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UK Games Industry Over the Hill?

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the need-more-home-invasion-hooligan-games dept.

Education 314

Tinkle writes "A games industry campaign group has warned the UK is falling behind on coding skills because university courses are not up to scratch. But this article includes an interview with an industry coding veteran who believes a lack of creative home computing hardware (think: Atari ST) is more likely to be at the root of the skills shortage, and explains why Britain's games coders are getting a bit long-in-the-tooth."

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314 comments

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BAD THINKING ;) (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23870637)

Think Amiga of course, not Atari... :P :)

Re:BAD THINKING ;) (4, Informative)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870829)

The Atari ST *was* the leading 16-bit machine at one stage, probably peaking when they dropped the price to £300 circa late 1987. The Amiga was significantly more expensive at first, but did better and overtook the ST when the price came down a bit.

Re:BAD THINKING ;) (4, Informative)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871157)

It was a 32-bit computer.

A lot of games on the Atari ST came from well known english companies (The Bitmap Brothers, Psygnosis, etc...).
The Amiga had more games coming from other countries (like the Turrican serie from Germany).

Re:BAD THINKING ;) (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871259)

It was a 32-bit computer.
That depends how you define "32-bit". The 68000 was internally 32-bit, but its data bus was still only 16-bits. (Sinclair's QL, which was hyped by them as a "32 bit" computer was considered by others to be an 8-bit machine because its 68008 only had an *8* bit data bus).

Supposedly "(Atari) ST" stands for "Sixteen/Thirty-two", contradicting the "Sam Tramiel" acronym.

Anyway, I live in the UK, and I can assure you that the Amiga was definitely more popular here later on, because I made the mistake of buying an ST when everyone else had moved onto the Amiga.

Think ZX Spectrum... (4, Interesting)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871165)

In the early-to-mid 1980s *everyone* in Dundee owned a ZX Spectrum. Why was this? Because Timex had their UK manufacturing base there, and they build computers for Sinclair Research. This meant that everyone knew someone whose Dad knew a man in the pub who could "get them cheap".

The practical upshot of this is that everyone who was in any way interested in programming had a simple, powerful and well-documented (I remember John Menzies in the Overgate Shopping Centre having several feet of shelf-space of copies of The ZX Spectrum ROM Disassembly, and I still have my copy) home computer to go and play on.

Look at where the UK's computer game industry is mostly based now...

Re:Think ZX Spectrum... (3, Interesting)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871205)

It could be that modern computer systems are simply too complex for such treatment. I recall having a complete memory map and assembly language tutorial in the manual that came with my Acorn Electron - such a thing would be preposterous for my MacBook Pro. Its inner workings described to the same level as that 1980s manual would probably occupy a shelf.

What is really called for is a programmable games machine. Put keyboards back on consoles, include a good BASIC interpreter and watch the whizz kids develop.

Monkey programers (-1, Troll)

IAR80 (598046) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870663)

I thought the British gaming industry uses chimps and Visual Basic.

Re:Monkey programers (1)

IAR80 (598046) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870687)

Sorry! It was US. http://www.newtechusa.com/ppi/pressroom.asp#higher [newtechusa.com]

Re:Monkey programers (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871289)

Never trust any computing news served on an asp page.
In fact never trust anything on an asp.

Re:Monkey programers (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23870691)

Fascinating. Thanks for posting.

This pal is probably in more than correct there (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23870665)

Games and pretty much all other creative programming comes inside person itself and his/her experience, not from excessive training.

Creativity cannot be trained with today's methods.

Re:This pal is probably in more than correct there (5, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870709)

Programming a physics engine does not take creativity, it takes intellectual brute force. They are moaning about the lack of heavyweight brainboxes, not guys who sit around having cool ideas.

But as I said already, they have only themselves to blame. They don't want to pay the price such powernerds require to keep them from finding work elsewhere. Essentially, they are asking the government to train loads of people, flood the labour market and lower their outgoings for them. I say fuck them. They need to start paying decent wages.

Re:This pal is probably in more than correct there (5, Insightful)

xtracto (837672) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871013)

I just finished a PhD in the UK. Granted, although I am not originary from Great Britain, I have the possibility of working here.

I have always wanted to be a game programmer. I have been programming small games since I was in secondary (school 12 y/old). While I was doing my Bachelors degree, I read loads of books on OpenGL, DirectX, game programming, game AI, etc. I even played with Open Source games (small contribs, patches, etc).

However, as I have got older, I have also realised that being a game programming does not have all the "magic" that it used to have (in the Amiga/PC DOS days).

Now I have two options, one is to kick-start in the game industry (say, as a Q-A at Sony, Rare, R* or any other UK game studio) or I can get into a Hedge fund as a junior Quant Developer.

When you compare the payment, benefits and vacations, it is evident that the game developer job has *no chance* against the quant job.

Both include maths and algorithms (I am specialized in A.I.) and both are very interesting for me. But I believe the obvious choice is to keep the game development as as hobby and get playing where the money is.

Creativity is just a tiny small part of programmin (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871041)

Actually, creativity is a tiny small part of programming. Programming is basically a funnily-formalized maths. And sometimes even that programming language notation isn't enough, and you actually have to do old fashioned maths with large matrixes and multi-dimensional geometries and theorems named after long-dead Greeks or French guys. And some domains of it need some other knowledge too: e.g., the physics engines another poster mentioned.

It's not art, where expressing yourself in unorthodox ways that make the viewer question the establishment. If it were art, sure, creativity would be everything. But it's an algorithm that has to execute on a very anal-retentive machine, and solve a very well defined program.

If Picasso didn't draw a human anywhere near correct, it's good art. If you make a program that's nowhere near correct, it's just buggy. If your code draws the polygons for the eyes in the wrong positions, like Picasso did, it's not some thought-provoking art, it's a graphics glitch and you get to fix it. Ditto if your shaders end up producing halos like in Van Gogh's paintings. If Picasso or Tzara ignored some centuries of accepted artistic methods, it was innovative. If you do the same in a program, it's just wasting your employer's money on reinventing the wheel, and usually doing a piss-poor job too.

