Dare 2004 Launches In Dundee – 2

Dare to be Digital is a joint venture initially set up between the University of Abertay Dundee, Scottish Enterprise Tayside and Dundee City Council encouraging students across all Scottish universities and Colleges of Art to develop and submit an edutainment or game concept. Selected teams would be beneficiaries of expert advice and financial support in the preparation of a robust proposal and prototype to pitch to investors.

This year, Dare 2004 has joined forces with the Digital Hub in Dublin, in association with Diageo Ireland, Enterpise Ireland and IDA Ireland who will co-ordinate the heats throughout Irish universities. The Irish winner will also be given mentoring and financial support throughout the summer while working on the project in the University of Abertay as well as going forward to the International Dare to be Digital competiton in Dundee in September, where teams will compete for a prize fund of STG£5000 and follow up-support to develop their prototype to commercial standard.

Dare to be Digital plays a leading role in supporting future talent for the digital and interactive industries ," said Shona Cormack, the Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise Tayside. "The inclusion of international teams and the presence of judges from companies such as Electronic Arts and the BBC are welcome developments that confirms the value of this innovative competition.”

Entries must be submitted as part of a team of five which should include at least one creative member, one technical person and another in charge of financial / management arrangements. The Digital Hub expects teams made up from inter-college collaborations.

Closing date for Irish entries is 12.00 noon March 29th 2004.

For more information visit: www.daretobedigital.ie

Dare To Be Digital Deadline

Dare to be Digital is a joint venture between the University of Abertay Dundee, Scottish Enterprise Tayside and Dundee City Council. This year, Dare to be Digital 2004 has joined forces with the Digital Hub in Dublin, in association with Diageo Ireland as well as Enterpise Ireland and IDA Ireland who will offer mentoring support to the winning Irish team drawn from heats throughout Irish universities. The Irish winner will also be given financial assistance throughout the summer while working on the project in the Digital Hub as well as going forward to the International Dare to be Digital competiton in Dundee in September, where teams will compete for a prize fund of STG£5000 and follow up-support to develop their prototype to commercial standard.

Entries must be submitted as part of a team which should include at least one creative member, one technical person and another in charge of financial / management arrangements. The Digital Hub expects teams made up from inter-college collaborations.

Closing date for Irish entries is 12.00 noon March 29th 2004.

For more information visit:
www.daretobedigital.ie>

Dare 2004 Launches In Dundee

Dare to be Digital is a joint venture initially set up between the University of Abertay Dundee, Scottish Enterprise Tayside and Dundee City Council encouraging students across all Scottish universities and Colleges of Art to develop and submit an edutainment or game concept. Selected teams would be beneficiaries of expert advice and financial support in the preparation of a robust proposal and prototype to pitch to investors.

This year, Dare 2004 has joined forces with the Digital Hub in Dublin, in association with Diageo Ireland, Enterpise Ireland and IDA Ireland who will co-ordinate the heats throughout Irish universities. The Irish winner will also be given mentoring and financial support throughout the summer while working on the project in the University of Abertay as well as going forward to the International Dare to be Digital competiton in Dundee in September, where teams will compete for a prize fund of STG£5000 and follow up-support to develop their prototype to commercial standard.

Dare to be Digital plays a leading role in supporting future talent for the digital and interactive industries ," said Shona Cormack, the Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise Tayside. "The inclusion of international teams and the presence of judges from companies such as Electronic Arts and the BBC are welcome developments that confirms the value of this innovative competition.”

Entries must be submitted as part of a team of five which should include at least one creative member, one technical person and another in charge of financial / management arrangements. The Digital Hub expects teams made up from inter-college collaborations.

Closing date for Irish entries is 12.00 noon March 29th 2004.

For more information visit: www.daretobedigital.ie

Robocode Final 2004 – 2

First year students from colleges throughout Ireland will take part in the National RoboCode Final in Tipperary Institute on March 11th 2004. A website has been set up for the event at www.robocode.ie

This event is for individuals or teams who want to demonstrate their programming abilities nationally.

