Bachelor of Design with Honours
Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Belfast School of Art
A highly creative course focused on skills, knowledge and creativity for the design and development of games using specialised tools and practices.
From Red Dead Redemption to Angry Birds, PlayStation to mobile, the video games industry is the biggest entertainment market in the world. Game Designers are an integral part in the development of games and often develop the initial game ideas, structures, rules and gameplay features.
During the course you will study key game design principles and theories that underpin the development of successful games. You will learn practical skills in game prototyping, UI design, level design, game testing and game narrative techniques. Students will have the opportunity to create games for traditional and emerging platforms including contemporary technologies such as Virtual, augmented, and mixed reality devices allowing you to explore new possibilities in games. As games are developed in a highly collaborative environment you will learn essential teamwork and communication skills through the development of interdisciplinary group projects.
The aim course is to provide you with the necessary skills to fulfill a range of diverse employment opportunities in a rapidly growing area locally and internationally.
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The aims of the programme are to provide students with specialist knowledge and experience in designing, testing and developing gameplay experiences through the use of industry standard tools and practices associated with computer game design. The course also provides an environment to fully explore opportunities for collaboration, allowing students to realise theoretically and critically informed game designs, locating their work in contemporary commercial and cultural contexts.
The aims of the course are to:
Structure and Content
The structure and content of the BDes Games Design during full time study are designed to maximise the acquisition of a creative and technical skill set across a 3 year period. Each module has a heavy emphasis on practice based content and outcome, with written components focusing on reflective reports and primary research into industry standards. There is also a firm focus on collaboration and team development, with two 40 credit points modules during the second year providing the opportunity for students to work on group projects. The final 80 credit points module will provide the opportunity to incorporate the skills acquired into an original project that reflects each individual student's professional interests and ambitions.
Year 1 (Level 4) is focused on the fundamentals of game design, research and the acquisition of skills focused on the development of game prototypes. The 20 credit points Game Design module in semester one builds core game design theory along with key planning techniques for game development. Technical implementation skills are then developed in the first semester Gameplay Scripting module with a focus on visual scripting and computer logic through the use of a contemporary game engine. The second semester Game Prototyping Module, will enable students to develop a game prototype through the use of a contemporary game engine, build up knowledge, understanding and skills in games testing methodologies, testing analysis and an iterative approach to game prototyping. Semester one will also develop student's, analytical skills and awareness of past and contemporary issues found within the games industry. The Asset development for games module focuses on the technical and creative process involved in the creation of various art assets for game prototypes.
Year 2 (Level 5) will also broaden the scope within the nuances of game design roles, the core game design skills from semester one will help lay a foundation for exploring different roles associated to game design through the Level Design module and User Interface Design module found in semester 1 and 2 .This will allow students to start to diversify and build skills in new areas, in which they may choose to focus on during the two group projects found in Year 2.
The first group project will be through the development of a narrative driven game that will introduce students to storytelling theory and narrative techniques in games in ‘Launch Title’. The ‘Launch Title’ module will also focus on a large scale, multi-disciplinary group project where students develop a game with a team made up from multiple disciplines from other courses such as animators and graphic designers. This will help simulate and give students insight into their specific role within a game studio. This will introduce students to the professional and team skills that are required to work within groups. Students will also learn game production skills ensuring that scope and timescales are adhered to in larger projects.
In the second semester students will participate in another group project which focuses on the development of a mobile game or application in the Mobile game development and production module. Students will also have access to VR and AR equipment allowing them to explore the new creative avenues that these technologies possess.
Year 3 (Level 6) allows students to focus in an area of their choice. A large proportion of the year will be through the Major Project module. This 80 credit points module spans two semesters allowing students the time to explore and develop their skills in a specific area of game design whilst developing a significant body of work. Students will also develop their research, analysis and understanding of issues surrounding the games industry through the completion of a dissertation. Best business practices, PR, marking and funding opportunities will be explored along with the development of an original IP in the Game Studio Development module.
This is a studio based programme. Seminars, lectures and workshops are timtabled. At other times you will work in dedicated studios and you will experience the collaboration and dialogue that are essential to ideation and development in the games design pipeline.
Attendance is expected up to four days per week with 15 hours staff contact time and 35 hours self directed study per week.
The programme is based on a modular structure. You are encouraged to take an optional placement year between years two and three. Over the duration of the course you will develop your knowledge of the creative, technical, theoretical and historical contexts which have led the evolution of a dynamic and innovative games design sector.
