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How it started vs. How it’s going: Chloe Gooda, BSc Games Development

Have you ever looked at an artist’s work and thought that they must have always been that good and sure of what they’re doing? It’s easy to look at a piece of creative and not understand the development that leads up to the finished product. How it started vs. How it’s going aims to highlight what goes on in the background of each creative project, as well as comparing the artist’s personal growth over time. In this episode we speak to BSc (Hons) Games Development student Chloe Gooda, and look at the development of her work from Year 1 to Year 3.  Chloe shares her journey from computer science to games development, and tells us how her way of working has developed.

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Why did you decide to study BSc Games Development?

My interest in a career in games development began at A-Levels, where I made a game for my Computer Science coursework. When choosing my degree, I originally wanted to keep my options open and continue with Computer Science to develop my programming skills; I would apply this to games after graduation.

Because of this, I attended NUA’s open day without much thought. However, after seeing how much the artistic side of games is integrated into the course, I knew I had to study here. I draw as a hobby and enjoy the visual side of games as much as behind-the-scenes development, so this course was the perfect way to pursue both my creative passions and academic aspirations.

How would you describe your way of working, then and now?

I’ve always taken detailed notes and documented work well, which was useful in first year (we had to keep thorough development logs). To this day, I still jot down daily progress notes – this helps me to evaluate both the outcome of the project as well as my working style.

However, I struggled with time management, which finally caught up with me when writing my dissertation. I now make Gantt charts and GDDs before development to estimate timeframes of work. I also keep a corresponding Trello board, with weekly lists that are updated throughout the project.

I always try to understand the mathematics of code, but now I integrate more academic sources into my research to achieve this.

How it started- Chloe’s work in Year 1:

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How has studying games development at NUA helped develop your skills?

NUA provides a unique opportunity for BSc Games Development students, as we can easily collaborate with artists across different courses. This has given me insight into the work style of a small indie studio, especially since using industry-standard programs and tools. For example, I consistently work in Unreal Engine, and understand the basics of Blender for 3D modelling.

Studying at NUA has allowed me to use game-specific programming in context since day 1. Had I studied Computer Science elsewhere, I would have had to do this in my own time. I’m now familiar with specific algorithms that I may not have otherwise known to use, and I’m more confident in my skills as a result.

What have you found out about yourself as a games developer since studying here?

Before university, I didn’t think I was particularly detail-oriented. I’ve since discovered an interest in technical art and VFX – I researched and developed shaders for my dissertation, and I continued to create dynamic materials and particle systems throughout third year. Now, I don’t consider a project truly finished until it has these extra details – they make such a difference!

I originally wanted to develop games that other people had designed. I didn’t think I was imaginative enough to come up with concepts on my own, but I’ve enjoyed bouncing ideas off other people and making them a reality. I also found out that I’m quite versatile. Covering for other people forced me to develop areas of the game I had less experience with. Although challenging, I was able to apply my skills to different focuses well.

How it’s going- Chloe’s work in Year 3 as she prepares to graduate:

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Are there any games or studios you look to for inspiration?

One of the main reasons I play games is for relaxation and escapism. Animal Crossing: New Horizons provided this for many when it was released at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which reminded me of how powerful games can be. Games are also a great interactive storytelling medium. Some games, such as Professor Layton and Ace Attorney, have stuck with me as I’ve got older because of their multi-dimensional characters.

I’d love to make games like these franchises, either to convey meaningful messages using well-written characters – especially those who are often misrepresented or barely seen in media – or something that allows you to unwind and take some time for yourself.

What do you love the most about games development?

Like most creative subjects, you end up with a physical outcome – and although artists provide the visuals for the game, you bring it to life. Playing through your finished game to see how everything came together is really rewarding.

It’s also fun to pick up on game development techniques in published games. I’ve found this satisfaction especially true for visual effects. Now when I play games, I notice the dust particles and sparkles more than I did before.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking of studying games development but might not feel too confident in their skill level?

This is something I really relate to and have (mostly!) managed to overcome. I remind myself that I’m at university to learn and improve. My only game project prior to NUA was quite self-driven, and I know people who started the course with no coding experience – the course starts by getting everyone up to the same standard. And, if you get stuck, it’s okay to ask for help! Even discussing the problem with someone can lead to a breakthrough, as it provides a new perspective.

I still wouldn’t say I’m great at coding, because I struggle with syntax for translating algorithms to code. But I try not compare my work to anyone else; instead, I look at my personal growth and identify where I have improved.

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