Train2Game News: The future’s a game as Nicola’s incredible journey across Europe pays off

Nicola When Nicola Valcasara faced nothing but dead-end jobs in his home-town of Verona, he went on an incredible journey which ended on the doorstep of one of the world’s biggest companies.

The ambitious Italian rode almost 2000 miles through Italy, France and the UK on his Honda motorbike to seek his fortune.

Nicola, aged 26, of Lowerstoft Close, south east London, said: “I was delivering pizzas in Italy and working in an amusement park, anything to get by really, but then I found myself out of work for a year…

“I’d always had the ambition to work in the games industry but there are no real opportunities anywhere in Italy. I’d spent months applying to companies but got no response.

“I couldn’t see any future at home and one day I just jumped on my motorbike and rode off into the night with my heart set on finding work.”

After five days of travelling across Europe Nicola finally arrived in London. “It wasn’t that I believed the streets were paved with gold but I knew it was a major centre for the games industry and that’s all I wanted to get in to.”

David Cameron has made the video games and apps industry one of his main focuses of the UK’s economic recovery offering major tax breaks to companies offering new jobs and opportunities to talented people and financial support to major organisations. But Nicola’s arrival in the capital was a nightmare – within 24 hours a gang tried to steal his motorbike and a few days later he was conned out of £300 by a company which promised to get him into the games industry.

“It was terrible, I’d parked my bike in the street and five men tried to steal it – the police woke me up at 3am. The next blow was meeting up with a man who convinced me that his firm could teach me what I needed to know to realise my techy ambitions. They ripped me off. I was pretty despondent.”

Nicola and chefs

“I didn’t know he was in the competition. When he told us he had won we were in shock. He’s a very quiet guy, then out of nowhere he told us he had won £10,000”, head chef Sandro Jaupi

But within ten days Nicola had found himself a job as a chef in one of London’s top restaurants.

“Things were looking up and I have always enjoyed cooking – but it still wasn’t what I was looking for. I knew Microsoft’s London offices weren’t far from where I was working and I’d always wanted the chance to prove my abilities to them in particular. It was like I was standing on the doorstep of a dream.”

Nicola started burning the midnight oil in a bid to break in to the games industry. “I used my wages to pay for aTrain2Game course, one of the biggest training colleges in the UK, and right away I began making games and apps.”

It was then he entered the national Rapid2D development competition to find the best apps created for Microsoft’s Windows 8. Nicola was amazed to hear he’d won the top prize of £10,000. Part of the prize was to see his work go up on line, a visit to Microsoft’s new centre in London and to receive mentoring from Gurus.

Myra and Andrew presenting the cheque

“I can’t believe it – it was worth that incredible journey through the nights on a motorbike from Italy. Now I have money in the bank, I’m learning to build games which is my real ambition and I’ve got an introduction to Microsoft. I feel like I’m really on top of life.”

Dr. Jan Telensky senior JV of Train2Game where Nicola is learning said: “We think Nicola has done really well and what a journey he went on to get here. We wish him all the best. This really is an exciting time to get into the industry, particularly with the Government tax breaks and the support of major organisations. Our students are becoming main players in games design.”

Nicola coaching Andrew

Nicola coaching Andrew Weber, Microsoft at Le Mercury {deuxiéme}

Nicola chefs and cheque

Sandro Jaupi, head chef (Nicola’s boss)

How do you feel about Nicola winning?

Absolutely amazing,

He has worked for us for around 5 months.

He really likes gaming; all he talks about is gaming in the kitchen.

He works in the kitchen for a job but his heart is set on making games, this is like a dream come true for him.

Nicolas cheque

Train2Game News: Train2Game Radio – Muir Halleron

Muir HalleronI got the pleasure of interviewing a young man named Muir recently who is just coming to the end of section 1 of his course. You may have seen Muir on Twitter or the Train2Game Forum as he is always very active on there. Now you can find out more about him!

You can here the interview here: http://audioboo.fm/boos/1391947-train2game-student-muir-halleron-talks-to-t2g-radio

Or read the transcript below:

Hi my name is Muir, I’m a Games Development student with Train2Game and I live in Widnes, Cheshire.

Hi Muir, how you doing mate?

I’m alright thanks Mark, how are you?

I’m good cheers buddy. So tell me, how did you get into Games Development?

