Computer Games Art BA (Hons)

Full-time undergraduate (3 years)

Cambridge

September 2016

code: W281

The entry requirements below are for students starting in September 2016.

Overview

Develop art skills relevant to the fast-moving computer games industry on modules designed with the help of key professionals. Learn how you can make an impact in games creation using visual research, creative experimentation and technical development, by working with programmers, audio technicians and musicians.

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Full description

Careers

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The skills and knowledge you’ll learn on our Computer Games Art course will help you get a career in the gaming industry, but are also in demand across other sectors including film and television production, marketing, advertising, web design, production and broadcast media.

The management skills you’ll acquire can be transferred to project management roles in many different industries.

Our industry partners not only provide expert speakers for the course – they also get involved with our annual festival Brains Eden, co-organised by local gaming network Games Eden. This four-day event includes:

  • a 48-hour games Jam, in which teams of students and major studio reps compete to create a  game
  • a series of talks that bring together the education and game development communities
  • exhibitions of student and industry work
  • a Careers Clinic
  • an awards event for teams taking part (games students from Sweden, France, Spain, Holland and Belgium and the UK).

ARM, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, Frontier and Just Flight have recently offered internships and work opportunities to our students.


Our Creative Front Cambridgeshire network runs a series of Creative Front Futures events, which will give you a taste of your chosen industry.

Anglia Ruskin University is a member of TIGA, the non-profit trade association that represents the UK's gaming industry.

Modules & assessment

Year one, core modules

  • Introduction to Computer Games Arts
    This module will introduce you to the central skills and processes of a computer games artist, where creative vision and digital technology meet. You'll need to balance technical concerns with an appreciation of what makes moving and static images work. By setting a series of challenging briefs, the module will develop your awareness and working knowledge of how 2D and 3D images are constructed and read. With each brief you'll encounter exercises and seminars relating to the technologies and formats you are using. For instance, as you build models you will learn about 3D modelling in the light of other artists' interpretations of space, composition and use of colour. In short, as your digital 3D pieces grow, you will be called on to problem-solve by turning not only to technological fixes but also to creative interpretations of art techniques.
  • Concept Art and Drawing for Computer Games
    On this broad creative drawing module, you'll explore life drawing, location drawing, experimental mark-making, storyboarding and the development of concept art for computer games. As well as being introduced to the formal aspects of drawing, you'll develop an understanding of the relevance of traditional media and observational techniques in relation to computer games arts. Through experimentation with varied approaches to mark-making and focused ways of image creation, you'll explore how drawing and concept art can enhance and inform your project work in digital media. You'll attend sessions at the Cambridge School of Art, on location at museums and at a variety of destinations of visual interest, including a series of workshop projects in which you'll explore observational drawing, drawing techniques and concept art development. These will allow you to investigate composition, form, light, texture and colour.
  • Computer Games Art
    This module will continue to develop your awareness and working knowledge of how images are constructed and read by setting a series of challenging projects that will place more emphasis on the moving image and interactive computer-generated environments. Progressing on from 'Introduction to Computer Games Arts', your digital work will become more refined, with a stronger emphasis and expectation placed on accuracy of expression. With each brief, you'll encounter exercises and seminars relating to the technologies and formats you are using. For instance, as you build models you will learn about 3D modelling in the light of other artists' interpretations of space, drawing and use of colour. You'll work both individually and in groups on project briefs that will raise challenges occurring in computer games development. You'll need to problem-solve technological issues and also develop creative responses and interpretations in your project work.
  • Digital Compositing
    On this module, you'll be introduced to what could be described as Vertical Editing - the layering and manipulation of images to create a unified final seamless image, a technique that originates from the early days of film. You'll discover techniques that will allow you to select and layer parts of disparate images in order to create new scenes and new spaces. Compositors take 3D images, text, bitmap and vector files and, in many cases, use their skill to give a uniform look, so it might be imagined that all these disparate elements have always existed together. If you've seen a Hollywood Blockbuster movie you've seen the compositor at work, but more often than not, this work is invisible. Wire removal, colour correction, keying and de-graining are skills you will not notice if the compositor has been successful. You'll explore basic compositing and, as you create new composites, you'll use creative judgement to determine if these new images are believable, and what aesthetic conventions are supporting them.

