Our annual list of game development's rising stars

The fifth annual 30 Under 30

Develop’s annual talent spotlight has returned to shine a light on the young talent of today; those people on the frontlines of development who are shaping the games industry of tomorrow.

2012’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

Mary Casey

Production Director, Mediatonic

Twenty-nine-year-old Casey joined Mind Candy in 2011 as a producer for new IP. During her time at Mind Candy she impressed her colleagues in overseeing production of the record-breaking, BAFTA-nominated Moshling Zoo game for Nintendo DS. Having joined Mediatonic, Casey now manages the development of all of the studio’s many titles, and mentors the production team.

Casey previously worked in triple-A production at both Activistion and Disney, contributing to Pure and acclaimed racer Blur. Casey is seen by her team as an inspiration to those considering a production career.

Daniel Hall

Gameplay Engineer, Rare

Hall, just 24, came to Rare from The Game Assembly, on a year-long, end-of-course internship. He arrived just as his new employer was entering the final leg of Kinect Sports: Season Two, and proved an immediate asset and a darling of Rare’s designers.

Praised for the ease with which he assumed responsibility with confidence in each area he was moved to, as Hall’s internship ended, he took a contract position and then a full time role at Rare. Hall has received outstanding feedback from peers and is keen to learn about all aspects of game engineering.

Jamie Stowe

Level and Mission Design Director, Ubisoft Singapore

Charged with overseeing all level design content on Assassin’s Creed III at Ubisoft’s Singapore studio, 28-year-old Stowe mentored and managed 15 designers while he served as level director, making a spectacular impact at his employer.

His hands on approach saw him lead development of Assassin’s Creed III’s Naval Battles gameplay and designed the accompanying E3 demo, earing a great deal of respect with his team. Praised by his team mates for both his technical and managerial skills, Ubisoft Singapore is sure Stowe has great things ahead of him.

Katie Goode

Technical Designer, SCE London Studio

In only a few short months, Goode has, say her co-workers, become the go-to staffer for solutions to difficult design problems. And they say that’s no surprise. Goode has established a great reputation for inventiveness, creativity and an often unrivalled technical and creative ability, insist those behind her nomination, who also highlight her knack for finding inexpensive solutions to expensive problems. An avid gaming collector with a background in physics,
25-year-old Goode is famed for getting the job done no matter what the challenge.

Conor Crowley

Project Manager, Jagex

Crowley joined Jagex in 2010 from Realtime Worlds, where he’d worked on APB. Since joining Jagex, he has moved up the ranks from QA manager and associate producer through to project manager with impressive speed.

Crowley’s ability to handle multiple projects never ceases to impress his team, and from working on deployment build processes, through to troubleshooting and fixing live issues, and mentoring the graphics team, QA testers and game developers alike, he has a wealth of skills that have, his team says, made the 28-year-old a ‘Jagex legend’.

Benjamin Hill

Creative Director and Co-founder, Whitepaper Games

Within just a year, 26-year-old Hill has achieved substantial status in the games industry as a promising game designer and as an academic game design lecturer.

Co-founding White Paper Games in September 2011, Hill has worked together with his business partner Pete Bottomley and core team of five to get their debut title Ether One off the ground, whilst growing their business and making their name known. Already familiar with a speaker role at conferences, Hill is praised as a focused manager and devotee to forwarding games education.

Matt Allan

Lead Artist, Bossa Studios

Coming from a background in illustration, animation and digital design, 27-year-old Allan joined Bossa Studios in 2010 during the early stages of production on its BAFTA-winning title Monstermind. Allan rapidly rose to the position of lead artist through his combination of strong art skills and an aptitude for style development. His strength lies in his ability to enthuse his team to create high quality work on time.

Jack Lang

Programmer, Futurlab

Beginning his programming career at 18 in 2007, Lang attained a senior level of Flash expertise after just four years. Working on Futurlab’s Velocity as a junior programmer and technical designer, with no prior experience in C, Lang studied his employer’s code base and tools with astounding results. He has now taken programming duties on Futurlab’s next PlayStation Mobile game, having developed a reputation for technical competence.

Terence Burns

Lead Platforms Programmer, Pitbull Studio

Born in 1985, Burns only joined the games industry in 2009, and has already made remarkable progress. His career began with work on Reflections’ Driver. Joining Pitbull Studio at the dawn of 2011, Burns quickly showed his new employer his programming abilities, quickly earning promotion to lead platforms programmer, working on the forthcoming Unreal Engine 4, collaborating closely with Epic Games.

George Eade

Flash and Unity Developer, 4T2

Described by those behind his 30 Under 30 nomination as ‘a marvel of gaming goodness’, at just 23, Eades is a trained mathematician who has already created a number of games at 4T2, quickly producing amazing results with addictive gameplay, and securing his employers highest player return rate in over ten years with client project CBBC’s Sarah Jane Adventures: Academy. Eade’s games have to date received over 30 million game plays.

