Plymouth University - Final Stage Comp. Games Module Review

I'm coming to end of my time at Plymouth University and having a variety of modules under my belt, I thought it might be useful to provide a review of them.

Having taken two years out between my 2nd and Final Stage, I think it's fair I comment exclusive on final stage modules rather than second year modules which have potentially changed. I've also chosen to leave out the honours project module, it's not an optional module and there are no lectures so it's all up to you to make the most of it.

These are my opinions and they may not be relevant too long into the future, your millage may vary and modules do change.

AINT354 - Design for Entertianment Systems

This is a closed module for Comp. Games students. It's designed to allow you to take on a project of your choice, you're encouraged to form a team for this but you're allowed to roll solo which is what I did.

The module has three core deliverable dates worth noting.

  • Research Paper - This is worth around 10% of the module, but it's easy to clean up around 90% if you put in the right amount of effort and read five or six of the examples. You can choose to research almost anything you want, and it's advised that you pick something related to the project you'd like to create.
  • Project Demo - A time for everyone to try your project and gain some feedback. You want your project to be close to the polish stages by this point, so take on a project with estimates of around 3-4 weeks to create rather than the full 6 weeks.
  • Final Submission - This generally follows a week or two after the project demo, giving you time to pull together extra documentation and action any vital changes such as bug fixes.

In all this module was well run, though the lack of non-game based resource and support was disappointing. My advice is to choose your team well, and keep your project scope small to leave room for polishing.

SOFT352 - Client-side Web Scripting

This module seems to have changed a lot over the past 2-3 years from what I've heard. It now includes a fair amount of required Node.js work as well as client side javascript.

The module itself attempts to provide short lectures on some front and backend JavaScript fundamentals from a software engineering perspective. It doesn't do awfully at this, but it does attempt to deliver far too much content in a short period of time and thus dramatically reduces the quality of the module.

There're four core deliverables along this module.

  • An In-Class Test - You write front-end JavaScript to pass some unit tests. This was trivial for everyone, even those new to front-end development.
  • A Project Proposal - This is a short document produced so the lecturer can ensure your project will end up meeting the final criteria.
  • The Project Demo - You're given a 15 minute slot to demo your project about a week before the final submission. This demo is where you pick up grade "multipliers" and the lecturer actually sees the project working. It's a chance to display the great depth of your project, so spending half a day preparing is a good use of time. You can easily pick up a 1.5 multiplier on your final submission grade due to having a complex application.
  • The Project Submission - This is the final submission of a project plus a break report. This is the bulk of your grading for the module.

The entire module is a walk in the park for anyone with a good understanding of Node.js and front-end web development. If you don't have these skills you can still achieve a first but it will require time and effort through the entire module.

The biggest downside to this module is the fact it attempts to deliver a lot of content and thus the quality of the content is vastly degraded. I feel this module needs to be split into a front-end module on the second year followed by a back-end module in the final year. This would allow a much more comprehensive teaching of the two areas. Though this seems unlikely to happen as the university does not seen to have any web development experts.

AINT351 - Machine Learning

This was the most abysmal module I have ever taken. The module attempts to teach some implementations of basic machine learning algorithms. Going into the module it assumes you've taken a maths or statistics module, these are generally offered to computer science students alone. If you have those under your belts then you might follow the awful and rushed explanations.

The deliverables for this module are two fold:

  • Lab Log - You're set a new task every week by both lecturers, you must code it and write about your findings. This might sound manageable but they are not possible to complete during the labs. My cohort found everyone needed around a day or two to complete each lab.
  • An Exam - It's hard to predict what this will be like, our paper had a section with smaller questions followed by a section with two larger maths and essay questions.

My general advice for this module is to avoid it all costs until either the module is drastically changed or the lecturers of the module change. I was incredibly disappointed and students begun raising complaints with head staff at the faculty. The main complaints thus far are:

  • Marks not returned within the 20 day window, in fact some marks took 90 days to get back.
  • Lack of guidance on the exam.
  • Awfully formatted slides causing great confusion of equations.
  • Incredibly high coursework load.

AINT355 - Industry Engagement

This is an interesting module as everyone has chosen their own objectives which differ greatly. It's essentially a chance to begin taking a product to market. This can be anything from taking yourself as a product and looking for a job to registering a company around a game.

To provide an example, I chose to try and raise my profile as an open source engineer and land a job as a software engineer.

The deliverables for this module are more frequent:

  • A weekly written progress report, highlighting what actions you've taken to move towards the goals and any changes to timeframes. Within this, you're asked on some weeks to deliver a particular artefact such as a mindmap, roadmap, and timeline which you should update during the module.
  • A final presentation to your cohort displaying the starting goals, the progress, and where you might take it in the future.
  • A final report highlight the same but in writing with full evidence and all artefacts.

This module has been interesting and given a lot of space to work in open source for me. Other students have taken the chance to take pre-existing projects and build new companies around them as well as seeking funding.

I can't say much more about as it's totally dependant on the goals you choose to set. One thing worth noting is that if you don't have a portfolio of one or two projects at least, you will find this module a big jolt as they ask to see your pre-existing projects and work.