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What Are the Best First Steps For Becoming a Game Designer?

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the find-door-insert-foot dept.

Programming 324

todd10k writes "I've recently decided to go back to college. I have a lot of experience with games, having played them for most of my adult life, and have always toyed with the idea of making them one day. I've finally decided to give it my best. What I'd like to know is: what are the best languages to study? What are the minimum diploma or degree requirements that most games companies will accept? Finally, is C++ the way to go? ASP? LUA?"

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324 comments

The steps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28559193)

1. Design good game.
2. ???
3. Profit!!!!

My new carrier plan (5, Funny)

sigxcpu (456479) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559849)

1. learn all about games, start by playing every available game.

2. Whatever (I'm still not done with stage one)

Quick advice (5, Insightful)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559205)

Get out while you still can. I can't imagine a worse career path.

Re:Quick advice (5, Insightful)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559279)

Get out while you still can. I can't imagine a worse career path.

Seconded. You'll end up designing this awesome game, and then EA will be like "I don't think this plays well with our 13-year-old boy demographic" and force you to make changes which completely ruin it.

Re:Quick advice (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28559401)

If you were smart you would avoid computer technology of any type. The globalists running Washington, Redmond and Chennai have decided that Americans are too expensive, stupid and lazy and have decided to off shore all of this work. Personally, I suggest you study gun-smithing or farming.

Re:Quick advice (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28559491)

You could also add balcksmithing, leather working/tanning, animal husbandry or brewing. It will be a wild ride here in a few years.

Re:Quick advice (3, Insightful)

coastwalker (307620) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559503)

Being a game designer is a vocation. Anyone asking the question "what is the best way to become a game designer" will never make it. There is no best way, you have to fight your way in by being both excellent and probably cheap and overworked in most cases.

Why not aspire to work on head up displays used by the military, you should get paid pretty well, not lose your job in a recession, occasionally get to blow things up for real, work on a really important game. There are tons of exciting things you can do that don't involve dedicating your life to satisfying the desires of pre-pubescent boys. Graphics software for medicine, for chemistry, for car designers. Realtime software for transport systems, for robotic factories, for space shuttles.

Good grief, who the hell wants to be a game designer? what a dull occupation that must be.

Quick boot to the head. (2, Funny)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559639)

"Good grief, who the hell wants to be a [code monkey]? what a dull occupation that must "

Fixed that for you.

Re:Quick advice (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28559895)

aspire to work on head up displays used by the military [...] blow things up for real [...] don't involve dedicating your life to satisfying the desires of pre-pubescent boys.

Huh.

Re:Quick advice (5, Informative)

scubamage (727538) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560313)

No offense, but if we keep chalking up video games to being the realm of "pre-pubescent boys" we're going to keep seeing our rights eroded away in the name of "protecting the children." Comments like that are the reason why entire nations are banning video games deemed "dangerous."

To the OP, if you want to program video games, then start programming them. Get together a portfolio, and save your cash. Digipen institute would be your dream school, because its entirely dedicated to the development of video games. Full sail institute in florida has a number of simulation programs. Most trade schools offer interactive simulation and design specializations now as well. However if you have no portfolio to show potential employers, you're never going to get anywhere. Also, bookmark gamasutra, there are always jobs posted on there from video game companies looking for employees.

Re:Quick advice (4, Funny)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559323)

I also second, but for different reasons: "I have a lot of experience with games, having played them for most of my adult life, and have always toyed with the idea of making them one day."

If this qualifies as lots of experience, then I have a lot of experience being a porn star, an astronaut, and world dictator.

Re:Quick advice (4, Insightful)

nEoN nOoDlE (27594) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559595)

He didn't say he has a lot of experience in game programming. He said he has a lot of experience WITH games, just like you have a lot of experience WITH porn, space movies, and the Risk board game. As such, being passionate about gaming is definitely a plus in making great games.

Re:Quick advice (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28559809)

Although humorous, the grandparent makes a solid point. Watching movies or television episodes for ones entire life does not prepare someone properly to direct a movie or television episode. It's a good start, but only the tip of the iceburg.

Wikipedia has a solid description of what is involved in [wikipedia.org]game design.

Some types of game design involve integration of many varying disciplines. Video game design, for example, requires the co-ordination of:

        * Game mechanics
        * Visual arts
        * Programming

        * Production Process
        * Audio
        * Narrative

If you don't have a firm grasp on these things, then you might end up with game design ideas that sound like this:

Dude, I'm going to make a brand new FPS game... and It's going to have a bajillion polygons. There's going to be real time reflections on every surface! Thousands of ambient sound files playing at a time. And It's going to have "REAL" artificial intelligence! It's all going to run on an XBOX 360 too!

Or here's another popular one:

I'm new to game design. I want to design a MMORPG. It will be kind of like World of Warcraft, but with .

I think the best first steps to becoming a game designer is to read. Read, read, read. Get yourself nose-deep in Gamasutra and Gamedev.net. Understanding the technical limitations of each discipline in "Game Development" will help someone who is interested in game design.

Re:Quick advice (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560803)

That all depends on who you are...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quentin_tarantino [wikipedia.org]

Dropping out of Narbonne High School in Harbor City, California at the age of 15, he went on to learn acting at the James Best Theatre Company. At the age of 22, he landed a job at the Manhattan Beach Video Archives, a now defunct video rental store in Manhattan Beach, California where he and fellow movie buffs like Roger Avary spent all day discussing and recommending films to customers such as actor Danny Strong.

While Mr Tarantino may or may not be some sort of paragon, he has certainly met the criteria for 'successful'. And what's quoted above was his entire (known) resume when he got his big break.

My point - An avid consumer with talent can, in fact, become a quality source for new material.

Re:Quick advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28560225)

I have tons of experience driving cars. That in no way qualifies me to engineer a car. Usability experience is just that and no way implies further knowledge. How many piano players can build their own piano? Or can explain the physics of the sound waves? At best he could qualify as a QA tester, maybe.

Re:Quick advice (5, Insightful)

LrdDimwit (1133419) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559681)

To put the point more directly, don't try to get a job as a game designer, then start designing games. Once upon a time, in the late eighties, this is how things were done. Now, trying to become a game designer is like trying to become a movie star. Huge numbers of applicants mean the few entry level designer positions that ARE available, are snapped up immediately by people with better qualifications than you.

You want to be a game designer? Then design games. If you have programming skills, grab XNA or Flash, or even (like I'm using) Java and start coding something. You don't? Then get an existing games with already-developed toolsets like Neverwinter Nights or any of the several FPS'es with level editors, and get cracking. Even this is beyond you? Go buy a pen and paper RPG system, and start desigining adventures.

If you can't hack it, then this is a sign you have not got what it takes.

Re:Quick advice (2, Interesting)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559855)

If you love doing something don't make it into a job. You'll end up despising it sooner than later.

