The 2019 Search for a Star and Sumo Digital Rising Star Finals Day is fast approaching (yay!) and we’re proud to announce this year’s talented finalists across all 5 categories!
These are some of the most talented students across games programming, character art, environment art, animation and games VFX, from universities across the UK and Europe.
To get this far is a huge accomplishment, and a massive amount of work has been put in by all entrants. We can’t wait for the 17th April to celebrate and recognise these efforts – a celebration that may include one member of our marketing team wearing a star costume…
If you’d also like to come along to our Finals Day conference, with a full schedule of industry talks, studio mini-expo and networking opportunities with both peers and industry professionals, you can find out more and sign up for a free ticket here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/search-for-a-star-2019-finals-day-conference-the-grads-in-games-awards-tickets-58107260380
Have a look at each of the projects created by our finalists – there’s an amazing variety in tone and style and each entry definitely deserves some recognition.
So, without any further ado, we’re happy to introduce you to our finalists! (Apologies in advance for the terrible, terrible attempts at puns)
Search for a Star 2019
First up, Search for a Star Programming!
Following the Stage 1 C++ test, this year’s programmers created a Unity project to an industry-written brief and both scores have been combined to select this year’s top 5.
‘could easily be releasable’
Maria is from Abertay University, and with 35 total entries it’s no surprise we’ll be joined by 2 finalists from Dundee this year!
Her fun and colourful Stage 2 game project ‘Goop’ sees players collect slime goop and complete potion recipes before time runs out.
The judges praised in particular her style and aesthetic and highlighted how genuinely fun it is to play. Goop job Maria!
See ‘Goop’ here: https://vjola.itch.io/goop
‘good fun to play’
The 4th highest university for entries, James is one of the 46 UCLan students to take part this year!
Casting a spell on everyone who’s played it, James complemented his high C++ test score with ‘Magic Bean and the Penguins’, a fast paced game where you fire magic beans at penguins. As you can expect from the title, the assessors found it really enjoyable and emphasised how fun it is!
See ‘Magic Bean and the Penguins’ here: https://jamescaskey.itch.io/magic-bean
‘nice visual style’
Scott will be representing the 21 Buckinghamshire New University students signed up for this year’s competitions with his stealth based shooter ‘Infiltration’.
Scott didn’t need to try and infiltrate the finals – with his AI enemies and great aesthetics, assessors found it hard to suggest anything that needed improving.
See ‘Infiltration’ here: https://scottleatherbarrow.itch.io/infiltration
‘probably my favourite entry of all’
Scoring 100% in the Stage 1 C++ test and having previous success in Rising Star a few years ago, it’s no surprise that University of Bristol student Nick has done so well this year.
‘Escape the CIA’ is a top-down stealth shooter praised in particular for the fun death animations and overall level of polish. Nick definitely won’t be escaping attention on the 17th!
See ‘Escape the CIA’ here: https://nick-pearson.itch.io/escape-from-the-cia
Studying Games Development at Edinburgh Napier, Timothy’s creative game ‘Slash Slash Execution’ is a 3D game with rhythm-based combat.
With a focus on precision and timing, ‘Slash Slash Execution’ relies on sound and really tests the player’s reaction time and is very well executed!
See ‘Slash Slash Execution’ here: https://tatltuae.itch.io/slash-slash-execution
Sumo Digital Rising Star 2019
Next up, we have the finalists for Rising Star programming. Completing the exact same tasks as their Search for a Star counterparts, this a group of programmers who are not yet in their final year of university, but already showing really promising futures in games development.
‘love this game’
Graduating in 2021 from Staffordshire University, this is Samuel’s second year entering Rising Star. With 54 other entries from the same university, Staffordshire students have produced some great work in the competition this year, and Samuel is no exception, getting one of the highest scores in the C++ code test for the Rising Star tier.
‘Consciousness’ is a consciously (sorry) creative and different take on the brief as the player takes on the role of an entity with no form and must possess other hosts to fight and progress.
The judges’ feedback showed an appreciation of the creativity and idea behind the game, and how he used the resources made available in the brief to create something so interesting!
See ‘Consciousness’ here: https://samuelross98.itch.io/consciousness
‘fun to play and a strong visual design’
Studying Computer Gaming Technology at Anglia Ruskin, Milan is set to graduate in 2020 & has already shown some great skills across both stages of Rising Star.
Grr… argh! Milan’s zombie game ‘A Grave Disturbance’ has multiple enemies to face and a fun back-story sure to bring any bored players back from the dead.
Judges praised how smoothly the game plays and how well thought out the concept is.
