Here’s a selection of the questions we get asked the most about the MA Games Design and Development course from those interested in applying.
We’ve also included some quotes from staff, students and a guest or two that have visited the school. If there’s anything on here we don’t cover please get in touch!
I don’t have a degree that’s ‘relevant’ to Games. Can I still apply?
Many of our successful applicants do not have a ‘games-specific’ degree. In fact we take great pride in the eclectic backgrounds of our students! We’ve welcomed folk with undergraduate degrees in philosophy, ancient history, psychology, political science, physics, fine art, theatre, film production and numerous other subject areas. We’ve also had those whose previous professions have included cinematography, television production, biomedical research, fashion modelling, brass fabrication and pie-making. Bringing in people with such diverse interests and areas of expertise has really elevated the games produced on the course.
We are looking for people with great ideas, with a passion to invent new game experiences and explore new modes of storytelling.
“We select from a broad range of disciplines, some from the humanities and others from the sciences – the more diverse the better!”
Alan Thorn, Head of Games, NFTS.
What prior level of knowledge of game design is required or recommended for the course?
It’s important for us though to be reassured that applicants will be able to get to grips with the coding and practical art sides of the course, therefore we encourage people to get hold of the Unity3d game engine (which is free at www.unity3d.com) and try out their preliminary exercises or tutorials to put something together. It should only take a couple of days or so, but it does give you a taste of games development. Were not expecting polished, releasable titles, just for you to show that you are up for giving these things a try and have capacity to learn.
I have not previously studied a creative subject what should I include in the portfolio?
It’s always a good idea to ensure your portfolio includes some practical work. This could be illustrative, photographic, design, code or creative writing. We also like to see some 2D or 3D digital artwork if possible. We really want to see your best creative work so be sure to include any applicable games, animation, screenwriting or essays that you’ve done.
As far as your games proposal is concerned, it varies from applicant to applicant. Most of you will write about a game that you foresee yourself attempting to make having acquired the appropriate skills. We like to see how good your ideas are and also how well you are able to define, describe and specify a game idea. More than anything else, we’re looking for applicants to use their imagination and give us some insight into the type of games you are interested in developing – both on the course and beyond.
This, plus the short critical analysis of a game title of your choice, should make a good application.
“The student game projects that I saw were imaginative, creative and progressive, pushing forward the frontiers of the interactive form in cool new directions, and telling personal, relevant and entertaining stories. I’m very much looking forward to my next visit!”
Richard Lemarchand, Uncharted series.
Where is the school based?
We are based in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire which is a mere 30 minute train ride from London Marylebone.
Maps, directions and contact details can be found here.
How long is the course? Can I study long distance?
It is a two year, full time course. Students are required to attend Monday to Friday from 10am – 5pm for scheduled lectures and modules. There is no option for long distance studying.
How does the two years break down? What are the key modules?
Module 1 – Hello World – an extensive playable 3D environment made as a group project. Each person within the group will have a specific role to perform and will design a part of the environment (a room for example) themselves. The module runs for approx. 8 weeks.
Code Camp – An intensive 4 week programming course
Module 2 – App Factory – a mobile/tablet game. Simply, you have 5 weeks to make a game for a tablet or a mobile phone.
Module 3 – Synthespians – a player controlled interactive character performing to a set text. A relatively short animation module. Approx 4 weeks.
Module 4 – Moments of Consequence –This is the big finish to the first year. You will work with students from other departments to make a short interactive drama (3-5 minutes). Approx 10 weeks.
There are also ‘Advanced Game Design’ and ‘Business of Games’ lectures. In addition, there is the opportunity to join students from other department for Monday ‘Screen Arts’ sessions. We are also fortunate to have lots of masterclasses from industry professionals.
The second year consists of making the final major project culminating in a graduation showcase in a London venue.
The film school is renowned in the film industry, will we get the chance to work with students from other departments?
Most definitely. We work closely with our counterparts in Sound Design, Composing, Digital Effects, Screenwriting, Producing, Editing, Cinematography and Production Design. In the short time the course has been running some of these collaborators have won BAFTA’s and earned Academy Award nominations.
“The unique thing about studying at the NFTS is how students from each discipline work with each other on set modules and on final projects, and the Games course is no exception. Over the two years, students are equipped with a comprehensive grounding in game art, animation, design, production and coding, and encouraged to explore and experiment at every stage. At its heart, it is an uncompromisingly creative course, yet we make sure students have a thorough and practical technical understanding of all aspects of game development.”
