An anthropomorphic mouse desperate to prove herself as a worthy paladin, has earned De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) student Cai Jones a national games award.
The Animation student outshone the other hopefuls to come first in the Games Animation 2022 category of Search for a Star, one of the industry’s biggest games development challenges for students not yet in their final year of university.
Despite Paladin Piper being Cai’s first ever attempt at 3D animation, her work impressed the industry judges, who said: “A great attitude, taking on a challenge to push their ability and producing an engaging sequence that felt game-ready and polished.
“Very brave to take on a project using software they’ve never used, but it paid off and Cai would be a great asset to any studio.”
What started out as a ‘fun experiment’ for second-year student Cai has resulted in valuable exposure, thanks to the well-connected awards hosts Grads in Games, as well as a prize of free software and workshops courtesy of award sponsors Escape Technology.
“I still can’t believe I won this award. Grads in Games is fantastic and going to the awards ceremony was an amazing experience. I got to network with so many great companies and I’m already in talks with one about a graduate job,” said the 20-year old from Liverpool.
“Even though I’d never done 3D animation before, I knew I’d kick myself if I didn’t give it a go. Now I really want to go into games character animation and it’s something I’ll be chatting to my tutors about focusing on during my final year.”
Inspired by games such as The Legend of Zelda, Cai’s Paladin Piper game is ‘whimsical, cutesy and hopeful’.
She said: “In my heart, I really enjoyed working on Paladin Piper. It was a lot to balance outside of my degree, but she turned out so sweet and impossible to resent.
“I did tons and tons of research, desperately watching films with mice characters and reading up about them in real life. The biggest challenge was finding references for legs, as mice have digitigrade ones that bend and move in different ways to human legs.
“The fun thing about making animations is that if you can’t find a reference you have to fill in yourself, so I have loads of behind the scenes footage of me in my living room dressed in PJs pretending to be a mouse.”
Cai was able to rise to the challenge after building on the basic principles of animation she’s mastered on her degree.
“We’ve done lots of exercises to learn the basics, including how characters interact with a super heavy object and how to ease frames in and out to ensure motion is realistic,” she said.
“This knowledge and understanding of the basics carry over super well from 2D to 3D animation, and learning how to apply those principles was completely invaluable.”
When it came to choosing universities, Cai was swayed by the success of DMU’s alumni.
She said: “A lot of the creators who I grew up watching and inspired me to go into animation came from DMU. They motivated me to do my best and focus on making it happen for myself.
“One of them is Simon Wells, who directed The Prince of Egypt - one of the most notable animated films made this century. It's a master piece and something that I adored as a child. He's a big reason why I chose DMU in the first place.”
Posted on Friday 29th July 2022