Well, I’ve always loved games. My first games console was when I was like four years old and it was an Odyssey 2, if you can remember back that far! Showing my age. I’ve just been really interested in games going all the way up to Nintendo, Xbox360 and PlayStation. When I saw the Train2Game thing online I went on the website, filled out a form and didn’t think twice about it really.

Was there any particular game that made you want to get in to development its self?

Probably the Elder Scrolls series. I had a play with the Elder Scrolls, Skrim it was, there game engine that they use that they have opened up to allow people to mod the game. I was just absolutely gob smacked by it and everything that goes in to making a game. I’d say that’s probably the biggest series that’s worked.

Yeah. Were you into coding before that or is it something you have learnt through Train2Game entirely?

It’s pretty much something I am learning just through Train2Game. I remember when I was really little, about five or six years old, my Dad bought a home computer and I actually had a go at learning BASIC on that. It got to the point where I could make a really, really simple game on BASIC and that was about it.

So what have you been up to with your games development at the minute?

Well right now I’m nearly finished with Section one in the course and I’ve lately been doing the one game a month challenge that’s online. That’s www.onegameamonth.com

Oh yeah? How’s that going?

It’s going pretty good, this month has been pretty slow, I’ve had a mental block with coding for some reason this month but the last 3 months I’ve made one game a month. The first one was something based on one of the Game Maker tutorials in the intro booklet for the Train2Game course and the other two were ones I came up with, on myself. The last one being completely done in C++. I’m actually really proud of that one!

Nice, so it sounds like you are progressing quite well then?

Yeah and I just recently I’ve also been accepted with Road Hog Games. Doing there student initiative.

Ah very nice and what are you doing with them?

Well right now it’s a group of two developers, two designers and two artists I believe. We are in the process of making a game under the tutelage and support of Road Hog Games.

Finally, What is your greatest ambition for your career?

Well I am hoping eventually to be able to get to a point where I can either work for a well developed gaming company as a developer or go in as an indie dev and make my own games.

Is there any company in particular that you’d want to work for?

Well in this area, just in Widnes, there’s actually Sony Evolution Studios is in Runcorn which is real close to where I live. So I’ve been feeling the waters with them a bit and there’s a few other small gaming companies in Liverpool and Manchester as well.

Excellent. Well thank you very much Muir!

Thank you Mark!

Train2Game News: Train2Game Radio – Sam Henderson

Sam HendersonLast week I got to interview Sam Henderson who was the runner up in the Rapid2D competition. Sam told me about how he came to Train2Game and how he found working with the engine and Windows 8.

You can listen to the interview here: http://audioboo.fm/boos/1366288-train2game-student-sam-henderson-shares-his-prize-from-rapid2d

Or read the following transcript:

My name’s Sam Henderson, doing the Train2Game developer course and I live in Darlington.

Hi Sam, how you doing mate?

I’m good thanks

Excellent, so tell me who you are and what have you done lately?

Well at the moment just trying to be a games developer, went to university for 2 years, didn’t like it, went on Train2Game, learnt loads from that.

I understand you worked with the Rapid2D engine recently, you were part of the competition weren’t you?

Yeah

How did that go?

I came second, I was runner up.

Yeah and what did you have to do for the competition?

Just design games for Windows 8.

How did you find working with Rapid2D and Windows 8 and all of that?

A lot easier than I thought! It was difficult to get used to it but when I did get used to it, it was perfect to use. A lot easier than I thought it was going to be.

Excellent, so what sort of games did you make?

I made a Space Game, I used templates that they provided to us and just tried to edit them. I used a couple of quiz games based on the template they provided us with and I just went from there really.

You had to make a certain amount of games to enter didn’t you? How many?

Yeah it was 5 to enter then for every one you get an extra entry. I made I think it was twenty three in total.

That must have been quite some work!

Yeah, day and night!.

Yeah, who needs sleep!? So was that on your own you did that?

Yeah I was on my own.

You said you were at University and didn’t enjoy it that much. What was it about University that you weren’t into so much?

Um, because we were quite a big class, because games programming is quite popular, I didn’t get the support, the one to one support, I wanted and needed. So the lecturers came in, dealt with the people they liked and who stood out more to them but for people like me who stay back, stay quiet, through certain things, it was a bit harder for me to grasp everything but then I found Train2Game and I found everything a lot, lot easier, a lot more support, got the forum and got the Tutors. It was so much easier to use. In my own time as well.

How did you find out about Train2Game?

I think it was an ad through Facebook!

So how did you initially get into games development? What sparked off your interest for it?

