Best place in SA to study game design

edited in General
Hey guys. Some of you might know my story but I got a bursary to study computer engineering in the US. I've thought long and hard about this and decided that it's not for me and I've decided to come back to SA (you might think I'm crazy; Past me would think I'm also crazy). Anyways, I've learnt a lot about the fact that you should really do what makes you happy in life and I've decided I want to study game design.

Do you guys have any tips on what/where to study? I've heard a lot of good things about UCT's course but I'd prefer not to relocate (from PTA) unless it's really worth it. Something that I've noticed (please correct me if I'm wrong) is that a lot of the private universities' game design courses focus more on the art than the programming. I'm more technically minded (but still very creative) so I'd prefer a course with more of a focus on programming (and the other non-art aspects like game mechanics and level design). Wit's course (BEngSc Digital Arts) also looks really good and it seems to be exactly what I'm going for so I'll probably do that but I'm not a fan of the 1 hour commute times.

Any suggestions/input you guys have would be appreciated

Comments

  • The Wits course (as far as I am aware) has produced the most alumni who have gone into game development, certainly in the last couple years. The Wits faculty interacts regularly with the South African game industry, and we've had several Wits students intern at our studio (and currently employ one of the graduates). We have been impressed by the course and the students.

    We also employ two programmers who graduated from the UCT computer science course (a few years back). As I understand it UCT has a really excellent computer science course, but the game related parts of it are not focused at all on the creative aspects of game development (it's a very technically challenging course).

    I know Vega in Cape Town is starting a game development course, and I believe they have something in JHB. I don't think they've produced any graduates yet, but they have been interacting with the industry. I have no idea where in JHB Vega would be located.
    Thanked by 2AngryMoose mattbenic
  • Thanks a lot for the input. When you mentioned being impressed by the Wits students are you specifically referring to the BEngSc Digital Arts degree or both of their degrees in general?
  • My understanding about the Wits degrees, is that the game design module is available from two degrees, one of engineering and one of arts. I believe there's a whole lot of overlap in the course, though someone like @Bensonance would be able to fill you in better. But in general the game design course at Wits has impressed us (I don't know if one half is better than the other, but we've had interns from both sides and they've all seemed to be getting a good education).
    Thanked by 1mattbenic
  • So the course is changing a lot all the time, and quite significantly. So my advice might be a bit out of date.

    The engineering side of the course seems alright, and gives you some low-level understanding of programming. You don't do anything more game-specific than the art side though. Plus, you spend so much time just trying to pass those damn hard engineering subjects. They're so hard you don't really have time to make games on the side, or spend a lot of time on your assigned projects.

    Even if you're technically-minded, I would probably recommend going with the arts side of things. You'll get a broad set of General skills, and the non-game specific courses you do can still help you a lot with games. Plus, you technically get the same amount of game-specific programming eduction (the engineers just get general stuff). Plus you'll have more time on the side to make your assigned projects better, and study technical stuff you're interested in.

    The Wits programme will have you making the most games of all the courses in SA during the four years. Plus, you'll have a general background in arts and writing.

    Generally, I think no course in South Africa is good enough for you to just let the curriculum be taught to you. There are holes in what is and can be taught to you, so you'll definitely need to be finding and researching stuff yourself.

    The most valuable part of the Wits course is that it's a community of people regularly making games. It's not high-quality or high-motivation, but it's rare to have that concentration of people your age and demographic doing the same thing as you. Helps you a lot

    Thanked by 2Elyaradine pieter


  • Generally, I think no course in South Africa is good enough for you to just let the curriculum be taught to you. There are holes in what is and can be taught to you, so you'll definitely need to be finding and researching stuff yourself.

    The most valuable part of the Wits course is that it's a community of people regularly making games. It's not high-quality or high-motivation, but it's rare to have that concentration of people your age and demographic doing the same thing as you. Helps you a lot

    If you want to make games, make games ;)

    But yeah, Wits has a really strong reputation and they've been outputting solid candidates for a number of years already. UCT produces really strong programmers (as Evan mentioned - they don't focus much on games) and Vega is only in its first year of the roll out of their game dev degree programme.

    But, ultimately, it really will be about what you put into any programme you join. You could join UCT but still not be a strong candidate in the end if you don't create a portfolio or practice your skills.
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    FWIW, there is some more discussion here that might have something interesting for you @charly.
  • For game programming, not game design, I suggest that you take a general computer science course and teach yourself game programming on the side. CS degree will give you strong foundation in logic, design patterns, algorithms, functional math, continuous math, shader programming, etc... But that is only for game programming, not game design. For game design I suggest the following book: The Art of game design-book of lenses, by Jesse Schell.
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    I'd just like to echo @EvanGreenwood's praise of the Wits course graduates. We've had employees from both tracks (art and engineering) and were very happy with both of them. We'd still have one from each track if Evan hadn't stolen our artist ;)

    I can't comment on the design aspect, but from both an art and programming point of view, these grads have been great. They're well rounded and extremely flexible and a pleasure to work with, soaking up new ideas and new tech like sponges :)

