A Game Programmers Education.

This is a discussion on A Game Programmers Education. within the Game Programming forums, part of the General Programming Boards category; Does anyone here know what companies look for in a game programmer? I mean, as far as college education. Would ...

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    Registered User Wylde's Avatar
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    Question A Game Programmers Education.

    Does anyone here know what companies look for in a game programmer? I mean, as far as college education. Would they prefer someone who took 4 years to get a bachelors in computer science, or someone who took a somewhat shorter and more career specific path like this Game and Simulation Programming course offered at schools like Devry, or the EVEN faster route of a "Gaming school" like Digipen or Full Sail. If theres anyone out there that has a job in the game industry or atleast has some more knowledge than me, please give me some advice before I head off to college Thanks alot!

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    It really depends. If you go to a 4 year standard college you had better have a lot of personal projects going and ideally even a small demo of a working game prototype. I don't know how Digipen and Full-Sail are "faster", both offer a 4-year bachelors degree along with associates. I think it also depends on where you try to get a job. In the pacific northwest employers may have more experience with Digipen graduates than say in the southeast where it is likely more full-sail grads work.

    My advice, get into a good college comp sci program that is going to be more well rounded than a game specific route. Give you more options long term and save you some headaches of a non-accredited school. Then, just start doing as much as you can on your own time with regards to game dev. I've been on the interviewing side of things and it's all about what you know and demos you have. I'll take someone who has a solid understanding and great coding ability but has never been to college over someone who has the 4year degree and hasn't displayed an outside interest for game dev.
    "...the results are undefined, and we all know what "undefined" means: it means it works during development, it works during testing, and it blows up in your most important customers' faces." --Scott Meyers

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    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    I don't have much knoweledge on how this industry hires. But if you pay attention you will hear all sorts of stories. From high education applicants to garage programmers. The interesting bit is that garage programmers seem to be in bigger numbers, although this may as well be because the media likes cinderella stories. As such they get more exposure.

    But definitely experience in game programming is a must. If you make your name or your work widely available and praised in the Net, you're in!

    Heck! Even game programming is not a requirement. Justin Fisher, who enjoyed making Doom WADS and releasing them on the net as part of the doom mod community, was so good at it, he was offered jobs by many top companies in the industry as level designer for their games.

    Most companies have started by men (mostly men. I wished it was not so) who still run them and have started in the basement with one great game. They don't forget their origins for the most part and are well aware of the capacity behind some people who, while not having higher education, have a genius mind.

    To be hired for sure in this industry you just have to be good, very, very, good at what you do. Other than that you probably need to study like anyone else. But you need a portfolio. You need to show them you love games, games are your passion and you could even do it for free!
    The programmer’s wife tells him: “Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.”
    The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.


    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

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    Gaming schools:
    I hear schools specifically geared toward gaming courses are quite difficult and require hours upon hours upon hours of study and programming. (i.e. long nights; no girlfriend unless you name your computer Betty or something; lots o' stress; no sunlight; complete geek) I'm sure you would learn the complete game cycle; work on group gaming projects; and program numerous games while learning graphics/sound/input/AI/gameplay programming etc that would adequatly prepare you for a game programming job of some sort if you can find one.

    Traditional Computer Science Degree:
    I just received my B.S. in CS. It would not really prepare you to go into the gaming industry.
    - You do learn about advanced structures/algorithms and object oriented programming.
    - You do learn about the computer's hardware in relation to general programming.
    - You do learn about design.
    - You do write a good deal of programs to make you a more proficient general programmer.
    - However, we did not touch on any APIs. No Win32API. No DirectXAPI. No OpenGL. No artificial intelligence algorithms. No sound programming. No graphics programming of any kind. In fact, the only GUIs were for simple Java programs and HTML/Perl problems. Therefore, not much to help a wanna-be game programmer. Although it would give you the tools to understand and learn these technologies independently if you had the desire & patience.

    I would imagine a company would want to see some sort of portfolio of games created. For a gaming specific school you could show them your course work and prove through the interview you can answer there questions. If you choose traditional B.S. you would have to create games in your spare time and use those as a portfolio. Also, some gaming courses are now offered at non-gaming schools (though I'm not sure how indepth they go).

    Games these days are highly complex and for larger companies I'm sure jobs are more specialized rather than requiring an all-purpose guy who can do everything. (i.e. Sound programmer; or Graphics programmer; AI programmer; 3D Modeler; Lighting; Designer/Conceptualist; etc.)

    If you choose a traditional 4 yr B.S. I would recommend starting to learn some gaming stuff A.S.A.P. Game cycle; Artificial intelligence; etc. Perhaps design some small games either individually or in a group (nothing big that would takes years). Start simple. Console text based game. Than a simple Win32 one like a Solitaire game. Then go into DirectX or OpenGl.

    Just my 2 cents. I could be completely wrong so err.. might want to listen to someone else.

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    Most companies would expect a computer science degree. Go ahead, go to any hiring webpage and find it there. I would advise you to not waste your money on a game programming degree because at the end you're working with professionals in what they do. Last thing they need is a person with a paper saying they can make games. That should be already obvious since you are applying for work there. Even if you do get the job, you won't be at their level.