You're not making art. You're writing a program. Art and creativity come into play when you come up with an idea. But then you have to sit down and actually implement it. That's plain old work and skill, and it _can_ be trained.

In other words, if you think you can just ignore two millenia of maths, half a millenium of physics, and half a century of algorithms, and you'll do as good (or even better) a job just because you're teh uber-creative guy... I'll call bull on that. It doesn't work like that. That's not just man hours, but many man-millenia that were needed to discover or prove all that stuff. And there were likely some guys in there that were both smarter and more creative than you, no matter who you are. You can't just skip all that and think you'll just get creative and invent it on your own in an afternoon when you need it.

Yes, it helps to have a little creativity, and combine those algorithms in smart ways. Fine. But you still need to learn them, or at least know they exist. In an ideal world, even understand why they work, and why they're better than the dumb brute-force stuff produced by teh creative people without training. But at the very least, know that they exist, so you can google them later.

Now all this may sound a bit harsh. I've been at the same point, and had the same dumb ideas, so you get _some_ sympathy there. But guess what? That was just the ADHD talking. It's just an excuse for lacking the willpower to just sit down and learn. But in practice, you're not _that_ smart, and I'm not _that_ smart either. You can't just snap your fingers and reinvent what others needed centuries to discover. I can't either.

Re:Creativity is just a tiny small part of program (5, Insightful)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871275)

Programming *is* mostly creative.

You have to take an idea and give it form. There are a nearly infinite number of ways of doing so - some will work, many won't... that's where experience and knowledge comes in.

Just because you can't go abstract like picasso doesn't mean it's not creative. A building has to be correct (much more so than a program, as there are laws involved), but you try telling an architect that what they do isn't creative and they'll just laugh at you.

You can't train someone who doesn't have the aptitute to be a programmer. I've seen it loads of times - people who went through all the graduate stuff, read lots of books, fart algorithms in their sleep.. and can't code their way out of a paper bag. Not because they don't have the knowledge, but because they simply don't have the aptitude. The problem is I've seen attitudes like yours promote these idiots into places where they can actually do harm, like project leads.

To solve a problem in a new way you need to be able to think differently, not just copy what someone else has done. That's the difference between a code monkey and a true programmer.

UK IT bosses whinging at the lack of slave labour (5, Informative)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870681)

The UK IT industry is notoriously tight fisted. They expect high standards from their employees but often pay barely above school-leaver wages for graduate positions.

There is no skills shortage in the UK. There is a shortage of decent employees, so all the skills are fucking off to the US and Canada where they can support themselves in the game industry without being a bartender in their spare time.

Re:UK IT bosses whinging at the lack of slave labo (4, Informative)

IAR80 (598046) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870705)

I am continually spammed by UK recruiting agencies that request high qualifications and pay you 20K pounds and 50 hour week, but there is a plus to it. The uniform is provided.

Re:UK IT bosses whinging at the lack of slave labo (2, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870721)

Perhaps its a ploy to recruit more teachers. Its actually looking like a decent graduate job these days.

Re:UK IT bosses whinging at the lack of slave labo (1)

IAR80 (598046) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870759)

I would take a teaching job anytime for a job in the UK gaming industry payed twice as much. Not only that there is a meaning to what you are doing but you will have a life as well.

Re:UK IT bosses whinging at the lack of slave labo (3, Funny)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871203)

I am continually spammed by UK recruiting agencies that request high qualifications and pay you 20K pounds and 50 hour week, but there is a plus to it. The uniform is provided.
Phew, that's good to know. My sewing is really terrible.

At my last job I had to make my own uniform and the kids threw stones at me. It really sucked.

Re:UK IT bosses whinging at the lack of slave labo (1)

Kamineko (851857) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870783)

I think your comment is a little mixed up.

When you say:

There is no skills shortage in the UK. There is a shortage of decent employees, so all the skills are fucking off to the US and Canada where they can support themselves in the game industry without being a bartender in their spare time.
do you mean

There is a skills shortage in the UK, and a shortage of decent employees, as all the skills are fucking off to the US and Canada where they can support themselves in the game industry without being a bartender in their spare time.
?

Re:UK IT bosses whinging at the lack of slave labo (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870839)

I mean the universities are churning out a perfectly good number of coding whizzes, so there is no shortage at the source - however as soon as they come out of university they look at the opportunities available in the UK and promptly leave. So there is no skills shortage, just a continuous skills flight due to low pay which makes it look like a skills shortage.

Re:UK IT bosses whinging at the lack of slave labo (4, Insightful)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871127)

It's been true for a *long* time and it's not just gaming it's across the industry.

Basically employers only want the perfect employee - someone who knows their systems intimately has decades of experience.. and will work for about £15k.

Years ago the IT press were bleating on about their 'skills shortage'. At the time I was looking for work myself and knew over a dozen skilled programmers in the same boat. It wasn't that we didn't have skills - it was that we didn't have the *exact* skills that the employers wanted (even down to exact compiler versions and wanting insane number of years of experience of new applications.. I'm sure there's a job out there now that insists on '10 years JDK 2.1.1a' and the manager is bitching about how there's this skills shortage as nobody qualifies...).

Re:UK IT bosses whinging at the lack of slave labo (4, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871161)

I used to worry that I was some kind of malcontent, but every time I post my complaints about the UK IT industry on any vaguely techy forum I get a chorus of agreement.

But if there is a supply of skilled IT graduates waiting for a decent employer why has no one jumped on the opportunity to run a business with top notch talent, and seemingly have very little competition for them?

Re:UK IT bosses whinging at the lack of slave labo (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871295)

Some do, but of course they fill their vacancies real quick. There are a few companies around here that only hire on recommendation now because they've got far too many people want to work there.

Re:UK IT bosses whinging at the lack of slave labo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23870827)

Same old UK companies. Won't pay for people with the required skillset nor will they pay to train someone to achieve the required skillset. Instead they just bitch to the media via one of their useless, self-aggrandising, all buddies together spin organisations about the poor state of UK education. All the time waiting for the government to cough up some money for an employment scheme that will change nothing but help put extra money in their pockets.

