With the emphasis on exclusives, marketing deals, and services, we rarely take the time to think about gaming at a grass roots level. Trailers and reviews command the majority of our traffic here at Push Square, so it's perhaps easy to overlook all of the effort that goes into schools and colleges. That said, it's an area that's always interested this author: how do we cultivate a brand new generation of game makers, and enable the cream to rise to the top? It's one question that Luc Bernard, the British developer behind Desert Ashes, will be attempting to answer, as he takes time out from his indie development career in order to help students at New York's prestigious The New School realise their dreams – and publish their projects on the PlayStation 4 and Vita.
Set to run this fall as part of the university's Digital Development course, Bernard's module will cover Unity 3D optimisation for Sony's formats, whereby the participants will be working with real PlayStation development kits in a proper game production environment. "This is not a simulation with imaginary scenarios," reads the module's blurb, "students will be working with indie game designers and developers who specialise in console development and go through the real process of publishing their games with industrial level hardwares." It's the kind of real-world experience that's so often absent in these kinds of courses, and it's this aspect that excites the Mecho Wars maker the most.
"I will be teaching about PlayStation development and publishing," he tells us as we ask about the course. "Basically, the goal of my programme is to get the students who take my course to publish their games on PlayStation. I have to show them all of the different requirements Sony has, and also make sure that their games are console quality, so I have to advise them on a lot of different aspects. Once their games are console quality, then I will help them submit and get it published to PlayStation." It sounds like no easy task, but the module overview makes a similar pledge: "Upon the end of this course, students will become an emerging developer with the necessary knowledge and skills to publish a game to the PlayStation Network on their own," it claims.
"I made my first game and it was a load of s**t, but I learned so much from that, like what not to do"
For Bernard, it was important that all of the effort was invested into real-world skills. "I always thought that there was a problem with education, in terms of you see all of these kids just getting into debt and coming out of school not learning much," he says. "I wanted to change that; I wanted students to come out of school being a real console developer, to be able to publish on PlayStation, and be able to make a living off their work before they are even done studying." And how did he get involved with the project? "I basically walked into the director's office two months ago and told him my idea, and it went from there," he laughs. "I was lucky that they listened to me!"
Despite having such lofty targets, Bernard wants students to be as hands-on as possible. "The main way to learn how to make games is not by listening to someone talk or just study a bunch of mumbo jumbo – it's to make games," he exclaims. "I made my first game and it was a load of s**t, but I learned so much from that, like what not to do. Students will be bringing their own games, or I will help them make some, and we will be making games for PlayStation – it's that simple. It's the best way to learn – just get right into it."
But is there anything that Bernard wishes he'd been taught when he was just a budding developer trying to make a name? "I never went to school for anything and I learned everything on my own and I've managed to do this full-time for nearly a decade now," he beams. However, contacts are key. "One thing that I think that students will need is contacts, and the ability to take their career into their own hands once they are done with school, which means with my programme, if they want to continue as indies and found their own studio, they will have the tools and contacts to start developing PlayStation games right away."
As with his own games, Bernard comes across incredibly passionate about the whole initiative. "I'm looking forward to being able to make students' futures better; I want them to be able to make a good living off their own work, and even become entrepreneurs and found their own studios," he states. "I've heard too many stories of students just being in debt and jobless after school because they have no contacts in the industry or proper experience. I want that to change; I want students to be the next big indie developers."
Thanks so much to Luc Bernard for taking the time to talk to us. You can find out more about the Digital Development course at The New School through here.