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How Does One Become a Game Designer?

Cliff posted more than 12 years ago | from the you-learn-by-doing dept.

Games 272

Andreas(R) would like answers to this query: "I imagine that creating PC-games would be an exciting and creative profession. Obviously, it takes a lot of programming skills to put together most advanved games with realtime 3D, AI etc. What is the best way to aquire the neccecary skills to get these kinds of jobs (such as game designer at Westwood, Sierra, Epic)? Is a CS-degree the best way? Does one learn useful things in relation to games (such as programming for Direct 3D, or Direct-Rendering with Linux)? Given how the computing-industry has suffered economically recently; will there still be a demand for programmers/game designers in the future?" If there are any readers out there currently in the gaming industry, how did you get your first break?

To break into the gaming industry, like most IT jobs, one needs experience. Sure, Computer Science degrees will help in the application process, but you may need to focus a bit more on the math and logic side of things. The best thing one can do when trying to obtain a gaming job, is to make your own game. But before going for the 3D-realtime-60fps-shooter, think about starting small. Having the experience that comes from writing a 2D platform game or a couple of 3D demos under your belt will be worth more, to a game company seeking new talent, than any set of degrees.

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272 comments

How to make it into the industry (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#252328)

First of all, pick what you're going to do... then by default pick a codebase you can throw stuff into easily.. ie the quake or unreal family of engines (basically any fps really), and then hack at it until you're good. I started with textures and skins, and got good at it, and now I work for an (unnamed) company... but at one point I was making crappy mods for quake1 and putting them on cdrom.com for others to download and tell me how terrible they were. But if you perserver long enough, you'll get good at it, be it, mapping, modeling, skinning, coding, foley'ing, or hell even marketing. The more you try the more people will know who you are, and that is half the battle. Make a fun game, and the industry will notice because its made up of people who play games 24/7 be it their own, or someone elses.

Edge magazine (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#252329)

Grab a copy of this months Edge magazine. Its produced in the UK but available worldwide. Its widely considered (at least over here) to be the monthly industry bible. Cos its graduation time this month has a special supplement magazine covering getting into the games industry. There are loads of universities now offering computer game degrees and animation courses, and theres loads of advice from industry professionals.

Make a demo. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#252330)

Was involved in a student organisation of game programers ( EGaDS! [utexas.edu] - Electronic Game Developer Society of the Universtiy of Texas at Austin While I was there, the thing I heard most often from guest speakers was to make sure you have a demo of some kind (eurodemo, game, mod, level, etc), or be willing to do grunt work as a tester (at the same time working on your demo...)

It's important that you show initiative, that you can learn on your own, cause you do that kind of thing a lot. Versatility is good as well.

And most important, know the right people. Sorry, but all this other stuff just makes sure you resume doesn't get thrown away with the rest.

from author's perspective? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#252331)

Also -- what about those of us who purely want to author the games/concepts? Some of us come from writing backgrounds and have many ideas that cease to be realizable upon the inherent linearality of the printed page. Web fiction still does not have the attention to be a viable art form that also has an effect on a wide range of people --> I'm very interested in writing computer games. Designing a metaphorical universe (with leaving the actual execution to other indivduals) What would prepare me for this? Conceptual Design Art programs? d. Taylor Singletary - http://www.mp3.com/taylorsingletary

where to get a job (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#252332)

Go to a news and magazines store, pick up a copy of Game Developer magazine [gdmag.com], and look at the classifieds.