Re:UK IT bosses whinging at the lack of slave labo (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870845)

Yup. You want to find the biggest benefit scroungers in the UK, they aren't the ones in the tracksuits drinking special brew - head to London and look for expensive suits.

The UK education system isn't the best in the world but it isn't far off, as much as we bitch. We produce plenty enough skills for our economy but the industry wants the government to saturate the labour market so they can top graduates for cockle-picking money. Essentially, they want the government to spend money on them. Signing on is at least honest about that.

Re:UK IT bosses whinging at the lack of slave labo (1)

cheroke (1309711) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870977)

This's not only the UK problem. All brains of the Eastern Europe and Russia are dreaming of "fucking off to the US and Canada" and majority eventually does it.

Re:UK IT bosses whinging at the lack of slave labo (1)

Shultz (1311103) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871227)

No way to agree... The russian IT is rising in the recent years.

Re:UK IT bosses whinging at the lack of slave labo (1)

antirelic (1030688) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870987)

With the new Anti-Immigration laws being passed in the EU, could this be a US type of shrill from the UK gaming industry to try increase the amount of H1B type visa's (not sure how this works in the UK)? I mean, if you cannot import cheap labor, than you are going to have to actually start paying people decent salaries... and that means less yachts and new cars for your little Johnny...

Re:UK IT bosses whinging at the lack of slave labo (2, Interesting)

superskippy (772852) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870993)

This seems to be true. I remember a few days back on Slashdot reading a story comparing Apple employees salaries to Google salaries in Silicon Valley. Well, believe me, all the salaries in that article are very high for UK programmers. Especially when you consider the high level of tax we have to pay over here.

starts to rant....
But I think it's all part of a general pattern of undervaluing technical, academic skills in Britain generally. In my first job working for a university, is was very noticeable how all the top academics had gone to the US. You'd often go on conferences to America and find that the top man in a particular field whose name you recognised turned out to be British when you met him, and he'd emigrated.

There is a lot of nonsense in the press at the moment about declining numbers of maths and science students, all the way through kids to university. There suggesting that it is because it's too geeky, and has a social stigma. Well, the real reason is people have got more sense. If the best jobs just require "a degree", no matter what in, you aren't going to pick something really difficult like Physics, are you?

Re:UK IT bosses whinging at the lack of slave labo (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871025)

Well, I did.

I got my Comp Sci degree 98-02, graduating just in time to see the tech boom vanish over the horizon. I bounced between various jobs on the same salary level as people fresh out of school, then I decided to move on.

I'm now on a Physics course, using my IT skills purely to support me rather than as a career. I am so sick of playing the labour market game that I decided to go back into academia and may well stay here. That, or get some ridiculously specialised science morlock job in a neutrino detector or particle accelerator or the like.

The deeply ironic thing is I am currently at the best coding job I've ever had. Going back to university opened up opportunities for summer work in bioinformatics, which pays better than all my previous IT work. I still don't want to go back though.

Re:UK IT bosses whinging at the lack of slave labo (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871223)

There is a shortage of decent employees, so all the skills are fucking off to the US and Canada where they can support themselves in the game industry without being a bartender in their spare time.
What is this "spare time" you speak of ? This thing is undefined in the gaming industry.

I'm a game programmer (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23870697)

I've only worked with one British programmer to any great extent. But the man would show up reeking of alcohol, and would code some of the nastiest spaghetti the world has ever seen. Everything he would write would be one massive hack.

I had a lead who's been in the industry for over 20 years. He says that that's not at all uncommon for British programmers. He said that in general, they started with the demo scene and coded something cool, but they completely fall apart when they have to actually code something big.

I haven't read TFA, but the summary would seem to indicate that he's right.

Also, just a note. I know that not all British programmers are like this, but I think it deserves a mention that my former lead had given me a totally accurate profile of the man from my vague descriptions before he even met him.

Also of note, I'm Canadian, and I would love to paint the British in a better light, but that experience was just horrible.

Re:I'm a game programmer (4, Informative)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870741)

That is the quality of programmer you saw because that is the quality of programmer the industry is willing to pay for.

As a British (ex-ish)coder I can't really convince you that I'm any good because the bioinformatics project I am currently temping on is not mine to show. However, I assure you once you get out of the world of coding for tuppence there are plenty of solid British coders - its just that most of them have enough sense to not work for British wages.

Re:I'm a game programmer (2, Insightful)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870851)

Also of note, I'm Canadian, and I would love to paint the British in a better light, but that experience was just horrible.
Hope your "experience" isn't akin to that of the Canadian woman living in the UK who got a TV series on the basis of basically saying "All British men are crap in bed and repressed assholes", despite (a) Having got the majority of her "experience" from working at a right-wing tabloid newspaper and (b) Never actually having slept with any of them anyway!

I haven't read TFA
Hmm.

Re:I'm a game programmer (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870861)

I'm betting this was either at least 10 years ago (possibly 15 or more) or the guy had been in the industry for some time. I've been in the industry for a while and the spaghetti hackers seem to either be old, or come from mainland Europe these days.

Re:I'm a game programmer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23871253)

yeah, he's been here for quite a while. He was tech director. And I ended up doing his job for him. But it's really comforting to know that things are changing.

Money not skills the problem (5, Insightful)

fdobbie (226067) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870717)

There are people with the necessary skills and intellect coming out of UK universities. I'd wager the real problem is that they're ending up working in finance, which has far larger salaries than the games industry.

Despite the games companies constantly bleating about how much money they make and how games are now a bigger contributor to the British economy than films, they seem unwilling or unable to compensate leading engineering talent. Is it little surprise that graduates go elsewhere?

Re:Money not skills the problem (5, Insightful)

IAR80 (598046) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870739)

T

Despite the games companies constantly bleating about how much money they make and how games are now a bigger contributor to the British economy than films, they seem unwilling or unable to compensate leading engineering talent.