Re:Quick advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28560651)

I can think of one, working in radio.

GPWiki, Languages and Caution (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559229)

Disclaimer: I am a developer though I don't work nor have I ever worked for a game company. In my free time, I enjoy reading The Game Programming Wiki [gpwiki.org].

What I'd like to know is: what are the best languages to study?

Hmmmm, I'm not sure this is going to be a fruitful discussion. It's not too clear to me what kind of game development interests you most. The truth is that games have been written in many languages [gpwiki.org] and developers often scoff at any guideline to restrict them from writing a game in -- say Java -- when there are more efficient languages. Assuming you want to get into console games and/or PC games, I would suggest starting out with simple authoring tools [gpwiki.org] and just tinker with them. Download GameKit [brown.edu] and get it building on your development machine. Then set weekly goals for yourself to modify the Space Invaders game by changing graphics, sound, maybe even mechanics. Once you've done that and are bored, move on to another kit/sdk.

You see, I doubt the importance is that you know how C++ or Lua works ... they are both great languages for different tasks. It's more important that if you want to be a graphics engine guy you understand how major APIs are laid out to implement tiles and shaders and renderers ... Go here to start thinking aobut what aspect of the game interests you most [gpwiki.org].

What are the minimum diploma or degree requirements that most games companies will accept?

This is a topic I could drone on for hours about. Enjoy life, man. They'll take you with a 2 year tech degree or less if you're built for coding. But don't do that. Enjoy the college expereince, go to a four year liberal arts college. Explore math, physics, chemistry, biology, literature, music, etc. I took enough music theory to major in music but I didn't. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Finally, is C++ the way to go? ASP? LUA?

You should really concentrate on one of three types of games: web, console, PC. While the last two are related, the idea of catering to hardware probably has an effect on games. Is a PC developer going to care about Sony's Emotion engine while a console guy might live and breathe it. Honestly, fool around with Allegro, SDL and OpenGL if you're looking to do serious game coding.

You've got a long difficult road ahead if you're going down this path. You're going to have your heart broken by Blizzard and end up over worked and underpaid at EA. Game programming seems to find you, you can only prepare yourself for it. Read John Carmack's story in Masters of Doom or just wait for the upcoming movie about it.

I've also heard -- and I can't verify this -- that it helps to have a notebook full of sketches, stories, game mechanics, ideas you've had in relation to games. You keep this and bring it to an interview. You pass the technical aspects and then you let them know that you really want this and that you are also creative and not just technical.

Don't forget to have fun and good luck!

what??? whoa!!! (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560121)

> You should really concentrate on one of three types of games: web, console, PC.

Which are all spiraling into oblivion at this time. Certainly footnotes by the time the OP finishes courses. Talk about out of the loop.

iPhone.....mobile gaming - do it - do it now.

Re:what??? whoa!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28560601)

You're living in a ridiculous fantasy world. Web based games have never been terribly successful, so they can't possibly be "spiraling into oblivion". Consoles are doing perfectly well this generation. And PC games have been "dying" non-stop since the early 90's at least, despite generally increasing profits.

Re:GPWiki, Languages and Caution (2, Interesting)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560575)

I've also heard -- and I can't verify this -- that it helps to have a notebook full of sketches, stories, game mechanics, ideas you've had in relation to games. You keep this and bring it to an interview. You pass the technical aspects and then you let them know that you really want this and that you are also creative and not just technical.

I'll verify it for you. It's mainly for 2 reasons. Firstly, in most area's of software development you have a teams of programmers, some testers, customer support etc. In game development by far the largest chunk of the development team are made up of artists and animators. Since development is a team process, it helps significantly if you can communicate (well) with the artists on the team.
The other reason is that by and large, most of the game programmers will be in some way involved in creating a graphical output (HUD, GUI, animation, shading etc). If you have well trained visual eye, it will vastly improve the quality from 'crap coder art' into something that has a string visual aesthetic.

I hate to ask... (1)

CRiMSON (3495) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559257)

But how old are you? Remember your going to be competing with god knows how many late teens/earlier 20s, willing to work 6-7 days a week to get exp/cause they're silly (hell I did it..).

I would say tho if your interested, graduate some form of game dev school which would cover a lot of the basics you need to know about. Then start interning/looking for entry level positions.

You may need to move around the country and or switch countries if your willing.

Re:I hate to ask... (1)

CRiMSON (3495) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559265)

C/C++ from what all my game dev friends tell me.

Re:I hate to ask... (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559773)

C/C++ is still very important, but for a lot of tasks it's becoming much less important. A lot of tools programming is moving toward .NET and other higher-level languages like Python.

That really doesn't matter for this Ask Slashdot, though: frankly, the OP is screwed. You don't just become a game designer. Virtually all the big-name designers started as a programmer (Miyamoto excepted, IIRC he came from the art side of things) and worked their way up. And most of them didn't get a chance to design games until they had put in quite a few years (the older ones at smaller places, like Meier and Microprose, obviously don't qualify). The only way to actually be a game designer in the OP's give-it-to-me mindset is an independent game developer, doing everything (or nearly everything) himself. And if he doesn't even know the answers to these questions (or doesn't actually care enough to look, preferring instead to Ask Slashdot), he's not going to be much of an indie designer either.

Re:I hate to ask... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28559383)

I would say tho if your interested

The first thing you should do is not take advice from people who say "tho" and don't know the difference between "your" and "you're".

Game Programming, or Designing? (4, Interesting)

Manip (656104) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559281)

Game Programming? What in particular:
  - UI / Tools
  - Graphics, Physics
  - Networking
  - AI
  - Mobile Gaming
etc

But in general if you want to go into Game Programming hit a CS degree and do a game development masters. All while learning C++ and trying to develop a nice portfolio of little games you've created yourself. Try and find a Masters program with hooks into the games industry because they will be your best bet to even get a foot in the door.

If it is Game Design they do an arts degree like English Lit and then do a Masters in Game Design. Same deal with the shoe in the door thing, find the college with the best links not the best course.

A. A Trust Fund B. A Working Spouse... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28559299)

C. A taste for ramen.

D. A willingness to update your resume every six months.

E. The number of your State Attorney General's Labor Enforcement Division, to file a complaint when they suddenly decide to stop paying you and ask you to work for free until they close the next round of funding, which is always just a week or two away.

The Art of Game Design (2, Informative)

smackenzie (912024) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559301)

You'll get a lot of decent answers, and I won't try to duplicate any of them here. My addition: amidst many mediocre books about Game Design, there are a couple that really stand out. The first one to come to mind is "The Art of Game Design":

http://www.amazon.com/Art-Game-Design-book-lenses/dp/0123694965 [amazon.com]

While you are perfecting everyone else's good suggestions, give this one a read...

