A look at the best and brightest young talent emerging in games
There's a world of promising young developers out there, both already in employment and still studying their craft.
Develop has searched the world for some of the very best, from programming to testing, team leads to artists to find our 30 Under 30, in association with OPM Recruitment, our annual round-up of the ones to watch in game development.
Game developer, Preloaded (29)
Michael Webersdorfer left his home in Austria to join London studio Preloaded just two years ago, and is already making an impact.
The games developer has worked on projects including Disney Fairies: Lost & Found which made its way to the number one kids game on the App Store after release.
Webersdorfer also led its recent cognitive training game AquaSnap for MyCognition as technical architect, showing his quick progression at the company. His colleagues also praise him for his outspoken manner and ability to assist the technical director on complex tasks.
Designer, Kojima Productions (27)
A 2K and Crytek UK alumnus, Jordan Amaro moved to Kojima Productions in 2013 and is the only foreign designer currently working on the Metal Gear Solid V team.
But not forgetting his UK roots – despite the chance to work on one of the biggest game franchises in the world – Amaro has also held talks in London on the state of the stealth genre and advised indies at GameCity. He also mentored children at the Games Britannia festival in Sheffield, keen to spread the vast knowledge he has already accrued in the sector despite his young age.
Games designer, Blazing Griffin (25)
Blazing Griffin games designer Michael Cameron has a rapidly growing portfolio of games, including match-three mobile puzzle Dino Tribes, which he pitched and won funding for through AppCampus.
Not just content with developing games, during his time at the University of the West of Scotland, where he studied Computer Games Technology, Cameron was also selected to join Windows Games Ambassadors, giving a variety of talks, writing articles and organising game jams and Unity porting events. Cameron is currently hard at work on the upcoming Distant Star: Revenant Fleet for PC.
Technical director, Modern Dream (29)
Formerly a tools programmer at Blitz Games Studios, Helana Santos is now the technical director at Modern Dream, which she founded with developer Ollie Clark.
Santos has worked on indie titles including LA Cops, The Cat that Got The Milk and The Button Affair. In addition, Santos is also one of the founders of the Arch Creatives, which provides a shared creative space for indies, and also works as a Video Game Ambassador, regularly giving talks and workshops. On top of all this, she is now a member of the UKIE board representing the interests of small studios.
Production director, Mediatonic (29)
Despite only entering the games industry in 2011, James Dobrowski has already earned the role of production director at Mediatonic, having previously led production on Forza Horizon at Playground Games.
Now leading the production team at Mediatonic, Dobrowski overseas the delivery of a wide range of digital games across the studio. Within two months of joining the team, he quickly made an impression by building relationships with some of the largest publishers in the US and Japan, and has overseen the soft launch of two of the studio’s biggest mobile titles.
Indie developer (25)
Shaun Spalding graduated from Teesside University in 2011, winning a sponsored award in game design at its end of year show Expotees, leading to an internship at Ubisoft Reflections where he worked for two years.
Spalding has since moved on to go it alone as an indie, but continues to win accolades for his work. The developer recently released the award-winning puzzle platformer Another Perspective, which successfully made its way through Steam Greenlight. He’s also keen to educate others, too, releasing a series of ‘Making Games’ tutorials on YouTube.
Director and head of production, Just a Pixel (24)
Roberta Saliani is the co-founder of Light developer Just a Pixel, a title that went to Kickstarter and was later picked up by Team17 to publish.
Under Saliani’s stewardship, the fledgling studio has already received a nomination for the Start-up Award from TIGA. She has also helped manage the studio’s steady growth and move the company from a single room start-up in a flat to its very own office. Not just limited to Just a Pixel’s own IP however, Saliani’s team’s credits also include work with Sony, Activision, Somethin’ Else and Mike Bithell.
Game designer, 22Cans (25)
Jack Attridge graduated from a film production degree with various film-making awards including a Royal Television Society award, spending years as an audio designer.
Attridge cut his teeth at EA Bright Light, before moving on to Rebellion and Mind Candy. He was then approached by Peter Molyneux to join him at new studio 22Cans as a game designer, working on titles such as Curiosity – What’s inside the Cube? and Godus. Despite being just 25, Attridge’s quickly accumulated experience at some of the UK’s biggest games companies ensures he is one to watch.
Graphic designer, Lift London (21)
Caitlin Goodale is a graphic designer at Microsoft’s Lift London studio. She joined after graduating from the University of Abertay where she studied Computer Arts.
During her time there she made indie titles as part of Abertay’s Game Development Society, one of which won an award at TIGA’s Gamehack 2013. Goodale also obtained experience after her first year through an art internship with Minecraft Xbox 360 edition developer 4J Studios, where her work earned her the studio’s Intern of the Year award, before also going on to win an IGDA scholarship at GDC 2014.