I still remember when UK software industry was boasting that it makes more money than the car industry, but I think this is because the state their car industry is in.

Re:Money not skills the problem (4, Funny)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870753)

My dads pub makes more money than the UK car industry, on account of the fact is in the black.

Re:Money not skills the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23870961)

This might suprise you, but both Jaguar and Landrover were in profit last year and will be this year too.

I don't know for sure, but I heard that Aston Martin is doing much better financially in recent years.

Bentley have so much demand for their cars that they can't make them fast enough - it has been in profit since 2004.

McLaren have produced decent profits in the last few years.

The British car industry has been through some tough times but, now that the dead wood has been stripped away, what is left is actually quite profitable.

Re:Money not skills the problem (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870985)

I'm going to pretend I didn't read that. Failing car companies begging for handouts from foreigners are part of our national identity!

Re:Money not skills the problem (1)

superskippy (772852) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871001)

Funny, but it depends on what you mean by the UK car industry.

We are actually manufacturing more cars than ever before. Difference is, they are all Toyotas and Nissans, which people probably don't count as "British".

Re:Money not skills the problem (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870933)

To be better than an industry that is actually losing money it is sufficient just to sit around and do nothing :)

Re:Money not skills the problem (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871185)

Wait, what? Excluding the production of Top Gear, there's a British car industry?

Does Jeremy, Richard and James know this?

Re:Money not skills the problem (2, Insightful)

xtracto (837672) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871081)

There are people with the necessary skills and intellect coming out of UK universities. I'd wager the real problem is that they're ending up working in finance, which has far larger salaries than the games industry.

Haha, I just read your post... this is true at least from my position [slashdot.org] .

Recently my father visited me and we went to see an old friend of him. In the middle of a discussion of why the UK is importing slate from Brazil rather than mining it, we thought that the main reason was because of the employment wages.

We then went to try to realize what does the UK export? What is the UK's main market? and the answer we agreed on was that what the UK economy is better at is money. Money and finance (which is of course closely related).

Therefore, if there is a field in the UK which guarantees a good job and QOL, finance is it.

The problem with game development (in the UK at least) is that it is impossible to pay UK wages and be competitive enough to sell games, compared to companies say, in the US or Spain...

The only remaining reason to choose a game programming career is because of pure love to the art. But the corporatism introduced by the huge programming studios have removed whatever was left for attracting people.

Re:Money not skills the problem (1)

mottanano (1307027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871193)

Well is true there's a lack of good programers in the UK because the amount of physics as maths, isn't fit fo the porpose at all. Any piece of good code that come out of there is for sure there's an indian guy behind it.Because they've been through tough degrees in their on country and at the end they didn't have a job so they used go to UK. but the sintuation is changing now in India and the results can be seeing in the UK, and this, is well known among the companies.

Partly universities fault here (4, Insightful)

Toreo asesino (951231) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870719)

Having done a degree in London (I say, wot wot?!), I know when I was looking into CS degrees around various institutions, almost none offered anything even close to gaming programming.
This, I presumed was largely because a "Computer games" degree would be regarded by paying parents of the cretins in question as a dent on the quality and seriousness of the university in question. Of course, I don't know that for fact, but that was my feeling.

Parents want to know their offspring are programming serious applications; high-availability databases for blue-chip companies and so forth; certainly not running round a virtual environment blowing friends to kingdom-come with an RPG launcher.

So, with a small launchpad for gaming developers, is it such a wonder that game developers in the UK are going the way of the dodo? We're serious people us English people don't you know.

That's my thoughts on the matter anyhow. Please add yours.

Re:Partly universities fault here (3, Insightful)

IAR80 (598046) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870775)

On the other hand most of the CS degrees around have physics courses attached to them, numerical methods, system simulation, image processing, advanced algorithms and do forth. No serious CS degree I know officially includes "blowing friends to kingdom-come with an RPG launcher"

Re:Partly universities fault here (2, Insightful)

Toreo asesino (951231) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871007)

No, but CS courses relating to gaming specifically, are separate from the usual "CS IT systems" courses on offer; despite the fact, as you say, there is a often a cross-over. So for parents to pick between the two, in their eyes, the "serious" option would always be the more favourable.

Re:Partly universities fault here (1)

fdobbie (226067) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870823)

I don't know about that. Certainly at Imperial College London (where I happen to study), the courses run by the Department of Computing are varied enough that a lot of the skills necessary of a games programmer can be gained (graphics, AI, computer architecture, etc).

Although it might fair to say Imperial has an unusually strong link with the games industry, e.g. the Games and Media Event [ic.ac.uk] and EA has run an event on campus in the past.

Liverpool (2, Interesting)

Kamineko (851857) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870749)

Liverpool John Moores University courses are rubbish. Rubbish. Please remember this.

game coding at universities? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23870755)

Do any other countries really have game coding lectures resulting in seriously skilled coders?
I am working for more than twelve years in the gaming industry (in Germany) and I never came across one person who didn't learn his skills all by himself, including gfx-artists and musicians. (cue jokes about the quality of German games.)

Of course, if you intend to code low-level stuff like a game engine, then it helps alot to pay attention to your mathematics teacher on subjects like vectors and matrices but you learn these neccessary basics before university.
There are some coders who studied CS though but it mainly helped them to organize large projects and code more readable.

Re:game coding at universities? (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870919)

I think Game Programming / Game Design programs are fairly new. But a computer science degree puts you in as good a spot as any to be in the industry. You've got the necessary skills (programming) as well as some helpful support areas (science) and probably spent many a night actually playing them (study?!? whatever).

There are some programs in the US now (CMU has a good one, DigiPen/FullSail not sure of quality). It will grow.

Layne

Games just take too long to make (1, Interesting)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870769)

Games just take too long to make these days. Look at GTA IV, that took years and cost close to $100M apparently. A British studio can't afford that, they just simply don't have the budget. The UK might be able to churn out something low key and amazing, but it probably won't do as well as the games that the US and Japan create.