See ‘A Grave Disturbance’ here: https://thedigitaltechnologist.itch.io/a-grave-disturbance
‘not far from a professional game’
One of this year’s European finalists, Tahar is studying at Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands and is due to graduate in 2020.
Speeding into the finals, Tahar’s Stage 2 game ‘Race Your Friends’ is, as the title suggests, a local multiplayer racing game, admired in particular for its aesthetic and use of AI.
See ‘Race Your Friends’ here: https://tntmeijs.itch.io/race-your-friends
Stylianos Thornaidis – Gangspules
‘I really like the game!’
Another entrant not due to graduate until 2021, Stylianos is studying Computer Games Development at Liverpool John Moores University.
With both a story mode and an arcade mode, Stylianos’ game ‘Gangspules’ is a cooperative action arcade game. It’s very gang-cool (that one’s a stretch, I can only apologise).
The judges’ feedback highlighted in particular the good tone and atmosphere across both modes.
See ‘Gangspules’ here: https://fruitpunchsamurai.itch.io/gangpsules
‘definitely one of the most creative adaptations’
Tiernan is studying Computer Science at University College London and is set to graduate in 2020.
‘2178: Resistance’ is a hard to resist post-apocalyptic action game, praised by the assessors for its creativity and the level of effort and work clearly put in by Tiernan.
See ‘2178: Resistance’ here: https://tiernanw.itch.io/2178-resistance
Search for a Star 2019
Jumping from racing games, to stealth shooters, to penguins and magic beans, programming set a pretty high bar for variety this year and that’s a theme continued into the art strands!
Starting with Search for a Star Environment Art:
‘industry standard skills and practices’
Get ready for a whole bunch of students from the University of Huddersfield – with 47 entries and a whopping 11 finalists, this year has already been a huge success for Huddersfield, and we’re excited to see what Finals Day has in store for these guys!
Ruben is studying Computer Games Design and was one of last year’s Rising Star finalists in the same category.
His (not mine) ‘Mineshaft’ environment impressed assessors with its consistency and overall look.
See ‘Mineshaft’ here: https://rubenchatha.itch.io/mineshaft
Ruben’s full portfolio: https://www.artstation.com/rubencha
‘simple but effective storytelling’
Studying at Howest in Belgium along with 44 other entrants, Jimmy poses some strong competition for the other finalists having won last year’s Rising Star Environment Art strand – he’s attic again this year!
Jimmy has been commended for his attention to detail and atmosphere in ‘Gone & Lost – The Attic’, as well as his re-use of assets throughout the scene.
See ‘Gone & Lost – The Attic’ here: https://laundryday.itch.io/attic
Jimmy’s full portfolio: https://www.artstation.com/jimmyghysens
‘a really nice piece with a lot of storytelling’
One of 20 entries from Solent University, Jeevan is studying Computer Games Art.
The judges highlighted in particular the way the individual pieces in ‘Graffiti Artist Base’ have all been tied together cohesively. Base-ically, he’s one to watch!
See ‘Graffiti Artist Base’ here: https://jeevanpattar.itch.io/jeevan-pattar-graffiti-artist-base
Jeevan’s full portfolio: https://www.artstation.com/jeevan
‘almost AAA quality level’
Another University of Huddersfield student, Samuel is studying Computer Games Design.
His cyberpunk environment ‘City Bowels’ impressed assessors with his use of valid game art production techniques as he demonstrated industry standard workflows and practices. We’re bowel-ed over by Samuel’s work!
See ‘City Bowels’ here: https://fightingsharpie.itch.io/city-bowels-cyberpunk-environment
Samuel’s full portfolio: https://www.artstation.com/fightingsharpie
Sumo Digital Rising Star 2019
Our Search for a Star Environment Artists’ demonstrations of industry standard techniques is continued into Rising Star Environment Art, a category including an engine room, a bar, and a fantasy elder tree.
‘a hidden gem’
If you thought Search for a Star Environment Art was a strong category for the University of Huddersfield, get ready to be impressed – all 3 Rising Star Environment Artists hail from Huddersfield, studying Computer Games Design!
Graduating in 2020, Brad created a ‘SpaceCorp Engine Room’ praised by its assessors as a great demonstration of games development processes. With a title almost engine-eered for puns, Brad’s left me with so much space to let everyone down. Cor-p blimey! Definitely room for improvement on my part.
See ‘SpaceCorp Engine Room’ here: https://bradley-cullen.itch.io/spacecorp
Brad’s full portfolio: https://www.artstation.com/bradcullen
Reece Parrinder – Urban Run-Down Sci-Fi Bar
‘a game ready environment’
Also studying Computer Games Design, Reece is set to graduate from the University of Huddersfield in 2021.