Joe Dale

Digital Product Manager, nDreams,

At 26, Dale serves as nDreams’ digital product manager, meaning he deftly juggles marketing, PR, data analysis and online community roles. His multi-disciplinary skill set constantly impresses his employer, and his fellow staffers praise his tireless work serving a global community of over a million users. He keeps them happy, answers their questions quickly, and has forged a reputation as a talented community man.

Paul Glover

Programmer, Ubisoft Reflections

Now 27, Glover worked as a mission scripter on Ubisoft Reflections’ Driver: San Francisco; a game critically acclaimed for its interweaving of narrative and gameplay structure. His time at Reflections has given Glover and opportunity to demonstrate an impressive set of programming skills across two internal projects, and now his is a rising star working on Watch Dogs, Ubi’s latest next generation IP, which turned heads back at E3 this year.

Luke Dicken

AI Researcher, University of Strathclyde, and Games Developer, Robot Overlord

With 12 years of AI experience, 28-year-old Dicken is as a PhD researcher in artificial intelligence for games. He has achieved significant regard in that field, which has taken him to numerous conference stages. At the same time he writes prolifically about games and heads up his own indie studio Robot Overlord Games. He also does work-for-hire AI development, co-leads the Scottish chapter of the IGDA and co-organises AltDevConf.

Sophia Coney

Director of Publishing, Lockwood Publishing

While Coney’s title may suggest a role from outside of development, she is greatly involved in her employer’s games. Joining Lockwood as an environment artist in 2008, the 29-year-old is now director of publishing, heading up the senior management team while keeping a hands-on role in the creative process. Coney’s colleagues praise her skills and devotion to encouraging more women to consider a career in games.

Bill Rountree

Co-founder, Too Easy Games

At just 22-years-old, Abertay graduate Rountree has founded his own studio, Too Easy Games, and already attracted work crafting a game for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. In a few short months since graduating, he hired staff, developed a full title, Trap Mansion, and released it to the public. Praised by his nominators for his work ethic and skill level, Rountree is reportedly living proof ‘nice guys can be success stories’.

Mark Backler

Designer, Independent

Former Lionhead designer Backler has conscientiously impressed his colleagues on Fable II, Fable: The Journey and Milo & Kate. Those who put him forward for the 30 Under 30 assert that he is talented, tremendously hard-working and extremely modest. Now an independent working on his own project, Backler also recently emerged victorious after assuming a journalistic role at the inaugural JournoDevSwap (see Develop #133).

Gareth Richards

Senior VFX Artist, Playground Games

Before joining Playground, 28-year-old Richards worked at Bizarre Creations on Blur and James Bond 007: Bloodstone. After Bizarre, he moved to Eurocom to work on the GoldenEye 007 reimaging before joining Playground, building an impressive portfolio with impressive speed. As the sole visual effects artist on Forza Horizon, Richards has been a lynchpin of Playground’s art team, much regarded by his peers.

Andrew Roper

Co-founder, IndieSkies

Still at university, 23-year-old Roper has already helped form start-up, IndieSkies, releasing a number of games, such as COR3 and Kaleidobooth. He is, while finishing his final year, working on two more, and is spoken of very highly by those that have worked with him. A talented tools coder with a flair for experimentation, he is already, despite his brief time in the industry, a well-known member of the UK development sector.

Nat Al-Tahhan

Director, Opposable Games

27-year-old Opposable co-founder Al-Tahhan defines the visual quality and feel of her studio’s output, and was instrumental in creating the world and characters for their first release, Clockwork Racers. She has a history in print and product design, and is a regular on the games jam circuit. Her ‘blisteringly quick’ output has also led to her providing live drawing for meetings and conferences with clients including TED and the Wellcome Trust.

Mark Jawdoszak

MD and Lead Developer, Gaslight Games

First trying development in the late 1980s on a BBC Micro computer, Jawdoszak finally left a career in IT some 20 years later, establishing Gaslight Games in 2008. Originally a mod team, under Jawdoszak’s leadership Gaslight is emerging as a respected indie. 28 years old, Jawdoszak remains lead developer of the outfit, and is fiercely devoted to helping students to find and secure the opportunities in the industry.

Seth Sivak

CEO, Proletariat

At just 28, Sivak already has a career as a lead designer at Zynga Boston behind him, and is now CEO of a new indie studio named Proletariat. Highly regarded as a games designer even as a student, Sivak is also a GDC speaker, award-nominated games designer, and level design tutor at Northeastern University. An advocate of knowledge sharing across the industry, he’s also a popular voice in the games development scene.

