The Student’s take on EGX 2016

You heard my thoughts in the last post (here) but who better to hear from than the students themselves, huh?

I asked them to focus on three questions. 1) What went well, 2) what could you have done better? and 3) What did you learn / biggest take away? Here’s what they said…

NOTE: hopefully I’ll add Naomi and Claudio’s thoughts soon!

John Lau – Uncanny Valerie

img_20160925_182359It was great to be put in the Rezzed section, not just because more people see the game but because when they do see it they engage with it in a different way when it’s presented as a prototype of an indie game rather than a student project. This was really important, as it meant people’s feedback was different; they didn’t pull their punches. It also meant I got asked when the game was going to be released, and it was great to hear that people genuinely wanted to play the full version.

Being able to talk to people on the stand also gave me a chance to explain the thinking behind the game and the themes I’m trying to explore, and having a positive reaction to that was great too.

I think I could have looked after myself a bit more; in a very basic sense, EGX is quite physically exhausting and by the end of day four I was a wreck! Lots of Berocca, making sure you sleep well and wrapping up warm outside would really help me get through another.

There are always going to be ways of playing your game, or aspects of interaction design, that you just haven’t considered. You’ve got to embrace that and take it on board when you watch people play.  When people get stuck on a game you’ve made it’s usually going to be in the same places, regardless of who they are or how good at games they are.  Having the chance to watch as broad and diverse an audience as possible come up against those sticking points is the most valuable thing you can get in game development. Oh, and watch children play your game.  They won’t hesitate to drop it and walk away if they get bored.


Laura Dodds – Night Bizarre

img_20160925_170909I was really pleased with how the stand looked. I had some trinkets at home and my production designer, Adriana Isabel Hervas, had some wonderful props too including a plant and a book she made of the tarot cards. This seemed to catch people’s eye as well as set the mood once they started playing.

I think if I had brought the Unity project with me, I would’ve liked to have fixed some of the minor bugs that cropped up over the four days. Although we were busy in the evenings, I think this would’ve made for a slightly less tense experience whilst I was watching people play as I was often dreading those same bugs rearing their ugly heads at me!

I think I could’ve been more prepared to answer certain questions about my game. Things such as when will it be released? On what platform? How much funding are you looking for? Basically a lot of questions about the future of the project which I should’ve considered more thoroughly before EGX.

I learnt that many in the gaming community are incredibly generous with their time and willing to try something different. They were also very forgiving of any bugs or rough patches in my demo.

I also learnt that talking to people and watching them play your game can actually be an enjoyable experience rather than simply nerve racking. I’d never seen people in groups play my game before and it was amazing to see players make up stories for the characters and have fun discussing what each tarot card might mean.

My biggest takeaway is having gained experience talking about my game and engaging with a huge variety of players, from people who don’t like card games or tarot to journalists to other game developers.


Jameela Khan – Aaliyah

img_20160925_165505People getting through what I made! People laughing where I hoped they’d laugh. Aesthetics getting a thumbs up. 

My display game could have been better. Laura put us all to shame!

Putting a note up on Thursday evening that the game was a 2D point-and-click helped with expectations from those who may have been expecting something else.

It’s alright having people play your game! 

People are cool about a game you’re trying to be different with – I got a comment about my game being refreshing to play as many 2D point and clicks are pretty much the same (no offence other point and clicks!).

I also enjoyed repping the others, cos they’re my pals and I love their games.  


Blaise Imiolczyk – Polyphonia

img_20160925_170023Out of over 350 people that played the project we got 100% positive feedback which is really surprising and motivating. Talking to people helped me to get confidence in my project’s minimalist structure. There were also no technical issues which is always a worry before an event!

I think I could have focused more on promoting Polyphonia through social media to get some online feedback and perhaps generate some traffic there.

My biggest question was what people think about playing an ‘experience’ rather than a game. As it turned out everyone was really positive about the project.

The project that wouldn’t be as captivating previously works really well with VR.


