By Evie from Ironeko (design & tech blog).
Abertay’s School of Design and Informatics is no stranger to success. This March, their undergrad games degrees were named best in Europe by internationally renowned Princeton Review – for the sixth year in a row.
But for every institution, this year has been fraught with roadblocks, and Abertay is one of many colleges hosting its 2020 degree show solely online. So right from the off, the experience is not that of a normal exhibition.
UX-wise for instance, the digital tour is a tad tricky to get around.
To find videos and more info on most projects you’ll need to visit the graduate’s personal website and then dig through their projects; and upon clicking ‘view the full project here’ you might only be brought to a Google drive with a zip-folder and a pdf.
One has to wonder how many visitors will commit to sifting through these. However, in some cases the extra info was presented clearly and with care, as with Thomas Redwood’s prize-winning 3D Computer Arts project ‘Interdimensional.’
Onto the content itself, there are some skillfully crafted projects to enjoy, especially from the Computer Arts course. Angela Zawitaj’s beautifully made concept art for modern stop-motion puppets, for example, brings a smile to the face – which is a success in any art form. She tells a story through her character design and displays a great deal of talent.
Kallum George too (of Game Design and Production), showcases an impressive level of skill in his design work. Interestingly George has made some mods for The Elder Scrolls V in the past and you can definitely see the game’s influence in his creations.
I messaged George to see if he made the assets himself and am awaiting a response, but he has a good eye regardless.
The most eye-catching style here however is probably that of Matthew Jenkins, in his Computer Arts project ‘Welcome to Serenity Bay’. A trip to his website will bring you to a beautiful art book illustrating Matt’s view of the Moray Firth Coastline.
Jenkins’ art is saturated and sharp, looking almost like pixel art. In this case, searching for info outside the degree show page is definitely worth it. From just a short glance at his portfolio, one can bet on him having a bright future in the industry.
Also in Computer Arts, Gemma Ezera’s work shows not only a high level of technical skill but also a commitment to creating mood and emotion through her designs. There is a high level of polish and research evident in her pieces.
And the same could be said for the aforementioned Thomas Redwood. In ‘Interdimensional’ Redwood has created two gameworlds with separate art-styles, connected by a portal. Aside from the impressive art direction and quality of the environments, this work stands out as incredibly polished among the other projects.
Immersive and fun are two words I’d use to describe the more successful projects here. Where the creator has enjoyed themselves, the outcome sticks in the mind of the viewer. Take the Blindside Team’s turn-based VR project for example, where the player leads a small team of humanoid moles into battle. You can tell that the team had fun coming up with the concept and aesthetic, and you have to admire the amount of work that has been put into this project.
In contrast, the games focused more on education did not tend to shine so brightly.
But what about those who have strived to push the boundaries?
One of the more experimental creations on offer comes from the Sound and Music for Games Programme in Alasdair Marnoch’s prize-winning FHEAR, an audio-only horror-survival game. While not a completely novel idea, it’s an incredibly ambitious task, and Marnoch’s commitment to spinning a narrative within this framework (and enticing the viewer’s individual imagination to flesh-out that narrative) is commendable.
Jonathan Duncanson from Computer Games Technology shows even more ambition in an attempt to create an entirely new programming language.
Duncanson’s work has won him a prize from Outplay Academy, and his desire to revolutionise the status-quo makes him one to watch. However, it is hard to tell how much the language would optimise one’s coding, as we’re only given a few terminal windows and the creator’s claims to attest to its efficacy.
Ultimately, if you are willing to set aside some extra time to sift through the site and its external links, the 2020 Abertay Digital Graduate Show is definitely worth a visit. Computer Arts presented the strongest set of completed projects, and there are definitely a few creators here to watch out for in the future.
I for one can’t wait to see what Angela Zawitaj and Matthew Jenkins do next, and must commend Abertay University as a whole for bringing their 2020 degree show to us despite current hardships. Bravo.