Training Spotlight: University of Hull

Hull is among the UK’s oldest institutions offering games development courses. But it prides itself on being a forward-thinking body that strives to ensure its students gain employment in this rapidly changing industry.
The university has been training students into fully-fledged games programmers for 18 years, and has acquired a reputation within the industry for producing highly skilled games graduates.

“The opportunity to work on real, commercial projects as part of their degrees also ensures our graduates learn the vital software engineering skills, such as agile development and dealing with clients, that are so highly valued by employers,” head of computer science Warren Viant tells Develop.

“All of this focus on practical development skills means that our students can actually develop good software, as shown by their high level of success in game jams and software development competitions, such as Microsoft’s Imagine Cup, in which we are among the most successful universities in the UK.”

Hull offers three games development courses, all of which aim to teach students core skills such as C++, DirectX, OpenGL, distributed and concurrent programming, system architectures, physically-based modelling, artificial intelligence and team work.

BSc Computer Science with Games Development gives students the knowledge and understanding to enter the games industry as a programmer or pursue other opportunities in the graphics, simulation and visualisation sectors.

MEng Computer Science with Games Development follows the same programme structure for the first three years of study as the corresponding BSc degree, the difference being that students complete an additional Masters year to study more advanced topics.

Furthermore, this students gain extra industry experience working with clients on real software development projects. The above programmes are accredited by the British Computer Society.

Meanwhile, Hull’s one-year postgraduate MSc in Games Programming provides an intensive education in games development and technology, with a special emphasis on programming. It aims to develop the skills and knowledge necessary for students to pursue successful careers in major studios as a games programmer, and was notably the first Masters games course to gain accreditation from Creative Skillset in December 2008.

Viant says Hull’s programmes focus almost exclusively on software development tools and low-level APIs. It aims to impart an understanding of the fundamentals to allow students to go behind the scenes in games engines. Tools used by the courses include Visual Studio, Parasoft C++ Test, PlayStation Mobile, as well as asset libraries and Unity for student projects.

“One of our foremost advantages is SEED, a commercial software development unit within the Department of Computer Science,” explains Viant. “SEED plays a crucial role in addressing the skills gap between graduation and employment by providing experience of working on real commercial software for clients as part of a development team. SEED is therefore our primary tool in teaching invaluable employability skills to both undergraduates and postgraduates.

“MEng and MSc students both get the opportunity to undertake industrial projects managed by SEED for a wide range of clients. This guaranteed, high quality industrial experience is unique in the UK, and as a result of the advantages this provides, 100 per cent of the jobs for last year’s MEng students were in the games or software industry.”

Hull has links with Sony, Microsoft and Eutechnyx, and regular visits are arranged for students to games studios and vice versa. Alumni have gone on to work in many of the UK’s major games studios such as Rare, Ninja Theory and Creative Assembly.

Viant says Hull’s games programming graduates are second to none, which is why it is at the top of the recruitment list for many UK studios. And he’s confident that it will continue to keep up with the industry’s needs: “Our partnerships with the major studios and regular attendance at international games developer events, such as GDC, enable us to identify trends in the video games industry. These feed directly into course design and ensure that our students are fully prepared for the industry into which they are graduating. For example, we are already graduating students with the skills needed to develop on next-gen consoles and mobile platforms.”

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