An appropriate blend of established and effective reaching delivery methods will be employed to enhance your learning experience and to achieve the learning outcomes of the course. Typically large group teaching will include lectures, studio practice, demonstrations and small group teaching will include seminars, teamwork /projects, critiques (feedback).
The Aims and Learning Outcomes of the BDes Hons Games Design course will be achieved through a variety of teaching and learning methods, including:
Tutorials – One-2-one and group tutorials will help to develop your confidence and communication skills and your agile thinking ability to verbally processing problems and tasks in hand in preparation for the games design industry. Tutorials are essential to creative work and also to support student learning and pastoral care.
Lectures – will impart essential information in traditional format. Case studies and the introduction of learning exercises within the lecture format will consolidate learning and introduce an opportunity for discussion and engagement. Guest lecturers from industry and academia will be invited throughout the programme to develop student engagement and understanding of the subject area.
Workshop and Studio Practice – will alow you time to practice independently in order to hone advanced skills and fluency. Studio practive recognises the importance of problem solving by testing and refining your ideas, whilst also giving you opportunities to learn new skills, ideas and approaches from experts in order to become effective within the games design industry pipeline.
Practicals and Demonstrations – will introduce a process, technique or technologies to you by members of School of Art academic and technical staff. Practicals and demonstrations are active, a method employed to make you aware of the characteristics of transferable skills and technologies.
Critiques – crits are a distictive featire of creative sector. Crits will encourage effective communication, reflection, sharing of opinions, evaluation of information, skills and ideas and provide opportunities for peer learning.
Seminars – will encourage debate, reflexive thinking and good communication skills. They can facilitate deep learning: analysis, synthesis, evaluation of complex issues and construction of argument.
Teamwork projects – Collaborative learning provides the platform on which independent learning is nurtured. Giving you the opportunity to gain confidence, become aware of your strengths, and develop your own ideas. Tutorials, workshops and seminars will provide academic staff and students opportunities to discuss team progress, dynamics and evaluate member activity. These will be particularly useful in Level 4 and Level 5 as they mirror current industrial studio practice, preventing isolation and assisting retention.
Blended learning – will offer the opportunity to consolidate and support face-to-face learning, communicate and share information with the wider cohort and develop essential digital skills. The course team will supplement and enhance module content including providing additional delivery of practical workshops, creating links to sources of further information including use of flipped classroom methodologies, encourage online discussion groups the development of web based portfolios.
Diagnostic, formative and summative feedback – Diagnostic feedback is valuable in the very early stages of learning; it allows you to reflect throughout your learning rather than viewing it retrospectively. Ongoing formative feedback is given in tutorials, critiques and studio seminars in verbal form on a regular basis and is crucial to student progress. Formative feedback is also offered when part of the coursework is submitted for assessment during the semester. Summative feedback is presented after assessment in written and verbal forms and offers a chance for you to reflect on progress and achievement and to receive suggestions for future direction. The course team consider feedback crucial to both student and staff progress in that it:
The course ethos is based on the University, Faculty and School’s Teaching and Learning strategy. The course team aim to enhance the quality of the student learning experience by:
The University’s first year undergraduate teaching policy puts in place best practice for teachers and learners. The course team and the Level 4 year coordinator understand the importance of a fully integrated first year experience, which is evidenced by:
The content for each course is summarised on the relevant course page, along with an overview of the modules that make up the course.
Each course is approved by the University and meets the expectations of:
As part of your course induction, you will be provided with details of the organisation and management of the course, including attendance and assessment requirements - usually in the form of a timetable. For full-time courses, the precise timetable for each semester is not confirmed until near the start date and may be subject to change in the early weeks as all courses settle into their planned patterns. For part-time courses which require attendance on particular days and times, an expectation of the days of attendance will often be included in the letter of offer. A course handbook is also made available.
Courses comprise modules for which the notional effort involved is indicated by its credit rating. Each credit point represents 10 hours of student effort. Undergraduate courses typically contain 10- or 20-credit modules and postgraduate course typically 15- or 30-credit modules.
The normal study load expectation for an undergraduate full-time course of study in the standard academic year is 120 credit points. This amounts to around 36-42 hours of expected teaching and learning per week, inclusive of attendance requirements for lectures, seminars, tutorials, practical work, fieldwork or other scheduled classes, private study, and assessment. Part-time study load is the same as full-time pro-rata, with each credit point representing 10 hours of student effort.
