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Michael Barclay

Michael Barclay - BSc Computer Games Technology 2007

Game Designer, Naughty Dog.

Current role

I have been working in the games industry since nigh-on the moment I graduated from Abertay in 2007. I spent a lot of my early career bouncing around studios in the UK, but actually ended up getting my first game release at Cohort Games back in Dundee, which seemed a bit poetic. Since then I’ve worked on the Crysis series at Crytek and helped out as Lead Level Designer on Star Citizen as it grew from Kickstarter to become the biggest crowdfunded project of all time. I'm now working at Naughty Dog in Los Angeles, California on Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and The Last of Us: Part II.

While I was bouncing around companies, I was also bouncing around job roles.

Graduating with a degree in Computer Games technology has allowed me to more easily switch roles and wear a few hats at companies.

I started off as more of a physics programmer/scripter implementing script solutions for events in games (like scripting explosions when we didn’t have a proper physics engine), then I started to pick up more level design/3D modelling skills while working on Crysis. I’ve done single player level design, multiplayer level design, worked on casual games and AAA blockbusters, coding, scripting and some systems design thrown in there as well.

At Naughty Dog I have now almost fully transitioned into an environmental design role. I still get to flex my programmer muscles as I also implement some systems within my levels through our scripting language, but my main duty is to create the spaces and design the events that make up the levels.

Abertay

Graduating from Abertay not only set me up with a competitive, robust understanding of a core discipline (in my case, programming) but more importantly, a network of friends and peers who I owe my years making games to, thanks to their support and advice.

Abertay is strong in the field because of the talent and enthusiasm of staff like Kenny McAlpine (he didn’t even pay me to put that in, honest). Dundee has remained a hub of development thanks to the perseverance and work ethic of companies like Outplay, Stormcloud and Ruffian to name but a few and, last but not least, Dare to be Digital, obviously.

If I could offer advice to my younger self, I would say 'don’t join a hardcore raid guild in your final year of your degree course'. Actually, it would be to relax a little more. Don't worry about what's four or five years down the line, don't worry about everything you don't know, focus on what's ahead of you and enjoy making games right now.

Every day is a new opportunity to learn and everyone's journey is unique. Enjoy it!

In the future, I'd like to see the industry become more inclusive, more diverse, more weird, more wonderful and more surprising. If you're reading this and you're a student, my aspiration is for you to make me feel old by creating something amazing. Cheers.

Influences

The Last of Us made me want to pack up and move 5000 miles to work for Naughty Dog... so is that one? Either that one or World of Warcraft, which almost prevented me from even being able to call myself an alumnus...