Manos Agianniotakis – The Circle

img_20160925_181002EGX was overall incredible. The stand was packed and the game was fully booked all four days. Both the general public and industry enjoyed the game and those who played very often came back with their friends, spouses and, sometimes, children to show them the game and get them to play.

Apart from a couple of minor technical hurdles and a pair of misplaced headphones, I don’t think there was anything that could have gone much better!

Just seeing a wide variety of gamers playing the game has been an immense learning experience. Also, being able to talk to people, sometimes for a good half-hour after they finished, has provided me with excellent feedback and ideas on where to go next, what they liked and why.  


Naomi Kotler – Into the Black

img_20160925_165122Being within the Rezzed area really helped to boost the volume of people coming to check out the game and made us definitely more noticeable. It felt as if I was there showing off an indie game rather than a student project, and the reaction from people that had played when they discovered that it was only 9 months worth of work and done without the help of a huge development team made it so worthwhile. I also had members of the public who were trying VR for the first time which felt pretty special too. I also was more confident talking to media and interviewers (is that a word?). I am normally quite anxious and worry about saying the wrong thing but found the more I did it, the less nerve wracking it became!

Apart from a minor technical hitch on the 2nd day, I cant think of anything I would have changed apart from bringing my Unity project with me to work on as I discovered some pretty bad bugs over the course of the 4 days. 

Having someone to help you over the whole exhibition was incredibly invaluable. I don’t know what I would’ve done without Mark (Bailey – Sound Designer) or Andrew (Oldbury – Producer) there to help out when I needed to go talk to people or just have a small break. Also social media prep before the show is really important. Lots of people were coming over because they had seen us on Twitter or elsewhere and had made a note to come by and take a look. A lot of the interviews were scheduled through Twitter a couple of weeks before. 

I should also have brought more snacks!

The experience of being out there and showing people all of the hard work from the last year was one that I wont forget. Loads of good conversations with really interesting people. 


The Coordinator’s take on EGX 2016

Note: I’m not going to talk about the games in this post. For information on those see this previous post.

NFTS Games gang EGX 2016

(Clockwise) Laura Dodds, Jameela Khan, Blaise Imiolczyk, John Lau, Manos Agianniotakis, Naomi Kotler and Cladio Pollina.

“These are too creative for me!”

Overheard on the NFTS Games stand.

EGX is very much a milestone in the second year student’s diary. It’s perhaps the most important event, more so even than their grad show because it’s the point where you guys, the general public, the press, the industry see for the first time, the games that the students have been pouring their heart and soul into for the last six months.

They’ve gone through early starts and late finishes.  They overcame crashes and rebuilds, redesigns and start overs to arrive at this point. To show their games at EGX. And… these students, these developers were FANTASTIC!

NFTS Games in Rezzed Zone EGX 2016

The stand was consistently busy

It’s quite the journey to EGX for the students. Of the seven that demo-ed their games only two of them had any prior game making experience and of those two only one had any technical know-how. Seeing how they’ve all grown in confidence and ability, how they’ve experimented and evolved as developers over the past twenty months or so is extremely gratifying.

This year we were thrilled to be included in the Rezzed Zone as opposed to the Education and Careers section that we’ve showcased in in the past. I think what this did was immediately elevate each project into the ‘indie game’ category as opposed to ‘a student project’. We were right next to the awesome ‘Tokyo 42’ and ‘Unbox’!

It was quite big step up for us, a risk I suppose but we made the decision to let the projects stand on their own. Apart from a NFTS Games banner and me wearing a shirt with our logo on it, it was all about the games! In retrospect, I think it was a very good idea!

Tony NFTS Games coordinator

Case in point. Perfecting the ‘pensive’ look.

I think we benefited from a very well designed set of eye catching posters printed one again by Print Sign Design in Acton. The overall game playing experience was also enhanced by the noise cancelling headphones that we rented from Place Over Ears They were of such exceptional quality that the students were loath to give them back! Finally, of course, we used some truly excellent PC’s supplied by HP that were able to handle every technical challenge thrown at it.

Manos talks to Pikachu

This sort of image is what EGX is all about!

