Jamie Eden’s Guest Lecture on 1 December 2010

Jamie Eden is Designer at the Design department at TT Fusion. I came across to Jamie’s profile on LinkedIn in summer. I thought it would be a great idea to have an alumnus speak to the current CVG students, so I got in touch with him via LinkedIn. And he did get back to me with a positive response. Here began the story.

Manchester was covered in snow on the day Jamie spoke, but Jamie did not cancel his talk – instead, he set off early in order to arrive on time. What a professional attitude!

Scenary on Adelphi Street on 1 December 2010

The first half of Jamie’s talk was on his learning experience at Salford. He shared his memory about some modules (e.g., history and analysis) and reflected how his university learning shaped his later projects and career afterwards. Speaking from experience, Jamie thought the module “history and analysis” and “technology” were useful as he learned how to research properly before the production starts.

Jamie’s final-year project was a 3D game called “Cheeks of Steel“. Speaking from experience, Jamie stressed the importance of proper research and engine familiarity: it is important to understand what the game engine affords you to do, and don’t use the limitation of the game engine as an excuse for poor-quality work.

Good communication between team members is another key to successful project work. In Jamie’s 3rd year, every team member had his/her own commitments and life was hectic for everyone. To deal with the contingency, they often communicated through mobile phones, but they also had regular face-to-face meetings because someone stayed in some places where mobile phone signals were weak or sometimes some people were abroad. (I know the 2nd-year now use Skype and instant-messaging for meetings a lot – online chat is also a good method).

Another important thing is testing, especially testing early. The earlier you test, the better. There is always problems with PC compatibility (the game may work on one PC but not on the other) and network problem etc.

Proper asset management (including backups, licensing) will save one lots of time and efforts – it’s important to make sure you recycle the materials as much as possible.

Then, Jamie used Zuby’s approach (basically, the common memory and experience collectively shared by him and the current students) to do a team activity with the students.

He quickly divided the students into four teams, and gave them 3 minutes to design an iPhone mobile phone game application. Time’s up. He asked them to brief the game ideas they’ve got. Then, requirements changed – he now asked the students to design 4 different console games (Indiana Jones, Star War 7, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean). And this time, students only got 1 minute to redesign. Time’s up. Students needed to brief their new ideas. Most of them recycled their first idea for the 2nd requirement.

Why was Jamie testing them in this way? Jamie used this to demonstrate his real life experience working in the gaming industry. Customers’ demands and requirements change constantly and continuously. It is important to learn to deal with these changes.

He also confirmed that the design process is a loop (iterative process). The usual cycle is: the designer came up with something, gave to the lead designer, then the lead designer would hand it over to the lead artist, had some discussion, then the lead designer would feed the discussion back to the designer. And the process repeats again and again, until the work was approved by customers / publishers.

Also speaking from experience, Jamie emphasised the importance of creating and maintaining online presence, both for the games and for the game developers themselves. His final-year project “Cheeks of Steel” got featured in a German game magazine because of its online presence. “Try to be part of the international game community”, he said. To get on to the career ladder, he suggested the students to boost their portfolios by trying different jobs (even starting as a tester at a company). “You have to work your way through”, he said. Keeping a blog, creating a LinkedIn account, or setting up a personal webpage for the game and for oneself are all good methods for keeping an online presence. And be careful what sort of information one released on social networking sites such as Facebook as future employers might investigate your online profiles before shortlisting.

He also encouraged the students to prioritise their university study over their part-time jobs. After all, getting something out of the uni is more important than earning some quids.

Jamie answering students' question

In the Q&A session, asked what his aspiration was when he started the university, and what his dream position is now, Jamie said he did not have any particular idea what he’d like to do when starting the uni (hence coming to the uni to learn), but now, he knows what he wants – he wants to be a producer producing non-franchise games.

Students appraoching Jamie after his lecture

I believe that after Jamie’s talk, the future may look brighter to the current students. Thank you, Jamie, for coming over (in such weather) to inspire the junior and to show them what they can achieve.

Adelphi Street, Salford, 1 December 2010
View from the common room in Adelphi House 2010-12-01
View from the common room in Adelphi House on 1 December 2010
View from the common room in Adelphi House, Salford, 2010-12-01

ps. All the photos in this blog entry have been time-stamped, but the time used in the camera was GMT+1. So the actual time the events happened was one hour later than the time printed on the photos.


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