Let's look at the movie industry quickly, the most recent film I saw was Iron Man which had an all star cast (and Gwyneth Paltrow) and amazing special effects. You're simply not going to get that from a British studio because of the lack of a budget. The UK does provide some real gems though, such as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, for a more reasonable budget, but I'm not sure how well they did outside the UK.

Everything I know about games programming is either self taught or read from tutorials on the web. My brother and I have been working on Blob And Conquer* [parallelrealities.co.uk] for over two years now and, to be perfectly honest, it's been a fucking nightmare. Games development is seriously hard work and the Universities don't really give you enough education.

*Shameless plug that has nothing to do with anything

Re:Games just take too long to make (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23870787)

Ehm, GTA IV from Rockstar North based in Edinburgh? Scotland is still part of the UK at present afaik

Re:Games just take too long to make (4, Informative)

benjymous (69893) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870793)

Um, you do know GTAIV was made by a British studio, don't you?

Re:Games just take too long to make (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870801)

"some real gems though, such as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz,"

I wouldn't call Hot Fuzz a real gem. Really overrated more like.

Anyway , AFAIK neither of them used CGI so whats your point?

Re:Games just take too long to make (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23870803)

Uh, rockstar north, the developer for GTA IV, is a scottish studio...

Re:Games just take too long to make (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23870807)

Um, GTA IV was made by Rockstar North in Scotland. The money was American though, of course.

Re:Games just take too long to make (2, Informative)

cliffski (65094) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870809)

GTA IV was made in Britain wasn't it?

Re:Games just take too long to make (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23871237)

Yes, in Scotland actually. Same as GTA, GTA3, GTA Vice City and GTA San Andreas. That poster who reckons British studios don't have the budget is typing through a hole in his butt! British studios have produced countless big-budget titles.

Re:Games just take too long to make (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23870813)

There are a few large games studios in Britain, mostly for American games companies. There are several in Newcastle for example.

Re:Games just take too long to make (1)

IAR80 (598046) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870819)

The analogy with Hollywood is perfect here. I am getting tired of the same crap repackaged over and over again on a bigger and bigger budget. I want new ideas not sims2 gaming programing package.

Re:Games just take too long to make (1)

superskippy (772852) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871021)

Trouble is, it costs more and more to make a game that looks good enough for an XBox 360 or a PS3. If you are going to bet $10M+, are you going to put your chips on "New Super Idea" or "Latest Franchise with Guaranteed Sales 27"?

This is what's so great about XBox Arcade, in my view.

Re:Games just take too long to make (1)

IAR80 (598046) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871095)

To keep the analogy with Hollywood going. Blair Witch Project ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blair_Witch_Project [wikipedia.org] ) had a budget of 35K$ and made 248M$ in sales. So how many "New Super Idea" are you willing to invest a small sum of money in as opposed to 10M$ one "Latest Franchise with Guaranteed Sales 27" on the hope that the brainwashed consumers are going to make you 11M$. One day you might have a big surprise.

Re:Games just take too long to make (1)

Mushdot (943219) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871187)

How about the same crap repackaged [slashdot.org] on a low budget!

Re:Games just take too long to make (1)

Cynic.AU (1205120) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870831)

I'd wager that the $100M was spent largely on graphics designer types - who, after all, had to create a huge glomping city.

It's not the programmers that do the majority of the work in a game like that. It's modellers, animators, mappers, texturers, etc etc. Just look at the credit reel for the game.

Re:Games just take too long to make (1)

AndyboyH (837116) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870899)

An interesting but very flawed comparison.

The UK Film Industry gets tax breaks from the government, which is what the games companies want to get. So the UK Film industry is actually better off than the Games industry in that respect.

Despite that, the UK film industry hasn't developed a blockbuster title on the scale of GTA4.

Re:Games just take too long to make (2, Interesting)

xtracto (837672) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871125)

The UK does provide some real gems though, such as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, for a more reasonable budget, but I'm not sure how well they did outside the UK.

And this is where the potential of the UK lays on. Just take a look at Battle Toads, Conker's Bad Fur Day, Worms, among others. The English humour is something that is really nice. I am not English (I am Mexican) but I know that the Battletoads games were a big success for my generation of videogame players (nes/snes).

Just when the market is tired of full blown million-polygons-per-second games which are deadly boring, UK studios should create games which are simple, funny and with a lot of personality. And of course, the presumably best console to publish them is the Wii.

Of course any other console would be all right, but people would compare such games in the PS3 with the last interactive-video Metal Gear instalment, which is not the case.

Games development "degrees" are a joke (4, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870789)

Its just a cynical way for universities to make money and it does a disservice to the people who take it. Any good CS course should equip someone with the knowledge (if not ability) to work on games programming - theres nothing special about it apart from perhaps a slightly greater emphasis on physics and thats only if you work on a physics engine anyway.

There're no special accountancy programming degrees or degrees in insurance or banking programming so why games programming? Its just a cynical cash cow.

Re:Games development "degrees" are a joke (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870953)

There're no special accountancy programming degrees or degrees in insurance or banking programming so why games programming? Its just a cynical cash cow.
Actually, there are. It's called MIS. To me CS is the broad degree that can apply to any programming career. MIS is focused on business apps. Both degrees can produce good or bad coders, but the classes you focus on in MIS make you better suited to write business apps. That being said, my degree is in CS and for my entire career, I've written business apps -- it just happens to be the most stable and generally highest paying programming position. I've actually taken classes at Austin Community College which has a decent (currently non-degree) program [ http://www.austincc.edu/techcert/Video_Games.html [austincc.edu] ] that is taught by game industry professionals. After talking with them, I'd have to take a $20k to $30k paycut, double my hours, and probably double my stress if I took a job in that field. I'll stick to it as a hobby, thanks.

Layne

Re:Games development "degrees" are a joke (1)

drakkos (203515) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871011)

I wouldn't say they are of a neccessity a cheat - done properly, they can provide tremendous value by specialising. The trend in higher education is to 'dumb down' - things I did in second year in my degree ten years ago are now fouth year topicsi n some universities. There is some benefit to be had in arresting that process with a 'hard' degree.