Year one, optional modules

  • Contextual Studies
    This module will introduce you to valuable skills that you’ll use throughout the rest of your course. You'll cover how to research, analyse and write about art and design, and gain an overview of some of the major developments in art and design relevant to your specific course, considering issues of both industry practice and critical theory in relation to the social, cultural and intellectual climate of their times. The module may draw on examples from graphic design, interior design, fashion, industrial design, architecture, product design, media communications and fine art, but is taught with a particular emphasis on your own discipline. A constant question for us therefore concerns the possible definitions of 'design' itself. As well as this subject-specific content, the module also includes a series of workshops and exercises which will introduce you to the skills of library research, critical analysis of visual imagery, essay writing and academic referencing, providing a foundation for your later studies. For your assessment, you will demonstrate these skills by submitting an essay on a thematic subject.
  • Computer and Video Games Studies
    This module will introduce you to key theories and debates in the academic study of computer and video games. Starting from the history of the digital game and its relationship with older cultural forms, you'll learn about the key texts and arguments - including the foundational opposition between formal/rule-based and aesthetic/narrative approaches - for analysing computer and video games as cultural forms. You'll discover a range of approaches for examining computer and video games as material objects, including historical and archaeological approaches to gaming technology, and social and economic approaches to the distribution and consumption of games. Drawing on a range of work from computer and video game studies, you'll explore the concept of games as narrative forms, and contrast this with the study of graphics-led digital games. You'll analyse the practice of studying games as rule-systems or structures. You'll examine the relationship between digital games and other media (film, animation and television), allowing you to discuss the differences and similarities between active and passive media through the way in which space is configured in each form. You'll be assessed through a mid-semester assignment and an end-of-module essay.
  • English for Study 1 & 2
    You'll focus on the advanced writing and organisational skills necessary for essays and other written assignments, including planning, paragraphing, and developing an argument. Your studies will have a particular emphasis on the importance of good academic practice, especially accurate referencing and the use of bibliographies. You'll also practise extracting key points from a variety of spoken or written texts and writing summaries, and develop your discussion skills so as to contribute confidently to seminars and tutorials. You'll also receive guidance about independent learning using the wide range of resources available in our University Library and Language Centre. These two modules are worth 15 credits each.

Year two, core modules

  • Character Rigging and Animation
    One of the challenges in successful 3D animation is character rigging: connecting the skin or surface of a character to the adjustable skeleton, which deforms that skin. In this module you need to communicate your ideas on how humans and creatures move, build skeletal rigs and create an animation. You need to show that the rig fulfils the technical demands an animator may place on it, and demonstrate an understanding of principles of 3D animation. The rigs you create should aim to be intuitively controllable. In this module you bind skeletons to meshes - with realistic and seamless deformation. You'll test and report on your rig and those of your team, working in groups and sharing skills where necessary. You’ll work with scripting. This module emphasises skeletal rigging rather than facial rigging. While it's possible to concentrate on facial set-ups, you first need to demonstrate you're adept at full character rigging. As part of this module, you may also collaborate with 3D artists to use some of their modules, with the module leader as arbiter.
  • Computer Games Development
    The computer game and visual effects industries involve a high level of collaboration across a range of disciplines. In this module you'll look at industry approaches to computer games development through team participation to create art assets for an interactive video game. You'll adopt industry production methods to simulate business conditions that test organisational, collaborative and creative skills. You'll be supplied with a game design brief, occasionally by an industry professional, which you'll discuss and develop with your team. Team roles and responsibilities will be assigned, and you'll maintain a personal project blog during the module to map your progress. The module introduces project management skills and commercial factors that are relevant to development teams in both the computer games and visual effects industries. The development pipeline for the project will be mapped out and you will be advised on best practice for structuring and developing the game set in the brief. Source control software is used to manage assets for the game project and regular development meetings track project progress.
  • Advanced Computer Games Art
    This module offers you a sustained workshop-based opportunity to synthesise and develop digital computer graphic skills beyond those learned at Level 4. Sculptural modelling technology will be combined with techniques that will build on your earlier modelling work. You'll explore how to add further control in developing your artwork through intervention with scripts beyond the standard interface, and encouraged to creatively use forces, dynamics and particles in your computer graphic work. Further rendering and lighting techniques will expand the expressive range of your artwork. This module will build up your technical and artistic knowledge in the following areas: sculptural modelling; scripting; dynamics and particles; advanced rendering and lighting.
  • Digital Practice
    On this module you will focus on developing your own preferred area of digital practice. This could, for example, be character animation, environment modelling, concept artwork or visual effects. Your personal research will feed into and expand your work, through an investigation of artists, theory and relevant computer graphic technical processes. Your research and development will be well documented and show the link between the broader professional context and your own work. You will contribute to class critiques and present your work in progress to the group, attending tutorials, industry lectures, studio discussions and workshops to support your development. By the end of the module, you will have developed a deeper understanding of your area of interest and be able to analyse its relevance to the broader context of the subject area. You will also have created an innovative portfolio of digital work that builds on your own self-directed research and experimentation.
  • Debates and Practices
    On this module, you'll explore the links between critical studies and practice, enriching your knowledge and developing your articulacy about your specialism, as well as drawing on wider perspectives in relation to your own work. You will focus particularly on debates about contemporary practice. Your studies will be seminar-based and, where appropriate and possible, held in the studio. In discussions, you'll engage with theory and history alongside your own developing ideas about contemporary production, with an open agenda that will respond to current events, work and interests.