For details on how to take part, visit:

installing_robocode.htminstalling_robocode.htm

National Robocode Final

First year students from colleges throughout Ireland will take part in the National RoboCode Final in Tipperary Institute on March 11th 2004. A website has been set up for the event at www.robocode.ie

This event is for individuals or teams who want to demonstrate their programming abilities nationally.

For details on how to take part, visit:
installing_robocode.htminstalling_robocode.htm

Robocode Final 2004

First year students from colleges throughout Ireland will take part in the National RoboCode Final in Tipperary Institute on March 11th 2004. A website has been set up for the event at www.robocode.ie

This event is for individuals or teams who want to demonstrate their programming abilities nationally.

For details on how to take part, visit:

installing_robocode.htminstalling_robocode.htm

Dare To Be Digital Networking Event

The Digital Hub are holding another information and networking event for the Dare to be Digital Ireland competition.

VENUE: THE DIGITAL HUB PROJECT OFFICE, 10-13 THOMAS STREET, DUBLIN 8

TIME: 14:00hrs

RUNNING ORDER
REGISTRATION: 13:30hrs
BRIEFING SESSION: 14:00hrs
RECEPTION: 15:00hrs

Attendance is free but you have to register online as spaces are limited..

go to
www.daretobedigital.ie/

Calling Graphic Artists: Rhizome Proposal

This call for proposals is directed to artists who have ‘formal or critical ideas they want to wrap around a game’ and also to game developers ‘who have a game to wrap around a theory.’

Five awards ranging from $1500-$3500 will be announced in late March, 2004 and winning projects may be exhibited at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York.

To submit a proposal, you must be a Rhizome member. Online entry forms must be submitted before Monday, February 15. Enthusiasts or players who are not artists can still be involved in this project – Rhizome members can participate in the evaluation of submissions.

Submissions:
http://rhizome.org/commissions/http://rhizome.org/commissions/

Calling Graphic Artists: Rhizome Proposal – 2

This call for proposals is directed to artists who have ‘formal or critical ideas they want to wrap around a game’ and also to game developers ‘who have a game to wrap around a theory.’

Five awards ranging from $1500-$3500 will be announced in late March, 2004 and winning projects may be exhibited at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York.

To submit a proposal, you must be a Rhizome member. Online entry forms must be submitted before Monday, February 15. Enthusiasts or players who are not artists can still be involved in this project – Rhizome members can participate in the evaluation of submissions.

Submissions:
http://rhizome.org/commissions/http://rhizome.org/commissions/

Championing The User Experience Online – 3

The event, sponsored by Macromedia, will also launch a working group headed by IIA director Morgan McKeagney that will establish best working practices for web design and development from a user perspective.

Speakers include: Morgan McKeagney (IQ Content), Ann O’Sullivan (Marcomedia), John Woods (National Council for the Blind), Tina Leonard (European Consumer Centre Dublin), Eoin Darcy (Eastern Health Shared Services), and Colm Codd (O2). A panel discussion and a Q&A will follow the presentations.

Details:

Date: Thursday 19th February 2004
Venue: The Clarion Hotel, IFSC, Dublin 1
Time: Registration 6.00pm for 6.30pm start
Cost: IIA members EUR10, Non members EUR25

Tea/Coffee will be served during registration.

Please note there are a limited number of places available at the
event so early registration is advised.

Register online at:
events.asp?eventid=36events.asp?eventid=36

For more information:

Irish Internet Association
43-44 Temple Bar
Dublin 2
T: 01 6707 621
F: 01 6707 623

mailto:mailto:info@iia.iemailto:info@iia.ie

Company Showcase-Ones To Watch In 2004

Venue: The Pembroke Suite, The Burlington Hotel, Upper Leeson St.,
Dublin 4
Time: 6.30 sharp-8.00 followed by refreshments
Registration: Between 6.00pm-6.30pm
Admission: Euro15

This is a First Tuesday / Investnet event profiling companies that have recently raised money or have been earmarked as ones to watch for the coming year. Each company will give a 10 minute presentation on their objectives and challenges for 2004. A panel discussin will follow each presentation with representatives from Enterprise Ireland, Trinity Venture Capital and McCann Fitzgerald who will share their expertise and guidance with the companies.