However...

Certainly in the university that makes the biggest deal about how it introduced the UK's first gaming degree, those few members of staff who had previous industry experience have long gone (because of a lack of the authority neccessary to keep the material up to date). Those that remain, at least when I last taught there, are unspecialised with no games industry experience. Indeed, hardly any of them are gamers in general.

Done properly, a games degree has value... but that requires a significant investment in technological infrastructure, lecturers who know the industry (or have significant relevant experience in general) and who love games, and a commitment at all levels to continually update the course material. In today's climate of creeping managerialism in education, none of those things have the same value as a vanilla CS course with a 'games' label on it.

It's not a university problem, it's people leaving (5, Interesting)

cliffski (65094) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870799)

It's a staff retention issue. I blogged in some depth about it here:

http://positech.co.uk/cliffsblog/?p=16 [positech.co.uk]

basically people run games companies on the system of getting cheap graduates, treating them badly, and then replenishing them the minute they wise up and leave. This isn't a new thing at all.
Of my msn contacts from when I was in retail AAA dev, 70% of my ex colleagues now work in other industries or for themselves. That's the problem.

Re:It's not a university problem, it's people leav (5, Informative)

NocturnHimtatagon (1116487) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870941)

From the IDGA website [igda.org]

* 34.3% of developers expect to leave the industry within 5 years, and 51.2% within 10 years.
* Only 3.4% said that their coworkers averaged 10 or more years of experience.
* Crunch time is omnipresent, during which respondents work 65 to 80 hours a week (35.2%). The average crunch work week exceeds 80 hours (13%). Overtime is often uncompensated (46.8%).
* 44% of developers claim they could use more people or special skills on their projects.
* Spouses are likely to respond that "You work too much..." (61.5%); "You are always stressed out." (43.5%); "You don't make enough money." (35.6%).
* Contrary to expectations, more people said that games were only one of many career options for them (34%) than said games were their only choice (32%).

And this was also my experience when I was working as a game developer.

Re:It's not a university problem, it's people leav (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23871153)

Nobody cares about your or your blog.

Coding in the UK (3, Informative)

Pond823 (643768) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870821)

A couple of thoughts...

1. Wages in the computer games programming market are very far behind what you can get doing a 9-6 mainstream programming job.

2. Younger programmers in the UK have very different aspirations to those of my youth, they are looking for a decent 'middle-class' career, not working in entertainment industry or being scientists.

3. Who the hell wants to work in the middle of freakin' nowhere. Tons of games companies moved out of the big cities to rural backwaters to get there costs down, but now the employees that had to move with them have left nobody wants in.

4. Games designers don't have to be programmers. It used to be that you had a great idea, wrote the code and $$$ profit. But now designers come through the level designer route and so don't fill out the junior programming positions.

I'd love to work back in the games industry but I have a life to support.

Hydra Game Development Kit (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870835)

If they think there's a lack of creative home computing platforms they haven't looked very far. Here's a system dedicated to learning games programming and comes with a good book that teaches it. The system has an 8 core microcontroller, and to program it, you get down to the bare metal, even writing your own video drivers to create a NTSC or PAL signal. I wish they'd had this back in the days when I was learning.

http://www.parallax.com/Store/Microcontrollers/PropellerProgrammingKits/tabid/144/CategoryID/20/List/0/SortField/0/Level/a/ProductID/467/Default.aspx [parallax.com]

Nahhh.. (5, Funny)

comm2k (961394) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870871)

Nahhh not at all - with new talent like Majestic Studios, the UK is making a full swing attack at all the cheap-ass clones made by EA-Borg collective.

Who the hell... (4, Insightful)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870897)

...would want to work in the games industry anyway?

It's generally reckoned to have some of the worst pay and the longest hours.

From what I've heard, the actual coding in commercial games is (contrary to what people expect) tedious and unrewarding minutae.

Couple that with the volatile and flaky nature of the games business that can (and does) see formerly successful companies go under very quickly after their latest game doesn't do quite as well as they'd hoped.

Anyone getting into the business is competing against naive entrants in their late-teens/early-twenties; the type who are willing (and able) to work for peanuts to do what (they think) they love, until they get burnt out and are replaced by more newbies.

I'm glad that I've never had any desire to work in computer games, because unless you're truly passionate about it and have your eyes wide open as to what it involves, it sounds like a no-brainer to avoid it.

Re:Who the hell... (1)

AndyboyH (837116) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870943)

...but the look you get from kids (and grown ups) when you tell them you make games for a living makes it all worth it. ;)

In all seriousness though - if you're good, the pay gets good. You've got to go through an ordeal to prove yourself, doing the shit stuff involving the long hours and crap wages, but the rewards can be very worth it, especially if you make something that you're proud of.

Re:Who the hell... (1)

IAR80 (598046) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871159)

. Anyone getting into the business is competing against naive entrants in their late-teens/early-twenties; the type who are willing (and able) to work for peanuts to do what (they think) they love, until they get burnt out and are replaced by more newbies.
I was wondering why all the games seems so puerile.

Re:Who the hell... (2, Informative)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871273)

I was wondering why all the games seems so puerile.
Actually, I doubt they get much input into the design (hence the working on the minutae comment)- that's probably done by the higher-ups and largely driven by the marketing people who sell stuff that's more likely to sell.

Rubbish! (1)

idries (174087) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870911)

What a load of Rubbish. In my current place of work we pay reasonable wages and we have filled all of our programming positions.

In some places I have worked in the past, we paid less reasonable wages and didn't fill all our positions. The complaint here seems to amount to "there's a labour market and the prices are more than I want to pay".

Of course, then there's the other side of the problem which is that the relatively high cost of labour means that it's cheaper to run a studio in the Far East, Eastern Europe or Canada. So a lot of studios and individuals move there. I don't think that anyone can seriously blame universities or consoles for that!

Re:Rubbish! (1)

AndyboyH (837116) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870973)

No, but you can blame your governments for not competing on tax breaks.