His ‘Urban Run-Down Sci-Fi Bar’ piece reflects a good amount of research and judges felt that it showed him to be a well-rounded artist. Cheers to that!
See ‘Urban Run-Down Sci-Fi Bar’ here: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/BmwJlk
Reece’s full portfolio: https://www.artstation.com/reeceparrinderdesign
‘really lovely piece of artwork’
Rounding out Rising Star Environment Art with something a little less sci-fi, Chris is another Huddersfield student of Computer Games Design, graduating in 2021.
Praised for his use of foliage in particular, Chris’ ‘Elder Tree Environment’ was thought to show a strong knowledge of game art production techniques currently being used in the industry. Once you’ve seen his work, you definitely won’t want to make like a tree and leave.
See ‘Elder Tree Environment’ here: https://chris186.itch.io/elder-tree-environment
Chris’ full portfolio: https://chrisr1998.artstation.com/
Search for a Star 2019
Again filled with a real range of styles and themes, Character Art is a really strong category this year and all the entrants showed a lot of promise. Say a big hello to the Character Art finalists:
‘a great piece of work’
Ryan is studying Game Art at Futureworks and will be graduating this year.
Assessors felt that his submission was very impressive for showing a great understanding of character construction as he used a multitude of techniques across multiple packages. Flow-verall, Ryan’s done really well!
See ‘Flow’ here: https://razzaashy.itch.io/flow
Ryan’s full portfolio: https://www.artstation.com/razzaashy
‘a very high standard’
We’ve always got room for another University of Huddersfield student, especially when the work is this good!
Ellie’s piece is inspired by Stephen King’s novel and is a Shining example of what can be achieved, with judges highlighting her technical work and workflow process and the level of effort put into the character.
See ‘Jake Chambers – The Dark Tower’ here: https://ellierpbrown.itch.io/searchforastar
Ellie’s full portfolio: https://www.artstation.com/ellierpbrown
Caleb O’Brien – Cayce – Dimension Detective
‘blown away by the quality’
Studying Games Design at Sheffield Hallam, Caleb will be representing for the home team on Finals Day with his stylised detective character.
Predicted a bright future by more than one of the assessors, Caleb’s project was highly praised across the board. Elementary!
See ‘Cayce – Dimension Detective’ here: https://caleb-obrien.itch.io/cayce-dimensional-detective
Caleb’s full portfolio: https://calebobrien.com/
Jack Walker – Blood Knight
‘finished to a very high quality’
It’s a good job Huddersfield and Sheffield are so close – yet another finalist making the journey, Jack is studying Computer Games Design and will be graduating later this year.
Jack’s ‘Blood Knight’ character impressed judges due to Jack’s eye for detail and technical skills. Assessors felt that the character would fit well in loads of existing games and admired the presentation. The drinks reception on the 17th should be a bloody good knight!
See ‘Blood Knight’ here: https://jackwalker.itch.io/blood-knight
Sumo Digital Rising Star 2019
Continuing the theme of strong technical skills, Rising Star Character Art is another successful category for the University of Huddersfield with only one of the four finalists coming from another university.
Musa Binboga – The Goblin Cannon
Studying 3D Games Art at the University of Hertfordshire and due to graduate next year, Musa poses strong competition for Huddersfield in this category!
His submission ‘The Goblin Cannon’ was highlighted by judges for his good technique and demonstration of hard surface modelling alongside the character sculpt, evidence of Musa’s determination to push himself in his work. I cannon-ly see good things ahead for Musa!
See ‘The Goblin Cannon’ here: https://musaa.itch.io/goblin-cannon
Oliver Fayers – The Sea Beast
‘technically very sound, and well executed’
Another University of Huddersfield student of Computer Games Design, Oliver will be graduating in 2021.
Assessors appreciated the difficulty of his character choice in ‘The Sea Beast’ and were full of praise for the end product. We can’t wait to sea more of Oliver!
See ‘The Sea Beast’ here: https://oli-f.itch.io/the-sea-beast-naga-rising-star
Oliver’s full portfolio: https://oliverfayers.artstation.com/
Melissa Hamer – Akazugaikotsu
‘visually interesting and well researched’
You might not be surprised to learn that Melissa is studying Computer Games Design at the University of Huddersfield! Graduating in 2021, Melissa’s is another strong entry.
‘Akazugaikotsu’ was enjoyed by assessors with her straightforward and organised sculpting workflow, with the armour in particular being highlighted. … I can’t do a pun on this one, sorry Melissa!
