As an evangelist, I am fortunate to be able to regularly meet incredibly talented developers, see their work, and take a deep dive into their creative processes. The feeling of awe and admiration that I have for the craft of these developers, of all ages and from all walks of life, never gets old. One of the most rewarding parts of the job, however, is encountering the work of those who are just starting out. The caliber of games and experiences being created by the younger generation, and the themes that they explore in their creative outlets, are inspiring and mind-blowing in equal measures.
Ones to watch: BAFTA winners
Now that Unity is free for education, the potential of Unity is limitless, regardless of age. The BAFTA Young Games Designers competition illustrates this point well. This annual competition spotlights the best game design and development talent from those aged 10 to 18 years old.
In 2017, the competition's Game Making category saw two winners, who both made their games with Unity.
Spruce Campbell, winner of the Game Making award in the 10-14 year-old category, made a neon labyrinth game called Cyber:JUMP. Spruce started using Unity at the age of 13, determined to script his own games and improve his skills. "It was super easy [to use Unity]. I'd been messing around with code for a few years so I knew the basics of scripting, but with the Unity tutorials it was different, because they showed full real-life examples and taught how to actually change stuff and 'remix' the project. It's quite funny, because when I brought my Unity project to school everyone immediately said 'How can I [do that]?' and now I'm helping them get to grips with Unity."
Emily Mitchell, winner of the Game Making award in the 15-18 year-old category, made Fractured Minds, which deals with the sensitive subject of struggling with commonly misunderstood mental health issues. Emily says, "Many young people suffer with mental health issues and feel isolated as a result. I wanted to create a game that would help young people experience what it's like to live with mental health issues or anxiety so that they can begin to empathize and support each other."
Since their award wins, Spruce has been working on an App Store release of Cyber:JUMP, while Emily has signed with a publisher for Fractured Minds. Watch this space for updates!
Student showcase at the Bett show
Unity is now being used in over 100,000 educational institutions globally. These institutions deliver courses in game design and development, animation, VR, animated film and other areas. This year at the Bett Show, the largest education show in Europe, we invited students from all over the world to demo their student projects.
An animated short film: ASTER
For film, we showcased Beth Kirkpatrick's animated film, ASTER, created at Ulster University in Belfast using our 2017 suite of cinematic tools, Cinemachine, Post-Processing Stack V2 and Timeline. Beth, a recent animation student, says this about her career so far, "Art has always been a big part of my life and I wanted to incorporate creativity into my career, so animation was the perfect way to do that. It has been a great journey, as animation has led me into a world of storytelling and 3D technology."
Creating ASTER was the first time that Beth had used Unity: "It has never been easier to make your own game and short film with so many wonderful resources on both the [Unity] Asset Store and via online tutorials. I think the biggest challenge has been to always push myself. ASTER had only a 12-week production period. It was intense but showed how much could be done when you push yourself and your team. Perseverance is key."
Beth adds: "Unity has helped me develop a better portfolio of work, which has created more job opportunities for me. I know I wouldn't be where I am now without it."
A cinematic experience: The Prisoner
We also had the pleasure of showcasing games from the Institute of Sound and Engineering (SAE), Germany, and the National Film and Television School (NFTS).
Tim and Alex (pictured) worked together on the cinematic experience, The Prisoner. The Prisoner was part of their final project in the Game Development course at the NFTS. This project sees disciplines from all over the school working together. Tim says, "On a single game, I got to work with screenwriters, producers, composers, sound designers, graphic artists and cinematographers, each one bringing his or her expertise to the table. Having such a diverse team of professionals from across the film, television and games industries has been a truly unique and rewarding experience in the NFTS Games course."
Tim outlined the benefits of using Unity as an integral part of the course. "The ability to rapidly prototype an idea in Unity and test out whether or not it works has been of great help in revealing the potential in a game. There are assets available for Unity that allow you to create your own unique materials. It takes a bit of work but you can achieve a pretty great result." Alex adds: "The open-endedness of Unity means that there really isn't only one solution to a problem. Having the whole suite of tools that Unity provides is invaluable to finding what works for you and your game."
An explosive game: Tiny Tanks
Lukas, a student at SAE, speaks of how their game, Tiny Tanks, came to be, "I started coding for fun when I was 14 years old and also had a part-time job as a software engineer. I decided to look into games programming and found it to be so intriguing that I actually wanted to study it. We [Jannik and I] decided to study games programming at the SAE Institute in Frankfurt, Germany. I started to work on a little project during my first semester to test my abilities. It got a little bit out of hand and turned into a full game. Jannik saw the project I was working on about three months in and joined me."
Lukas explains, "I was honestly really surprised by how fast I was able to do cool stuff with the engine by myself. It took me about three months to feel comfortable in the engine, and by that I mean I was able to build cool ideas I had, without needing to look up things every 10 minutes. Unity offers a great ecosystem that attracts a lot of developers for third-party content: models, textures, plugins, etc. For example, we used a plugin for online multiplayer, which really accelerated our progress."
