On Wednesday 12th December IT teacher Miss Marshall and a group of nine IT students and myself visited SUMO Digital video games studio in Sheffield near Meadowhall. SUMO is where big-name state-of-the-art 3D video games such as Sonic All Stars Racing (and many others) are produced from initial concept design through to finished product.
We were welcomed by Executive Producer Steve Lycett who explained they had recently finished working on a major video game and a lot of the 180 or so staff were on a well-earned break. We passed a giant statue of the iconic Sonic the Hedgehog as we were led into a smaller computer-filled room where Steve gave a presentation around his typical working week which covered everything from dealing with major video games clients in Japan to making sure the drawers in the kitchen were filled with cutlery.
Many aspects of the industry were explained to us including some of the routes members of the workforce had taken to become a part of the company. The Design Director for example started out as a web designer who was asked to proof-read a video game script then later asked to write a full script. His involvement with video game design grew from there.
Our party was split into two groups and group one got the chance to do some games testing using hand-held devices such as the brand-new Nintendo Wii U, PS VITAs and Nintendo DSs with one of Sumo’s main testers (otherwise known as the Q&A guy). They played the very latest Sonic All Stars Racing Transformers game.
Our group chatted with Sumo’s Art Director and Design Manager as we were given a challenge to sketch on paper some designs for a weapon or a transforming vehicle. The vehicle had to have the capability to travel on water, land and in the air just like in the Transformers game. One student designed a hover-board and I designed a helicopter-tank-boat. If our visit had lasted longer we would have constructed models using the craft materials provided and then swapped groups.
Winners were announced for each group and pieces of signed Sonic All Stars concept art was given out. Brad won the design award with his cat-firing catapult weapon and Mahkash won the game testing award. No-one went away empty-handed as we were all given SEGA goody bags with sticks of Sonic rock, comics and free games downloads!
The visit showed how Art , IT, English, Music and other disciplines are combined in the production of video games and that good drawing and design skills are essential as is a sound knowledge of cutting-edge image manipulation software such as Photoshop.
Everyone thoroughly enjoyed this all too brief visit and we all acquired insights into the behind-the-scenes production world of modern video games.
Steve Greaves (Art Technician)