Well my initial games interest was from when I was a kid, I had a lot of free time because I was in hospital quite a bit because I fell in a river and got an ear infection and lost hearing in my ear. So I was in and out of hospital every now and again and I had a games console to play while recovering. That sparked my interest in games and as I progressed through life I just wanted to do more with games and try and produce them myself and get more involved in development for them.

Excellent. So where would you like to end up working in the games industry?

Not sure! Anywhere that’s willing to take me really.

You haven’t got any ambitions to work at any of the big companies or anything like that?

Well I suppose probably my favourite one to work for would probably be Bethesda, working on the Fallout or The Elder Scroll games.

Yeah? They seem to be popular with the programmers because of just the amount of work that goes in to them must be quite appealing!

Yeah.

Alright, well thank you very much then Sam!

Thank you.

Train2Game News: Train2Game Radio interview with Icey Monty

Icey MontyI got the pleasure of interviewing the Train2Game Student Studio Icey Monty earlier this week. They are really going from strength to strength in this industry and you can read about or listen to their company adventures below.

You can listen to the interview here: http://audioboo.fm/boos/1350533-train2game-student-studio-icey-monty-talks-to-t2g-radio

Or read the following transcript:

John: Hi, my name’s John, I’m on the Developer course and I’m from Scotland but now live in Newcastle.

Nick: Hi I’m Nick, I’m also on the Train2Game course and I’m from Newmarket, Suffolk.

Hi guys, how you doing?

John: I’m good, how about you?

Nick: I’m good, really good.

I’m good cheers guys, so tell me who you guys are and what you have been up to?

John: We’re Icey Monty, we started our own company two weeks ago and we are now officially working on a couple of clients games.

Very nice. So what clients, what games? If you can say of course

John: Nick is working for a professor in California at the minute, he specialises in eye to brain coordination. He’s asked for a thing to be created that will measure reflexes, how quick the eye can send a message to the brain. So Nick’s been working on that for the past two or three weeks now and I’m working on a racing game for a client in the Ukraine. He’s got a website that currently gets about three hundred thousand hits a day so that’s pretty cool!

You seem to get a lot of international work. Where do you source your work from?

John: I’ll let you answer that one Nick.

Nick: Sure. Well we started off by just posting in the Unity commercial forums just saying we are a small start up and we are available for work. After that, we had about two or three jobs leading from that and from there we had the funds to start a website and since then we haven’t had to contact anyone really. We’ve had people contact us for the last few weeks.

So, is it just the two of you working then?

Nick: It is, yeah.

Are you happy working in a small team?

Nick: Oh absolutely yeah!

John: Most Definitely.

Nick: So much better than with the pressure you get with a large team.

John: Especially from a management side of things.

Nick: Oh definitely yeah. Things are a lot more flexible for us now. Things are a lot more laid back. Some days it doesn’t even feel like working really. A bit of a cliché but we really enjoy it so it’s nice.

Excellent. So you’ve had quite a lot of success so what advice would you give to students who are looking to start making games professionally?

John: Oh, be prepared to work, a lot. That’s how we done ours. When we got a clients job we literally wouldn’t rest because the way we thought about it was, this is our dream and they’ve given us the opportunity to where we want to be with our careers and our lives, so really we are indebted to these people.

Nick: You give them everything you can offer them. Don’t think of it as a job, you’re giving them your expertise. You’re showing them that you can do these kind of things, your proving yourself in the market, in the work you do.

So work hard and you will be noticed, kind of thing?

John: Yeah. The other thing we do is, if we know we are ahead of our schedule, we will actually contact the client because we’ve had an idea, literally me and Nick will talk all day – obviously we still get our work done, we don’t sit down and have a nanny chat, but if we come up with a cool idea we will contact the client and say “Look, we are a bit ahead of schedule, would you like this added to your game?” at no extra cost, it won’t cost you anything, we are just really enjoying what we are working on at the minute.

Perfect, so always go that extra mile for them?

Nick: Yeah, it pays back ten-fold.

John: It does, insanely.

So finally then lads, where can people find out more about Icey Monty?

John: If you just go to www.iceymonty.com which is our professional website or you can go to www.iceymontyblog.com and there are things we are working on personally for our clients projects, obviously with permission, some of the systems we create or just some general ideas and some doodles we do through the day.

Perfect well thank you very much guys!

John: No problem, thanks very much!

Nick: Cheers!