Re:The Art of Game Design (1)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559459)

You'll get a lot of decent answers

I'm not sure what site you think you're on, but this is Slashdot. Our answers are generally some variation of "don't do it" and "what are you, stupid? I said don't do it!"

We're off to a bad start already.. (5, Insightful)

synthesizerpatel (1210598) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559313)

If your approach to a new career is to find out the bare minimum you need to start... odds are you're not going to excel.

There's not a lot of stories from successful game developers that start with 'When I got in at 8am' and end with 'Then I left at 5pm.'

If you think you've got 'it', do what the guy who did Braid did -- make it. Don't wait for someone to give you a stamp of approval. Sing it loud.

Otherwise, stick with your day job.

C++, BCS, & lots of ambition (2)

Ouizardus (1585021) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559711)

C++ is the language of choice, as I understand it, but a Bachelor of Computer Science is really what you need. However, as parent said, there's no way you're going to get in with just a degree. Think of how many gamers there are out there, and how many of them want to make a career out of games: almost all of them. That's who you're competing against.

You'll need a substantial portfolio of game dev work you've done, so get coding right away: Join open source game dev projects online, build your own games/programs, show what you can do that most others can't.

Game dev is an EXTREMELY competitive field, and if you don't have the drive to devote the majority of your life (and soul) to it, then...again, as parent said, stick with your day job.

Re:C++, BCS, & lots of ambition (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560487)

Get into a community, would be my recommendation. There's XNA for Xbox games (and that uses C#, which'll be easier to learn than C++ if you're starting from scratch.) There's Torque. There's modding communities for every game engine you've seen.

The language question is kind of misleading, for a few reasons:

1) You don't need to be a programmer to be a great game designer. Writing a design document doesn't require writing code; only a basic knowledge of what is possible with code. Now, that said, you have little chance of "breaking in" until you've actually made a couple of games, and you can't actually make games without knowing some type of coding.

2) The environment you write your first game in determines what language to learn. If you want to write a Playstation game, you'll need C++. If you want to write a Xbox game, you'll need either C++ or C#. If you want to write a Flash game, that's ActionScript. If you want to run your own MUD, that's probably C but possibly C++. In all those cases, you'll also need some database experience, likely. If you want to mod an existing game, that's generally Lua. In short, you need to decide what you're making before you make it.

First steps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28559319)

1) Just start doing it, start working on an open-source game like www.nexuiz.com
2) Don't do it in ASP

Simple... (1)

grub (11606) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559333)


Simple, just get a job at EA. They quality of their recent products suggests they train on the job!

.

Re:Simple... (1)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559781)

They do actually have an internal university, and believe it or not, it's actually pretty good. Unfortunately, you get crap when pushed by managers and money men to continually cut corners - but that doesn't reflect the quality of the individuals working on the (not amazing) products.

Imagination and Execution (1)

n00btastic (1489741) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559339)

From Wikipedia: Game design is the process of designing the content and rules of a game. The term is also used to describe both the game design embodied in an actual game as well as documentation that describes such a design. I think you are confusing game design with game programming. If you are designing the game, then you would be in charge of coordinating with the programming team (not actually programming). First you should develop a clear image of what you actually wish to do :)

well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28559341)

why don't you do something less degrading, like suck dick for crack.

Hydra is a good place to start. (1)

orsty3001 (1377575) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559349)

http://www.parallax.com/StoreSearchResults/tabid/768/txtSearch/hydra/List/0/SortField/4/ProductID/467/Default.aspx [parallax.com] I know it's 200 bucks but you're really buying the book more than the hardware. The book it comes with starts out at the very beginning of how console and computer hardware works and how it can be used for gaming. This is the best place to start. There's an entire community of people that can help you as well if you get this unit. When it's done you'll know everything from what signal is coming out of the controller when you push a button to calculating the inverse square root of a light source to produce shadows or however that's done. Once you grasp how to program for this unit you can easily graduate to more complex things.

Re:Hydra is a good place to start. (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559821)

Oh please. He can do anything that thing can do on a PC, just blitting to the damn screen with DirectDraw.

Re:Hydra is a good place to start. (3, Insightful)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560361)

I'm sorry, but having been a programming lecturer at the ncca, i actually think it's the worst possible place to start. The industry uses C++; standardized API's (eg, openGL, D3D, openAL); middleware (physX, morpheme); and is largely based in 3D graphics (BSP trees, quad trees, quat blending, shaders etc etc).

I can't see any advantage in wasting time with a basic-like language, on hardware that has very little relation to current consoles (single threaded, no GPU of merit). It may be of some benefit to programming handheld consoles (ok, just the DS), however even that is not going to help in a few years time (the next generation of handhelds are likely to include fairly powerful GPU's - eg PSP).

There is a huge amount of information to learn and digest before you can expect to get a job in this industry, so spend time learning that (by writing games) and not on information that has little real world usage.

First step? Seek professional help. (1, Informative)

Lilith's Heart-shape (1224784) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559359)

See a competent therapist. No rational person would willingly sell himself into indentured servitude in exchange for a salary, and that's exactly what you'll be doing by becoming a game designer.

Re:First step? Seek professional help. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28559453)

See a competent therapist. No rational person would willingly sell himself into indentured servitude in exchange for a salary, and that's exactly what you'll be doing by becoming a game designer.

You're an idiot.

Re:First step? Seek professional help. (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559981)

While parent is a bit hyperbolic, there is a valid point hidden in there.

Game development is an extremely competitive, high-turnover, low reward field. The new grads who want to be on the team to make the next wizz-bang game because they love their Xbox360s are legion. If you manage to beat them out for the spot, expect to be treated exactly as they would be (massive overtime, probably unpaid; lousy conditions; high stress). Complain about it and get cut loose. There's always another code monkey to replace you.

Go indie (1)

lanceran (1575541) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559405)

Get a few C++ books, learn how to draw pixelart and make 8-bit tracks. If you're dedicated, it won't be that hard. Make a small, but fun game entirely by yourself. Put it online. If you're really good, you will get noticed.

Re:Go indie (1)

computational super (740265) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559747)

learn how to draw pixelart

That's interesting... I've been putting together simple 2D games for fun since I was a little kid and - the pixelart has always been by far the biggest problem I've had. The programming was always relatively straightforward. What do you use for pixel art? I've tried jdraw, inkscape, gimp (shudder...)... are there any actually good tools for this sort of thing?

Not that I have any desire to pursue this as a career - the horror stories on Slashdot talked me out of that years ago...

Re:Go indie (2, Informative)

nathan s (719490) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560633)

One of the most useful pixel art tools I've found so far is mtPaint [sourceforge.net] - I did a lot of little isometric drawings for a game project I'm working on (e.g. this one of a park [natesimpson.com]) entirely in this program. Far easier than using paint or a full-fledged image tool (although I did use GIMP for compositing layered tiles into final images at times).

