Games Fleadh 2011: Gaming Practice for the Real World

The Games Fleadh is a gaming and programming festival hosted by the Tipperary Institute which brings students from all over Ireland involved in the different elements of computer game development together to compete against each other while being judged by some of the top names in computer game development.

This year the event, which is co-ordinated by Philip Bourke of the Institute’s Information and Communications Technology Department, attracted representatives from Microsoft, the event’s main sponsor, from Havok, Open Emotion Studios, Demonware, and Nevermind Games amongst others.

According to James Greenslade, Director of Information and Communications Technology Department, the Games Fleadh, “Stems from about eight years ago when we in the college, along I suppose,with every other college in the country, had a difficulty with software development students and programming students who were programming with no real focus.

“We saw it as a conduit for students from every college in the country to pitch their programming skills against each other and therefore get a bit of competition going that would interest them, that would showcase their skills, and they’d have a day out for it”.

However, the key to Games Fleadh’s success is undoubtedly the stellar cast of industry professionals it attracts every year, giving the students unparalleled access to a wealth of experience and knowledge.

Mark Lambe from gaming start-up Nevermind Games, acknowledges the importance of networking for young game developers, “You walk in here and there’s Damien from Demonware or such and such from another company and all of a sudden you know five other people, and then next time you have a problem you think, ‘I’m gonna email that guy and annoy him until he fixes it.

“What has happened since Microsoft came on board is that they offered us their XNA development platform, so we’ve had two real competitions in the past five years, the XNA Ireland challenge and the Robocode competition,” explains James Greenslade.

This year, the DirectX challenge was a new addition to the Fleadh. DirectX is a set of Application Programming Interfaces (API’s) made by Microsoft, which is used for enhancing games. This year’s DirectX and XNA challenges licenced the intellectual property of Konami’s classic ‘Frogger‘ game.

Philip Bourke explains how working with a recognised title makes it easier for students get their concept across, “Because they’re working on existing IP, everybody knows what it is, so now they can have a new take on it, like, ‘I did a Window’s Phone 7 version of Frogger.’

“Immediately the people on the other side of the table know the game and they’re interested in seeing what the student achieved.

“The idea of the Direct X challenge is it’s a beauty contest and kind of a skills contest that shows what you can do with 3D Direct X. Take 3D graphics and make it as wonderful, as flashy or as technically difficult as possible”.

Michael Meagher is Academic Engagement Manager with Microsoft, “What these competitions do is they allow students to get real life skills. The thing about working as a gamer is people want to know what you’ve built and how good it is, so being able to go in and pitch an idea is very important and competitions like this and environments like this are really important to help build out those type of skills.

“What we want to see as a result of this is more people developing which is going to help the economy here in Ireland. We need more developers, game developers, and gaming itself.”

Paddy Murphy, is co-founder and C.E.O. of Open Emotion games, the Limerick-based studio behind Mad Blocker Alpha, acknowledges that even gaming professionals can take something positive away from an event such as this, “We came here last year and it was really good last year, but this year has kind of outdone it.

“Some of the stuff I couldn’t get over. There are so many bright students in Ireland doing this stuff, that it’s cool to see their input and their take on things, instead of just thinking you know it all, that’s the big problem”.

Microsoft’s Michael Meagher echoes the importance of producing young game developers, “What these competitions do is they allow students to get real life skills.

“The thing about working as a gamer is people want to know what you’ve built and how good it is, so being able to go in and pitch an idea is very important and competitions like this and environments like this are really important to help build out those type of skills.”

Main article picture: Finn Krewer, a student of National University of Ireland, Galway was the winner of the DirectX challenge.

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