Karen Garcia Teixeira
Game artist, Bossa Studios (28)
Despite living in Brazil, Karen Garcia Teixeira decided to up sticks in 2012 and join London-based developer Bossa Studios, working on the likes of Merlin: The Game and Twelve a Dozen.
Her many talents include character design, UI and drawing up visual art styles, and her impressive work at Bossa has ensured she’s never looked back since the big move. Away from development, Teixeira is keen to encourage other people to get into programming, starting her own coding blog and sharing her experience and resources with avid readers.
Amy Florence Stevens
Team lead and technical artist, Five Pixels (20)
Described as a bright and passionate artist who is not afraid to push herself, Amy Florence Stevens is the team lead and technical artist at Five Pixels.
Stevens led her team at the Dare to be Digital 2014 games-making contest, and her work on the art helped the team earn the Artistic Award for its title Seek, an experimental game that requires users to move the tablet to venture around the game’s world. The title was also later awarded Best Student Game at the TIGA Awards 2014, marking a quick string of accolades for this gifted young artist.
Associate producer, Bohemia Interactive (22)
Matthew Lightfoot only started working in games in 2012, but at the age of 22 has already made waves at studio Bohemia and the industry in general.
He was one of the key members on the hit Arma 2 mod DayZ, which is now being turned into a full standalone title, on which he worked as the sole member of the production team through the majority of development before alpha release. Lightfoot is now associate producer on Arma 3, and is described as someone who has a great sense of humour whose attitude and communication skills are unparallelled.
Director and co-founder, Hypersloth (23)
Despite only being 23 and still studying his degree at University, Samuel Read has already been busy forming his own studio, Hypersloth, working on Steam Early Access game Dream.
Not just content with his own IP and studies, Read has also worked on the BAFTA-nominated Splemy, Gravity Animals and another Early Access game Gang Beasts, as well as designing educational game Research Rampage for the European Union. With such an impressive portfolio already, Read appears destined for even more success thanks to his talent and hard working attitude.
Senior artist, Naughty Dog (24)
Already receiving numerous accolades during his short career, such as the Grand Prix by the Montreal International Game Summit Art Gallery, Andrew Maximov has become a senior artist at Naughty Dog.
Starting his career at Wargaming, he is now tasked with the technical art for Uncharted 4. But not just proficient in art, Maximov is also fluent in numerous programming languages, making him an ideal technical artist and shader programmer. Maximov is also known for his GDC sessions, and his education DVD Physically-Based Rendering for Artists, circulated around numerous triple-A studios.
External producer, Team17 (29)
A key player in Team17’s third-party publishing business, Jessica Kelham has proven her ability and worth since joining the Worms developer in 2008.
Having worked her way through the ranks, Kelham is the lynchpin between third-party devs and Team17’s publishing team. According to her colleagues, Kelham is able to inspire any team she works with to deliver high standards and ensure games meet their deadlines and budgets while also being a delight to work with and acting as a role model for junior team members and women in games.
Game designer, Kobojo (27)
Commended for her passion and hard work, Alice Rendell is a promising games designer currently working at Kobojo.
Having spent over three years at the firm’s Paris HQ, she returned to Dundee earlier this year to work on Zodiac, a JRPG co-developed with former Final Fantasy staff. Prior to Kobojo, she worked at Facebook games specialist Ooblada and offered consulting advice on game design at studio We Move Beyond. To this day, she continues to write articles and give lectures offering game design tips to new developers.
EMEA product evangelist, Unity Technologies (24)
Andy Touch is a member of Unity’s evangelism team and can often be found travelling around Europe, visiting different development hubs to meet new studios, answer their questions and offer workshops on how to use the popular game engine.
Described by colleagues as “endlessly enthusiastic and very professional”, Touch is praised for his deep understanding of how important it is to work with communities. A graduate of Bournemouth University, the 24-year-old has been at Unity less than two years, but already feels like a long-running member of the team.
Gameplay engineer, Gameloft New Orleans (29)
Anna Tito’s games development journey began at Kixeye Brisbane, where she was hired as a gameplay engineer for space strategy title Vega Conflict. Her work overhauling the UI framework quickly gained her more responsibilities, as well as the attention of other organisations.
She was nominated for the GDC Women in Games Rising Star for two consecutive years, and Pollenizer named her one of Australia’s Top 50 female programmers. This year, Tito was being headhunted by Gameloft New Orleans, where she has taken a central role in the studio’s development process.
Creative director, Roll7 (29)
Starting at Rolling Sound, Ribbins began his career teaching underprivileged young people how to develop video games. This initiative led to the creation of DeadEnds, a game developed with those students to highlight the issues of gang and knife crime.
