Computing undergraduate developing a career in indie games world

An undergraduate from the Hugh Baird University Centre is part of a group of celebrity game modders, taking on the big names in gaming by releasing their own fantasy role play game (RPG).

James Connolly graduates this year from the BSc (Hons) Top up in Computing at the Hugh Baird University Centre, which is validated by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). Having already made a name for himself in the world of games modding – adding content to existing games – he was invited to join the worldwide network of staff at Druid Gameworks as a 2D/3D Developer and helped to develop Witanlore: Dreamtime.

Having beaten all the odds to run a successful Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign and have their game Greenlit on Steam after just a few weeks, Druid Gameworks have become known in gaming circles as the ‘one percenters’. Greenlight enlists the community’s help in picking games to be released on Steam, so Witanlore: Dreamtime had to gain massive community support in order to get selected for distribution. Now on early access release on Steam, the game is being touted for worldwide success.

Initially self-taught in IT, James was seconded to an IT role while working at Littlewoods, becoming a system developer working on their back office systems. In 2012, he decided to enrol part time at the Hugh Baird University Centre to gain formal IT qualifications and progressed from foundation degree to the full time, one year, top up programme.

James has been able to fit his work around the course and said:

“One of the great things about being able to study for my degree at the Hugh Baird University Centre is that I’ve had the flexibility to carry on working at the same time. I haven’t had to travel far or relocate for university so it keeps the costs down and allows me to earn a living alongside studying.”

Next steps for James and Druid Gameworks include continuing to add content and develop patches for Witanlore: Dreamtime in preparation for its full release in around eight months’ time. At the same time, they are also thinking ahead to their next project and a possible sequel.

The Druid team work remotely from all around the world, overcoming difficult obstacles, not least communication and language barriers. Based as far away as the USA, Brazil and various parts of Europe, most of them have never met in person, only communicating through Skype and other software.

James said:

“I’ve found that completing my degree has really helped with the work I’ve been doing with Druid. It encourages independence as well as including a lot of team working and the project management aspects have been particularly relevant for me, especially given the remote nature of the company. As well as carrying on working with Druid, once I graduate, I’d like to do some teaching so I’m hoping to apply for the UCLan validated Post Graduate Certificate in Education at the Hugh Baird University Centre.”

Programme Leader for the Computing courses at the Hugh Baird University Centre, Elly Foran, said:

“James is a great role model for the University Centre. Through hard work and persistence both on and off his course, he’s turned his passion for gaming into a flourishing career. Sharing his experience of the gaming industry and the work he has done to get where he is today, whether that’s as a future lecturer or a visiting speaker, will be a real benefit to our undergraduates. We’re hoping to launch a specialist games development degree programme in the future so James’s input into that will be invaluable.”

If you are interested in finding out more about the computing courses or any of the other degree programmes at the Hugh Baird University Centre, visit www.hughbaird.ac.uk, telephone 0151 353 4444, or come along to our next Open Evening on Thursday, 16th March between 5pm and 8pm. For more information about Druid Gameworks, take a look at their website at www.druidgameworks.com.

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