An Introduction to CGP

Welcome to Computer Games Programming at University of Derby.

Tommy Thompson: Programme Leader

Computer Games Programming, referred to as CGP among both staff and students, is one of the biggest and brightest programmes taught within the School of Computing and Mathematics.  I would also argue it is the best programme we provide, but of course being Programme Leader I am somewhat biased!  As the title suggests, the primary focus is learning how to create great games.   While I can condense our remit to that single goal, there is a vast amount of skill and acumen required in order to achieve that.   CGP alongside the Computer Game Modelling and Animation (CGMA) programme provide students with the skills, resources and knowledge they need to create high-quality games, showcase their talents to the games industry and – if they feel like it – publish games and go into business for themselves.

Of course it’s not as straightforward as that; the reality of learning game development is often unrealised in many degrees that focus on the subject.  For many years we have seen computer game degrees emerge from a range of Higher Education insitutions that at best could be considered ‘Game Design & Appreciation‘; they act more to entertain students by discussing titles they have played and then subsequently how to mimic traits of their most beloved games using game creation tools.  At best we may see the use of tools such as GameMaker or DarkBasic in order to foster an understanding of how to approach game development.  Sadly, this is often where a students education ends.  Note that I find tools such as GameMaker an excellent opportunity to allow people to learn how to make games. However, they are ill-fitted to educate a student on how to move towards a career within the industry.

The reality of games development is that – put simply – you need to be a good computer scientist.  You require an understanding of how a computer – be it PC, Mac, smartphone or Games Console – works at low level of execution.  You need to understand how data is managed within these systems and subsequently how to write programs that can be executed upon them.  Learning how to program is arguably the most important thing anyone who aims to work in game development (outside of being an artist of course) must achieve.  All of this requires a base-knowledge in mathematics and logic, from which an ability to program can be built upon.  Ian Livingstone; an industry veteran who – among other things – helped found Eidos Interactive; the publisher of Derby’s own Tomb Raider, has often spoken of how difficult it is to find graduates capable of creating games at a level that is expected within the industry.  Simply put, students require an education that will prepare them for what lies ahead, and most degrees simply do not do that.

Here in the School of Computing & Mathematics, we focus on developing a strong theoretical and practical underpinning in computer science and subsequently show students how this is applied to games.  Our students develop a range of technical expertise in Object-Oriented programming in languages such as C# and Java, and equally a focus on languages such as C and C++ to explore the challenges in optimisation and computer graphics.

I hope that these pages – which are continually updating with new content – give you an insight into the work being conducted here within the programme.  I would encourage any prospective student to take the opportunity to come visit us on one of the many Open Day’s held at the University of Derby.  Furthermore, we also have our own event – the CGP Game Expo – which runs on the 19th of December this year, where our students will be showcasing their talents.  Come down and have a chat with us, we don’t bite (much) and are happy to answer any questions or address concerns you may have.

Tommy