Our annual list of games development's rising stars

30 Under 30: 2012

Develop’s annual talent spotlight the 30 Under 30 is back. As ever, it’s here to bring attention to the youthful stars of today’s game development sector who look to be destined for great things in the industry of tomorrow.

2011’s Develop 30 Under 30 is sponsored by OPM Recruitment, the leading specialist recruitment consultancy in the computer, console, handheld, mobile, online games and interactive entertainment sectors. OPM recruits for a diverse roster of clients in the UK and worldwide with jobs available in every area of business associated with entertainment products and services. www.opmjobs.com

Trevor Klein

Development Producer,

Somethin’ Else

At just 26, Klein has developed a reputation with those he works with for having an ‘extraordinary’ set of creative and technical skills – something rare to see in the same person. Having designed multiplatform projects for the likes of the BBC and Channel 4, and with three iOS titles under his belt, Klein is already at a level typical of those many years his senior. An expert in running rigorous, agile developments, he has constantly demonstrated a strong rapport with clients, all the while matching resource with an expert hand.

Tom Dowding

Co-founder and Technical Director,

Mobile Pie

Highly regarded among his colleagues for building water-tight code, 29-year-old Dowding oversees the development of Mobile Pie’s internal technology such as the My Engine, all the while keeping a firm hand on the purse strings as company secretary. Furthermore, Dowding has consistently impressed the people he has worked with by demonstrating the insight to see design and creative benefits despite technological difficulties. He has proved crucial in Mobile Pie’s success, and big things are expected of his future.

Matt Wieteska

Game Designer and Producer,

Six to Start

In his time at Six to Start, Wieteska has proved himself invaluable to the success of some of the studio’s most innovative games in the past two years, including serving as producer and lead puzzle designer for ARG and transmedia project The Code, and game designer on iPhone project Zombies, Run. Educated in English literature and classics, and with a background in theatre, 26-year-old Wieteska has brought a unique skill set to game design that has shown you don’t need to be a trained techie to impress your peers and make an impact on the games industry.

Ella Romanos


Remode Studios

As MD of Remode Studios, 27-year-old Romanos has worked tirelessly, travelling the globe to build up an international base of clients, partners and publishers. She has been integral in positioning Remode as a highly regarded young development studio in the competitive mobile and online/web space, and has helped the company secure work with television and toy brands as well as developing original IP. Her programming background, in tandem with her business development skills, has proved invaluable to Remode and the ExPlay conference she co-founded and project manages.

Simon Davis



At just 28 years old, Simon has already been involved in the development of over 50 titles, and has contributed in numerous capacities including QA, design and production. Having only joined the video games industry back in 2004 with Babel Media as QAC, he currently serves as producer at Bigpoint in Hamburg, where his contribution to DarkOrbit has helped the game attract over 60 million registered users. Praised for his leadership skills, he is cited by several 30 Under 30 nominations as being both popular with colleagues and extremely proactive.

Daniel Kaplan

Business Developer,

Mojang Specifications

At 25 years old, Kaplan, or Kappische as he is known to his 41,000-plus loyal Twitter followers, is perhaps the most famous member of the Minecraft team besides Markus ‘Notch’ Persson. As business developer at Mojang Specifications, he has an influential hand on the reigns of a brand that has gone beyond being a sensation, arguably pushing him into the territory of the industry’s elite. He’s also a very likeable man, and like Persson, is remarkably down to earth despite being part of one of the world’s most successful indie games.

Jennifer Clixby



Clixby joined Lionhead back in 2004, and has worked in an increasingly senior production role on Fable II and Fable III. With each new project she has been promoted to the next level and she is now a popular team leader. As one of the most highly regarded producers at Lionhead at just 29, Clixby has impressed the team to the point that she recently presented a Lionhead project to the senior management team at MGS Redmond

Paul Scott Canavan

Lead Artist, Digital Adaptations,

Tern Digital

Paul Canavan is, say his employers, an exceptional digital artist. The 25-year-old has taken the reigns of crafting the visual style, storyboarding and painting the first of Tern’s Digital Adaptations, John Buchan’s The Thirty Nine Steps. In a very short period of time he has reached a senior position in the company, and is one of the most talented new game developers springing up at the likes of TV production companies.

Dale Scullion

Lead Designer,

Ubisoft Reflections

At 28 years old, Scullion has recently stepped up to a lead designer role, and is currently at work on yet-to-be-revealed original IP for a new Kinect game at Newcastle studio Ubisoft Reflections. Having proved his talent and hard work ethic throughout the development of the Driver: San Francisco project, Scullion has emerged as one of the most capable and devoted members of a studio brimming with youthful development talent.

John Beech

Level Designer,

Media Molecule

Already infamous as ‘the man who earned a job playing LittleBigPlanet’, Beech’s rapid journey from builder and Media Molecule fan to respected company employee is remarkable. But he is much more than a staffer with a novel recruitment history. He has emerged as a leading design talent at Media Molecule; so much so that his colleagues have promised to ‘eat Sackboy’ if the 29-year-old isn’t creative director of his own team by the time he’s 40.

