NATHAN SHARPINDEPENDENT GAME DEVELOPER
I am currently an independent game developer based in Sydney, managing a small team called ‘Mucky Pup Games’, working on my own game ideas. I am responsible for creating initial game concepts, all game/level design, narrative writing etc., and managing/overseeing the work of all other team members.
While studying at SAE Sydney, all my overall module grades were High Distinction (HD) or Distinction (DD). I served on the Student Council as a primary member during my second year of study. My major project game ‘Zera’ was nominated for Game of the Year. At the graduation ceremony I was given 3 special awards: Highest GPA (Grade Point Average) for Bachelor of Games Development (Games Design), Service to the SAE Community, and Student Council (Recognition for Service on Student Council).
What inspired you to enter into the career you’re in?
While finishing my Tertiary Preparation Certificate course at TAFE, I was still uncertain what I wanted to do as a career. I was considering careers in IT, maths, and science, but while I may have done well in these fields, none of them satisfied my creative side.
Then, while browsing through the UAC (University Admissions Centre) Guide, I came across the Bachelor of Game Development course offered at SAE Sydney – my heart started beating fast, and I knew this was what I wanted to do.
What are your fondest memories of your time at SAE?
Working with others in groups, although quite challenging at times, really helps to open oneself up to new ideas and new ways of thinking. I have stayed in touch with many fellow students and teachers from SAE, some of whom have become good friends. Actually, about half of my current game development team are friends I met at SAE Sydney.
One of the most important things about SAE which really stood out for me was their focus on being inclusive, and on fostering this sense of inclusiveness in their students, especially in the Critical Thinking modules. This is something that needs to be encouraged in society as a whole, and we as creatives are in a unique position to influence society to be better.
Are you able to shed some light on how studying at SAE lead you to where you are now?
SAE introduced me to game engines, the basics of programming, 3D modelling/texturing etc., as well as some rudimentary animation and audio, among many other things. But equally important was the emphasis on learning how to learn for ourselves, which is always going to be vital (as there is always going to be more to learn).
Additionally, there was a great deal of teamwork involved in most classes – in many cases with students from all disciplines, not just our own. This has helped me in interacting with people from my own and other fields in my own team since graduating. For example, it is important to know how to explain what is needed in terms that others can understand, so having at least a rudimentary understanding of other fields, and the basic terminology used in those fields, is very helpful.
What are your career highlights?
Being an independent developer, my career highlights at present all relate to the team I have assembled, and the project we are working on (our first). Having a team that is excited about our project and has faith in my ability to manage it, as well as my ability to create the game world and all levels in it, is a definite highlight for me. Seeing my team members enthusiasm at a team meeting when I show them the game world map and run through a 100+ page level summary document with them over a few hours, fills me with confidence and a renewed sense of purpose.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
My focus at the moment is called (in Japanese) “Yokai no Bōken – Fuyu no Hi” – this translates approximately to “Yokai Adventure – Fire of Winter”. It is a narrative-driven fantasy/magic themed 3D action adventure game based on Yokai (supernatural creatures of Japanese folklore), largely influenced by games such as Ōkami and the Zelda franchise.
It is comprised of 36 distinct playable levels/areas each with its own theme, and has 107 different types of Yokai NPCs, as well as many human and animal NPCs. The player will use a combination of fighting and magic skills to defeat enemies, as well as needing to solve many puzzles, complete side-quests and so forth. This game revolves around on my own story and ideas, while staying true to the Japanese folklore characters it is based upon. I have a great team working with me to bring my vision to life, and we plan to have it finished in around three years.
What advice would you give to students aspiring to become successful in their field?
Push through the hard times – when something seems impossible, adapt, find a way around it! Figure things out for yourself when you can, but don’t be afraid to ask for help – from other students, teachers, and of course online resources – there are so many great tutorials out there, make use of them! Lastly, don’t just stick to your own discipline, learn what you can about the other creative disciplines whenever you can, because that knowledge will be useful when dealing with people from other fields, whether you find yourself working for an established studio or with your own team.