Re:Creativity over Programming? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#252333)

Definately there is. In fact you don't have to be a programmer or artist to be a Game Designer/Game Story Writer. In reality it turns out that good game programmers are usually not very good writers or game designers themselfs. Obviously if your are going to be a Game Story Writer you don't have to had any technological knowledge of any gaming console or hardware at all. On the other hand, if you would like to be a Game Designer, then you would be much better and professional if you do the basics of the technology on wich your game would run. This is this way because a Game Story Writer does not need to know how the Designer/Programmer/Artists are going to implement the story you had written. But on the contrary, Game Designers must do, at least if they really want to understand the programmers point of view, which I think is a really important one. In my case for example, I design a lot of kweel stuff (at least to me) and I have to see how it becomes just garbage while the programmer explains to me why it can't be done or at least not the way I expected to work. So you can save yourself a lot of work (and a lot of time to the programmers) time usually they don't have. :) Well that's my two cents, I hope it could give you a better notion of the main differences between both careers. jt@ez-networks.com

Just do it, ignore everyone else. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#252334)

I work at one of those places mentioned by the poster. First thing first, ignore all those people who say you must have a degree or some kind of genetic defect which enables you to grok the making of games. Making games is the science of fun, you can practice and study it. Do that. Study by playing every game available. Look to science fiction and fantasy novels to help your creative juices. You can study 95% of the games out there by looking at the demos they make available to the public. You can practice by getting a couple of extendable games (unreal tournament is my fav for this) and making a level where there is some kind of clear goal, motivation, and purpose to the level. Two rooms + hall + 3 monsters = bad. Intro scene, dialog audio, evil guy introduction, camera pan of destination, multiple paths to goal with varying strategies = good. Finally, when you have something cool and presentable, make a CD of it that is so easy to use nobody will have to think hard or waste time figuring out something you should have had the courtesy to make simple. If anything more complicated than 'click here to see the actual game' is required, make screenshots to entice people and accompany it with a brief description of the work. You should probably have the screenshots anyways. Don't stress too much about art quality. Focus on gameplay, why the gameplay is fun, what makes it worth spending even a moment looking at it for. Special attention to details often overlooked (sound etc) will get you brownie points. Test the CD exhaustively among all your friends. Failure of your CD to work flawlessly will guarantee it's summary dismissal unless your resume is cool enough to warrant the attention. Ultimately, getting a job in the industry requires you to figure out how to demonstrate to people you have skills they need. If you can't even figure out how to make it easy for us to see what you have to offer then you won't get a chance. If you want to do it, do it. Don't give up. Just cuz big bad company ignored your resume+demo this month doesn't mean they will the next. That usually means you got lost in the crowd. Try again until you get a definative response from people you have identified to be responsible for dealing with recruiting. This is coming from a college dropout who continues to kick himself for waiting as long as I did to even try to make games. I could have been doing it from day 1 had I only known what idiots manage to get jobs in this field. If you are smart and creative and have drive, you can get a job in the game industry. Doesn't pay as much as database work though, and there's always risk of someone wanting to make you his bitch.

ugh (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#252342)

>>I imagine that creating PC-games would be an
>>exciting and creative profession.

christ. "I really like driving cars --- designing and building cars must be an exciting profession."

Get a clue. Don't assume making games is 'exciting and creative' if you have NO IDEA how it's done. And if you have NO IDEA, making this as a career choice probably isn't a good one.

Sorry to throw some cold water on ya - but quit fooling yourself. Looks like any monkey with an IP connection can get an 'Ask Slashdot' question postest lately. At least this one wasn't such obvious/blatant spam as they usually are......

Designing != Programming (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#252343)

The positions needed to be filled to create a normal-sized game are: programmers, artists, producers, designers, testers. Do you want to be a designer or programmer? The title and article don't really match. To be a designer: live and breathe games. Play all genres, all platforms, plus retro. Make some quake levels (that play well). Design some board games/card games/tabletop games that you can test are fun with your friends. Maybe write a couple of game design docs (3 pages max). To be a programmer: live and breathe code. Go to www.flipcode.com and read all the articles, follow the links, and explore this great site. Write a couple of demos - if you want to do game code, a simple (but complete) 2d would be good. For 3d coding, an abstract 3d demo would be useful. Read about good programming practices too (games are big projects these days, and can't be hacked together).