In 2008, Ribbins helped found Roll7, taking on the creative director role he still holds today. The studio’s biggest hit OlliOlli originated as one of his numerous experimental personal projects. He is currently working on Not A Hero with artist Jake Hollands, a title that won IGN Best In Show awards at E3 and PAX East.
Game balancer, Goodgame Studios (25)
Like many developers, Alex Felton started out in QA, most notably as a QA engineer for Microsoft. His passion for games development and hard work saw him advance to better things very quickly, with Felton currently working at German firm Goodgame Studios.
In his role as game balancer, he is entrusted with monitoring and maintaining the economy and PvP systems on some of Goodgame’s flagship titles. In particular, Felton’s peers praise his “drive to improve the systems throughout the games he works on” and predict he has “a bright, glowing career ahead of him”.
Diego del Pozo
Online programmer, Ubisoft Reflections (28)
Spanish ex-pat Diego del Pozo began his development career after earning a Masters degree in the US. After some time making games Stateside, he moved to the UK and gained experience at Playground Games before joining Ubisoft’s Reflections studio.
He was a key member of the Just Dance 2015 team before honing his skills as a dedicated online programmer. His peers describe him as dedicated and knowledgeable, championing del Pozo’s ability to learn new skills such as Python coding very quickly, as well as his analytical and thorough approach to problem-solving.
Director & developer, Boneloaf (29)
A fiercely ambitious independent developer, Michael Brown is one of the leading forces at promising indie studio Boneloaf. The company is currently working on its first game Gang Beasts, which is due to be released on Steam Early Access soon. The title has garnered plenty of coverage from the games press and even YouTube king PewDiePie.
In addition to the game’s overall development, Brown has worked on the characters and environments, as well as level design. Praised for his “drive and pure inventiveness”, peers expect Brown to go a long way in the games industry.
Chief creative officer & co-founder, Guerilla Tea (28)
Not only is Matt Zanetti a co-founder and CCO at Scottish indie Guerilla Tea, he was also the studio’s sole artist before helping to build and manage the growing art department.
Starting out as an interior architect, Zanetti transferred his skills to game art, mastering the disciplines of 3D hard surface modeling, 2D and 3D character creation and animation, and more. Zanetti also helps with the education of future games developers as an advisory board member at Glasgow Caledonian University, a contributor at Escape Studios and participant in yearly project briefs at Abertay University.
Trent Charles Kusters
Founder & director, League of Geeks (28)
Trent Kusters is a champion for independent developers. In addition to his work at the League of Geeks – a collective of Australian indie devs – he is chair of the Freeplay Independent Games Festival, and was also named as one of Australia’s 25 Top Young Achievers by Triple J back in 2010.
He is also an industry advisor to various universities, as well as the film, theatre and design industries and the local and federal government. Prior to the League of Geeks, Kusters worked as creative director at Divisive Media and design director at Torus Games.
Producer, Frontier Developments (29)
Following university, Richard Hole started out as a tester at Rockstar, working on GTA IV and Midnight Club LA. He moved to Frontier Developments as a senior tester, rising to lead tester for Microsoft’s Kinectimals.
In November 2010, he moved into production, starting out on Kinect Disneyland Adventures, going on to help with Kinectimals: Now With Bears and Xbox One launch game Zoo Tycoon. He is currently working on
new IP ScreamRide. Hole is described by colleagues as “an exceptionally hard working professional with a positive attitude and a wealth of experience”.
Junior environment artist, The Chinese Room (24)
Alex Grahame graduated from Abertay University earlier this year, completing her course in Computer Arts. Her final year’s work demonstrated her ability to work to the standard of triple-A games development, catching the attention of various studios.
As you would expect from an Abertay student, she entered various game jams, including Dare To Be Digital, with projects such as Food Frisbees and a Havok-powered 3D third-person action game. She is currently working in her first post in the games industry as junior environment artist at Dear Esther creators The Chinese Room.
Operations manager, Playmob (21)
One of the youngest entries in this year’s list, Nick Taylor is currently operations manager at charity games firm Playmob, having joined the studio back in 2012. The youngest member of the team, he works with the CEO to plan company operations and oversees the firm’s day-to-day affairs.
Described as “creative, entrepreneurial and dynamic” and someone who “thrives on challenges”, Taylor has impressed his colleagues and adapted as the company has grown. He even shows passion for the studio’s charity operations by also volunteering with SpecialEffect.
Associate producer, Climax Studios (27)
Joining Climax in 2013, Maria Novisova has been instrumental in strengthening the studio’s production department and developing Bandit Six, the firm’s first virtual reality game for the Samsung Gear. She is currently producing an unannounced action game for PS4, Xbox One and PC, overseeing the title from inception to launch.