Steve Hessel

Community Relations Manager,

Splash Damage

Joining Splash Damage in 2007 to head up the studio’s community efforts for Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Hessel later oversaw the successful relaunch of the studio’s web presence, as well as the community efforts for Brink. With 11 years in the industry behind him Hessel – Now 29 years old – previously worked on Star Trek: Elite Force II and Counter-Strike: Condition Zero at a time when the conventions of community management were still being defined.

Richard Tyrer

Senior Designer,

Climax Studios

Currently at work on an unannounced triple-A title for a major publisher, Tyrer’s role involves running the gameplay team, encompassing character gameplay design, animations, boss encounters, and liaising with code, level design and art. At 28 years old, over the course of five games he’s seen his position rise from that of a level designer to a senior designer, and has earned the respect of all of his peers, who say he’s destined to be the next Peter Molyneux.

Simon Gibson

Lead Vehicle Artist,

Playground Games

Despite his relative youth, Gibson has already worked at an impressive number of high profile studios, including Eutechnyx, Evolution Studios and Ubisoft Reflections, all in his specialism of vehicle design and production. Credited on Motorstorm: Pacific Rift and Driver: San Francisco among others, the 26-year-old is now at Playground leading the vehicle art team on an unannounced triple-A title, where he has impressed all who work with him.

Michael Barclay


Crytek UK

An Abertay alumni, 26-year-old Barclay joined the industry in 2007, where he immediately made an impression at Free Radical Design. Having since worked on a launch title for Sony’s Move controller at Cohort Studios, and now at Crytek UK, Barclay not only offers impressive design talent, but is devoted to the UK games education system. He has lectured at universities and talked at Dare to be Digital, where he was also a judge.

Mitu Khandaker

Tiniest Shark/University of Portsmouth

The diversity of Khandaker’s gaming projects and skills is remarkable. She is presently working with Martin Hollis to research romance in game design, developing a satirical sci-fi life-sim game with indie veteran Cliff Harris, and doing a PhD looking at ‘novel interaction mechanisms’ in games at the University Of Portsmouth. At 26-years-old, Khandaker also writes, lectures, and runs her own charity helping educate women in Bangladesh.

Peter Bottomley

Senior AI programmer,

Bigbig Studios

Highly regarded amongst his colleagues at SCEE studio Bigbig as an unconventional thinker who isn’t afraid to challenge existing practices if they need improving, 25-year-old Bottomley has established himself as something of a fledgling visionary. Undaunted by tackling the biggest of challenges, he is Bigbig’s resident provider of ‘beautiful and elegant’ solutions and he is considered one of the studio’s most talented members.

Samantha Jane Whale

Marketing and Business Development Executive,

Universally Speaking

25-year-old Whale is one of Universally Speaking’s most hardworking and dedicated employees who has emerged as something of an ambassador for the IT community. Having formerly served as one of the first professional female gamers in the UK, she has been nominated by all those who work with her for being ‘a very creative and intelligent woman’ who is destined to go places.

Craig Laycock

Community Manager,

The Creative Assembly

Since joining The Creative Assembly, 28-year-old Laycock has become a successful and popular community manager, and through his earnest approach, he’s transformed the studio’s communications to swell the ranks of – and build a sterling relationship with – the passionate Total War fanbase. Having become The Creative Assembly’s social networking guru, Laycock has also flown the flag for his employer at events across the globe.

Shams Jorjani


Paradox Interactive

This year Paradox Interactive is on track for a 90 per cent increase in revenues, and Jorjani has played a key part in helping that growth. Having been deeply involved with the discovery, signing and development of Magicka, 28-year-old Jorjani has helped see the game sell over 900,000 copies, establishing himself as one of the outfit’s most talented employees. Already, he is well on track for a glittering career in the industry.

Richard Brooks

Technical Director,

Rodeo Games

Described affectionately by colleagues as an ‘approachable supercomputer’, Brooks cut his teeth on EyeToy projects for Kuju before heading over to Codemasters to help create a brand new game engine. At the age of 27, he co-founded iOS developer, Rodeo Games, and became their technical director. The 28-year-old’s first project in that position attained over 500,000 downloads, a Metacritic score of 86 per cent and two Develop Award nominations.

Alistair Aitcheson

Independent Developer

23-year-old Aitcheson has been running his own one-man studio since graduating from University of Warwick with a first class Master’s in Mathematics, and has been programming games for over ten years. He handles all the programming, artwork and animation for his games, such as Greedy Bankers, and has already become a regular event speaker. One of 2011’s youngest 30 Under 30 members, he capably rivals the careers of those many years his senior.

