University profile: City University London

City University London is a renowned international institution which is proud of its commitment to both academic excellence and professional development. Here we speak to Dr Greg Slabaugh, senior lecturer in Computer Science and course director for City’s Computer Games Technology MSc, and Dr Chris Child, also a lecturer and the course director for the complementary Games Technology BSc as well as Computer Science with Games Technology MSci courses. The pair – who, between them, have over 35 years of experience in the game industry, Child also moonlighting as the director of Cricket Captain studio Childish Things – outline what makes the university stand out from the competition.

Why should students consider your courses over others?

Greg Slabaugh City’s Computer Games Technology MSc is differentiated by [its focus on] technical programming. The course was developed by game industry experts, and teaches the fundamentals of game programming, from C++ and software engineering, to core games technologies like computer graphics, artificial intelligence, physics and audio, through to game engines like Unity. On the course, students develop a strong portfolio of game and technology demonstrations that showcase their ability and passion as game programmers. The course is designed to give students the skills required for roles in the games industry.

Getting hands-on industry experience is key to our students' career developments. We have strong links with game companies, helping our students find internships and placements. We source opportunities, help students with applications, and support them throughout the process. We also have an extremely successful track record of students finding work in the games industry after graduation. Some students choose to start their own companies, others work at indie studios, and some find employment with major companies. Alumni are now working as programmers at companies including Rockstar Games, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, Criterion Software and EA.

Also, City is located in central London, a hub of computer games activity in the UK, and we frequently host or participate in game jams. For example, in January 2016, City was a host site for Global Game Jam and other events like the London Games Developer meetups. Central London is a truly exciting location to learn about game programming and engage with a wider community of games developers!

How is the MSc structured?

GS The course is flexibly offered as one-year full-time, or 28 months part-time, and has eight taught modules. These modules include topics covering the fundamentals of game technology, including Games Development Process, Computer Games Architecture, Computer Graphics, Game Physics and AI, and Audio Programming. Other modules are focused on C++ Programming, Software Engineering, and Research Methods. The latter is important for preparation for the Individual Project.

What does the project component entail, and how are students supported throughout?

Chris Child The project component gives students an opportunity to carry out an extended piece of work under the supervision of one of our specialist academic and research staff, at the cutting edge of games technology. The project can be in either an industrial or academic context. Students are free to select the topic of the project, and work with their supervisor to ensure the project is feasible and will deliver interesting outcomes. We encourage students to develop a project as a portfolio element, showcasing the skills in which they would like to specialise in the industry. Topics can include AI, physics, audio, network gaming, game engine development or game design. Students are supported through interaction with supervisors, typically through one-to-one meetings. There are examples of student project work on the course video channel.

What aspects have been added to next year's course to keep it up to date with modern game development processes?

CC We’re teaching the latest versions of APIs like OpenGL and engines FMOD and Bullet. We’ve added content on Vulkan, the new graphics API, and we’re teaching the latest version of Unity. Projects and coursework use an Agile methodology, in keeping with the industry standard, and we will also have a refurbished games lab next year, including high-end development machines.

What do you offer in terms of external speakers, and how closely to you work with the industry to ensure your additions are relevant?

GS We do feature guest speakers, especially in regards to finding employment in the game industry, including industry insiders, alumni, and recruiters. We also recently set up an Industrial Advisory Board (IAB), which provides industry advice to ensure students learn the right skills to enable them to work in the game industry. The course was recently accredited by TIGA, and through that our students have access to TIGA events, including the recent game jam at Pinewood Studios.

Does VR feature as a consideration?

GS Yes, we have a strong interest in VR, AR, and related technologies. One of our MSc students made the first ever skiing game using Oculus Rift as the subject of his individual project. We have equipment like Oculus Rift, Kinect, and Leap Motion for students to use in their individual projects, and we also do active research in AR combining computer vision, graphics, and human-computer interaction.

What funding help is available to students?

CC We have £2,000 scholarships available to both EU and international students, and recent additional support for the course from the university has allowed us to provide these to the majority of our students if their application is received in good time and they meet the course criteria.

How can students take advantage of nearby Tech City?

CC Tech City is the third-largest technology startup cluster in the world, and is based around the Old St roundabout in London within walking distance of our university. City has a designated space in Tech City called the Hangout, where startup companies and spinoffs can be incubated. In addition to this, City runs Unrulyversity, a free popup university in the heart of Tech City, with a mission to inform, inspire, and empower the next generation of Tech City entrepreneurs. Taught by leading academics of City University London, City Unrulyversity combines practical relevance with academic rigour, theoretical underpinnings, and the latest research.

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