it with skills in graphic design, web design and business. Its a different way of being able to be artistic and I am still making music for Fallen,” adds Frazer.

Norwich Games Festival 2015

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So its about time we got this DEV blog up and running…This weekend we, Aidan, Frazer and Scott, went to our first games festival as Teaboy Games and wow, what an experience!

Watching complete strangers play our game, Fallen, was fantastic and we left the weekend with a vast list of improvements to make. The week prior to NGF, Scott implement our first attempt at a difficulty curve, every 20 points the background now changes along with the strength of gravity. These changes went down great, however we noticed that since the shapes were still spawning at the same rate, the weaker gravity at the start of the game meant you ended up with more shapes on the screen…making it far harder to begin!

So this weeks challenge will be fine tuning that difficulty curve, along with various bugs we noticed across the weekend.

Fallen has had somewhat of a visual overhaul in the past few weeks, giving a new ‘wires’ theme consistently across the game. From the translucent image inside the gameplay, to the new informative icon on the home screen (score/highscore/wallet/advert/play). User-feedback is definitely an area to work on for the game, and we had some fantastic ideas over the weekend for how the artwork can do this.

Make sure you follow us on twitter to keep update, but hopefully these blogs will be a weekly occurrence!