Jon Georgious

Senior Designer,

Lightning Fish Games

Having only joined Lightning Fish in March this year as a senior designer on miCoach after serving at NaturalMotion, 29-year-old Gorgious has worked extensively across consoles, handhelds and mobile platforms. He has quickly become an extremely valuable member of the design team at Lightning Fish, and has impressed his co-workers to the point that they are confident he will establish himself as an industry benchmark for quality design.

Rolandas Razma



Winner of VentureBeat’s King of Code award for his innovative games, 28-year-old Razma heads up a studio that has produced some 20 apps for iOS and Android since its inception last year. As one of the most successful talents in the blossoming Lithuanian dev scene, he is popular and respected, and has seen several million downloads from his catalogue of releases, making the UD7 CEO one to watch.

Vincenzo Alagna


Lead Developer, Iwi

Highlighted by several nominees as a brilliant developer with both unique vision and a deep knowledge of the industry, 29-year-old Alagna already boasts ten years in the industry. He currently serves as both CEO of YOUOCO, and lead developer for Iwi. His most impressive achievement, however, is perhaps when he managed to secure a publishing deal within ten minutes of beginning a pitch.

Paddy Murphy


Open Emotion Studios

Days away from turning 28, Murphy is both the CEO and lead sound designer at Open Emotion Studios. He has overseen the small studio as it has expanded rapidly, growing from a tiny Flash outfit in 2009 to a ten-person team working on PSPmini and Steam projects. As the studio goes from strength to strength, Murphy’s regard with colleagues and in the industry is becoming increasingly potent.

Zach Sims



Along with co-founder Ryan Bubinski, Sims set up Codeacademy, a free online resource that teaches coding with true grace. Remarkably, Sims is just 21, and his increasingly popular creation is democratising game development to a degree that even Unity doesn’t offer. At 22, Bubinski deserves equal mention, but thanks to our ruthless ‘one entry per studio’ rule, Sims gets to see his name in print this time.

Barry Petrie

Studio Director and Co-founder,

Digital Goldfish

Having co-founded Digital Goldfish, 29-year-old Petrie has served as studio director as the company has become an increasingly prominent player in the mobile gaming sector. Helping attract high profile IPs and brands to a company that made its name with iOS and Flash hit Bloons, Petrie is also part of the reason why Digital Goldfish is one of Scotland’s most well-liked studios.

Leo Brennan

Game Developer,

Bossa Studios

22-year-old Leo Brennan, his Bossa Studios team mates say, is a highly skilled, solution-driven coder with an exceptional eye for detail. He has proved he is the owner of a bright mind and a natural talent for adapting to high-intensity environments, and his ability to identify key areas for innovation and improvement have made him an essential member of the increasingly high profile studio.

Chris Pickford



Already a seasoned veteran in the games industry, 28-year-old Jagex producer Pickford started out at Bizarre Creations and his first major job was on Project Gotham Racing, which won countless awards for his team. Blessed with what his nominees call a ‘brilliant refreshing take on the art and psychology of games’, he shines at a studio packed full of youthful development talent.

Khaled Al-Hurby

Lead Designer,

Adamant Studios

A recent graduate from Abertay University’s Game Design and Production Management course, 22-year-old Khaled is the lead designer for Adamant Studios in Dundee, which recently won investment from the Abertay Prototype Fund. Praised for his ‘outstanding vision and great commitment’; he is an individual who those close to him believe will make a huge mark on the games industry.

This year’s 30 Under 30 saw more nominations than ever before, meaning a record number of no less worthy youngsters didn’t get a spot in the final 30. Some of those were:

Will Luton, Mobile Pie, Tom Jubert, freelance writer, Ryan Bubinski, Code Academy, Nick Cooper, Jagex, Antoine Pastor, Somethin’ Else, Billy Wimblett, Lionhead, Jeff Tanton, Mediatonic, Ben Anderton, Ubisoft Reflections, Olivier Tardy, Ubisoft Reflections, Roman Margold, Ubisoft Reflections, Will Campbell, Ubisoft Reflections, Sean Crooks, Ubisoft Reflections, Tom Boggis, Ubisoft Reflections, Ted Timmins, Lionhead, Thomas Pollock, Digital Adaptations, Michelle Ducker, Media Molecule, Chris Cummings, Media Molecule, and the ranks of Splash Damage’s army of youthful talent: Adam Baines, Andrew Quinn, Andrew Charles, Angelo Dal Pra, Arne-Olav Hallingstad, Ben Davis, Charles Andrew, Nelson, Dave Edwards, David Johnston, Eoin O’Grady, Gaeton Montaudouin, Georgi Simeonov, Gordon Biggans, Hussein Elgridly, Jamie Manson, Jeremy Hay, Joe Gibson, Jonathan Fletcher, Laurens Corjin, Leanne Cox, Mark McDonagh, Mark McLeod, Paul Greveson, Philip Barnell, Pierre Tregaro, Robert Macdonald, Romain Toutain, Sean Francis, Simon Price, Stephen Etheridge, Steve Alves, Vincent Joyeau, William Richens.

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