Canada for example offers high tax breaks for companies, and income tax breaks for foreign staff. Supposedly it's in the region of 40% of wages (iirc)

France has just received EU approval to offer similar breaks.

And even in the US, 4 states offer concessions for games developers.

Obviously you can't compete with cheap labour if your government is screwing you over and refusing to compete with other governments at the same time.

Re:Rubbish! (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870975)

Is your place of work a gaming company? I only ask because if as you imply you've filled up with competent, well paid programmers, why can't a UK games company do the same instead of begging the government to saturate the labour market for them?

With all the offshoring, what do they expect?!?! (4, Insightful)

Ice Tiger (10883) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870967)

From an article linked by the one of those above:

'MacKinnon warned: "Without significant intervention higher education cannot meet growth targets [for the IT industry]." He called on the government to provide tax breaks and partner-with-industry to encourage internships and graduate entry schemes to get young talent into IT and help others transfer across from different industries.

The offshoring of entry level IT jobs has exacerbated the skills shortage by making it increasingly difficult for IT workers to gain the necessary experience to boost their skill level, he added. "Because we are not employing at entry level offshoring will kill our industry stone dead," he warned.'

and from the article itself:

"Because the US economy is depressed it's cheaper to develop there and people are looking at other places - everyone's setting up studios in Shanghai and Eastern Europe at the moment."

Even in the company I work for we don't have any entry level jobs any more in house and in the UK. I don't agree with it as it's causing problems such as lack of knowledge retention and the wool being pulled over managements eyes. But the IT director came in singing the offshoring song and so we'll continue despite indications it's actually more expensive than say agile onshore methods.

In the past I'd have recommended IT as a career but now I'd say go into building trades as at least your competition has to come here to the UK and you've got the same cost of living.

Basically we're turning ourselves into Eloi.

ZX Spectrum (2, Informative)

Half a dent (952274) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870969)

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum was perhaps the machine that really started home programming in the UK. There were various magazines with basic programs printed in them in the early 80s.

Home coding on the Atari ST? (0, Flamebait)

gsslay (807818) | more than 6 years ago | (#23870995)

Seriously, did any home users code on an Atari ST in the UK??? Its BASIC sucked and other languages cost extra.

Real coders learnt on the Spectrum or Beeb.

Re:Home coding on the Atari ST? (2, Interesting)

Z303 (724462) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871115)

Tim Moss [blogspot.com] (lead on the first two God of War games) for one, he was in the Lost Boys [youtube.com] demo group and did a few games

completely agree (4, Interesting)

QX-Mat (460729) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871009)

The problem is when choosing the general science route at A-Level, you do Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths, later dropping one at A2. If you don't much like either chemistry or biology, it's not a problem if you're interested in the gaming community. The problem lies with the fact that you can rarely timetable Maths with anything other than the 3 sciences. I didn't do A-Level maths, and I'm very annoyed that I didn't. My problem was 2 fold - the upper sets were full (we had 2 x 3 tiers since our year was divided into 2). I plodded along learning nothing in the middle set. I felt like I was a paper calculator! The interesting and applicable stuff was only introduced in the higher tiers - throughout my time at Uni I've been constantly annoyed that I don't understand introductory proof to things I've never been introduced to.

The second problem is the type of candidate the course wanted to attract. I did Computer Games Systems Masters at an ex-polytech. The course had a math element that largely went beyond me (however, I now have an appreciation for the fundamentals at a system level), having only a working knowledge of integration, and unable to show proof. How do you still cater for students that don't respond well at math? Give them system programming, internet programming, windows programming and hotsex programming modules! I enjoyed these because I didn't have to think about the work - I could program long before my Computer Systems undergraduate degree... finally however, I was using what I knew in fairly productive ways (and getting it right the first time).

So admittedly I am the type of candidate my course attracts - but that's not the whole story. There are other modules I had to do for my MSc that weren't related to Systems: Games Prototyping was a module where we took an idea, and prototyped a design: generally some kind of working model such as level. Here my course (as there were only 3 of us on it!) mixed with the Computer Games Design idiots.

Let me break for a paragraph there, because a break is required. Having done a systems engineering degree, systems programming for 4 years, and a genuine interest in technology, I had modules with CADers and Photoshopers who's only interests were in PLAYING games and hacking skins. They did NOT program, they did NOT care about the technology. For my group work in the prototyping module I actively ignored my lecturer since it turned out that he wasn't even a PhD candidate and had actually graduated through that University (one renowned for being poor at Science in the first place - albeit one with a fantastic employment track). I ignored the CAD stuff he was teaching me, I ignored the game design crap I could read about myself (his lectures consisted of photocopied material from a book!) and I ignore the fact that I was probably more qualified to teach when he questioned my analysis on throughput, net code, and the fact you couldn't realistically expect to host a 5v5 on a home broadband connection (he said he could do it on his XBox - so that made him right: if he reads this - f u c k o f f, and go study signalling).

I made the most out of that lecturers modelling by delving into the Hammer engine and coding some actually game aspects.

So what do I have to show for my masters in computer games systems? Not a lot. When people are getting degrees and masters in computer games design, and putting themselves out to games companies as great programmers having only studied a single module on C++ (not even covering allocation and collection let alone dependency garbage collection!), compared to the real engineers who were doing assembly on an ARM7TDMI in their sleep, they are destroying the reputation of the graduate industry as a whole.

As someone who drank myself stupid in my final year at undergrad, and came out with the worst possible grade given my ability, finding myself so much more technically able than those who got a first class in undergraduate computer games degree is a disgrace to any gaming graduate.

If I hired a games developer they would simply be a talented programmer - someone interested in the little things such as using fewer parameters in a function prototype to avoid the stack and letting the registers carry. I would then teach them what they needed to know - how to work with an API, how to work with GPUs and programmable pipelines.

The games industry needs to invest in teaching a little more.