Playing games = experience? (2, Insightful)

GreatAntibob (1549139) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559407)

First of all, good luck, and I hope you succeed.

But what makes you think that having played games gives you the talent to be a game designer/programmer? Why is this a desirable profession?

Consider the example of cars (just because it's slashdot). I like cars. I like driving cars and doing some of my own minor repair work. That said, I would absolutely hate to be an automotive engineer. Being an avid driver or mechanic enjoying a particularly well built machine is entirely different from being the person in charge of designing and building a machine.

Or consider the example of popular fictional universes (like Trek or Star Wars). I imagine there are a lot of geeks who could spout any amount of minutiae about various ships, planets, races, etc. in a number of fictional SF worlds. That doesn't mean they would necessarily enjoy creating them from scratch. And even if they did create one, I imagine the soul-sucking mass of nit-picky fandom would quickly rob what little joy was left.

Are you sure you don't actually want to be a game tester? It seems to be more in the line of what you enjoy about games - playing them.

Re:Playing games = experience? (1)

ParaShoot (992496) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559577)

Games testing is highly overrated. Playing the same game, day in, day out, for three years? Hell no. When people think of games testing, they usually think of focus testing - which is very far removed from an average day in the life of a tester.

the more programming (1)

markringen (1501853) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559413)

the more programming knowledge u have the more jobs you can get when it comes down to programming. never learn 1 single programming language and never only write code for a single architecture. the gaming industry requires flexibility, some people have tons of degrees and never cut it in a work environment and some have none and thrive. it all depends on how well you can work with others and how well you can share your knowledge and take criticism from non-programmers. it's a tough business to get into, allot of developers today come from linux and server programming community and have worked for nothing for years!

Designer != Developer (1)

quercus.aeternam (1174283) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559419)

I haven't thoroughly investigated that possible career path - mostly because of the high burnout rate (not that I've seen any statistics - that's just an observation from anecdotal evidence), so I could be out in left field.

A designer and a developer are not equivalent - would you ask a construction worker to design your house? Or your architect to construct it?
--------------

That said, IMO the best way to get into any field is not through studying - though that is important.

For example, if you want to get hired to work on games, you might start by making mods for existing games and releasing your work for free to the community. If you still love it, get some more formal education, while using that new knowledge in your work. When you graduate, you should have a good idea of what you're getting yourself into, plus you should have some street cred and excellent samples of your work.

With that sort of background, even if you don't get hired, you could at the very least hire yourself - if you are any good, that is to say.

What kind of games are you looking to make? (1)

solraith (1203394) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559445)

Many modern FPS and RTS games have SDKs available where you can create mods of the original game. Pick your favorite, figure out what language it requires, study that, and make a mod for the game. It will get you used to working with level design tools, which you're going to need at some point, as well as programming in that language as it pertains to games. If you can bring in extra developers, that's good teamwork experience, which you'll need in just about any field period.

Companies like Valve have been known to hire accomplished mod-makers. Don't get your hopes up on that, but it's something to think about.

Re:What kind of games are you looking to make? (1)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560393)

This.

Make a total conversion for Oblivion or make a Quake mod that functions as a dating sim (shamblers love flowers) -- these will get attention. I had a buddy create a 3D rendering engine from scratch, then build a game similar to a cross between SmashTV and Serious Sam. He was hired on that alone.

Then, you get to the fun part: Doing the company's crap work. You get to design "based on the movie!" or "baseball game" that no one else wants to do. Work your fingers to the nub on this one, show them a bit of creativity, do some legwork of your own or get an intern to do it for you ("I had an intern run out and survey 600 people who play videogames, and these are the features they said would bring them back to sports games") Excel in this, and MAYBE you'll get your own project after 3-5 years.

That, or just make an Xbox Live game or iPhone app. Nothing's stopping you from starting on that tonight.

Are you already a programmer? (4, Insightful)

realmolo (574068) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559455)

Game development is HARD. It's definitely in the "deep-end" of computer programming. You better know some serious math, too.

What I'm saying is, most of the game developers who have jobs doing it have been doing it "for fun" since they were kids. It takes YEARS of work/experimentation/dedication to develop the skills to write a modern game.

If you are planning just to learn some programming and get a job in the game industry, don't be surprised if you get are stuck in entry-level positions for a LONG time. You aren't going to be game programming, per se. You're going to be debugging the installer for the game, stuff like that.

Re:Are you already a programmer? (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560605)

He wants to be a designer, not a developer. He wants to be the Producer or Director, not the Set Carpenter. Totally different role. (And much, much harder to break in to. Heck, it's probably easier to produce a movie, frankly.)

Agreed (from an indie dev) (4, Informative)

cliffski (65094) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560691)

I'm a game developer, having worked at Elixir and Lionhead, and now running my own indie show --> http://www.positech.co.uk./ [positech.co.uk] Parent poster is right, most people who now work as game designers started young and worked for years. i wrote my first code in 1981, aged 11, so that's about 28 years to get to where I am now (albeit with some major detours, you can do it much quicker).
Key points to be aware of are these:

1) The competition to be designer is harder than any other role, so the chances of getting work as a designer are way way lower than getting a job as an artist or coder or tester, so you need to be uber-good.
2) What most people consider to be game design is being 'lead designer' or even better 'concept designer'. These roles are even rarer. You need to run/own a studio or go solo to get this job.
3) 50% of the coders and artists at each game company also harbour design ambitions. They are also ahead of you in the queue.

Having said all this, you can do it, I certainly have. I've even designed games for Maxis (SimSocial) as well as my indie stuff. The key thing is, that I did it through the route of programming. I didn't have to persuade a coder to make my idea, I could code it myself, which is 90% of the battle. I have to employ an artist or three, but at the start, you can get away with coder art.

In short, if you are one of the game design wannabes who aims to never learn any code and is afraid of C++, you are very likely doomed, unless you get in through the route of game testing, and then work your balls off or show incredible ability. Even given that, you are looking at 5+ years minimum before you get to really design. Thats 5 years of checking that barbies new riding game doesn't crash with a French keyboard and other exciting tasks.
On the other hand if you are happy to learn some code, and willing to start out small, you can do everything yourself. With platforms such as wiiware, iphone, the web (flash and PC downloadable) there are many opportunities to get to be a game designer on a smaller scale.

Indie dev may not sound as exciting as working at epic, but today I spent my working day fine tuning the circumstances under which AI-controlled space cruisers retreat to engage auto-repair systems*. It beats working in a call center :D
Good Luck!

