Graduates of UKZN’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS), Mr Andrew Clark and Mr Michael Waltham are taking the Computer Science skills that they honed at the University to the world of virtual reality, where they have established themselves as indie game developers and are working on a new one-versus-one auto battler game fused with collectable card game elements: Godsbane.
Clark enrolled for studies in Computer Science at UKZN thanks to a lifelong fascination with all things electronic, and was the recipient of an Excellence Scholarship for his undergraduate studies. An alumnus of Westville Boys’ High School, he stayed close to home for his studies at UKZN’s Westville campus, excelling in his undergraduate degree and using his honours research to develop a method for virtual reality headset wearers to interact with the physical world using their hands.
He progressed to master’s studies where he expanded on the research begun in his honours, this time investigating the recognition of human hand gestures and poses in virtual reality. This work plays into futuristic scenarios where people will be able to control their environments with a wave of the hand rather than by manipulating devices. While completing his research, Clark also lectured a third-year 3D computer graphics module in the SMSCS.
Waltham received his master’s degree cum laude after conducting research within the SMSCS’s Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research. He investigated how intelligent cognitive agents can use their experiences to learn in an unsupervised manner, proposing a cognitive architecture to develop adaptable 3D virtual agents that learn without instruction in virtual realities.
After graduating, Clark and Waltham, both of whom were supervised by Mr Anban Pillay and Professor Deshen Naidoo, ended up working at a military and mining simulations company Thoroughtec Simulations in Umhlanga. Driven by their passion for game development, the duo began working on a video game after hours, later recruiting colleague and 3D artist Mr Wayne Broodryk as the third member of their team.
‘We had known for a long time that we wanted to make some form of strategy game, and originally designed our prototype based off an older game that we both enjoyed,’ said Clark. ‘We quickly began to see that what we were making had the scope to transition into something that we could work on full-time.’
The trio spent several months searching for investors in their project, eventually succeeding and making the shift to full-time game development in February 2021 and setting up shop in Hillcrest. After spending three years working on Godsbane, Clark and Waltham are set to release the game early in 2022 on the Steam online gaming platform.
Words: Christine Cuénod