Described as “Climax’s best kept secret production weapon”, Novisova is praised for her diligence, organisation and ‘creative sparkle’. Her team commend the way she motivates those she works with and ensures her projects are kept on track.
Marketing & events assistant, Marmalade Technologies (24)
Having spent just over a year on Marmalade’s marketing team, Steph Gadd is already a firm fixture after throwing herself into the work from her first day. Described as “calm, diligent and full of ideas”, Gadd has worked hard over the past 12 months in liaising with developers, reviewing content and writing Marmalade’s weekly Featured Apps blog.
She has also been responsible for the organisation of multiple developer events and is Marmalade’s “social media queen bee”. Her catchphrase of “yep, no worries” shows how eager she is to help both her colleagues and the developers she works with.
Junior sound designer, Traveller’s Tales Games (26)
A graduate from the University of Huddersfield, Sam Hughes followed his studies of music technology and audio systems with freelance sound design work, contributing to short films, feature films and other projects, before landing a job at TT Games.
In 2013, he was one of the first three people to be awarded the Prince Williams Scholarship by BAFTA and Warner Bros, going on to study Post-Production with Sound Design at the University of York. Hughes also runs the Sound Architect website, which reviews games with a particular focus on audio.
Unfortunately, it’s just not possible to list everyone nominated for 30 Under 30, so here are the worthy contenders that didn’t make the final 30:
James Cubitt, Universally Speaking; Daniel Murray, Duncan McKinnon & Pete Ellis, Frontier; Danny Goodayle, Just a Pixel; Gary Lloyd, Sigtrap; Josh Naylor, Unity; Callum Underwood, Oculus; Andrew Robinson, CCP Newcastle; Lee Vermeulen & Jesse McGibney, Alientrap; Stephen Sharples, TT Games; Joe Grainger, Torque; Simon Fox, Playlab London; Jon Reid, Preloaded; Michael Barclay, Cloud Imperium; Tom Vian, SFB Games; Richard Pring, Wales Interactive; Andrew Wallace, Golden Ruby Games; Laurence Whaites, Fierce Kaiju; Scott Downie, Ian Copland & Nicolas Tanda, Tag Games; Jordi Fine, Budge Studios; Harrison Baker, Testology; Benjamin Robert, Ubisoft; Jamie Keddie, 4J Studios; Gareth Gray, Iglu Media; Maksims “Max” Mihejevs, PlayCanvas; Rob Whitehead, Improbable; Lucy Morris, independent; Robin Silcock, Norwich Uni; Joel Jucom, SplitMedia Labs; George Buckenham, independent; Dan Fountain, State of Play; James Whitehead, Boss Baddie; Jack Jones, Sheridans; Martin Grant & Kenneth Mason, University of West Scotland; Brian Beacom, Kenneth Mackinnon & Charlie Czerkawsi, Guerilla Tea; Rich Court, The Chinese Room; Andrew Booth, D3T; Craig Yates & Joel Atkinson, Hardlight; Daniel Falconer, Future Fossil; Elizabeth Mercuri, Prince William Scholarship; Philip Bielby, Chris Long & Jamie Brooks, Jagex; Hamid Homatash, Outplay Entertainment; Richard Weaver, Evolution Studios; Joe Brammer, Deco Digital; Mike Pickton & Dan Bradshaw, Ubisoft Reflections; Derek De Filippo & Travis Winstanley, Kuju; Matthew Rudman, Jamie Grossman & Matt Teague, Marmalade; Lukas Roper, Opposable Games; Dan Walters, Calvino Noir; Rob Williams, Ripstone; Haydn Peterswald, Eutechnyx; Eamonn Van-Harris, Avatar; Alex Francois, Brainchild; Matthew Skingle, DR Studios; Erik Hittenhausen, Testronic; Adam Fletcher, Mediatonic; Nareice Wint, Route 1 Games; Peeyush Gulati, Ubisoft Abu Dhabi; Nicolas Duclos, Sean Noonan & Ambre Lizurey, Ubisoft Montreal; Kobe Sek & Alan Frazier, Ubisoft Singapore; Yip Kayan, DigiPen; James Cox, USC; Sos Soswoski, independent; Shai Magzimof, Nextpeer; Aurora Klaeboe Berg, Dirtybit; Jack Gillespie, Well Placed Cactus; Joaquin Molina, Nurbs Studios; Josh Caratelli, independent; Laila Shabir, Girls Make Games; Alan Saari, Gwythdarian; Ashton Andersen, Virtual Basement; Christos Reid, independent; Floyd Chitalu & Stephen McGroarty, Codeplay; Bruce Slater, freelance; Greg Pryjmachuk, MinskWorks; Bernard Francois, Preview Labs