Programme:

Agile – a MoreMagic Company – Enda Kyne, EVP Operations
www.agileasp.com
Selatra – Sean Cronin, Managing Director
www.selatra.com
Sports Spread – Conor Foley, Managing Director
www.sportsspread.com
Steeltrace – Fergal McGovern, Founder and CTO
www.steeltrace.com
Xsil – Peter Conlon, CEO and Anna Kupka, General Counsel
www.xsil.com

For more information, contact David Neville
mailto:dneville@firsttuesday.iedneville@firsttuesday.ie
+353 1 7008508

Championing The User Experience Online – 2

Venue: The Clarion Hotel, IFSC, Dublin 1
Time: Registration 6.00pm for 6.30pm start
Cost: IIA members EUR10, Non members EUR25

This event, sponsored by Macromedia, will also launch a working group headed by IIA director Morgan McKeagney that will establish best working practices for web design and development from a user perspective.

Speakers include: Morgan McKeagney (IQ Content), Ann O’Sullivan (Marcomedia), John Woods (National Council for the Blind), Tina Leonard (European Consumer Centre Dublin), Eoin Darcy (Eastern Health Shared Services), and Colm Codd (O2). A panel discussion and a Q&A will follow the presentations.

Tea/Coffee will be served during registration.

Please note there are a limited number of places available at the
event so early registration is advised.

Register online at:
events.asp?eventid=36events.asp?eventid=36

Championing The User Experience Online

The event, sponsored by Macromedia, will also launch a working group headed by IIA director Morgan McKeagney that will establish best working practices for web design and development from a user perspective.

Speakers include: Morgan McKeagney (IQ Content), Ann O’Sullivan (Marcomedia), John Woods (National Council for the Blind), Tina Leonard (European Consumer Centre Dublin), Eoin Darcy (Eastern Health Shared Services), and Colm Codd (O2). A panel discussion and a Q&A will follow the presentations.

Details:

Date: Thursday 19th February 2004
Venue: The Clarion Hotel, IFSC, Dublin 1
Time: Registration 6.00pm for 6.30pm start
Cost: IIA members EUR10, Non members EUR25

Tea/Coffee will be served during registration.

Please note there are a limited number of places available at the
event so early registration is advised.

Register online at:
events.asp?eventid=36events.asp?eventid=36

For more information:

Irish Internet Association
43-44 Temple Bar
Dublin 2
T: 01 6707 621
F: 01 6707 623

mailto:mailto:info@iia.iemailto:info@iia.ie

Demonware

Netcode for computer games.
DemonWare provide netcode products for computer games being developed on the Playstation 2, Xbox and PC platforms. Our network components are optimised to give the best realtime performance on limited resource platforms.

http://www.demonware.net
info@demonware.net

Havok

Key Skills: Physics for Games
Havok is the most powerful physics game engine available for PlayStation2®, Xbox™, GameCube™ and the PC. Havok technology is being used the world’s leading game developers including EA, Valve, Microsoft, and Rockstar to enhance gameplay. Our physics engine is used across all the genres: racing games, first-person shooters, MMOGs, adventure games, puzzle games and any combination thereof.

Havok is also used to drive special effects in movies such as The Matrix and is the default physics system embedded in Shockwave 3D from Macromedia, Adobe Atmosphere and the dynamics driving Max 6 from Discreet, a division of Autodesk.

www.havok.com
info@havok.com

Birthday Shindig

The March Shindig will actually be held on the 2nd of April cause it is the nearest Friday and loads of you will be away at GDC at the end of March..

We are moving venue to Toners on Baggot Street because that is where the first shindig took place and they will reserve tables for us downstairs.