*that was for this -> http://www.gratuitousspacebattles.com/ [gratuitous...attles.com]

Try XNA (1)

Cornflake917 (515940) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559473)

I've been developing games with XNA for the past few years as a hobby. Compared to using C++ with OpenGL or DirectX, it is very easy. The programming language is in C# (very easy to learn if you already know C++). XNA is created by MS and basically wraps around DirectX. It contains a good amount of classes that you normally see in video games, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to vectors, matrices, textures, models, managing your content, etc. My favorite thing about XNA is that if you pay for the Creator's Licence ($50 every 6 months), you can create games for the XBox360 and release them, and sell them, without going through the hassles of finding a publisher. Porting from the PC to the XBox 360 usually only requires a change of a few lines of code, if any.

Re:Try XNA (1)

Wahesh (1492161) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560021)

I learned how to do simple game programming using XNA, and highly recommend it. (It'll be a good way to learn C#) When I was in college, I wanted to be a game developer before I met some actual developers and learned about the lifestyle. I now just hobby game program, and work in an unrelated job. XNA is very complete and easy to learn, although it probably wouldn't be the best route for getting a game developer job. I think the easiest way to start out in game development is to program a solid game of Pong in XNA. It'll teach you the basics of game development: Input, collision detection, simple AI. After this try a simple 2D platformer (Like the old Mario Bros). This will teach you simple physics (i.e. gravity, friction). My biggest mistake was trying to learn game development in 3D without really understanding a game loop. Starting in 2D allows you to understand the basic mechanics much quicker, and is much less overwhelming. Even after you understand the basics, it's difficult to get art into your 3D world unless you're already a semi competent graphics designer. Doing 2D game development will still teach you the basics, and allow you to use art that you create in Microsoft Paint :) While in college look for a graphic design major who also wishes to get into a game company. This way you can both work together and focus on your strengths. -Wahesh-

Re:Try XNA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28560317)

Yup, i use XNA myself for pc/xbox games.

It may not be the outright highest performance, but overall, its really good at a wide range of tasks. And you are practically building for 2 platforms at the same time, how can you lose!

XNA also has a lot of support from the community and from microsoft. I only see it getting better and better over time.

Game Designer (4, Insightful)

WilyCoder (736280) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559479)

Game DESIGNER?

Well, you could try to create some board games or your own pen & paper RPG. No programmers required for either of those.

You are confused (2, Insightful)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559511)

"what are the best languages to study? What are the minimum diploma or degree requirements that most games companies will accept? Finally, is C++ the way to go? ASP? LUA?"

You seem to have confused "game designer" with "game programmer". A good game designer would be able to create a good game out of a story, a die, some arbitrary rules, and his imagination. It sounds like you are thinking of a different job description.

Re:You are confused (1)

annerajb (1155635) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559619)

If that's the case and you mean game developer or software engineer. generally they look for somebody with a bachelor's in computer science or something similar. ie game development from the game development schools. about programming languages you can start with c++ but if you want to be proficient you dont wanna stop there learn lua, c#, python and any other programming language that you see in job descriptions. i seen even ruby on some companies. this will vary by your position if you are a tools programmer they prob want you to be decent at c# so you can create user interfaces. my best recommendation for you is join a mod team where you can code on c++ or any of those languages. and read job description from company's you would like to work with to see what they are looking in new graduates.

Re:You are confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28560375)

Seconded, for game design, you don't need to know any languages at all (although knowing how to script in something like LUA may help).

The main requirement to get a position as a designer is that you need to have experience designing games! Imagine you were trying out for the part of lead guitarist for a band. If you say "Oh, I listen to all the famous guitar solos from all the best guitarists out there! I know every one of them by heart! But I haven't actually played a guitar..." then nobody is ever going to hire you.

Your design experience doesn't have to be formal at all either. Get a pencil, some paper, and some random objects. For example, design an RTS that can be played with a deck of cards. Or make an RPG playable with dice. Or grab whatever coins you have in your pocket right now and design an FPS. Don't feel limited; be creative! Brainstorm! Then iterate on your mechanics, and eventually write them down, and work through the holes in the game mechanics. Now when you're asked about design experience, you'll have stuff you can pull out and show people!

And if that design exercise wasn't fun for you, maybe you don't want to be a game designer.

Learn C++, know your stuff, do a demo. (1)

ParaShoot (992496) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559519)

  • Learn C++. Game jobs that don't require C++ are very few and far between. A reasonable working knowledge of how it works under the hood will be advantageous in interviews.
  • Have an indepth understanding of general programming concepts. If you don't know your data structures and at least a couple of sorting algorithms (bubblesort and quicksort), you probably won't pass the interview.
  • Do game-related projects at Uni if you can. If you can't, do them at home. A demo goes a very, very long way. Small in scope but highly polished is much better than broad and half-working. Something like a physics simulation (ragdoll falling down stairs is classic), some interesting rendering stuff, some kind of AI demo, whatever. The important thing is to focus on one area, do it well, and then do the minimum required in all other areas. Don't spread your efforts too thinly.

In the UK the level of degree doesn't hugely matter, although impressive shiny degrees do look impressive and shiny. But degrees don't mean anything if you don't have the demo.

There are a few games companies that have sections explaining what they're looking for in applicants - http://www.bizarrecreations.com/jobs/ [bizarrecreations.com] one comes to mind, although I know there are others. http://www.gamedevmap.com/ [gamedevmap.com] is your friend.

Games dev is hard work and you will end up pulling long hours towards the end of a project - especially as a coder. If seeing your name on the credits when the game is finally released isn't enough of a payoff, it's probably the wrong job for you.

Good luck!

Hmmm... (1)

sesshomaru (173381) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559537)

The big story I think of is Portal which came out of a Freeware game created at Digipen called Narbacular Drop. So, that's the kind of thing that gives me a (perhaps innaccurate) view of Digipen [wikipedia.org]. Hey, some students from there went almost straight from there to Valve! And have a hit video game under their belts to boot!

Now, what does that mean? Well, looking for an equivalent program where you are going to school would probably be a start. I don't know how Full Sail [wikipedia.org], I know a guy who went there for film and works for a newspaper now, but that might just be because of his personality and overly cautious nature. (They have a game design program too, which is why I bring them up.)

Note: Game programming, designing, etc, is notoriously horrible as a career. Don't take my advice as me saying go into it as a career, but if I were going to, this is where I'd start.

Make games (1)

jhopson (85396) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559571)

As a 6 year veteran of the games industry, my best advice for someone who wants to be a game designer is simple: make games. Make games every day. Make board games, make flash games, invent physical games played with sports equipment, whatever. The medium is less important than just spending time designing fun games and then watching real people play them in front of you. Make a mod for an existing game or engine, make your own twist on a classic game like Tetris or even chess. Just make games.

If making games isn't something you'd do every day for fun anyway, then it's not the career for you.

Do it yourself!! (2, Interesting)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559605)

First off, forget the college degree if all you want it for is to design/develop games. You can do so on your own without the degree. *** I'd suggest laearning C/C++ and at least one .NET language as well as studying/learning UI and graphic design theories.