Postgraduate Masters courses typically comprise 180 credits, taken in three semesters when studied full-time. A Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) comprises 60 credits and can usually be completed on a part-time basis in one year. A 120-credit Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) can usually be completed on a part-time basis in two years.
Class contact times vary by course and type of module. Typically, for a module predominantly delivered through lectures you can expect at least 3 contact hours per week (lectures/seminars/tutorials). Laboratory classes often require a greater intensity of attendance in blocks. Some modules may combine lecture and laboratory. The precise model will depend on the course you apply for and may be subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. Prospective students will be consulted about any significant changes.
Assessment methods vary and are defined explicitly in each module. Assessment can be via one method or a combination e.g. examination and coursework . Assessment is designed to assess your achievement of the module’s stated learning outcomes. You can expect to receive timely feedback on all coursework assessment. The precise assessment will depend on the module and may be subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. You will be consulted about any significant changes.
Coursework can take many forms, for example: essay, report, seminar paper, test, presentation, dissertation, design, artefacts, portfolio, journal, group work. The precise form and combination of assessment will depend on the course you apply for and the module. Details will be made available in advance through induction, the course handbook, the module specification and the assessment timetable. The details are subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. You will be consulted about any significant changes.
Normally, a module will have four learning outcomes, and no more than two items of assessment. An item of assessment can comprise more than one task. The notional workload and the equivalence across types of assessment is standardised.
The class of Honours awarded in Bachelor’s degrees is usually determined by calculation of an aggregate mark based on performance across the modules at Levels 5 and 6 (which correspond to the second and third year of full-time attendance).
Level 6 modules contribute 70% of the aggregate mark and Level 5 contributes 30% to the calculation of the class of the award. Classification of integrated Masters degrees with Honours include a Level 7 component. The calculation in this case is: 50% Level 7, 30% Level 6, 20% Level 5. At least half the Level 5 modules must be studied at the University for Level 5 to be included in the calculation of the class.
All other qualifications have an overall grade determined by results in modules from the final level of study. In Masters degrees of more than 200 credit points the final 120 points usually determine the overall grading.
Figures correct for academic year 2019-2020.
The University employs over 1,000 suitably qualified and experienced academic staff - 59% have PhDs in their subject field and many have professional body recognition.
We require most academic staff to be qualified to teach in higher education: 82% hold either Postgraduate Certificates in Higher Education Practice or higher. Most academic staff (81%) are accredited fellows of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) - the university sector professional body for teaching and learning. Many academic and technical staff hold other professional body designations related to their subject or scholarly practice.
The University employs over 1,000 suitably qualified and experienced academic staff - 59% have PhDs in their subject field and many have professional body recognition.
Courses are taught by staff who are Professors (25%), Readers, Senior Lecturers (20%) or Lecturers (55%).
We require most academic staff to be qualified to teach in higher education: 82% hold either Postgraduate Certificates in Higher Education Practice or higher. Most academic staff (81%) are accredited fellows of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) by Advanced HE - the university sector professional body for teaching and learning. Many academic and technical staff hold other professional body designations related to their subject or scholarly practice.
The profiles of many academic staff can be found on the University’s departmental websites and give a detailed insight into the range of staffing and expertise. The precise staffing for a course will depend on the department(s) involved and the availability and management of staff. This is subject to change annually and is confirmed in the timetable issued at the start of the course.
Occasionally, teaching may be supplemented by suitably qualified part-time staff (usually qualified researchers) and specialist guest lecturers. In these cases, all staff are inducted, mostly through our staff development programme ‘First Steps to Teaching’. In some cases, usually for provision in one of our out-centres, Recognised University Teachers are involved, supported by the University in suitable professional development for teaching.
Figures correct for academic year 2021-2022.
The Belfast campus is situated in the artistic and cultural centre of the city, the Cathedral Quarter.
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Here is a guide to the subjects studied on this course.
Courses are continually reviewed to take advantage of new teaching approaches and developments in research, industry and the professions. Please be aware that modules may change for your year of entry. The exact modules available and their order may vary depending on course updates, staff availability, timetabling and student demand. Please contact the course team for the most up to date module list.
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In this module students will gain knowledge in core areas asset development for games. Students will gain the ability to create a diverse range of assets, using correct formats specifications, that can be imported into a contemporary game engine. This knowledge and set of skills will allow students to be more independent in the creation of prototypes but also open up new opportunities in artistic roles available in the games, film and animation industry.