    So yeah, it looks like something you can commit to, and you want a qualification that prepares you well for the industry and leaves the door open for other opportunities, it seems you can't go wrong with Wits.
    Thanked by 2dammit EvanGreenwood
  • I am one of the students studying at Vega JHB enrolled in their Game design course, so I will tell you about what I have experienced so far, the game design aspects of the course is a decent split between art and technical details, the lecturers for both sides are competent and professional, they are willing to help and provide reliable information and advice to specifically cater to you that being said there are caveats to it, as a part of Vegas identity as a school of brand and communication you will have to attend lectures on subjects such as Brand and Marketing and Critical thinking, you will be expected to write exams and do reports for these subjects as well, I know there are a few students who dislike this as they aren't directly related to game design, however they do have their roles, both subjects will most likely be valuable should you choose to go indie.
    So far the pace of work has been steady but nothing too serious, I don't know if that will change with next years group of first years.
    On a final note be mindful that what you learn at Vega are components and building blocks, it is up to you to put these together into a game.
    If you would like to know any specifics feel free to ask me bear in mind I have little to no knowledge as to what will be covered in the later years, however I do know that the lecturers know, I believe they prowl these very forums as well, if you are interested I can try find their usernames so you can badger them for info.
    Anyway I wish you the best of luck and I hope you find a course suited to you.
    Thanked by 1EvanGreenwood
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    @NoSpoons: I'd be keen to hear who the lecturers are, see what games they've worked on, find out what they plan to teach and why they think that the syllabus they've put together is the right way to go.
  • @Elyaradine I'll attempt to refer one or both of them to this post :P
  • @NoSpoons: I'd be keen to hear who the lecturers are, see what games they've worked on, find out what they plan to teach and why they think that the syllabus they've put together is the right way to go.
    I'm Bob. One of the lecturers for the vega game design degree (Its a Bachelor of Computing and Information Sciences in Game Design). From my own background, I come from a mostly broadcast (advertising) background with having spent large quantities of my personal time developing art assets for Mods (discovery mod for freelancer probably being the best known one).

    Our course as mentioned earlier has a strong brand and marketing spin on it as well as gamification. It's a 3 year degree which covers both Programming (C# and unity) and the art stream (Both 2D and 3D). The course is very intense and frankly @NoSpoons doesn't know what's coming.

    To give you an idea of what I mean about gamification. In second year students get a subject called "Brand Challenge" where a real client presents a real brief and game design students will have to work in teams with brand strategists, copy writers, graphic designers, multimedia, photography to try solve these challenges.

    Our projects are team based as often as we can have them so that students who lean more toward arts/programming can bring that skillset to the team.

    The course only began this year so we do not yet have any graduates.

    As for why we've structured the course this way. We want students to be making games as soon as possible, game jams will become compulsory for students from second year onwards to create as large a portfolio as possible.
    So while our teaching is very game design specific, the degree is quite broad giving the largest variety of career options available.

    As for why our course (I'm speaking from the art stream here) is the way to go. Our animation tasks are mostly informed by the Algonquin school of animation (in Canada) tasks and the curriculum. Having taught the Algonquin curriculum for 6 years prior, I've taken what I believe to be the best parts of it (very traditional approach) and tweaked it slightly to make it fit better within a gaming space and branding space (for example, toning down the advanced acting components).

    If you have any further questions please let me know.
  • Hey Charly

    Currently i am in second year game design for the engineering side. I thought a brief overview of what to expect should you choose to join us would be helpful.

    The engineering degree is done through the school of electrical engineering and so you are expected to pass electrical engineering subjects as well as game design. In first year the only game design subject is an intro course in game design which the artsies take as well. This course covers key concepts of game design and is really helpful in expanding your knowledge of how to make a well designed game. The big problem that some engineers have with first year is that there is no coding based courses as the practical components are board games. However making these board games definately cement the principles of game design that we learnt.

    However as previously stated you will have to do engineering subjects like maths, physics, mechanics and electronics. These subjects are incredibly difficult to some and as @Bensonance said you spend the majority of time trying to pass these courses.

    Second year is where it gets good though. You learn unity and make some pretty awesome games. In terms of technical ability, engineers tend to be better coders ( though this is not always the case ). This is due to the multitude of practice that you as an engineer would get from your second and third year subjects. In terms of game design in second year, you have an intro to unity course, some group projects and you also do some 3d modeling if im not mistaken.

    Also as a small plus when you finish the degree, if you spend a further 2 years you can get an electrical engineering degree. Its great for having a definate fallback incase you have trouble getting work in the industry initially.

    All in all this degree is not for everyone. You will however definately be a great programmer at the end of the course and you will have an engineering degree which looks great on a cv. Mix that with the experience and the networking potential that comes with it, and i think Wits should definitely be high on your list.

    P.S. i apologise for my grammar and or spelling in this post as I'm typing this quickly
  • @NoSpoons and @Krohlm

    Thanks for letting us know about what the Vega course is about!

    I don't know what the marketing side of the Game Design course is about, but I definitely think understanding marketing has a place in game design, particularly if you're planning on creating independent commercial games.

    I can understand how students might dislike these courses (back in the early 2000s I went through a similar course myself), but I'd wager that the students who aren't interested in how to build a brand or how to communicate the values of a product will become the game developers who are the most confused when no-one cares about who they are and no-one wants the games they make.

    And I don't think that's because understanding marketing will help you sell an unappealing game, I think that's because understanding marketing will help you design a game that is appealing. I think it's because you have to understand what people want to design appealing games, and that takes a certain set of skills that a pure game design courses don't usually teach.

    Again, I don't know the details of what the marketing side of the Vega course is. But I'd agree with @NoSpoons assessment that these skills could be super valuable should those students wish to go indie in the future.
    Thanked by 1mattbenic
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    @EvanGreenwood I had almost the exact same thought process as you, however as I did state that I think marketing and subjects of its nature are important, I know of a few students who are more than happy to work as parts of a team rather focusing on coding or art, and thats cool too, it really depends on what the individual is looking for as an end goal.

    Anyway @Rcon26 did remind me with his post that the Vega degree also delves into science (and math perhaps?) in later years, to what extent I'm not sure, but i'm excited to find out :P
    Thanked by 1EvanGreenwood
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