Now - I see a lot of comments previous to mine that suggest getting out and not working for a game company. I agree wholeheartedly. If you want to design just games, start your own game company. You will want a niche market - DS games, PC games for Thai Children, Mainframe Games - and focus on doing just that. Then you can expand out. One designer I know who's been somewhat successful is Bill Kendrick. He writes multi-platform educational games. My kids love them: http://tux4kids.alioth.debian.org

Good luck out there.

*** Now, I have recently hired two developers who got the job partially because they worked on games while in college. They had collaborated on a C++ based game which was installable and playable. This put the two of them above the average applicant who had only done coursework. Keep in mind, I manage a government-based software development group so we don't "do" games here. However, their experience did help them get an edge when starting. (We do most development in C#/.NET.)

Cart before horse. (1)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559613)

I don't think people often learn programming because they love gaming. Rather, they learn programming because they love programming.

Take a programming course. If you are a virtuoso, you might make it even with the late start.

Otherwise (or perhaps instead) take inventory of the skills you have now and find a way to apply them to the gaming industry. If that's a dead end, then you are starting from scratch anyway, and it will take some effort on your part to figure out what the best niche in the industry is for you.

Play becomes work... (2, Informative)

dr_wheel (671305) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559661)

Just because you have "played games for most of your adult life" doesn't mean that becoming a game delevoper is the best career decision for you. I am also an avid gamer. And like you, I also had aspirations of someday becoming a game developer when I was younger. I started out by tinkering with mod tools and working on game maps and such.

I decided to take the next step and pursue a degree in CS. I quickly discovered that it wasn't for me. It's not that I couldn't do the work; I just found programming to be tedious. The amount of work involved to write even the simplest program was frustrating for me. I came out with a higher respect for programmers, and a degree in IT.

Finish Something (3, Insightful)

hardburn (141468) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559671)

Look around any indie game developer forum and you'll see tons of posts about games that sound great, but only a handful of posts about games that are working and finished. Many of these get through the initial design stages, but their creators stall out at some process after that. Sometimes the design is simply too complicated for a first project. Sometimes they get a few lines of code down, but never return. Sometimes they implement all the interesting parts, but get hung up on the final details necessary for making a release.

My first suggestion is to use Apple as a model and never talk about things you are planning. Only talk about things that are finished or very close to finishing. You may need some outside programming help at some point along the way, of course, but there's rarely a need to get too specific about your game when asking for help.

Second, finish something. It can be a simple as a pong clone. Doesn't matter if anybody ever downloads it, just finish it and release it. Just getting that far puts you above 90% of the indie "developers" out there.

Designer or programmer? (1)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559679)

Designing a game is very very different to programming one. C++ isn't going to help you get a design job at all. If you are expecting to be a programmer in the industry, and want to influence the design aspects of a game, then to be perfectly honest you are going to be disappointed. It doesn't happen.
If you're aiming to be a programmer, then yes C++ is pretty much required, along with a host of other languages:

- lua/ruby/python or other scripting language.
- GLSL/HLSL/cg
- C#, mel, vb, tcl/tk for tools programming.

In addition, you may also want to get experience of:
- trig, linear algebra, quaternions, collision detection
- SSE intrinsics
- Animation and physics coding
- Geometry deformation techniques
- Space partitioning algorithms

If you really want to stand out from the crowd, start putting work into your art portfolio, and get a lot of experience of animation and modelling tools (max/maya/xsi).

wrong question? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28559707)

Sorry if the paragraph breaks end up jumbled here; Slashdot is being weird for me.

Disclaimer: I am a professional game developer

Why are you asking how to be a game designer, and then turning around and asking about programming languages? Decide which job you want.

Truly, the best way to immediately become a designer is to start your own company. Outside of that, nobody will want to hire an unknown to design things, unless you somehow have an extremely impressive portfolio. No matter how many games you've played and how great that experience is, it is an entirely different beast than designing a game.

The best experience for designing, if you still want to continue down that path, is to read about it constantly, and actually do it, also constantly, and get lots of people to tell you how you're a bad designer, until they stop saying that. Get a subscription to Game Developer Magazine, read books on game design, and by all means design your own games. Start simple and write a complete design document for an existing game such as Pac-Man. Maybe even figure out how to make it better and incorporate that into your design. Join the nearest IGDA chapter and go to meetings. Form relationships with people in the industry and ask them to critique your design documents from a professional viewpoint.

Now, you asked about programming languages, which is totally not what a designer should be asking. But if you want to go that route and be a game programmer, then consider what platforms you want to target, and learn the languages appropriate for that. For the iPhone, learn Objective-C++. For consoles, C++ is generally the way to go. For websites, probably ActionScript in Flash, or you could try lua in WildPockets. And if you have aspirations of being a level scripter (much easier than arbitrary game programming), then you should learn to make a mod in a variety of engines using their native languages: lua, python, UnrealScript, QuakeC, etc.

For any route you want to take, the most important thing for you to learn is everything. By that, I mean study all kinds of topics that you might think are completely unrelated to game design: history, fashion, languages, art, avionics. After you've gotten yourself into the habit of learning with great breadth and depth, and hopefully applying your new varied knowledge to your ideas, the best way for you to get a job in the industry is to meet and hang out with people who are already in it. To that end, join your local IGDA chapter, as I mentioned two paragraphs ago.

Why is there no talk of human psychology? (1)

TheRealRainFall (1464687) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559721)

Everyone is saying learn this... watch that...etc.. But the reality if you want to make a really great game you have to make it psychologically addictive and ideally very social. You have to know the strengths/weaknesses of humans. Their insecurities and what makes them feel great. Give them that rush of victory but also remind them that without this game they are nothing. (See most WoW players)

I'm actually serious for once. (2, Insightful)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559727)

what are the best languages to study?

Considering you ask about computer languages too, I'm assuming you are being literal. Hindi and English.

What are the minimum diploma or degree requirements that most games companies will accept?

High school dropout with proof of code.

Finally, is C++ the way to go? ASP? LUA?"

C++ and LUA.

IMHO Listen to the "don't do it responses".

Game designer or game programmer? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559749)

The days when a guy who designed the game's main gameplay might also build the levels and code even parts of the title are long, long gone. If you learn to be a games programmer, you will be coding the engine and/or producing tools for the people who will do the actual game design work, or at the very least adapting middleware for those same purposes. You will have no official creative say in the project, and aside from a few exceptions (Kojima's MGS2 team notebooks) your creative input will not be appreciated by the design team, who have plenty of their own ideas to deal with.

As far as level design goes, you'll want to learn to work with the main creative tools of the trade, actually building levels. Some experience with other CAD software and 3D modelling could do you well there. As far as deep-down games design goes, you're only going to get a job doing that if you are a very, very shit-hot level designer who gets promoted to head of level design and beyond, or you create some incredible mod that goes commercial, or you actually design your own games on your own time and eventually get hired by a developer or build up your own company. I think that the time when you could work your way up from head of testing by proving your experience with games design are long gone.