See ‘Akazugaikotsu’ here: https://meireille.itch.io/akazugaikotsu-rising-star-2019
Jason Morley – Rodrick – Royal Guard
Our final 2019 Character Art finalist is another Computer Games Design student at the University of Huddersfield, also graduating in 2021.
Royally good work and guarding Huddersfield’s position in the competition, judges thought that Jason’s character ‘Rodrick – Royal Guard’ showed good technical knowledge of ZBrush modelling tools, and were impressed by the demonstration of his hard surface modelling skills for the armour details.
See ‘Rodrick – Royal Guard’ here: https://jrmorley.itch.io/rodrick-royal-guard
Jason’s full portfolio: https://www.artstation.com/jasonmorley
Search for a Star 2019 Finalists
Always an interesting category for submissions, this year all of our VFX finalists are in the Search For A Star tier, to highlight the three entries that most impressed the assessors.
Zachray Cundall – Cursed Statue
‘shows creativity and good storytelling skills’
Jumping from strength to strength in the art strands this year, the University of Huddersfield had better rent a coach! Zachray is another of the 11 Huddersfield finalists and will be graduating this year.
His ‘Cursed Statue’ VFX sequence is inspired by League of Legends and the natural, clean look had the assessors excited to see his work in the future – as long as he doesn’t somehow wind up cursed!
See ‘Cursed Statue’ here: https://cundall77.itch.io/cursed-tower
Zachray’s full porfolio: https://www.artstation.com/cundall77
Kidman Lee – FireFlame
‘very well executed’
The second finalist from the University of Hertfordshire, Kidman Lee’s submission for stage 1 scored 92.86%, so she’s definitely one to watch!
Kidman Lee is on fire – ‘FireFlame’ left assessors struggling to find any criticisms with her solid material work and the effect’s great overall flow.
See ‘FireFlame’ here: https://kidmanlee.itch.io/blueflame
Kidman Lee’s full portfolio: https://www.artstation.com/coielee9663
Eliot Stevens – Dubstep Laser Gun
‘well thought out and established effect’
Joining his coursemate Zachray in the VFX finals, Eliot is another University of Huddersfield student.
Wait for the drop…….
Zachray’s ‘Dubstep Laser Gun’ sequence scored highly for creativity and admired by the judges for juggling both technicality and a cartoon style.
See ‘Dubstep Laser Gun’ here: https://eliotstevens.itch.io/dubstep-laser-gun
Search for a Star + Sumo Digital Rising Star Finalists
Combining both competition tiers, Games Animation looks to be a fierce final this year with two of three returning as finalists after entering Rising Star last year!
Alex McCunn – Spike the Fighting Fox
‘really strong project’
Returning to the ring and bound to put up another good fight, the first returning finalist comes in the form of Alex McCunn, one of two finalists from Abertay. Studying Computer Arts, Alex is graduating this year.
His animation ‘Spike the Fighting Fox’ impressed assessors with the choice of character and rig, as well as the way he successfully captures the weight of the actions shown in the sequence.
See ‘Spike the Fighting Fox’ here: https://iforgethowtoread.itch.io/spike-sfas-animation-stage-2-entry
Alex’s full portfolio: https://www.iforgethowtoread.com/
Saif Munawar – The Demon’s Lair
University of Bradford student Saif was another Rising Star Animation finalist last year.
A stark contrast in character choice, Saif’s animation sequence ‘The Demon’s Lair’ was completed in just 2 days and were praised by the judges for being presented in engine. Wow – such incredible (f)lair!
See ‘The Demon’s Lair’ here: https://samunawa.itch.io/demons-lair
Saif’s full portfolio: http://saifahmed3d.com/animation.html
Maciej Osuch – Furious Hare
‘very entertaining animation’
Studying 3D Games Animation and set to graduate in 2020 from Pearson College London, Maciej is our third Animation finalist.
Assessors felt the animation featured a good choice of character that was brought to life with solid actions, and I’m definitely not furious about it.
See ‘Furious Hare’ here: https://maciejosuch.itch.io/sumo-digital-rising-star-2019-animation-maciej-osuch
Maciej’s full portfolio: https://maciejosuchanimation.wordpress.com/
And that’s it – 31 finalists out of hundreds of entries!
A huge thank you to everyone who took part this year and made the competition so exciting, and a massive congratulations to our finalists! We can’t wait to see everyone at Finals Day – don’t miss out on networking, talks and a visit to the National Video Museum and make sure you’ve got your (free!) tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/search-for-a-star-2019-finals-day-conference-the-grads-in-games-awards-tickets-58107260380