This one is extra special as it will also celebrate the 1st birthday of www.gamedevelopers.ie and we will have a small awards ceremony. For further info on the nominations and categories see the forums community/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=219community/forums/

Time: 7pm

Location: From Stephen’s Green North walk past the Shelbourne Hotel and towards Merrion Row/Baggot Street. Keep walking straight with Upper Merrion Street on your left and Ely Place on your right. Toners is a wine & black pub and will be on your right on a corner. If you reach Pembroke Street. on your right you have passed it and gone too far.

The shindig will be downstairs. To get there you can walk through the pub to the back where there is a stairs or walk around the side outside where there is another door. I will put up signs so you know where you are going..

Still unsure? The address is 139 Baggot Street Lower.

check your route here
dublin/maps/p52s54.htmlwww.softguides.com/dublin/maps/p52s54.html

Eirplay Scoops O2 Digital Media Award – 2

Eirplay, established in 2000, was not only awarded for creativity behind mobile games such as Monster Madness and Crazy Creche, but also for its 2003 output and the popularity of its products in the marketplace.

“Last year was tough,” says Eirplay co-director Peter Lynch, “but we managed to break into a competitive market with our java games. This award is great for the team because it’s a reflection of everyone’s work in developing first-rate games in a relatively short space of time.”

The O2 ceremony was well organised, according to Peter, with the Eirplay directors receiving their award from compere David McWilliams and delivering a small speech. Alongside Microsoft, other nominees for the category included Riverdeep Interactive Learning and Speirtech.

Peter Lynch is positive that awards like this will highlight the competence in the small number of Irish gaming companies, boost profiles, and bolster Ireland’s indigenous development industry. Eirplay, who had entered all six of their java games to the O2 judging panel, now plan to build on their success and double their team of six by the end of summer 2004.

“We were awarded for our first generation of java mobile games but now our technology and products have moved on. We currently have some extremely impressive software in development that will allow us to expand abroad where most of our gaming sales are based. We’ve great confidence about the year ahead.”

More info:

Eirplay also featured on gamedevelopers.ie in our
features/index.php?article=91Dec. feature

Eirplay Scoops O2 Digital Media Award

Eirplay, established in 2000, was not only awarded for creativity behind mobile games such as Monster Madness and Crazy Creche, but also for its 2003 output and the popularity of its products in the marketplace.

“Last year was tough,” says Eirplay co-director Peter Lynch, “but we managed to break into a competitive market with our java games. This award is great for the team because it’s a reflection of everyone’s work in developing first-rate games in a relatively short space of time.”

The O2 ceremony was well organised, according to Peter, with the Eirplay directors receiving their award from compere David McWilliams and delivering a small speech. Alongside Microsoft, other nominees for the category included Riverdeep Interactive Learning and Speirtech.

Peter Lynch is positive that awards like this will highlight the competence in the small number of Irish gaming companies, boost profiles, and bolster Ireland’s indigenous development industry. Eirplay, who had entered all six of their java games to the O2 judging panel, now plan to build on their success and double their team of six by the end of summer 2004.

“We were awarded for our first generation of java mobile games but now our technology and products have moved on. We currently have some extremely impressive software in development that will allow us to expand abroad where most of our gaming sales are based. We’ve great confidence about the year ahead.”

More info:

Eirplay also featured on gamedevelopers.ie in our
features/index.php?article=91Dec. feature

Review Of Art Of Games Talk – 2

About 80 people turned up to hear Paul McLaughlin, head of art and Rune Vendler, lead 3D Programmer talk about their current work and changing organisational structures in the games development industry.

Paul McLaughlin originally hails from Waterford and having worked with Emerald Software in Waterford for a couple of years in the late 1980s he went to the UK. His position in Lionhead Studios is head of art and his day to day job involves concept development and prototyping as well as development of characters, buildings, environments and other elements for Lionhead games.

Lionhead is currently working on Black and White II, Fable and Dimitri three quite different games with different artistic and technical challenges.