Personally, I was so happy to be able to simply linger at the side the stand with graduate, and more importantly, my good friend Jon Hatton and simply watch the students do their thing. In previous years I felt that part of my role on the stand has been to engage with the public on behalf of the students in order to get them to play their games. Not this year. The students were professional, welcoming, friendly and good natured over the four days. They even managed to keep their energy levels up when people on other stands were noticeably flagging. I know what you are thinking – all those free energy drinks. Nope. I banned them on day one. Not on my stand!

NFTS Games - John Lau

John Lau makes notes on an ‘Uncanny Valerie’ play.

I was also thrilled to see so many people I’ve wanted to see our projects venture over to the stand. In particular, the Eurogamer guys.

I subscribe to four YouTube channels – two of them are about Disney World (I like Disney World. What?), one is about comic books and the other one is Eurogamer!

I have wanted Aoife Wilson to see what we do for years. I didn’t get to say “hello!” but it was so damn cool to see her interact with ‘Uncanny Valerie’ and ‘Night Bizarre’ in particular. I’m also a big fan of Johnny Chiodini’s work and knew that he would ‘get’ what we are trying to do on the course with these projects. Was extremely happy that he spent so much time with the projects. A lovely guy. Plus, as someone who is writing a game about beards (or not) in his spare time, I can appreciate an awesome example when I see one!

Johnny Chiodini plays 'Into the Black'

Johnny Chiodini plays ‘Into the Black’

Another shout out, if you will, to Jupiter Hadley, Kevin Kutlesa, Emma Spalding and Des Gayle who so graciously toured the stand playing all that they could and being all together incredibly kind, interested and engaged. Hearing Kevin tell me that he thought that our projects were “the most ingenious and ambitious I saw during the entire event,” made my day.

Claudio Pollina

Claudio Pollina gives an interview.

Sure there were some technical issues but nowhere near the catastrophe that occurred at Develop earlier this year. This time around we managed to fix it simply swapping some rifts and computers around. Losing maybe an hour. I call that a win.

Did you know too that, to the best of my knowledge, we were the only ones using the Oculus Touch controllers? Yep.


Polyphonia uses the HTC Vive

The only aspect that disappointed me was that the wheelchair we brought as a prop for Manos’ ‘The Circle’ ‘disappeared’ and never did ‘reappear’. Hopefully we’ll hear some good news about that soon because it’s affected some school film productions! That’s not cool. Oh, and getting the wrong train and ending up in Milton Keynes was not an adventure I had planned for. Sorry Jameela!

Jameela Khan - NFTS Games EGX 2016

Jameela watches over a playthrough of ‘Aaliyah’

Yeah, the role I play in all this can sometimes be a strange one. I’m the Games course coordinator. On the one hand, I have a very important job to do at the school. I arrange, I organise, I try to ensure that curriculum wise everything runs according to plan for the students.

On the other hand, I love these guys. They’re my second family and I’m the big brother that plays jokes on them, gives them a cwtch (it means hug – I’m Welsh) when they need it and generally looks after them with hand sanitiser or Toffeepops. It’s this brotherly side of me that is so damn proud of them!

Manos, Laura, John, Blaise, Jameela, Claudio and Naomi are a joy to be around. They do all that you ask of them and beyond. They respond to feedback, they don’t complain when things go wrong (and sometimes thing DO go wrong! – <cough> Develop) but the thing I’m most proud of is that these guys have each other’s back. They look after each other. They’re tight, they’re a crew. They’re a family!


Talking of family (that’s how I always refer to NFTS Games grads and students btw) it was great to see all the current first years travel up to Birmingham to support the second years. It’s also a very useful eye-opener for them because in twelve months’ time, it will be them showcasing their projects in front of eighty thousand people! Hopefully it will inspire rather than terrify! I think it will. If the projects they’ve submitted already this year are anything to go by, we’ll be back with projects just as strong next year.

“There’s too much thought going on here. I need to blow some shit up to restore my balance.”

Overheard on the NFTS Games stand.