Basic message: if you're not a game designer, you have to become one first, and then try to get the job. You can become a codemonkey on the back of a good CV, but that's all.

as a game developer (2, Insightful)

Matthew Weigel (888) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559753)

There's not going to be a simple answer to your questions. If you want to make games, make games. You can write them in Flash or Objective-C or Perl or PHP or Lisp or C++ or... Obviously you'll have a little trouble writing an iPhone game in Flash, or a Flash game in !Flash, so choose the right tool for the job; but if you're in college, your goal shouldn't be to learn a single tool and then pretend that all the jobs you might get later in life use that one tool.

Also, most of the game industry doesn't care about your degree(s). They care about what you can do, and in particular how you've demonstrated that you can do things by having done things. So do things, and get them done. Get the degree to help you have a career to start on, a career to fall back on, and a career to move on to... burn out is common, and doing this your whole life and then retiring is ridiculously rare.

Forget about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28559767)

Back when game development teams consisted of 10-20 people, everyone on the team had a good chance of eventually becoming designers, if they had the skills.

Now however, teams are made up of hundreds of people, and every one of them, programmers, artists, level editors and QA monkeys, are aiming for that design job. This means that if you want to have any chance of becoming a game designer, you're going to have to master the dark and unholy art of Office Politics.

Even if you do eventually get promoted to designer, if you don't crash and burn beforehand, you'll find your creativity constrained by marketing, who'll tell you exactly what the focus group for this game wants, and you sure as hell better give it to them if you want to keep your job.

become an indy developer (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559853)

You question is a little confusing. You say "designer" but then talk about learning C++. I will assume you mean designer.

As far as I know, companies like EA don't easily hire junior game designers. But a graphics arts degree would help you express your design ideas better than a computer science degree would, especially in an interview. If truly what you want is design, then you really should be approaching it from an Arts direction rather than a Science & Engineering direction. Design is mostly a creative process. Development is mostly a technical one.

One way around becoming an artist is to make a few indy games (PC or iPhone or whatever). When you're an indy developer you have to do the design, and the programming. If you find a programmer who doesn't want to do much design that you have chemistry with, you can go far if you have any natural talent at design. The experience will be valuable if you decide to join a big team at a game company. And if you make anything good there is a possibility that a big company will just buy you out for your intellectual property. Usually it can be arranged that you become part of the staff when you get bought out, if you so desire. I know a few people who got jobs by when their 1 or 2 man company was bought. Without an experienced programmer to work with your ability to express your designs will be very limited, and the results will likely not be very impressive if you do all the programming yourself.

I would avoid things like Hydra, they have little to teach because the environment is weird and too low-level. It is lower level than the original NES. I would recommend Gameboy Advance programming(pretty easy, can be done in C) or even NES programming(fairly hard, must be done in asm for useful results) over Hydra. YBox2 is cheaper and a more interesting game platform than Hydra, but lacks documentation. But it is also weird in a lot of the same ways, but YBox2 has an 8-core processor on it which lets you decouple a lot of the ugly video generation code from your game.

Look for specialized college programs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28559859)

Here's one example, it's in Canada. There are many others.

http://www.upei.ca/csit/videogaming

Good luck!

Sorry to burst your bubble (4, Insightful)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 4 years ago | (#28559991)

Sorry to burst your bubble but game designer/game programmer is one of these professions that you can't just say "hey, I know what I wanna do in life, I want to be a X. Now I'll just go to college to become that!". You can't right out of the blue suddenly decide to go to college to become a successful game designer/programmer/pianist/geologist/astronomer/graphical artist, because to have a successful career in those things you need a passion, and if you had the passion for it then whatever you want to make into a career would be your hobby to begin with.

From what you told us you don't seem to have any such passion, it sounds more like you decided "hey that sounds kind of cool, I'll just put my mind to it and surely I'll succeed". It doesn't work that way, because half of your colleagues will be people who code 512 byte demos in ARM assembly in their spare time just for fun, and who've been doing that type of thing since a decade before you had the bright idea of considering making games. My advice would be, either follow whatever passion you REALLY have, or go for a job that doesn't take any.

A good reader does not always make a good author. (1)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560113)

So far, you seem to say you are interested in programming games because you are interested in playing them.

What you really need to figure out is "are you interested in programming".

Just because you like playing games does not mean you will enjoy, or even have the aptitude for, programming.

Great working hours! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28560135)

EA used to guarantee 80 hours a week with free overtime!
Excellent for all those salaried programmers!

So if you like working... a lot, go for it.

Go to the bookstore. Library has books too. (1)

zymano (581466) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560145)

And buy C++ direct3d game programming book.

Too advanced then buy a beginners book.

 

It isn't the choice of programming language. (0)

Saba (308071) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560155)

Game design is as much about programming as telescopes are to Astronomy.

Figure out what you want to do first... (2, Informative)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560199)

The question is horribly muddled.

I want to be a game designer and then... "Finally, is C++ the way to go? ASP? LUA?"

Sorry, lets start from the beginning. Do you want to be a game designer or a games programmer? If it's the former then language isn't really important, you should be focussing on being able to create a good interactive story so you probably really need to study something like literature or perhaps even a screenwriting class would help if you can't get an explicit game design class. Don't expect to get far though, really there's a lot of people who want to be game designers, in fact, probably too many, because everyone wants to be in control of a team that will make their dream game for them, very few actually come up with ideas that everyone else thinks is awesome too. You have to be able to develop games that everyone will enjoy, not that you think would be cool which isn't as easy a skill as many probably assume. Programming will be a help to some extent, but it's not the first thing to worry about if you want to be a designer.

If you in fact want to be a programmer, then you need to get some basic knowledge of programming, the fact you suggested ASP is puzzling, I'm not even aware of any web based games written in ASP - I've only ever seen them written in PHP. I can only guess then that you're just throwing around terms you've seen about the net to make it look like you're anywhere near close to even beginning to work towards your ideal career. The issue is you can't even get started as you don't even seem to have a basic idea of what you want to do, or what is involved in these roles.

So here's the best advice anyone can give based on your question - go read some places like Gamedev.net or Gamasutra.com. Actually figure out what you want to do first. Don't come back and say I want to be a programmer, come back and say "I want to be an engine programmer", or "I want to be an AI programmer" or whatever else.

If you're wondering why a lot of responses here seem hostile, it's because you seem to be expecting answers without even bothering to put as little effort is required to even figure out what you need to ask first. If you had at least done that and figured out if you want to be a designer or a programmer you'd probably find better responses.

