My name is Jordan Smee, I am 25 years old, I studied Computer Games Development at University Centre South Essex from 2018 until 2020 and this is my story.
I was born and raised in Essex to a middle class family, in the countryside of the Dengie Area.
During my time at the college between 2015-2017 while I was doing my two years BTEC course, I was encouraged by the head of the games course at the time to consider staying on at the college to continue into the university course, and after reviewing a number of options within other universities I decided to heed that advice, as at the time the university offered a more broad course structure to some of the others which had more narrow and closely defined subjects. This was useful because at the time of choosing I had little real knowledge of the industry and didn’t know where I wanted to go within it.
During my time at the university, I had a genuinely great experience. From the moment I joined, to the moment I left, I was supported by both the tutors and by my peers, and although I ended my time at the university at home due to the pandemic. Before that time I learned plenty and grew both as a creative and as a person.
The course lead was phenomenal at ensuring we were as prepared as possible, and taking a technical minded focus enabled me, who granted was more artist focused, to broaden my skillset and give me a chance to learn and explore other avenues within game development that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to learn or capitalise on. In tandem to this, the events and industry connection we had and used in our visit to Bossa Studio did a great job and keeping me invested and in tune with some of the expectations people were expecting from within the industry.
Within my time at the university I was given the chance to broaden my skillset and explore the various different ways in which games can be made and how to approach that. The course primarily takes a technical focus the game development and so coding, tools programming etc. take presidency but it doesn’t mean we were limited to these points, instead these were usually pathways to lead us to explore other options, coding could lead into shader creation and understanding the mix between technical and artistic pursuit, tools programming gave us faster pipelines which could be expanded to create generative tools in Blender or Maya.
These skills have given me a solid baseline upon which I can now specialise and focus in on the parts of my industry that I love, and with those other skills in toe it means I am a more capable developer and can aid in more cases than I can’t and I wouldn’t be able to do that without the time I had to gain those skills.
Since completing my course at the university I have gone on to publish an interview of my work and process in 80.lv a well-known game development website and organisation that help to share information around the industry from development logs to interviews. I have also gone on to work with Surgent Studios a transmedia company that is currently working in partnership with EA Originals on an unannounced video game project.
I also recently joined the Grads in Games organisation as an industry advocate, helping to get more up and coming graduates into the industry.
I am currently working with Surgent Studios. I am a technical artist which requires me to act as the bridge between both the programming/design teams and the art team. This means that I will be doing a variety of shader creation, tool generation for artists, optimisation of assets and materials alongside implementations and blueprint work to ensure visual consistency. I have also recently taken on a number of VFX pieces, and thus in that I also create new VFX for various aspects of our game.
I had previously worked freelance both at an indie company and a modding project, Black Clover Games and Beyond Skyrim. From there I did some minor contract work and during the spring of 2021 I was approached for the position of Technical Artist for Surgent and applied and was lucky enough to get into the company.
Doing higher education means you can gain a better understanding and a broaden your skills for the industry you want. Additionally, if your course is able and can get you to industry events, these events can enable you to make numerous connections within the fields you are aiming for. I’ve known a number of current and past students already in the short time I’ve been in the industry who know a number of my colleagues due to events they’ve been able to go to, and I know that this has enabled those students to progress further than those who have not made those connections.
I also think for those who do pursue further or higher education, the education itself should inspire you to do additional work on yourself at home or wherever you are. Courses can only teach so much and while that could be seen as a negative, it can also be an impetus for a student to go on and learn things that have been missed or get answers to questions that the subject just doesn’t or can’t answer yet.
My time at the university really helped my confidence, I have never been the most confident person in the world, but being able to chat with other people who shared my interests but could also be critical of my work and enable me to keep growing both as a creative and a person, it massively helped me figure out myself and where I wanted to be in the fields I was interested in.
I’d recommend the UCSE for those who want to gain a baseline skillset that could enable them to specialise in any field that then takes their interest. Having an overall understanding of your subject will let you more accurately decide what area you want to pursue.
My greatest achievement so far has been my interview with Lv.80, it was an unexpected surprise as I wasn’t ready for the project I had released at that point to gain so much traction and gain their attention. The interview was great and I’m very proud of the published work.
I’m looking forward to the eventual release of the project I’m working on now, and in the future I plan to continue to just make interesting and exciting games that will give people new experiences.