Paul also spoke about how they averaged 30-50 people now on their development teams, they outsource art work to Estonia and the importance of their fan base and bulletin boards as a source of feedback. Current 3D tools include 3D Studio Max, Maya and Character Studio.

Rune, originally from Denmark, went on to detail current R&D projects he is involved in, not all of which may actually be used in current and future games. Adding fur to the creature for Black and White II was quite a feat but an important aspect of the new ‘look’ of that game. He also talked about their work on lighting and algorithims for aging characters.

The session was followed by a Q&A and afterwards the crowd retired to, where else, Mahaffy’s.

Review Of Art Of Games Talk

About 80 people turned up to hear Paul McLaughlin, head of art and Rune Vendler, lead 3D Programmer talk about their current work and changing organisational structures in the games development industry.

Paul McLaughlin originally hails from Waterford and having worked with Emerald Software in Waterford for a couple of years in the late 1980s he went to the UK. His position in Lionhead Studios is head of art and his day to day job involves concept development and prototyping as well as development of characters, buildings, environments and other elements for Lionhead games.

Lionhead is currently working on Black and White II, Fable and Dimitri three quite different games with different artistic and technical challenges.

Paul also spoke about how they averaged 30-50 people now on their development teams, they outsource art work to Estonia and the importance of their fan base and bulletin boards as a source of feedback. Current 3D tools include 3D Studio Max, Maya and Character Studio.

Rune, originally from Denmark, went on to detail current R&D projects he is involved in, not all of which may actually be used in current and future games. Adding fur to the creature for Black and White II was quite a feat but an important aspect of the new ‘look’ of that game. He also talked about their work on lighting and algorithims for aging characters.

The session was followed by a Q&A and afterwards the crowd retired to, where else, Mahaffy’s.

Art Of Games Talk Trinity College

Two speakers from Lionhead Studios (Paul McLaughlin, head of art and Rune Vendler, Lead 3D Programmer) will speak in the next Art of Games Talk, organised by Trinity College Computer Science Society.

Date: Thurs 5th Feb.
Time: 7pm
Location: Room 3071, Arts Block, Trinity College.
Cost: €3 if not a member of the society

Louth’S Creative Cluster

At first glance, Dundalk is merely a bypass on the way from Dublin to Belfast, but dwell a while in this border town and discover a hive of creative activity with further initiatives in the pipeline. Steven Collins, Havok CTO, hails from here, as does Niall O’Hanrahan, managing director of Sony Computer Entertainment Ireland. A few years back there were high hopes for Taintech, a local games development company which was in contract negotiations with a US publisher before its untimely demise in 2001, but more recently luck has shone brighter on Meedja Ltd. who is busy working for international publishers on game and e-learning projects.

Meedja’s Peter Mee describes why he thinks Dundalk has become a significant technology location: “It’s well served with infrastructure between Dublin and Belfast. We can get to Dublin airport in 40 minutes – quicker than some companies in Dublin – and since it’s an IT college town there is a steady supply of graduates from technical courses like computer programming. Plus it’s much cheaper to live up here!”

image2

Acting catalyst for the emergence of local game development is Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT). Alongside a powerful selection of partners (including Enterprise Ireland, IDA, FAS, Louth County Enterprise Board and the private sector), the Institute is working to establish creative media industries alongside education in the town. After all, creative industries are now recognised as a key factor in the global knowledge-based economy and their value is set to dramatically increase over the next few years.

Founded in 1971, DKIT has a student population of around 3,000 full-time and over 1000 part-time students. Certificate, Diploma, Degree and Post Graduate levels can be taken in Engineering, Science, Nursing Studies, Computing, Hospitality Studies, Business and Humanities. Now two freshly proposed courses are gaining momentum: a BSc in Computer Games Programming (planned to launch September 2004) and a BA in Computer Games Design (September 2005).