Year two, optional modules

  • Contemporary Film and Video
    On this module you'll look at contemporary film and video, starting with Hollywood conventions and ending with Art Installation Video displayed in galleries. You'll discuss how established genres are used and changed; how we compare mainstream Hollywood approaches to art house and independent production; how ethnic, gender, national identities may be represented; and how literature or history may be translated into film. You'll also consider how 'documentary' approaches explore different 'realisms' and how there may be tension between the direction, production and promotion of films. You'll also discuss audience reception of film theatre, through DVD and in the gallery.
  • Writing for Images
    This module will allow you to explore the relationships between texts and images through your own creative practice. In the contemporary world of art and design, the practitioner is often called upon to accompany images with texts written in a variety of voices. This module will prepare you for these professional expectations, as well as informing and complementing your work in studio specialisms, such as illustration, photographic and digital media, video, animation and fine art. The process of writing for images will be addressed in a series of seminars and writing workshops led by a professional author. You will also have the opportunity to combine your writing with moving image, and to use short films - both live action and animation - as a starting point for your writing. Your assessment will centre on a project that combines text and image, as well as a selection from the pieces of written work produced during the module. Please note that this module is intended to develop your skills in creative writing, not a study skills module to improve basic written and spoken English.
  • Design for the Screen
    You’ll determine how designers collaborate with directors, cinematographers and costume designers to visually portray character, period, place, mood and quality in order to support and develop visual storytelling for the screen. You'll also consider the responsibilities of different roles in pre-production and look at how designers communicate and document collaborative decisions, how they get information to set, and the chain of communication through the art department. During the module, you’ll give presentations, watch and discuss selected screenings covering the material, and practice using the elements of mise-en-scène for a selected script. You’ll also examine different sorts of design typologies that will assist in your visual decisions and, ultimately, your collaborations with key creative members of screen production. At the end of the module, you’ll undertake the breakdown of a script to identify design potential, manipulating the elements of design (colour, texture, scale, lens and stock choices) and the languages of genre.
  • Business for the Creative Arts
    This module will introduce you to the practical tools needed to set yourself up in business in the creative arts, as a company, a partnership or a freelancer. You'll explore a sector of the creative industries, identifying potential opportunities within it and producing a basic business plan. Your emphasis will be on self-reflection, innovative thinking and communication skills, while the subjects that you'll cover include: the creative industries; developing and analysing a business idea; types of business model; assessing your market; ideas behind marketing; basic accounts; tax and legal issues; and planning for start-up. You'll be asked to translate these into practice by applying them to your own ideas, which will then become part of your own business plan.
  • Anglia Language Programme
    The Anglia Language Programme allows you to study a foreign language as part of your course. You'll take one language module in the second semester of your first year in order to experience the learning of a new language. You must select a language you've never learnt before from the following: Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.

Year three, core modules

  • Major Project
    The individual Major Project will allow you to undertake a substantial piece of individual research, focused on a topic relevant to your specific course. Your topic will be assessed for suitability to ensure sufficient academic challenge and satisfactory supervision by an academic member of staff. The project will require you to identify/formulate problems and issues, conduct research, evaluate information, process data, and critically appraise and present your findings/creative work. You should arrange and attend regular meetings with your project supervisor, to ensure that your project is closely monitored and steered in the right direction.
  • Research Project
    The Research Project will foster your independent study with the guidance of a tutor. You'll devise your own project which will reflect on/co-ordinate with/enhance your own studio work and interests, encouraging your self-reflexivity and critical distance. Seminars will give you a forum to learn from each other's research. You will also be supported by individual tutorials with a member of staff. The Research Project may include a variety of relevant topics, including reporting on your own work experience. You can illustrate it with photographs, drawings or video, discussing your approach with your assigned tutor.
  • Specialised Practice in Computer Games
    This module will allow you to further extend your chosen area of interest, building on the work you developed at Level 5. You'll reflect on your existing work, and research and clarify your intentions, to engage in a sustained and focused period of creativity. You'll consider the professional requirements of the subject specialism and identify practitioners relevant to your work, to create a new body of work that reflects an appropriate awareness of your discipline's context for Level 6 study. You'll need to manage your time efficiently, consider the value of teamwork against individual endeavour and ensure that any new work is achievable within the timeframe. At the start, you'll write up a Learning Agreement to be discussed and agreed with your Course Tutor. This short document should clarify and aid your programme of work at Level 6. You'll be assessed through your portfolio of completed digital work, together with your development work and research. Your portfolio will also contain the final element of Personal Development Planning.

Assessment

You’ll show your progress through a combination of written and practical work.