Re:Richard Garriot is an asshole (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#252344)

Yeah, one time the CEO of General Motors told me he'd sign over all his assets if I made a barely functional model car. Of course, at the time he was trying to marry my 6 year old daughter so maybe that was why he lied.

Re:No experience (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#252345)

I can't find the compiler on my windows pc. Can you help me?

Re:specialized schooling? (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#252348)

Digipen teaches everything, C, C++, direct3d, opengl, digipen produces excellent programmers for all platforms. Who got the idea that it only teaches you to program for the nintendo console?

The one true way to get noticed by game designers (4)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#252349)

...pose for Playboy [playboy.com].

Re:specialized schooling? (5)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#252350)

Having gone to Digipen, I must say that you are completely wrong. In two years, I never once saw a piece of proprietary Nintendo equipment/hardware. Digipen focuses on giving students the most hard core computer science training you could imagine. 8-13 hours a day of MATH and computer science. Any school that has a class about Quaternions is not slepping on math.

For Designers... (1)

Acy James Stapp (1005) | more than 12 years ago | (#252353)

To be a good designer, you must play a lot of games. Be able to identify game aspects that don't appeal to you, indicate why they are unappealing, and offer corrections. Also, having a large store of game design ideas from past designers will serve you well.

Good game design is also in large part psychology and deep knowledge of human nature. To keep them playing the game, you need to be able to anticipate the effect of game design decisions on the user's emotional response and keep them emotionally involved by manipulating their primitive urges and reactions (greed, wonder, frustration, etc.).

If you have these skills, you should probably go into whatever degree plan will best help you do design. The gaming industry is (thankfully) not as degree-oriented as a lot of other IT industries, so you probably want to go to school to learn and party (or play LAN games :) )

And finally, design games. Build a portfolio - do a simple, but complete, game design and apply around.

Re:No experience (1)

mvw (2916) | more than 12 years ago | (#252357)

Get Cygwin. They finally manged to have package update system over the internet.

The gcc is able to bind against the MS libc, if you want (Mingwin).

But for a real project, people will use MS devstudio.

Re:just dive in! (2)

mvw (2916) | more than 12 years ago | (#252358)

Okay, perhaps they are too old, but the doom and quake engines are available for free on the net. Plus the black book from Michael Abrash is online over at Dr. Dobb's. It describes the techniques behind doom. Even in the times of Direct X and Open GL there should be some wisdom in it.

mostly self educated, pragmatic problem solvers (3)

mvw (2916) | more than 12 years ago | (#252359)

Two of my colleagues came from a game company. One of them working as a lead programmer on a recent top ten title.

Of course we talked about their prior job in game industry - doing a killer game is a dream many programmers have.

From what they told me, it is a very tough business. People seem typically to start young, with no prior education, being recruited from the amateur scene. Job hours are long, payment is low. And of course one needs to stay on the frontier of the hard and software.

Assembly programming is done by few specialists (like game engine designers), C/C++ is the implementation language, with software design techniques just starting to get introduced.

From comparision to the people I knew from the scientific and economic scene, these guys are fast pragmatic programmers, not so much on the theoretical side (the feared property of CS graduates :) Possibly that fast problem solving capability is the key feature to survive in the hard gaming industry. I was surprised to hear what simple tricks are sometimes used - just to get the deadline.

nothing like experience, BUT.... (1)

Malor (3658) | more than 12 years ago | (#252362)

It strikes me that experience is the best thing of all to have, but the quality of your experience will be much heightened by getting a degree, preferably a master's or even a PhD, in computer programming. And go to a good school to get it, like UC Davis.

There are a lot of geeks in the industry who have gotten by on sheer brainpower. But no matter how smart you are, people that make you look flatly stupid have spent a lot of time thinking about basic computer theory and problem sets. They won't have been solving your exact problem, but they will certainly have developed techniques you can use.

Now, this isn't to say that degrees are the ONLY way to get the advanced knowledge. If you are smart enough, you can certainly do it on your own without ever setting foot in a classroom. But there is a HUGE amount to know. Whatever your approach (formal or informal) you will need to spend a LOT of time and effort studying basic theory and practicing implementations.... and endless, endless hours writing code.

