From our Bachelor of Creative Technologies course, to being part of a studio start-up, Niamh has immersed herself in her craft and become quite affluent within the New Zealand gaming community. Her pride and joy is 'Valleys Between'; a game about creating life and balance in a forgotten world, developed by her and fellow Media Design School graduates.
Tell us about your journey with Valleys Between…
"Valleys Between started out as a prototype called 'Grow' that was created as part of the Rapid Prototype paper in my second year of at Media Design School. The team and I worked for about six weeks part-time on 'Grow', and play-tested it at every public showcase we had access to. We decided to submit 'Grow' to a games festival in Wellington called Play by Play in 2017 and we were surprised and delighted when we heard the news that we’d been nominated for an award.
Needless to say, we were absolutely stunned when we walked away with four awards - the Student Award, Audience Choice, Excellence in Design and Outstanding Overall. This not only confirmed for us that the game had potential, we also started receiving a lot of local and international industry support. Following graduation we set up a studio called Little Lost Fox, with the support of two amazing New Zealand indie studios - Dinosaur Polo Club (makers of Mini Metro) and Dry Cactus (makers of Poly Bridge). Their support and mentorship has been invaluable in helping us get to where we are today.
Valleys Between is due out mid-year on mobile, and we’re excited to finally be able to share it with everyone!"
What’s your involvement with the New Zealand Game Developer’s Association (NZGDA), and what do they do?
"The NZGDA is an organisation that aims to support and grow the games industry in New Zealand. I’ve been on the board for the last two years and I’ve been involved in a variety of the initiatives. In 2017, I ran many of the association’s community events, including the NZGDA booth at Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland Armageddon, and the PAX Melbourne booth.
I was also the lead organiser for the NZ Game Developers Conference in 2017 and I’m delighted to be taking the lead again for NZGDC 2018, which will be in August this year at the SkyCity Convention Centre."
What insights have you gained working in New Zealand’s gaming industry…
"The New Zealand gaming industry is very open and welcoming. I think I wasn’t quite expecting everyone to be so supportive of each other in everything from sharing information, lessons and skill sets. We also have a very close relationship with the Australian games industry, and it’s amazing to see such wonderful sharing and support between our two industries."
What’s one game (released or unreleased) that you would have loved to work on?
"There are so many great games, so that’s a hard question. Final Fantasy VII was one of the most pivotal games I played during my childhood, so it would have been amazing to work on something in the Final Fantasy franchise."
What tips would you give to someone wanting to pursue a career in the world of gaming?
"The best advice I can give anyone studying to pursue a career in the games industry is to get involved in community events. There are a ton of ways you can get involved in the industry while studying, such as participating in game jams, volunteering at conferences and festivals, and helping out or attending the regional game development meetups. These are great opportunities to connect with new people and to become a more familiar face in the community, which can help when you’re looking for work.
The other tip I would give is to remember that games are very rarely made by one person, so good communication and people skills are something that you should be working on alongside your game development skills."
How has Media Design School helped to pave the path that you are currently walking on?
"In my time at Media Design School, I met many wonderful people that have helped me along my game development journey. I was also lucky enough to be given the opportunities to represent Media Design School at industry events in Sydney and Melbourne, and these were both excellent stepping stones for me to create industry connections."
What’s the biggest dream of your career?
"I haven’t decided what my biggest dream of my career is, I think for me that will be something that changes as my career develops. In the short to medium term, I’d like to combine my passion for travelling and games and hopefully travel more because of my work."
How can people support you and Valleys Between?