In this module students will gain knowledge in core areas of game design, game mechanics and presentation techniques. The module will encourage students to analyse and evaluate historical and contemporary game titles, what key elements constructed their gameplay experiences and how constraints impacted those designs. This module will prepare students for future modules where designing, planning and communicating game design ideas are required.
This module introduces students to key historical events, ideas and developments in game design that have informed and influenced contemporary games. Students will learn of the wider social, cultural, economic, political and technological contexts in which games have been made and used. The coursework encourages students in establishing good observation skills and sound research practice.
In this module students will gain knowledge in core areas of scripting for gameplay experiences through the use of contemporary game engines. This module will encourage students to utilise game engine features to speed up development time but also make aspects of their implementation more efficient. This module will prepare students for future modules requiring prototyping, where ideas are required to be developed into playable experiences in a rapid and iterative manner.
This module is designed to take advantage of previously acquired skills in scripting and design theory to create a vertical slice of a previously planned game. Students will gain new knowledge in testing methodology that will ensure future developments are more polished and better balanced. This Module will prepare students for larger projects that will be produced in the second year, that require more development, organisational, communication, critical reflection skills and knowledge.
Through this Module students will gain knowledge and skills in the design and development of mobile games. Students will obtain knowledge on the constraints and limitations of the technology while also getting exposure and opportunities to develop for AR and VR platforms. Students will be placed into small teams and given an opportunity to work in their desired role, building on planning, communication, leadership and organisational skills.
Through this module students will gain knowledge and understanding in storytelling theory and narrative techniques for games along with the necessary skills to implement both narrative and mechanics into a cohesive gaming experience. Students will gain essential experience in team work and a multidisciplinary setting. This module aims to simulate a game studio environment where students take on roles such as a producer, Artist, Designer, programmer or animator giving them vital experience in working with other disciplines whilst developing a narrative led game.
A Level Designer is a specialised role within game design and this module will give students the foundation and core knowledge on the theory of level design and the skills involved on planning, designing and developing a level utilising a specific set of tools in a contemporary game engine. This will form essential skills required to be a level designer and allow students to specialise in this area if they choose in team led projects.
In this Module students will gain knowledge in core areas of UI design and development for games. The module will encourage students to critically analyse and evaluate historical and contemporary UI found in games and other media whilst developing working solutions to their own UI designs using a contemporary game engine. This module will prepare students for future modules where UI design and implementation are required but also expose them to job opportunities in User interface design for game studios.
The module is text-based and facilitates an understanding of the context of game design practice and the broader themes using theoretical debates and analytical methodologies.
Through this Module students will explore, investigate and analyse core business theory and funding models for game studios. Students will gain knowledge on contemporary techniques and strategies in the development and promotion of original game intellectual properties and develop business plans and strategies that identify, adapt and deal with development and publishing issues.
This module is project-based. It consists of a major piece of design work whose topic is chosen by the student under the supervision of the module coordinator. The major project will form a major part in the student's portfolio of work and is the culmination of the course. This 80-credit module spans two semesters and allows for ambition, risk-taking and continuity, which is reflective of practice in the professional field. This will prepare you for the rigours of postgraduate study and industry practice.
We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.
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The A Level requirement for this course is BCC - BBB.
Applicants can satisfy the requirement for one of the A level grades (or equivalent) by substituting a combination of alternative qualifications recognised by the University.
Overall award profile BTEC Level 3 QCF Extended Diploma DDD - DDM.
Overall award profile BTEC Level 3 RQF National Extended Diploma DDM - DMM.
104 UCAS Tariff Points to include a minimum of 4 subjects at Higher Level and 1 at Ordinary Level, including English at O4/H6 or above.
The Scottish Highers requirement for this course is CCCCC - BBBCC.
The Scottish Advanced Highers requirement for this course is CDD - CCC.
Overall International Baccalaureate profile minimum 24 points (12 at higher level).
Successful completion of Access Course with an average mark of between 65% - 70%.
GCSE Profile to include English Language at minimum grade C.
English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. Trinity ISE: Pass at level III also meets this requirement for Tier 4 visa purposes.
Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.
Games Design Portfolio
If we ask for a portfolio, we would like you to submit one digitally. A portfolio for game design is not your typical portfolio. You get to show a wide range of abilities in areas of art, media, design, 3D development, coding and game prototyping. Any work that displays your creative potential and interests are ideal.