Where you'll study

Your department and faculty

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Cambridge School of Art has been inspiring creativity since 1858 when it was opened by John Ruskin.

Engaging with current debates surrounding contemporary practice and with the state-of-the-art facilities, Cambridge School of Art houses light, bright studios, industry-standard film and photographic facilities, and 150-year-old printing presses alongside dedicated Apple Mac suites. Our digital art gallery, the Ruskin Gallery, exhibits both traditional shows and multimedia presentations, from national and international touring exhibitions and our own students.

We are the only university in Cambridge offering art and design courses at higher education level. A tight-knit community of artists, academics and over 900 students, we collaborate across our University, the creative industries, and other sectors. Cambridge is a centre for employment in the creative industries and there are rich opportunities for collaboration with the city’s entertainment, technological, scientific, arts and heritage industries.

Our graduates have a history of winning national and international awards and an excellent employment record. They include Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett and Dave Gilmour, Spitting Image creators Peter Fluck and Roger Law, and illustrator Ronald Searle, the creator of St Trinian's.

We’re part of the Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences, a hub of creative and cultural innovation whose groundbreaking research has real social impact.

Where can I study?

Cambridge
Lord Ashcroft Building on our Cambridge campus

Our campus is close to the centre of Cambridge, often described as the perfect student city.

Explore our Cambridge campus

Your course will have a new home in Compass House, which will extend our campus along East Road. You’ll have the latest technology at your fingertips and be able to collaborate with other students on innovative projects to hone your skills.

Facilities

Your learning will take place on a dedicated suite of high-end PCs with graphics tablets, all running top of the range 3D modelling, animation and compositing software such as Maya, Motion Builder, 3DS Max, After Effects, Mudbox, ZBrush, and Unity 3D.

You’ll also have access to our motion capture equipment and an arsenal of HD cameras and Digital SLRs (for HDRI capture). All your work will be supported by our dedicated Computer Graphics Technical Officer.


Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students, 2015/16 (per year)

£9,000

International students, 2015/16 (per year)

£10,800

UK & EU students, 2016/17 (per year)

£9,000

International students, 2016/17 (per year)

£11,500

Additional costs

Estimated costs of materials across the three years is £500

How do I pay my fees?

Tuition fee loan

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Most English undergraduates take out a tuition fee loan with Student Finance England. The fees are then paid directly to us. The amount you repay each month is linked to your salary and repayments start in April after you graduate.

How to apply for a tuition fee loan

Paying upfront

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If you choose not to take out a loan you can pay your fees directly to us. There are two ways to do this: either pay in full, or through a three- or six-month instalment plan starting at registration.

How to pay your fees directly

International students

You must pay your fees up-front, in full or in instalments. You will also be asked for a deposit or sponsorship letter for undergraduate courses. Details will be in your offer letter.

Paying your fees
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Funding for UK & EU students

We offer most new undergraduate students funding to support their studies and university life. There’s also finance available for specific groups of students.

Grants and scholarships are available for:

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Funding for international students

We've a number of scholarships, as well as some fee discounts for early payment.

Entry requirements

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Entry requirements are not currently available, please try again later.

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Portfolio requirements

Your portfolio should: 

  • be a visual portfolio
  • demonstrate your drawing skills
  • include concept drawings and personal sketchbooks.

It would also be useful, although not essential, for you to include the following: 

  • life drawing
  • animations or films that you have produced (computer generated or stop motion)
  • story boards or other ways of visually representing movement
  • renders of 3D models and environments
  • work that creates atmosphere and mood through lighting.

If you’re invited to interview, we’ll send you a letter with more information about our portfolio requirements.

If you’re an international applicant, please host your portfolio online if possible and let us know the URL, or email it to us as a PDF. We’ll also accept CDs or hardcopy sent by post to our International Admissions Office, but please note that these will not be returned to you.

For more information, please download our digital portfolio pack.

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Important additional notes

Our published entry requirements are a guide only and our decision will be based on your overall suitability for the course as well as whether you meet the minimum entry requirements. Other equivalent qualifications may be accepted for entry to this course, please email answers@anglia.ac.uk for further information.

All tariff points must come from A levels. Points from AS levels cannot be counted towards the total tariff points required for entry to this course.

Entry requirements are for September 2016 entry. Entry requirements for other intakes may differ.

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International students

We welcome applications from international and EU students, and accept a range of international qualifications.

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English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you'll need to make sure you meet our English language requirements for undergraduate courses.

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Improving your English language skills

If you don't meet our English language requirements, we offer a range of courses which could help you achieve the level required for entry onto a degree course.

We also provide our own English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT) in the UK and overseas. To find out if we are planning to hold an ELPT in your country, contact our country managers.

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Get more information

UK & EU applicants

01245 68 68 68

Enquire online

International applicants

+44 1245 68 68 68

Enquire online