Suffice to say that I'm a very nice guy, and I only took one or two game company presentations for me to realise that I didn't want to work at getting the right job. While the game companies find it hard to recruit decent graduates, decent graduates get a really bad impression from recruiters who treat every single candidate like they're a CAD bitch. I don't demand respect until I've deserved it, but I demand an open mind and a decent application procedure!

I'm a fast-track law student now.

Matt

Re:completely agree (3, Insightful)

Jellybob (597204) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871229)

I'm a fast-track law student now.

Excellent, with a personality like that, you should get on just fine.

Seriously, stop acting like you're the only person in the world who knows what they're doing. Games design *isn't* about programming, that's not a weakness of the course, it's a weakness of your perception. Design is where you decide what you want to do, not when you sit down and hack out the first thing that comes into your head.

The "CADers" and "Photoshoppers" you talk about are in fact skilled professionals. It may not be your profession, but it does have a name. It's called an "Artist". You'd be pissed off if someone called you a "C++er" I'd guess, so have a bit of respect for other people as well. No, they're not interested in programming or how the engine works (beyond what the limits are), because that's what the developers are there for.

Re:completely agree (2, Interesting)

QX-Mat (460729) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871285)

That's the point tho isn't it - game designers are overshadowing the game programmers. Games companies don't care how skilled their CADers or Photoshopers are when they're likely to outsource most of that anyway, and since there's no shortage of them its not a massive problem. The problem lies with the fact CADers and Photoshopers and graduates who *think* they are not when they are, however skilled they maybe (terrific skills indeed - i submit!) wanting to get into the programming side because of the financial rewards. They've been subtly coerced into thinking that if they apply for jobs they'll get one. Many of them haven't heard of the Gems series, let alone own any!

I don't pretend to be the only person in the world who knows what they're doing, but I am as equally annoyed that what was once portrayed as a simple career path for the experienced and talented programmer is now one where you have to fight just to get an entry level job because the CADers and Photoshopers are taking up all the interviews proclaiming to be software engineers.

I have a chip on my shoulder. Fair enough.

Matt

It is true. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23871089)

Which is exactly why i am skipping them all, the education system sucks horribly.

I know all i need to know to get in the business anyway, i have some of the coding know-how (learning low-level stuff just now), and seeing as i have the internet and know a good few developers and publishers, i have no need for them anymore. (and now i have the money to go about it myself, and not wasting it on Uni courses...)

I suggest anyone else who is looking into it also skip.
Most people have said that they want experience, a portfolio, they don't care about some silly little certficate saying you can do X and Y (go look at job listings for publishers and developers too), sad fact is that a good bunch of people doing these courses end up forgetting a bunch of it by the end of the course.
Just because someone passes a course, doesn't mean they know a damn thing about it.
If you have good people skills, you'd be better off learning things yourself, learning with other developers over the net and getting to know them, and publishers too of course.
The Uni way pretty much just costs more, and will almost certainly take longer (unless you are lazy, or play WoW...), and will probably be annoying for some of it if you already know a bunch of the stuff you are doing (the course i was on for software development... 2 years, wasted, never again!)

This is all my opinion of course, you don't need to care, but it is my 2 pennies ;)

Salaries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23871097)

Many people have said it, I'll just echo it: the games industry requires ridiculous levels of commitment in terms of overtime with pretty low wages.

I used to work for Free Radical, one of the graduate C++ programmers who did a lot of tools work was on GBP 19k. *19k*. Most people I knew weren't on much more than that. Halfway through Haze they started requiring employees to work mandatory Saturdays. You can probably guess what turnover at that place is like.

I'm out of the games industry now, working at a place with much higher salaries, a much better working atmosphere and am surrounded by happy coders. With 5+ years C++ experience, I am the kind of person the industry is crying over not being able to find. Well, they only have themselves to blame.

Re:Salaries (1)

Z303 (724462) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871265)

Just to agree with you, one friend left a games job a few years back to be an academic, not a occupation known for paying huge wages and got a nice bump in salary plus much better working hours

A mindset that perpetuates failure (4, Interesting)

jonnyj (1011131) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871177)

There is a problem with the British education system with respect to IT skills.

In 1979 when I was 12, my maths teacher taught the entire class to program in BASIC using pen, paper and a single teletype terminal with a 110 baud connection to the mainframe in City Hall. 1000 pupils shared the computer, but, if you were in the top maths class, you were expected to learn to program. Shortly after we learned FORTRAN and an educational pseudo-assembly language called CESIL. We loved it, and when the ZX81, BBC Micro and ZX Spectrum were launched, many of my peers bought them to continue to program - not to play games. The emphasis on coding continued throughout school and university - mathematicians, engineers and scientists were all expected to be able to cut code.

I'm an accountant now, but when I have some complex data to process I often write a program (much to the distaste of our IT team who don't think that I should be allowed to intrude on their domain). And, as a result, I invariably wipe the floor with colleagues who only know how to use Excel and MS Access.

My son is now 12, and his school has literally hundreds of computers. But programming has been removed from the curriculum and been replaced by lessons in Word, Powerpoint and the Windows GUI. Coding is deemed to be too difficult for the masses and is restricted to a few older puplis who show particular interest. But all my children enjoy programming at home - even my 9-year-old has a go at it.

Perhaps worse, very few PCs now come equipped with the tools needed to write some code. Even Ubuntu, a geek's operating system by any normal measure, has no obvious desktop coding environment - if you don't know that python's hiding away on the command line, you won't find it and even GCC's not installed by default. As for Windows or OS X...

So kids aren't being taught to program in school, and they don't know what they can do with the equipment that they have at home. Is there any surprise that there's a skills shortage?

Symptomatic of UK iT (2, Informative)

Fuzzypig (631915) | more than 6 years ago | (#23871195)

IT courses in this country simply consist of teaching kids how to use MS Office and calling it IT/Business skills! I remember learning my GCSE computing was all about BASIC and how range checks are performed, random access is performed in database. No wonder the rest of the world is beating us in IT skills and how we have an IT skills shortage in the UK, we have to hire people from outside the UK to come and work here.

)epa!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23871245)

exemplif1Ed by [goat.cx]
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