The second years have all taken time off now. A couple of them have suffered the EGX flu but for the most part, today, they are back in the lab working on the feedback they received at EGX.

Next week I’ll post the Students take on EGX. Keep an eye open for that.

So, what’s next? Well, the students have a dissertation to write but there’s also GameCity is in October… Hope to see you there!

If you are press or a YouTuber, maybe a streamer on Twitch and are interested in writing about or playing any of these titles please get in touch via the ‘contact’ section.


EGX 2016. Done.

Introducing the Grad Games of 2016! See them at EGX!


We are always very proud of the games that our students make and this year is no different. Below, you’ll find a short description of the final major Games projects currently being worked on by our second year students. Very eclectic, very diverse and very, very ambitious.

These are still very much ‘work in progress’ with development and testing still taking place. We will be at EGX from 22nd September and this will be the ‘official’ public demo of the projects, the first chance for many people outside of the school to see what the students have been working on (although we did bring teaser tasters to Develop this year!).

Make sure to come and see us!

Okay, here is a description of each project.

‘The Circle’ by Manos Agianniotakis


An interactive VR experience about a woman dealing with PTSD. The story blurs the line between reality and fiction, dreaming and living, forcing the player into the shoes of a flawed but relatable main character. It explores themes of gender, identity, obsession and trauma.

Taking inspirations from the real world phenomenon of the Toynbee Tiles, the story of the game focuses on a woman who cut herself off from the world after a traumatic event. Alone in her flat, she investigates the appearance of the tiles and tries to solve their mystery. Her only communication with the outside world is through her computer, her phone and letters that other investigators send her.

During the course of the game, the players learn more about the tiles and the tragic story of the main character and the reason she lives in isolation.

The game combines first and third person perspective and has a text adventure segment that is navigated within a 3D environment. The gameplay is a combination of decision making (Papers Please) contemporary (Wolf Among Us, Oxenfree) and classic adventure games (The Fourth Protocol, Bureaucracy) with a twist.


‘Night Bizarre’ by Laura Dodds

posterdesign05_smallPlay as Srey, a novice fortune teller learning her trade in a strange, bustling, Cambodian night market. Strive to thrive as you wield your tarot cards and predict the future of locals and tourists who visit your stall. 

As 20-year-old Srey you must prove to your down-to-earth mother, Tola, and mystically-minded grandmother, Arunny, that you can make a success of your stall, or else you’ll be sent back home to care for your three wild brothers. This is your chance for freedom in the fascinating city. Over five days, face family disputes, dangerous criminals and torrential tropical storms.

Discover the stories of the night bazaar and influence the colourful characters who populate it. Will you use the tools of the trade to learn the art of deception and swindle as much money as you can? Or will you use Srey’s ‘gift’ to establish a reputation for yourself as a talented fortune teller and see your premonitions come true?


‘Polyphonia’ by Blaise Imiolczykposter_mini

Polyphonia is a psychedelic hands on virtual reality experience utilising motion controllers.

It is a meditative exploration into the manipulation of environment and sound that gives the player the chance to experience the evolutionary story of a universe through several stages in which they can grab the surrounding objects and manipulate them which changes the sound within.

Drawing its inspiration from science and modern art, the experience follows the evolution of a universe from its birth with the big bang right through to its death.

It is intended for release on HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PS VR and Xbox VR.


‘Aaliyah’ by Jameela Khan

‘Aaliyah’ by Jameela Khan is a modern day British “Western” about a young woman who arrives in a small town to avenge the death of her friend.

Through point-and-click gameplay, the player assumes the role of protagonist, Aaliyah, who is haunted by the memories of her last conversation with her friend, Eliza.

Retracing Eliza’s steps in the supermarket she used to worked in, Aaliyah takes up work as a lowly paid stock controller.

The player joins Aaliyah on her first day at work as she tries to discover what happened to Eliza and learns more about the motives for her death.

‘Aaliyah’ explores female friendship, gender and identity and is the first British game to feature a lead character of South Asian origin.


‘Into the Black’ by Naomi Kotler


An immersive, third person, virtual reality adventure about teamwork, instinct and survival set in the Yellowstone National Park wildfires of 1988.