Still, the Slashdot editors should've at least picked that up, I'd like to think they vet questions to see if they make sense first but judging by this one it seems like it was streamed straight from their inbox onto the front page.

I hope this response will in itself give you a good start though as again you really need to figure out what it is you actually want. When you do finally figure out what you want, may I suggest you start by working with an indie or a mod team to at least get an idea of the facets involved in building a game first hand. I'd suggest you also read some books and so on, but most importantly perhaps - just get involved in a community like that at Gamedev.net or somewhere that produces indie focussed engines like Garagegames or the C4 engine community at terathon.com or perhaps even get involved with an open source rendering engine like ogre.

The problem with questions like these (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28560259)

If you are asking the question you probably don't have the drive to actually to do what it is you are asking about. I'm not trying to be rude but one of the traits of those that are good at what they do is their ability to research on their own. My brother has often in the past asked me where he should start... to this day he has not even applied to college or for that matter even read a book about programming on his own. The lack of self initiative is a good indicator of future success. You probably just think it would be cool to be that but when it comes down to it, the work to do it will be too much.

C and C++ (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560287)

I can't tell you how to become a game designer. I can tell you how to go about becoming a programmer. Learn C, learn C++ and then learn any other language you want. What's important is that you learn how to solve problems using the language of your choice. It's about process more than procedure. Programmers think like programmers. Becoming a programmer is about learning to think like a programmer.

LK

Re:C and C++ (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560449)

Learn how to write code on the GPU.

Of course, he doesn't want to program he wants to design.

I know some game designer/developers (1)

orngjce223 (1505655) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560327)

If it's to your taste to have little, polished games instead of the big huge epic games that are common on consoles, you could go into the Flash game field. Here's the thing: I know a pair of Flash devs, and they work HARD. Seriously. Spend two hours looking through your ActionScript code looking for the rare scenario of where the game modes overlap and the player gets twenty boss enemies at once instead of two, and you'll want to pull your hair out. (Yes, they are two guys who have specifically complained of this particular scenario, and they are already most of the way bald. :)

Design is not the same thing as programming in the big guns' world. In the small end of the world (Flash games, iPhone apps, etc.) yes, you can do both ends of the business but you will need to do a lot of work. There aren't many people that pull it off.

Just do something (2, Interesting)

Skraut (545247) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560387)

I ended up getting a job as a game producer thanks to Quake. I was playing online in a clan, and was one of the worst in the group but having fun. To help my score I "cheated" by figuring out how to modify the models in the game, and then adding the rocket attribute to all the player models. This caused them to smoke when they ran (pretty funny) and more importantly glow in a way which allowed me to see them when they hid in dark areas or were just around the corner.

This was long before Punkbuster, wallhacks, or any other cheats. The result was I played a lot better. One of the guys in the clan found out what I had done, and his father owned a game development studio. Next thing I know I was on a plane for Silicon Valley and working as a game producer for a few dreamcast and playstation games.

Unfortunately I was only able to continue to work until my life savings ran out. Yes the jokes about eating Tap Ramen are quite true. I was making only about 70% of what I needed just to cover basic expenses. When I asked for a raise I was told in no uncertain terms that there were plenty of other kids living with their parents who would gladly work for what I was getting.

I'm now a sysadmin living in the midwest making about 3x what I was making in the games industry, and my mortgage payment is less than the rent on my studio in Silicon Valley. I love what I do, but am really glad I took the opportunity to work in the video games industry. Have I thought about writing something on my own, sure I have. I even have a couple notebooks with fully fleshed out game designs. And I have time to do those because I'm not working 90 hours a week on somebody else's game.

So my advice for somebody wanting to get in is simple. Do something, anything, to stand out from the other potential applicants. Find a game you enjoy and mod it. If you're into graphics, find an open source game and help them out (Open source games are notorious for needing graphical help) Write flash games, make something with the XNA. In short, just do something. You'll find out a lot about yourself, and if you have the drive and dedication necessary to make it. Set yourself timelines, make milestones and meet them. But most importantly, do SOMETHING.

The single best way to get into this field is (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560417)

simply to make contacts and friends with people in the field. That's true with 90% of all jobs.

So, go to user groups, get on forums and make contacts, buy a few lunches.

Now, if they are real friends they will flag you off and point you to something that allows you to have a life.

I was moving into game software met a bunch of people and realized a couple of things.

These people are at work 12+ hours, they get paid shit and treated worse.
Now, I was married at the time. If I was a single male, 19-24 maybe I would have done it.

Now if your long term plan is to get some experience and start your own company, go for it becasue that's the only way you will make bank and still enjoy your work.

Use a game engine. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28560635)

I suggest picking up a copy of Torque Game Builder or TX2D from http://www.garagegames.com/ [garagegames.com] and start making 2d games like tetris. Then work your way up.

Don't give up your day job... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28560665)

As an Indie game developer having published a few titles myself I can tell you, don't quit your day job...
Game Designers are rarely hired from outside the companies. Usually it's who kisses more ass gets the job (at a meager salary). Most game companies won't hire a game programmer without a bachelors degree, 2-3 years experience, and at least 2 shipped titles. Game Designers have even more hoops to jump through with regards to getting a job. So many "colleges" say they teach game design but really they only teach how game concepts are implemented, not how to make a game. For example, Full Sail University teaches Game Designers how to do basic modeling, basic texturing, basic programming, basic audio, and finally a small section of your last year to piece it all together. This ISN'T enough to get a job at a decent salary. I'm an indie game developer by choice because I can make more money than if I worked for EA (who starts their game programmers at a lousy $40k / year).

Consider studying in the Netherlands (1)

phantomus (1249544) | more than 4 years ago | (#28560681)

Did you ever consider studying in the Netherlands? We have a nice program here, called IGAD (International Game Architecture & Design). There's a visual art specialisation and a programming specialisation. 75% of the staff is 'foreign', and so the language is English. 90% of the staff has 10 years or more of game industry experience. And, best of all: Studying in the Netherlands is cheap. Check here: http://www.nhtv.nl/made [www.nhtv.nl] . (end of shameless plug)

Best way to learn is by doing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28560693)

Best Language to study:
Not so much a language, as the phrase:
"Hey, do you have any spare change? I need a cup of coffee."

Altogether too many people want to make video games, god knows why, considering how tedious programming is. After you finish taking all those god awful courses in C++ and OpenGL/DirectX, have fun competing with the other 100 million delusional people who also want to make games. Also, take a look at a company like EA's policies: Hope you like 60-hours w/ no overtime and working 6 days a week, only to bring home somewhere around 45k (if youre lucky). And just remember: there's plenty of people to replace you who also think making video games is glamorous.

Moral: Don't do it. There is better money to be made in other programming areas, and considering you don't know a language yet(or paradigms, or design patterns), I'm betting you'll give up somewhere around your 5th sleepless night trying to write a memory manager.

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