John Murphy

Game Designer and Co-founder, Young Horses

Having abandoned plans to become a conservation biologist, 28-year-old Murphy was an IGDA scholar by 2010. After graduating, he formed the indie studio Young Horses, and now works as an on-staff game designer at a middle school called ChicagoQuest, which uses game-like learning and systems thinking to get kids engaged in modern skills. Murphy is a shining example how conventional industry roles are dramatically changing.

Dan Hinkles

CEO, Serious Parody

When Hinkles joined outfit Nobles Casinos he inspired a change in the company’s primary direction from gambling to software and video games development. He designed the team’s first game, Wrestling Manager on iOS, and helped raise the funds needed. During all this, Dan completely rebranded the company becoming the co-founder of Serious Parody. Not bad for a 27-year-old.

Dan Kenny

Game Director, Eyesodic

Developing games isn’t enough for Dan. He’s also taken it upon himself to champion and promote the Irish games sector. Dan both founded indie Eyesodic games, and runs IrishGameDev Rises, an initiative to highlight the talent and skills of those who may not be able to afford a college education. This has allowed people all over Ireland to have a voice and showcase their skills as games developers

Martin Darby

Chief Creative Officer, Remode

Darby, 27, has always been the driving force behind UK indie Remode. He originally founded the studio in 2007, and has been integral to its growth to over 18 people, and the creation of more than 30 online and mobile games. He is responsible for the creative vision and delivery of all projects, including client work and recently the studio’s own IP, which is currently in development.

Neil Sproston

Senior Game Designer, Evolution Studios

Sproston has worked at Evolution for over two years and has progressed rapidly to becoming a real driving force behind the people he works with. When he first joined Evolution he started as an AI rigger but showed great potential from the very start and always had great ideas. The 27-year-old is diligent, hard-working, creative and very passionate about the games he works on, say his co-workers.

Adam Stone

Game Level Designer, Lionhead

Stone’s colleagues say there is no one at Lionhead Studios who works harder, longer or with more unrelenting enthusiasm than the 25-year-old. Those behind his nomination insist Stone isn’t afraid to speak his mind whenever he sees a way to make the game better, and say this level designer’s positivity, talent and love for his work are a true inspiration for others in the Lionhead team.

Omer Younas

2D UI Artist, Crytek UK

Joining Crytek UK to work on Crysis 2 multiplayer, Younas has grown to become a key member of the Crysis team. Over the last year he’s helped build a dedicated 2D team at the studio, and Younas’ love for UI and graphic design have made him a popular and highly regarded team member. And he’s not afraid to admit he sees himself in a top role in the coming years.

Romana Ramzan

Player Champion, Denki

Responsible for customer development,
29-year-old Ramzan’s background in usability and UX has allowed her to craft a unique role at Denki. Starting out as a GDC volunteer, she also organises the Scottish Game Jam, and has even helped the British Council set-up a game jam in Thailand. She is also authoring a PhD paper on games potential for health; a subject on which she talk about at various conferences.

Tom Knights

Lead Writer, One Thumb Mobile

Tom is the lead writer for the iOS MMO Celtic Heroes for One Thumb Mobile, and it is due to his creative skills that the story of the game is brought to life. Alongside crafting the overall story of the game, Tom is also responsible for all of the quest and NPC dialogue. He has also works with Creative Scotland and Playwright’s Studio Scotland in educating other professionals on writing for video games.


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

Sebastian Long, Player Research; John Chalkley, Jagex; Andrew Eastman, Jagex; Leigh Swift, Pitbull Studio; Jan Willem Nijman, Vlambeer; Rami Ishmael, Vlambeer; Nicolas Godement-Berline, Majaka; Gordon Russell, Ingot Games; Dave Taylor, Too Easy Games; Fredrik Henriksson, Alientrap Games; Andrew Porritt, GoGo-Robot; David Hanson, Pixel Beamv; Alex Wozniak, One Thumb Mobile; Paul Simon, One Thumb Mobile; Lauren McKellan, One Thumb Mobile; Elaine Willdridge, One Thumb Mobile; Max Morrice, One Thumb Mobile; Viktor Sághy, One Thumb Mobile; Tom Knights, One Thumb Mobile; Calum Minuti-Goold, 8dio Productions; Carl Button, Thumbstar; Jakub Pudelek, Plumbee; Gordon McLean, Beartrap Games; Alex Zeitler, Guerilla Tea; Shironne Peiris, Ubisoft Reflections; Jamie Smith, Ubisoft Reflections; Kevin Williams, Ubisoft Reflections; Michael Mackie, Ubisoft Reflections; Stuart Scott, Ubisoft Reflections; Tim Kirk, Ubisoft Reflections; Richard Allen, Ubisoft Reflections; Richard Carrillo, Ubisoft Toronto; Mazen Sukkar, Freelance Game Designer; Navid Khavari, Ubisoft Toronto; Laurent Malville, Ubisoft Toronto; Ben Brooks, Lionhead­.

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