Denis Cummins, Head of the Computing Department and presently on a one-year secondment, is overseeing the establishment of these courses. “One of our main motivations is that students have been turning away from computing as a discipline over the last couple of years. We’re conscious of the need to make the subject interesting and attractive to students. Projections for the games industry – for example, the Forfás study, A Strategy for Digital Content – are extremely optimistic so we see it as an area of huge potential. Although the industry is pretty small in Ireland, it is a global business and geographical location is not a huge concern.”

Caroline O’Sullivan, Multimedia Lecturer in DKIT and co-ordinator for another proposed course (BA in Communications and Creative Multimedia) continues: “For the last 18 months, it has been a college initiative to become more involved in the area of creative media. A feasibility study was carried out for the Dundalk region as well as the college, investigating the prospect of setting up a cluster of creative media industries. That study recommended certain areas which we should investigate to develop new courses and new companies. Unlike computing, multimedia has had no downturn, so we realised that these courses might give people strong technical skills while also allowing them the opportunity to be creative.”

Has Irish academia overlooked the games industry?

“I think so,” nods Denis. “Most of the institutes and universities have delivered mainstream computer science and software development courses but they haven’t looked at niche areas. For example, we recently introduced a computer science degree programme with an emphasis on Internet technologies and developing web applications. We are careful to include the core competencies that you’d want for any software engineer, and wouldn’t want to lose those, but we still have scope within the programme so students might go straight into a particular domain such as games.”

The team behind the two game courses involves staff from both the Humanities and the Computer Science Department (with Meedja’s Peter Mee drafted in for industrial liaison). Initially, they explored the idea of franchising Dundee-based University of Abertay’s game development programme. Abertay was interested but DKIT eventually decided to opt out in order to add its own flavour to the course.

Although strands within the BSc in Computer Games Programming have yet to be cemented (indeed, the course itself is still awaiting HETAC validation), the curriculum is likely to include Programming, Game Science & Maths, Digital Media, Software Engineering, System Structure, Game Development, Professional Development, and Creativity, with student projects thrown in for good measure. Talent from DKIT’s Computing, Maths and Creative Multimedia Departments should befit many of these strands, although teachers with professional industry experience will also be vital.

“We’re going to advertise nationally for lecturers,” says Caroline. “Because of our proximity to the border, we’ll advertise both in the Southern and Northern areas. Ideally we’d like people in the industry to come in as guest lecturers or maybe take a course in a particular area – maybe teaching five or six hours a week. We’re already talking to Havok and another couple of companies.”

High standards will be expected from applicants. There will be a two Honours minimum requirement, a B in Honours Maths prerequisite, and the group will only consist of around 20 students. The course might sound elitist but Denis Cummins reckons that it won’t be tough finding exceptional candidates. “My hunch is that many of these applicants will be very motivated, enthusiastic, and will come to the course with a lot of knowledge,” he says.

image3

In tandem with the development of these courses, and also emanating from the feasibility study into establishing a cluster of knowledge based industry in the North East region, comes the Creative Media Enterprise Graduate Programme. Proposals to focus on industries which merge technology and the arts – delivering firms and employment in areas such as film making, video, multimedia, animation and music, alongside game development – have led to a 12-month pilot enterprise training programme targeted at graduates with an innovative business idea in the Creative/Digital Media industry sector.

This joint initiative of Dundalk Institute of Technology and Queens University Belfast was launched in 2003 and is aimed at start-up businesses from around the border counties, North and South. The interview process was recently completed and ten graduates based in Dundalk and ten in Belfast will soon begin the programme. Trying to actively establish companies in Dundalk feeds directly into DKIT’s projected courses. “If you’re going to start setting up businesses in this area you’ll need graduates suitably qualified to go and work for them,” says Caroline O’Sullivan.

The concept of a creative media cluster and a suite of educational programmes in a town which many of us still consider a bypass on the route to Belfast is likely to become a reality, simply because liaison and strategic planning between development agencies in the North East and Cross-Border region is extremely efficient. Plus there is the added bonus that Dundalk’s Regional Development Centre is based in DKIT and has an impressive history of setting up new businesses and getting entrepreneurs off the ground.