We like to see your final pieces but also how you got there, your development process, the exploration of your ideas, all the hard work you did to get to that final point. The development process is just as important as the final piece.
These design projects can come from your school work or projects that you have done in your own time.
To build a well-rounded portfolio you can have aspects from a range of areas, which may include:
• Game Design documents – A document where you detail a game’s mechanics, characters, story, levels, control schemes. These may include simple sketches of your mechanics or level layouts and how they work in a game.
• Experience of using computer software – Photoshop, video editing and 3D modelling software.
• Game Prototypes –Not essential but showing that can use software such as unity or Unreal 4 is a good way of showing your game design skills.
• Interactive media –websites, apps, videos.
• Art –Character sketches, environment art, props etc.
• Graphic Design work –Concepts and final pieces
• Game analysis –An analysis of a game or a section of game.
Remember we are not expecting to see all these elements in a single portfolio just your best work presented well.
If you are submitting larger game files these can be shown through an online video link (Youtube/Vimeo) or a shared download link of the game itself. For 3D work you should submit images of your models or a sketchfab link rather than the file itself.
Ensure all your work is accessible, not password protected or using broken links.
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With this degree you could become:
The Games Industry is a rapidly gowing area of media entertainment with the the UK being one of the top five regions in the world to develop games with over 12,000 people currently employed in over 2,000 game studios. The UK contains some of the most prestigious developers from around the globe such as Rockstar Games, Rocksteady Studios, Hello Games, EA, Sony, Media Molecule and many more creating global successes such as the GTA series, Batmant Arkham series, No man's sky, Little Big Planet, Candy Crush, Assassins Creed and many more.
Northern Ireland is currently home to many excellent independant developers such as Italic Pig, Billy Goat entertainment with a rapidly growing portfolio of games and studios.
This Games Design programme is designed to prepare students for a career in a range of game development related fields such as, Games Designer, Level Designer, QA Tester, Virtual Reality Developer, Augmented Reality Developer, Systems Designer, UI Designer and 3D Modeller.
You will also gain knowledge and the entrepreneurial skills necessary to develop and set-up your own games studio alongside game industry funding partners.
Students are strongly encouraged to undertake an optional work placement and/or take advantage of the excellent study abroad programe leading to the award of a Diploma in Professional Practice or Diploma in International Academic Studies. The DPP is generally European-based and studio orientated. The DIAS allows for further study at an institution in either Europe or in the USA, under the Erasmus scheme, the Study USA scheme or the Year abroad scheme. You will obtain the appropriate award in addition to your degree's classification on successful completion of your Final Year.
Fees illustrated are based on academic year 22/23 entry and are subject to an annual increase.
If your study continues into future academic years your fees are subject to an annual increase. Please take this into consideration when you estimate your total fees for a degree.
Additional mandatory costs are highlighted where they are known in advance. There are other costs associated with university study.
Correct at the time of publishing. Terms and conditions apply.
The price of your overall programme will be determined by the number of credit points that you initiate in the relevant academic year.
For modules commenced in the academic year 2022/23, the following fees apply:
|Credit Points||NI/ROI Cost||GB Cost||International Cost|
NB: A standard full-time undergraduate degree is equivalent to 120 credit points per year.
Diploma in Professional Practice DPP
Diploma in International Academic Studies DIAS
Discounts for student from England, Scotland and Wales:
You have three discount options to choose from:
£2,000 discount on tuition fees. £1,000 discount on tuition fees
£1,000 discount on tuition fees
£2,000 scholarship applied as discount to your annual tuition fee.
Information provided is for guidance only as scholarship details are subject to change - please refer to the source website for up-to-date and accurate information.
Tranzfuser is the popular talent development programme brought to you by UK Games Talent and Finance CIC, working with a host of regional contributors and funded by UK Government. Students on the course will have an oppertunity to access and apply for this competition with many teams forming sucessful game studios as a result.
Students purchase materials for their own coursework.
Field trips may incur additional costs.
It is important to remember that costs associated with accommodation, travel (including car parking charges) and normal living will need to be covered in addition to tuition fees.
Where a course has additional mandatory expenses (in addition to tuition fees) we make every effort to highlight them above. We aim to provide students with the learning materials needed to support their studies. Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals, as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. Computer suites and free Wi-Fi are also available on each of the campuses.
There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines.
Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as a part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs, as well as tuition fees.
See the tuition fees on our student guide for most up to date costs.
Course Director: Brian Coyle