Jannik offers some words of support and advice to aspiring developers: "In the beginning I watched a lot of tutorials and frequently consulted the API and manual. It's all really high-quality content so it was pretty easy to get up to speed with the engine. It can feel frightening to open an unfamiliar software because you can be easily overwhelmed by all the buttons and seemingly complex stuff that gets thrown at you. I would recommend taking a deep breath, relax and then go watch the tutorials provided by Unity. They have started to build up a nice 'step-by-step' approach that really teaches gamedev in an easy-to-understand way. Second, you need to keep at it. Ten minutes a day may suffice - just don't stop working at it. You will get there. We also stood where many beginners might be standing now, and from time to time we're amazed by our progress: 'Wow, I didn't think I would ever be able to do this!'"
Unity internships and the Student Ambassador Program
Unity offers internships to students whose courses provide a year in industry. Since Unity internships began, we have placed almost 100 interns globally and across multiple teams.
Alessia Nigretti, Technical Evangelist intern at our Brighton, UK office, started using Unity after being involved in game jams. She learned about Unity internships after speaking with a member of the Unity evangelist team at a gaming event. Alessia says, "Don't always associate the game-creation process with programming - there's so much more to it! In the time I've worked at Unity, I've met a lot of people scared of getting into game development because they had no programming background. With Unity it's super easy to start whether you have one or not. It's a fun way to begin programming if you're interested in learning, since you can see the outcome of your code immediately. But for those people who have no interest in learning to code, there's plenty of space in the game-making process for you too."
For students, we have also launched the Student Ambassador Program. Having already been successfully rolled out across the US, this program is gaining momentum, with a focus on supporting communities of on-campus Unity learners and creators.
Recent entrants to the game industry
With the role of "Unity Developer" ranked #7 on LinkedIn's Top 20 Emerging Jobs in 2017, it's no surprise that talented young people are finding their place in the industry.
Emile Ferreira's advice to Unity newbies
Having started in web development at the age of 12, Emile Ferreira, a game developer in Cape Town, is making a difference to the games industry of South Africa. Emile is a self-taught developer who is now concentrating his talents on modding games and Unity.
While working in the industry and also running an after-school C# coding club, Emile is currently working on Light Bringer, an open-world action game focusing on issues close to his heart. Light Bringer, set in South Africa, deals with the social issues that Emile feels plague the country and must be addressed.
Emile's advice to aspiring creatives is, "There's no better time to start [making games] than right now. Unity makes creating world-class games possible with minimal prior knowledge. Start by watching tutorials (my favourite YouTuber is Brackeys). Then if you get stuck, head over to the official Unity documentation." He also gives a nod towards Unity's social platform, Unity Connect. "When you come up with a game concept, don't imitate other games. Instead, create a game that you would want to play. Join game dev communities like Unity Connect to see how the pros do it. And finally, creating games is an art, so you should be doing it because you love it."
Unity Connect is a great way for students to showcase their Unity projects and look for jobs. Over 2,000 companies are registered and many of them are looking for employees, interns and graduates.
Best way to learn Unity according to a BAFTA winner
Adam Oliver, an associate programmer at Pixel Toys, didn't get into the game industry through the conventional university route. Instead Adam, a former winner of the BAFTA Young Game Designers competition, learned game development through trial and error. "I'd suggest that the best way to learn Unity is to just start making a game right away. Your first game will never be much good, but you'll learn so much from the process of making one." Through self-guided learning, Adam stresses the importance of "getting stuck into" (become immersed in) the multitude of online Unity Learning content and Documentation. He adds, "The wealth of completely free online resources has allowed me to teach myself everything I know, and I will continue to learn from these resources. In that respect, the Unity documentation helped me go straight into a job!"
Unity for Education
To see what Unity can offer the development talent of tomorrow, or those empowering them, please check out Unity for Education.
Next week, our Education team is going to SXSW EDU in Austin, Texas. We'll be on a panel called "Students Can Build the VR/AR Worlds of the Future" on March 5 and we're hosting the Unity Interactive Technology Lounge all week.
The future is bright and we can't wait to see what budding Unity talent comes to light in 2018!
Profiled games, projects and portfolios
Below are links to the work and portfolios of the amazing talent featured in this blog post. Be sure to check them out, be inspired and be ready to nurture the future of creative talent.
Spruce Campbell (BAFTA YGD) http://www.bafta.org/supporting-talent/young-game-designers/spruce-campbell-young-game-designer
Emily Mitchell (BAFTA YGD) http://www.bafta.org/games/features/emily-mitchell-ygd-winner-interview
Beth Kirkpatrick (Ulster) https://finalsemester2.wordpress.com/
Tim Kaufmann (NFTS) http://timothyjohnkaufmann.wixsite.com/portfolio
Alex Braniff-Taylor (NFTS) www.ajgames.co.uk
The Prisoner (NFTS) https://vimeo.com/246787125/096aefd4f6
Lukas Krebs (SAE) https://www.leadfollowgames.com/
Jannik MÃ¼ller (SAE) https://www.leadfollowgames.com/
Alessia Nigretti (Unity) https://devpost.com/AlessiaNigretti
Emile Ferreira http://emileferreira.com/
Adam Oliver https://www.adamoliver.uk/