And what of DKIT’s long-term future? “We’re considering a B.A. focusing on the less technical aspects of games: design creativity, scriptwriting, and so on. That might have a slightly more popular appeal; the entry requirements might be a bit looser. Also, a Masters programme in Digital Content Management and an E-Learning programme will probably come into being about 12 months after the games course,” says Denis.

“The strategy for creative media is very impressive because it’s got the whole town involved,” says Meedja’s Peter Mee. “What we need now is a major company in the industry to locate here: one that smaller companies can feed off or service. That will give the area a profile and a place for all these students to go to. While Meedja will probably outgrow our base and move off [DKIT] campus, I can tell you one thing for sure. We’ll be staying in Dundalk.”

For more information:

Dundalk Institute of Technology:

DKIT Games Courses: Denis.Cummins@dkit.ie Tel: 042-9354507

Creative Media Enterprise Programme:

Regional Development Centre: Irene.Monaghan@dkit.ie Tel: 042-9370413

Louth’S Creative Cluster – 2

At first glance, Dundalk is merely a bypass on the way from Dublin to Belfast, but dwell a while in this border town and discover a hive of creative activity with further initiatives in the pipeline. Steven Collins, Havok CTO, hails from here, as does Niall O’Hanrahan, managing director of Sony Computer Entertainment Ireland. A few years back there were high hopes for Taintech, a local games development company which was in contract negotiations with a US publisher before its untimely demise in 2001, but more recently luck has shone brighter on Meedja Ltd. who is busy working for international publishers on game and e-learning projects.

Meedja’s Peter Mee describes why he thinks Dundalk has become a significant technology location: “It’s well served with infrastructure between Dublin and Belfast. We can get to Dublin airport in 40 minutes – quicker than some companies in Dublin – and since it’s an IT college town there is a steady supply of graduates from technical courses like computer programming. Plus it’s much cheaper to live up here!”

image2

Acting catalyst for the emergence of local game development is Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT). Alongside a powerful selection of partners (including Enterprise Ireland, IDA, FAS, Louth County Enterprise Board and the private sector), the Institute is working to establish creative media industries alongside education in the town. After all, creative industries are now recognised as a key factor in the global knowledge-based economy and their value is set to dramatically increase over the next few years.

Founded in 1971, DKIT has a student population of around 3,000 full-time and over 1000 part-time students. Certificate, Diploma, Degree and Post Graduate levels can be taken in Engineering, Science, Nursing Studies, Computing, Hospitality Studies, Business and Humanities. Now two freshly proposed courses are gaining momentum: a BSc in Computer Games Programming (planned to launch September 2004) and a BA in Computer Games Design (September 2005).

Denis Cummins, Head of the Computing Department and presently on a one-year secondment, is overseeing the establishment of these courses. “One of our main motivations is that students have been turning away from computing as a discipline over the last couple of years. We’re conscious of the need to make the subject interesting and attractive to students. Projections for the games industry – for example, the Forfás study, A Strategy for Digital Content – are extremely optimistic so we see it as an area of huge potential. Although the industry is pretty small in Ireland, it is a global business and geographical location is not a huge concern.”

Caroline O’Sullivan, Multimedia Lecturer in DKIT and co-ordinator for another proposed course (BA in Communications and Creative Multimedia) continues: “For the last 18 months, it has been a college initiative to become more involved in the area of creative media. A feasibility study was carried out for the Dundalk region as well as the college, investigating the prospect of setting up a cluster of creative media industries. That study recommended certain areas which we should investigate to develop new courses and new companies. Unlike computing, multimedia has had no downturn, so we realised that these courses might give people strong technical skills while also allowing them the opportunity to be creative.”

Has Irish academia overlooked the games industry?

