Promo image for Search for a Star's Grad in Games competition

Three Creative Technologies students reached the finals of Search for a Star's Grad in Games competition

  • 08 June 2020
  • 4.25 min read

School of Creative Technologies made its mark at this year's Search for a Star's Grad in Games competition, as three students reached the finals – and two of them won runner-up awards. The University of Portsmouth was also named one of the SFASX Leading Games Universities of 2020. Find out more about our finalists and their submissions.

Kian Bennett

Screenshot of video game Etherium by Kian Bennett

A screenshot from Etherium

First-year BSc (Hons) Kian Bennett was 2nd place for the Rising Star Games Programming award. His project, Etherium, is a grid-based real-time strategy game made in just over 2 weeks. Given an existing code base to work from, Kian focused on procedural level generation and unit pathing as his key technical areas. Etherium was ranked second overall in gameplay and first in technical, so Kian was invited to the finals and sit a mock interview before a panel of industry professionals.

This competition was a fantastic opportunity to get my work in front of industry professionals and to receive valuable feedback. Knowing I am able to produce work that is comparable to some of the best student game developers across the country has given me a lot of confidence going forward in my degree, and is certainly going to help in finding an internship between my second and third year, as this competition is highly regarded in the games industry.

Kian said the programming module of his course helped him prepare for the industry-standard code test in C++ – as part of the challenge – and the Technical Game Development module sharpened his ability to complete small-scale game projects to a tight deadline.

Thomas Hutchinson

Magic Spikes
Thomas Hutchinson's S4AS VFX Submission

Third-year BSc (Hons) Computer Animation and Visual Effects student Thomas placed 2nd for the SFASX Games VFX category with Magic Spikes, his area of effect, ice-based magic spell. While our Computer Animation and Visual Effects course deals mainly with effects for film, Thomas' first game environment creation in Unreal Engine 4 – which he taught himself – landed him a place in the final. He also made use of Houdini, a 3D software introduced to students in their second year.

I made use of its procedural tools to generate nearly every part of the effect, from the ice shards to the cracks in the ground. The advantage of my procedural workflow is that I was able to make changes to the project extremely quickly which was very important as I could only afford to spend a few hours a day on my project – the rest of my time was spent working on coursework.

Thomas was interviewed by a panel of industry experts: Conrad Hughes (Senior VFX Artist, nDreams), Jeff Johnson (Lead VFX Artist, Splash Damage) and Luis Barros (Lead Lighting and VFX Artist, Ubisoft Reflections). The panel remarked on Tom's "lots of potential" and praised him on his "impressive Houdini work on their portfolio."

Emily Bisset

Mika and Bot Full Sequence Animation
Emily Bisset's S4AS VFX Submission

Fellow final-year Computer Animation and Visual Effects student Emily was a finalist in the SFASX Games Animation category for Mika and Bot, a series of game animation sequences.

Emily studied the 12 principles of animation in the first year of her course, then developed her skills over time in course units and side projects. As this was an animation submission, she used existing assets – a rig by Kiel Figgins, and a sci-fi environment by Turbosquid user Vegriv.

I find the more I animate, the more easily I can see what is wrong with it and why, therefore I am able to fix it a lot quicker and produce better quality work each time. Even now I look back at my SFASX submission and I can see a lot of things I want to improve and that’s part of learning a skill like this – the more time you put in the better you can be and there are no quick workarounds for it!

Despite finishing 4th, she finds the experience positive, having been interviewed by talented and knowledgeable professionals that gave her plenty of advice and tips. She also values the connections she made with industry people and students across the country who share the same passion.

To discover what our Creative Technologies students experience while studying with us, visit our BSc (Hons) Computer Games Technology and BSc (Hons) Computer Animation, and see their work in our 2020 Graduate Show.