Zsombi, graduate of Media Design School, founded indie games studio Space Rock Games

Bachelor of Software Engineering (Game Programming)

At Media Design School Zsombor gained the programming skills he needed through the Bachelor of Software Engineering to chase his dream of founding his own games studio


Zsombor, a.k.a. Zsombi runs Space Rock Games, which includes looking after the business admin, hiring, fundraising, marketing, programming & design. Right now, the studio is developing a game called Criminals Within - a 3rd person cooperative action game that takes place in a medieval fantasy kingdom. Earlier this year, Space Rock Games received a substantial investment of $650,000 from New Zealand venture capital fund Hillfarrance, whose managing partner Rob Vickery, jumped on the opportunity to support Criminals Within after joining the company’s board.



I was actually already accepted to Massey Uni to study software engineering. As we just recently moved to New Zealand, we didn't know anyone so I went along with my sister who was heading to MDS to apply to a course herself. I remember seeing a massive Assassin's Creed poster at the entrance and the school was full of computers and people making games in them. Turns out MDS had a software engineering course as well - so I was kinda hooked.

The Mern Gameplay Trailer

The Mern was created by Zsombi in his last year at Media Design School

The course itself was great. I learned how to code without any prior programming knowledge and within the first few weeks I had made my first game, which was an awesome feeling. Most of the game design based courses are extremely up to date - I remember when we were having our first class ever on GameMaker - and the slides were created for version 1. However GameMaker 2 was released the prior day and we were already using that for the class - so you cannot say that you are learning old tech. There are some things that require updating, but the school is miles ahead of any other university when it comes to making games. Also, I pretty much know most of the industry thanks to studying here. Most people in industry have some connection to the school so it's always a great excuse when I wanted to get to know someone to refer to the school as an ice-breaker. 10 out of 12 people at Space Rock Games either studied at MDS or taught there.

A scene from Space Rock Games' upcoming title 'Criminals Within' headed by MDS Alumni Zsombor Pirok

A scene from Space Rock Games' upcoming title 'Criminals Within' headed by MDS Alumni Zsombi Pirok

On Industry:

The biggest surprise for me when I started working in industry was that I was pretty much capable of doing anything that was needed - as I had already done it at school. The final year of study puts you through making a game with 5-7 other people. It's an invaluable experience. The other surprise was that industry is really far behind when it comes to using software engineering best practices. There is a lot to learn from traditional software companies.

My typical day is not the usual day for a game developer, since I do a lot of the business tasks that the company has. I'm using less of my game-dev skills than anyone else at the studio. Normally I would be working much more on cool game stuff, than responding to emails. I would not trade it to anything though.

Criminals Within is the game currently being developed by Kiwi studio, Space Rock Games, founded by MDS Alumni, Zsombor Pirok

So my day starts with checking through emails (there's always many in my inbox), a standup in the morning where we hear what everyone is doing. Based on what we have planned for a given sprint I start working on my next task (be it business, programming, design etc related). On certain days we will have other SCRUM related meetings, which could happen during the day. Often time I have a catchup with someone I've never met before, as I handle a lot of the hiring process, which means responding to a lot of emails.

My dream is to build the best game studio in the world here in New Zealand - without the usual problems of the gaming industry (crunch, predatory monetization etc.). I want us to create awesome games that people remember for a long time due to how amazing the experience was.

If you want to do something similar, I believe you should figure out early on what sort of games you want to work on - and make sure you work for the right studios. Games take a notoriously long time to make - 3 years on average. That means you only get to make 10-15 games in your career. Don't waste it on games that you do not care about!

And always ask questions - there is no such thing as a stupid question. Stupid people don't ask questions.

A lush mountain vista from Space Rock Games' upcoming title 'Criminals Within' headed by MDS Alumni Zsombor Pirok

A lush mountain vista from Space Rock Games' upcoming title 'Criminals Within' headed by MDS Alumni Zsombi Pirok