“I think so,” nods Denis. “Most of the institutes and universities have delivered mainstream computer science and software development courses but they haven’t looked at niche areas. For example, we recently introduced a computer science degree programme with an emphasis on Internet technologies and developing web applications. We are careful to include the core competencies that you’d want for any software engineer, and wouldn’t want to lose those, but we still have scope within the programme so students might go straight into a particular domain such as games.”

The team behind the two game courses involves staff from both the Humanities and the Computer Science Department (with Meedja’s Peter Mee drafted in for industrial liaison). Initially, they explored the idea of franchising Dundee-based University of Abertay’s game development programme. Abertay was interested but DKIT eventually decided to opt out in order to add its own flavour to the course.

Although strands within the BSc in Computer Games Programming have yet to be cemented (indeed, the course itself is still awaiting HETAC validation), the curriculum is likely to include Programming, Game Science & Maths, Digital Media, Software Engineering, System Structure, Game Development, Professional Development, and Creativity, with student projects thrown in for good measure. Talent from DKIT’s Computing, Maths and Creative Multimedia Departments should befit many of these strands, although teachers with professional industry experience will also be vital.

“We’re going to advertise nationally for lecturers,” says Caroline. “Because of our proximity to the border, we’ll advertise both in the Southern and Northern areas. Ideally we’d like people in the industry to come in as guest lecturers or maybe take a course in a particular area – maybe teaching five or six hours a week. We’re already talking to Havok and another couple of companies.”

High standards will be expected from applicants. There will be a two Honours minimum requirement, a B in Honours Maths prerequisite, and the group will only consist of around 20 students. The course might sound elitist but Denis Cummins reckons that it won’t be tough finding exceptional candidates. “My hunch is that many of these applicants will be very motivated, enthusiastic, and will come to the course with a lot of knowledge,” he says.

image3

In tandem with the development of these courses, and also emanating from the feasibility study into establishing a cluster of knowledge based industry in the North East region, comes the Creative Media Enterprise Graduate Programme. Proposals to focus on industries which merge technology and the arts – delivering firms and employment in areas such as film making, video, multimedia, animation and music, alongside game development – have led to a 12-month pilot enterprise training programme targeted at graduates with an innovative business idea in the Creative/Digital Media industry sector.

This joint initiative of Dundalk Institute of Technology and Queens University Belfast was launched in 2003 and is aimed at start-up businesses from around the border counties, North and South. The interview process was recently completed and ten graduates based in Dundalk and ten in Belfast will soon begin the programme. Trying to actively establish companies in Dundalk feeds directly into DKIT’s projected courses. “If you’re going to start setting up businesses in this area you’ll need graduates suitably qualified to go and work for them,” says Caroline O’Sullivan.

The concept of a creative media cluster and a suite of educational programmes in a town which many of us still consider a bypass on the route to Belfast is likely to become a reality, simply because liaison and strategic planning between development agencies in the North East and Cross-Border region is extremely efficient. Plus there is the added bonus that Dundalk’s Regional Development Centre is based in DKIT and has an impressive history of setting up new businesses and getting entrepreneurs off the ground.

And what of DKIT’s long-term future? “We’re considering a B.A. focusing on the less technical aspects of games: design creativity, scriptwriting, and so on. That might have a slightly more popular appeal; the entry requirements might be a bit looser. Also, a Masters programme in Digital Content Management and an E-Learning programme will probably come into being about 12 months after the games course,” says Denis.

“The strategy for creative media is very impressive because it’s got the whole town involved,” says Meedja’s Peter Mee. “What we need now is a major company in the industry to locate here: one that smaller companies can feed off or service. That will give the area a profile and a place for all these students to go to. While Meedja will probably outgrow our base and move off [DKIT] campus, I can tell you one thing for sure. We’ll be staying in Dundalk.”

For more information:

Dundalk Institute of Technology:

DKIT Games Courses: Denis.Cummins@dkit.ie Tel: 042-9354507

Creative Media Enterprise Programme:

Regional Development Centre: Irene.Monaghan@dkit.ie Tel: 042-9370413