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Campuses: Adelaide | Brisbane | Byron Bay | Melbourne | Perth | Sydney | Online
Courses offered in Animation, Audio, Design, Film, Game Development and Web & Mobile.
Phone: (02) 6639 6000
We asked ADAM RUCH, department coordinator for Games and Animation at SAE Sydney, to talk about what the school offers students.
Do students typically come to SAE with a specific idea of what they want to do in the industry? Do you think their attitudes towards and ideas about game development change over time?
Some do, but not everyone. There are a few roles in games that people seem to recognise before enrolling, like ‘game designer’ or ‘level designer’, but I also find that new students don’t necessarily know what it means to actually occupy those roles. So they definitely learn that there are a lot of different ways to contribute to a game, and find that there are different aspects that they gravitate towards.
How important is collaboration between students on projects at SAE? Are you aware of any independent teams that have formed between SAE graduates?
This is extremely important. We focus on project work, making games and prototypes, and students are almost always working in a ‘simulated studio’ environment. We believe that not only are the technical skills required to use any particular piece of software important, but that being able to collaborate is vital. It’s very unlikely that anyone will have a career without collaboration, so we want to give our students the opportunity to practice that while they study. There are a few teams who have gone on to work together outside of college including the guys from Pygmy Tyrant – Trent Naylor, Willis Smith, Dhani Wong and David Coonan. These guys were college mates who founded their successful indie studio after collaborating on their major student project at the SAE Sydney campus.
You offer campuses all around Australia – will students get the same basic experience at any of them? Are guest lecturers ever live-streamed across campuses or anything?
Each of our campuses works to the same curriculum, but this is really a framework, not a laundry list of tasks to complete. Even within a campus, the studio projects are usually themed around a set of ideas that are one way to approach the learning outcomes for the unit. These change over time: different lecturers bring different ideas to a unit, different student groups interpret the project briefs in unique ways, and that’s part of the design of these units. We want our students to have a more personal experience, something in their portfolio that speaks to their identity as a creator, rather than every student graduating with the same assignments in their showreel.
That being said, all of our lecturers come to this institute with years of experience and industry accolades – and they know what it takes to succeed. Our academic rigor challenges students to be original and push the medium forward.
What sort of challenges do you need to prepare students for aside from teaching them how to design games? Does SAE focus on the realities of the industry as well?
One of those challenges is the group work – we know that working in teams is unpredictable, and handling that is not easy for all students. That is a reality of the industry – of the whole world, really – so it’s an important one to address. Our internship program, which is built into the course, prepares students to present themselves in a professional way. We also help students build an online presence and a portfolio, both by building the content, and by actually working on the showreels and portfolio sites themselves.
Personally, I am very up-front about the realities of finding work in large companies, about the state of the Australian industry, about the opportunities (and challenges) of running an indie studio, among other things. But I am fundamentally an optimistic person, so I use that kind of honesty as the foundation for effecting real change over time.
The Australian games development scene was rocked somewhat by the ‘bust’ of a decade ago, when a significant amount of foreign investment dried up. We’ve been working hard to address the impacts of this on our local creative media sector and specialists, mainly by ensuring our students graduate with a more rounded skillset. We want to ensure they qualify with the aptitude and attitude to work both in large development studios across different specialist areas, as well as in smaller indie teams on projects that retain intellectual property for Australia.
If we can gradually build a more stable foundation of developers working on original game ideas, the Australian gaming industry should become more stable and we should see long-term sustainable growth.
What does SAE offer that makes their game development course unique from other schools?
For starters, we have a wide range of disciplines here, so students can work together in teams including animators, audio producers, web developers etc. We also build up a theoretical or first-principles knowledge about games throughout the unit, to give students an understanding of what games are that transcends whatever technical skills they will pick up. We want to answer the question “what is a game?” or “how does this game work?” regardless of whether it’s built in Unity or UnrealEngine or GameMaker.
We are one of the oldest and most experienced providers of tertiary games development education in Australia, having the experience of Qantm College which was founded in 1996. This enables SAE to provide students with both a solid academic foundation and professional industry knowledge so they’re ready to hit the ground running.
Can you point towards any success stories from recent graduates?
We’re really proud of the achievements of our graduates. Our success stories include Melbourne games graduate Jair Wallace who is doing great work with Australian games studio Twiitch, designing and executing user interface systems as well as core multiplayer battle systems for games such as Orcs vs Knights: Heroes of War.
Brisbane graduate Adam Single has joined the ranks of successful gaming programmers and is co-organiser of the Game Technology Brisbane meet-up. Adam returned to study at 27, having left his former life as a café manager to pursue a passion for technology.
Halfbrick is another success story. The company is at the forefront of the Australian games development industry and was founded by SAE graduate Shainiel Deo in 2001.