Alan Thorn, Head of Games, NFTS
In 2015 the National Film and Television School was named the Top International Film School (outside US) by the Hollywood Reporter which was a huge accolade. Full story here.
What is studying Games Design and Development at the NFTS like?
Maybe for this question we should ask some of our past and present students about their time on the course…
“The NFTS is a really creative and exciting environment to study in. I am always finding inspiration in other students work and it pushes me to explore new territory in my own projects.”
Laura Dodds, graduate 2017
“With a wealth of practical and artistic talent surrounding you the NFTS provides so many great opportunities to collaborate and experiment. It’s certainly a wakeup call to how much there is left to learn about your craft.”
Kai McGilligan Oliver, graduate 2016
“Over the three days demoing (at the graduation showcase) I made lots of genuinely valuable connections with new people. The highlight was being invited to a meeting at Sony London Studios and by the end of the following Monday I had been offered a job as a designer at their Soho based studio!”
Albert Bentall, graduate 2014
“The course introduced me to important people in the industry, that have helped me in my career, people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise”
Bojan Brbora, graduate 2014
“I had a really fantastic time at the NFTS games design and development course. I met some wonderful people there and learned a lot. The experience I got during my time there was invaluable and I have no doubt I would not have landed a job in the industry without the support the NFTS provided me with.”
Xander McLeod, graduate 2014
“The game projects created at the NFTS allowed me to gain valuable development experience and become confident in my abilities to produce creatively valuable and technically sound work. On top of that it has enabled me to secure a foothold in the professional games industry.”
Albert Bentall, graduate, 2014
Do you have guest lectures?
As often as we can! Previous guest lecturers have been Charles Cecil from Revolution (Broken Sword series), Yoan Fanise from Digixart (Valiant Hearts), Barry Meade from Fireproof Games (The Room series), Jessica Curry and Dan Pinchbeck from The Chinese Room (Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture), Siobhan Reddy from Media Molecule (Tearaway) and Richard Lemarchand (Uncharted) and that’s just to name a few. After the masterclass our guests will spend one to one time with the students and offer valuable feedback on their individual work.
“I was blown away by the quality of the work that I saw when I visited the NFTS’s games program. The excellent reputation of the UK’s National Film and Television School precedes it, of course, and I was delighted to find that the talented students and staff of the school are living up to the NFTS’s high standards.”
Richard Lemarchand, Uncharted series.
What computer programmes do you use? What code do you teach?
We use the whole range of Autodesk and Adobe software for the art side. In particular, our students make use of Maya, MotionBuilder, 3DSMax, plus specialist programmes for specialist tasks such as Reallusion iClone, Mudbox and Marvellous Designer.
Coding-wise we tend to use Unity3D with C#, which is a great way to learn game development, and provides students with a very marketable skillset. We are always looking for the easiest/fastest/cheapest ways to get quality output and this includes motion/performance capture tools as well as parametric modelling and animation tools.
Will I get help with funding?
Here’s a link to the official page for information regarding funding.
Scholarships and bursaries are available (mostly to UK students) and are means tested. That means as a UK based applicant you should get help with at least a proportion of your fees if you need it, depending on assessed means and/or sources. There are also a range of loans and schemes for postgraduate study for both UK-based and others which are applicable to our MAs as we are a registered and recognised HEI.
The unofficial advice is to research. There are grants and bursaries out there if you are prepared to hunt them down. Most of our students have received financial assistance of one sort or another, a few of which funded their studies completely. For further advice or guidance contact our Registry. Or by all means ask us and we will try to point you in the right direction.
What have your students done since graduating?
We have had two years of graduates so far. Almost all have gone on to work in the Games Industry in some capacity. This ranges from working in established studios in design and development roles, to independently forming their own outfits to further develop the games they started working on while on the course. Examples of the latter include ‘Pixel Ripped’ (Ana Ribeiro), ‘4PM’ (Bojan Brbora) and ‘Off Grid’ (Rich Metson and Pontus Schonberg). Others have started their own companies and received funding to develop specific projects such as Cupboard Games (Jon Hatton and Paul Dillon). So the answer is quite varied, but in general our students have ended up in exciting places and are continuing to develop their careers making innovative games in one context or another.
Do you go to events and industry shows?
We certainly do! You will see an NFTS Games presence at major UK trade shows and conferences including Develop, EGX, GameCity, Rezzed, Apps World to name a few.
Memberships to organisations?
We, and our students, are members of UKIE, Playstation First, Skillset and HEVGA (Higher Education Video Games Alliance).
Can I visit the school?
We have a number of open days throughout the year. Keep an eye on the ‘Open Days’ page on the official site for info.