Divided into four acts, the player assumes the role of a spirit guide sent to help a red fox and grizzly bear, who have been thrown together during the chaos of the wildfire and will need your guidance to help them escape the inferno and find a safe new home.

Only by working together will they survive the long road ahead and stand any chance of being re united with their families. Along the way they will be tested to their limits as their world is consumed by flames, the fire has put Yellowstone out of balance and forced a mass migration into the hunting grounds of the Druid Wolf pack. As these fearsome predators descend upon their fleeing prey, another lurks in the darkness. Man has come, full of cruelty and bad intention, seeking to turn this disaster into opportunity.

If you and your companions are to survive you will need to rely on each other and leave everything behind as you journey into the black.


‘Uncanny Valerie’ by John Lau


A 15 / 20 minute interactive play on iPad.  It is set in the near future, in the vein of Black Mirror, Ex Machina and Her.

The player takes control of Karis, a wry and acerbic drinker who has lost her job as a robotics scientist, and who has just been left by her long-term girlfriend Valerie.

She has a few days to pack up her belongings in the house that she has shared with Valerie for the past five years, and copes with the emotional and practical task of moving on in the only way she knows how – by programming Valerie’s consciousness into an android that she has lying around the house.

As she tries to recreate her erstwhile lover, Karis realises that the power she holds over the robot can be used to iron out the things that irritated her about Valerie, and finds herself confronted with the question of whether it is better to love the one you’re with, or to hold out hope for an ideal that may never come.

Told through a combination of spatial puzzles, cut scenes and point and click tasks, ‘Uncanny Valerie’ is a story about a woman trying to both let go of, and hold onto a failed relationship, through the macabre, the poignant and the absurd.


‘Melancholia’ by Claudio Pollina

melancholia-poster-1‘Melancholia’ is an isometric puzzle game for iOS.

The puzzles are created to trick your visual and audio perceptions with optical and audio illusions.

As Frances, the player must manipulate the ambiance and sounds of two worlds – the house he shared with the love of his life and his own fractured memories – to piece together the mystery of why he lost Fanny and his will to play violin.






We are also thrilled to be able to show two projects from previous NFTS Games graduates.

‘Electric Lullaby’ by Cupboard Games


Electric Lullaby is a first-person adventure game about sleep, alter egos and exploring a mysterious painterly desert.

As players navigate this dreamlike world, their character grows tired, but all is not as it seems. Turning the game off (“going to sleep”) awakens the player’s alter ego—a clumsy monster that roams the land while the player is away.

The player must learn to co-operate with their subconscious in order to make progress and uncover the secrets of the world they find themselves in.

For iOS and Android.

The game has been developed with the Wellcome Trust by NFTS Games graduates Paul Dillon and Jon Hatton.

For more information on Cupboard Games and how to download Electric Lullaby, please visit and follow them @CupboardGames 


P.E.T. by Xylophone Games

petHow fun would it be to design, raise and look after a virtual pet which exists as much in your world, as it does in a game world? How amazing would it be to start to care about something that wasn’t actually real?

Even though those were rhetorical questions, we’re going to guess your answers would have been “loads of fun” and “totally amazing”.

But what if you also knew that pet could die?

P.E.T. (Personalised Entitative Technology) is a new breed of virtual pet simulator which revels in bringing back the stakes to the digital pet arena.

In the game, it is your responsibility to steer your pet through its life cycle, without a road map and with ethical binds aplenty to navigate along the way.

During that journey, you will be guided by the voice of the game’s two creators, as they begin to realise the power of the simulation they have now created, which also happens to be the simulation you are now playing.

It’s a game set within a story about the nature of simulation, where all virtual pets eventually go to heaven.

P.E.T. has been developed with the support of Wellcome. It is the first game to be developed by Xylophone Games, a new indie studio headed up by Ellie Silkstone, in collaboration with Hates These Cans, a new creative studio founded by Jenna Jovi.

The game is set for a full release in Spring 2017 across tablet and mobile platforms.