Winning a few prizes with “Dorfromantik”: Digital video games are developed in the Game Design course at HTW Berlin

Around 54 percent of Germans play computer and video games. Video game sales in 2021 were over six billion euros. It is a huge market that has grown rapidly in recent years. New games are developed every year at the Hochschule für Technik in Wirtschaft Berlin. The game design course has been available there since 2009.

State-of-the-art studios are available in an inconspicuous office building at Slabystraße 12, corner of Ostendstraße in Oberschöneweide. There is no classic lecture hall here. Instead, it looks more like a start-up. Walls and desks are plastered with post-it notes. Ideas are scrawled everywhere. Young people stare at screens, program, click through software programs, test computer games.

Work in small groups in a collaborative environment. Regular meetings are held where the students present their preliminary results. An atmosphere that Professor Thomas Bremer likes. He has taught at HTW since 2003, where he originally held a professorship in media design. The subject of games has always interested him, says Bremer, who previously studied art in Hamburg. What is particularly exciting for him is the interdisciplinary aspect. “I play almost exclusively professionally,” he says. Of course, he tries mostly his students’ games. He himself comes from the arcade era, i.e. the time when gaming machines were popular.

In a collaborative atmosphere, students work in teams to implement their game ideas.

HTW is about developing digital entertainment games. The game design course has existed since 2009. Thomas Bremer created it together with his colleague Susanne Brandhorst, who was also responsible for the interior design, including color concepts and furniture. “It is a quite unique spatial situation in Germany,” he emphasizes. Each year, the professors select 40 people who were most convincing in the application process. There are currently 200 students in total who want to complete their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in game design. Half are women. No tuition fee is charged.

At the start of their studies, the students make figures like these out of plastic, which will later appear in digital entertainment games.

During their studies, students create an average of three to five games and several prototypes. To do this, they learn from scratch how a game is developed for computers, smartphones or game consoles. In the beginning, the basics of game design and game engineering are in the foreground. From the third semester, the students can then continue to specialise. For example, there are additional courses in 3D modeling and 3D digitization. Some of the students set up their own development studio during their studies, where they start their career immediately after graduation and work on new games.

“Many students today no longer want to work in large, anonymous companies, but want a job that they enjoy and where they have their freedom,” says Thomas Bremer. He unlocks a locked office with a model of a windmill. This is the symbol of the game “Village Romance”, which was created by students with their own studio “Toukana Interactive”. It is about building landscapes. Dorfromantik has won several awards, including the German Developer Award 2021 in the “Best German Game” category and the German Computer Game Award 2021 in the “Best Debut” and “Best Game Design” categories. There was a prize of 95,000 euros for this. It can be played on computer and Nintendo Switch video game console. There is also a board game version. HTW does not share in the income. They go exclusively to the students. “Dorfromantik has an incredibly large fan base,” says Thomas Bremer about the biggest success of a game developed at HTW to date.

A student is working on 3D modeling of a game character.

Meike Strippel, Namin Hansen and Daria Pankau are not that far yet. Under the working title “Underwater VR”, the three graduate students are currently working on a game that requires virtual reality glasses. The video game, where a village submerged in water has to be explored, was supposed to be ready in two years. The success of Dorfromantik serves as an incentive for them, although Thomas Bremer says: “I do not assume that we will be able to show such successes in series.”

On 10 and 11 February 2023, those interested can find out more about the course and the games developed there at the open day. Further information at gamedesign.htw-berlin.de.

Leave a Comment