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    Registered User Wylde's Avatar
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    Ok, thanks alot for all your input. Right now im only a junior in highschool, so I still have about 2 years left before I have to make the final decision, but all your advice has given me alot to think about . The suggestion of just getting into a good computer science program sounds good based on the fact that the Jobs sections on alot of the leading game developers websites require programmers to have a "Bachelor's degree in Computer Science or a related field" , Im not sure if they would consider the programs offered at digipen or full sail a "related field"(if anyone would like to comment on that please do =P). But it also seems that a degree in computer science could leave me lacking knowledge in alot of areas important to game programming and im not even sure how much it would increase my skills with C++ or as an overall "coder". I know that I could patch up those areas where I would lack the knowledge by studying on my own, but that kinda defeats the purpose of going to college. Unless, the employers want you to have a bachelors degree just to show that your dedicated/responsible enough to complete four years of college and they dont care about the actually knowledge gained through the program. Anyways, its alot to think about, so thanks for all the advice so far, but any further advice pertaining to all that babbling I just did would be appreciated too. Once again, Thanks =)

    *Edit*
    NOTE- I was in the middle of writing this when dxfoo posted his response, and he answered some questions that I was about to ask, so thanks for that, but im gonna leave them in the post anyways, incase someone else would like to comment =P
    Last edited by Wylde; 09-18-2006 at 11:39 AM.

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    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    Just a word of advice though. Never let "Bachelor's degree in Computer Science or a related field" or anything similar put you down. If it comes a time you feel you are ready and decided not to pursue an academic degree, apply the same. You will be amazed at how many non finalists these companies hire.
    The programmer’s wife tells him: “Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.”
    The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.


    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

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    You would also be amazed by how many worthless resumes they get too from these average job search websites Just have a reason for them to hire you and work hard at it outside of school. It worked for me, but at the same time I'm studying CS. I recommend a similar approach.

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    vae victus! skorman00's Avatar
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    Gaming schools:
    I hear schools specifically geared toward gaming courses are quite difficult and require hours upon hours upon hours of study and programming. (i.e. long nights; no girlfriend unless you name your computer Betty or something; lots o' stress; no sunlight; complete geek)
    This is very true. I don't know about the Devry one you posted, Wylde, but I know many Digipen and Full Sail grads who are in the gaming industry. I went to Full Sail myself, and enjoyed it thuroughly. However, I had taken comp sci courses in High School. At the gaming schools, they tend to spend less time on experimentation, and focus on what works well. For instance, we went over 2 sorting Algorithms: sequential and binary sort.

    One perk about the gaming schools is that you get to know people in the industry. I'll be the first guy to tell you that networking is a dirty word, and most people smile simply because they "play the game" well. But most developers are good at seeing through that bull........, so if you act like yourself, you'll be good. It also doesn't hurt to know first when a company is hiring.

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    Also, don't wait until you graduate college and then try and jump into the industry.. Try and get an internship or low level job at a gaming company. Quality assurance game tester or something.

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    Even a job/internship developing applications will help you if you are successful at it. I would say get your comp sci degree and do game programming in your spare time. The first year classes are very boring, atleast for me they have been. But I found by tutoring my classmates I have learned a lot more because they asked questions about stuff I took for granted and made me think about it.

    If you are finding the game development hard (I know I do, I am not creative enough to think of all the parts) I get some friends together, get some pizza and chat about what we would want in a game if we made our own. Most of my friends are like minded RPG, fantasy/adventure fans, so our discussions help me. I bounce ideas off them constantly. I have a buddy going to school for a degree in Graphic Design and he does some of my stuff... I have done only 2d stuff and it hasn't panned out to much yet. I am a little too distractable and get off track for a week or 2 while I learn about how certain things are implimented.

    I am not sure if I am personally going to want to go into the game programming business. But this is my experience and opinions. Make sure you are going to have friends to support ya through this, because you are going to need it. Learning these APIs are discouraging at first. Atleast they were too me.

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    Nintendo of America only hires Digipen graduates (Nintendo helped create Digipen). After working at Nintendo, you could probably get a job anywhere else.

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    Its hard... But im here swgh's Avatar
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    When I get really good, I want to work for Konami or Nintendo and work on the new Zelda or Resident evil games. It sounds like a pipe dream now, but remember, every proffesional game programmer started with the "Hello World" program. Buld up, get good, practice hard and your dreams will come true if you really work hard enough. And do not feel dispondent or down if you are making simple games that look poor in your eyes compared to the games you play on your xbox or ps2. These commercial games were made by teams of developers who have worked in the industry for years and have loads of experience.
    But there is no reason why you cannot get that good one day

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    Crazy Fool Perspective's Avatar
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    >Nintendo of America only hires Digipen graduates

    This sounds extremely unlikely...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yasir_Malik
    Nintendo of America only hires Digipen graduates (Nintendo helped create Digipen). After working at Nintendo, you could probably get a job anywhere else.
    I know for a fact the first statement is false. The second, I would strongly disagree with.
    "...the results are undefined, and we all know what "undefined" means: it means it works during development, it works during testing, and it blows up in your most important customers' faces." --Scott Meyers

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