Monster Confidence with Stemettes

A few weeks ago, GamesNI got the chance to exhibit at a Stemettes event called Monster Confidence. Stemettes is an organisation that encourages young women into STEM fields, and Monster sponsor them to take their show on the road UK wide.

GamesNI reps arrived at 8am that day and set up several machines showing off what Northern Ireland has produced in the past few years, including a VR headset kindly lent to us by Enter Yes. It was a productive day of explaining to girls ages 14 to 20 the options available to them in video game development in Northern Ireland. 

The day itself contained multiple workshops, speed dating with specialists as well as talks from industry leaders in Northern Ireland. It was incredibly inspiring to see female leaders in the tech industry talk about what it's been like for them working in STEM fields, including our very own Gareth Grey (honorary lady?) who took part in a panel at the end of the day. 

It was an honor for GamesNI to be able to participate in such an event and we hope to conduct many more like it in the future. 

Gaming Aim High Diaries #4

Contiuning our series of Gaming Aim High Diaries, Chloe Gowdy talks about working at company Outsider Games

For my first 4 month placement I was chosen to be with Outsider Games run by Stephen Downey. For my first month there, the crew were all busy completing their game Wailing Heights, a body hopping musical adventure 2D game, so I spent most of my time helping them out by play testing the game and writing down any bugs throughout the game that I later gave to the programmer so that he could fix them. It looked pretty stressful for everyone as the release date was getting closer and closer and everyone wanted the game to be as perfect as possible so we were all over the place trying to get any possible bug or issues that happened in the game fixed, and finishing up any last minute assets that still had to be put in the game. On the day of the release (27th of april), we all took the day to relax in the studio and played lots of board game as we constantly refreshed the Steam page to see how the game was doing on the first day. 

Chloe with the Outsider Games team after release of Wailing Heights

Chloe with the Outsider Games team after release of Wailing Heights

Even though the game was released I wasn’t done with the game just yet as Stephen wanted to have Steam achievement icons for his game as well as Steam trading cards and badges. After discussing what the achievements will be, I went into Photoshop to make several icon versions and showed them to Stephen who then gave me some advice on how to make some icons look better and once we were all happy with the icons, Stephen put them on Steam to be approved. It was fun to see the achievements appear in the game as I was testing it to make sure they were all working properly and appearing when I completed an achievement. We didn’t have any issue with making the achievement icons, but when it came to the trading cards, I had a lot of trouble getting everything to be approved by steam, especially for the badges. Stephen and I did a lot of research on how the trading card system on steam worked and how the badges are not allowed to look too similar, but even so I had to make the badges several times before they got properly approved on steam because they said our badges still looked too similar. But we eventually got there and it was still fun to come up with all these different ideas for what the trading cards and badges should look like and see it come to life on steam.

Chloe hard at work in the Outsider Games office

Chloe hard at work in the Outsider Games office

After I had completed these tasks, there wasn’t anything left to do on Wailing Heights, so I started to work on their other project Jennifer Wilde, a point and click adventure game. They already had their 2D artist working on all the main stuff for the game so I mainly took care of designing UI for the game, think about what the main menu should look like and any other smaller 2D tasks I could help with. I am mainly a 3D artist so I wasn’t very confident in my 2D skills but Stephen was very helpful and was always there to come over when I asked for help r advice on something and he would correct me in any perspective issues I was having with my drawing and gave me advice on making my art better, which was very helpful and taught me a lot.

I finished my placement with Outsider Games at the end of July, and started my next placement with The Design Zoo. Overall I had a great time learning 2D and it was a great experience to see a game in its late development about to get released, and I look forward to learning more in my next placement.

Games R&D Tax Relief event; in review

Putting compelling storylines, picturesque artwork and a captivating soundtrack to one side, a modern game is a masterpiece of software development. It is just as likely to contain as much serious research and development as that undertaken in a laboratory.

The video games and interactive entertainment industry has a clear strong link to high-tech research and development (R&D). Playing an integral part in the development of original intellectual property, R&D has helped the UK become recognised globally as a leading source of original computer games concepts and design.  

With access to finance being a priority for the industry, HMRC’s R&D Tax Relief scheme actively encourages developers to engage in technological innovation that can bring huge benefits to the sector.

In order to qualify for relief, HMRC wants to see R&D being used to create an improvement in a field of science or technology. Even if the R&D in which a company has invested does not have the outcome hoped for, it may even still be able to qualify for R&D tax relief.

From Left to right; David Baxter from Boom Clap Games, Carley Morrow from App Attic and Mark Westwood from Jumpstart

From Left to right; David Baxter from Boom Clap Games, Carley Morrow from App Attic and Mark Westwood from Jumpstart

With this in mind, Games NI held a discussion with R&D tax experts Jumpstart at the Northern Ireland Screen offices to chat about what the R&D Tax Relief scheme actually means for gaming companies here. R&D tax expert Jumpstart was on hand to explain that game development and interactive entertainment companies should take full advantage of the potential financial gains.

“From designers to producers, it was great to chat to a real mixture of gaming companies. You see, I’m not an accountant; I’m a software developer,” says Mark Westwood, a Technical Analyst at Jumpstart, who has over 30 years’ experience in software development.

“The fact that everyone knows about the Video Games Tax Relief (VGTR) is great to hear – I was very impressed by the knowledge the NI gaming sector has of it,” he continued. Mark also revealed that opportunities exist to claim both VGTR and R&D tax relief, but advised that care is required as HMRC are very particular about what is eligible.

Continuing, Mark says: “However, I found that knowledge on the R&D Tax Relief scheme was a bit sketchier. We have found that some people have looked into the scheme, but it really is under-utilised across Northern Ireland. Which is a shame really, as it’s not often HMRC actually offers you ‘money on the table’!”

Mark Westwood from Jumpstart

Mark Westwood from Jumpstart

Kitty Crawford, Deputy Chair of Games NI, thought the event was highly informative for both herself and other companies in attendance: “It was superb to get a good overall grounding on the R&D Tax Relief scheme, as well as the opportunity to ask specific, technical questions which was very useful. Even though some companies may not be in a position to claim relief now, it is of huge benefit to know about it for the future.”

If there was one thing that the gaming sector in NI should know about the R&D Tax Relief scheme, Ian Wolfendale, Jumpstart’s Client Engagement Manager, said: “Take a look into it. Don’t ignore it and think it’s not for you, as you could be pleasantly surprised.

“After all, analysis of HMRC’s latest figures shows that NI companies – across all sectors – account for just 2.7% of total claims and a mere 1.6% of the total tax benefits claimed from across the UK. This tells me that the R&D tax relief scheme is massively underutilised here.”

If you would like to chat about what opportunities there may be for your organisation, drop Ian a line at, or find out more at their website.

Guest post by Gavin Williamson, lead organiser of the event, from Lanyon Communications

Guest post by Gavin Williamson, lead organiser of the event, from Lanyon Communications