There was an earlier article today about the use of LISP in the real world. Go read that article -- that guy knows what the hell he is talking about and will give you a pointer down the right road.

The general standards of intellectual excellence were much higher in the 1950s and 1960s. MAKE SURE you expose yourself to the thinking from that time. Our standards have dropped enormously and most people aren't even aware of it.

Remember, the only effective difference between cavemen and modern men is that we know more now. They were just as smart as we were. They had every bit as much basic brainpower. But they didn't have any knowledge -- they had no way to leverage those brains.

Expose yourself to the brilliant, brilliant work that has preceded you. Even if this doesn't make your actual code writing any better, it will give you a peek into a universe of problems that are enormously more interesting than connecting a web site to a SQL server.

skills (5)

crisco (4669) | more than 12 years ago | (#252365)

Game Design != Programming

Look at all the k-rad 3D games that are boring to play. Look at some games that are behind the technology curve that are fun to play (I'll offer up Starcraft and Counter-Strike as a pair of recent examples, I'm sure you can come up with your own).

The skillset that goes into a modern game is enormous. Art (3D modeling, texture art), Music, Game Design & Balance, Programming (3D, Network, UI), etc. You're lucky if you're good at one of these, much less a few of them. Find an area that you are good at and cultivate it, make yourself the best. The companies you mention often have 20-40 people working on a game, you'll have to find your spot on that team.

gamasutra.com [gamasutra.com] is an excellent resource for professional level game development info.

Chris Cothrun
Curator of Chaos

specialized schooling? (5)

Monty (7467) | more than 12 years ago | (#252368)

There are specialized schools for this kind of thing. One that comes to mind is Digipen [digipen.com].

If you have to ask... (2)

cornice (9801) | more than 12 years ago | (#252370)

If you have to ask then it's not for you.

I am not in the gaming industry but I have read enough articles to make me think that those who survive that industry are those who are totally consumed by it. If you can't stop thinking about games and programming and optimization and graphics then maybe this is the industry for you. If you consume everything you can get your hands on - books, source code, games then you likely know what to do next. If this just sounds cool then you will likely be competing with people more dedicated than yourself.

College experience (2)

FigWig (10981) | more than 12 years ago | (#252371)

When I graduated from University there were several game companies pursuing me because I majored in Physics and minored in Computer Science, and spent several years doing research in machine learning. From a purely coding aspect the most important skills are going to be math (Linear Algebra), physics (Classical Mechanics), AI, and Graphics. So if you are in school pursue those classes. If you can make it through the upper division level classes you should have no problem learning new algorithms and implementing them and learning new graphics APIs.

Of course some relevant experience outside of school (your own demo or game mod) never hurts.

Re:No experience (2)

nebby (11637) | more than 12 years ago | (#252372)

They don't. That's why you start out as a codemonkey and move your way up, at least, AFAIK.

Rule Number One: Do it! (1)

Weasel Boy (13855) | more than 12 years ago | (#252375)

No amount of preparation will help you to be a game creator as well as creating a game. So the first step is to make a game or few.

Writing an extension (e.g., a mod) to an existing game is a great way to focus on gameplay without getting lost in technical details.

But definitely get out there and make a game!

Rule Number Two: Design

Learn how to design a good game.

Rule Number Three: Self-management

Motivation and organizational skills are paramout.

Rule Number Four: Nail the technical fundamentals

If you're going to write computer games, a CS degree will certainly help you be a better programmer. You'll learn about algorithms, data structures, order of complexity, etc. This is the least important ingredient.

Re:No experience (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 12 years ago | (#252377)

I can't find the compiler on my windows pc. Can you help me

No. Fuck off.^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H


---

Re:No experience (3)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 12 years ago | (#252378)

How can you gain experience if all jobs require you to have had prior work experience?

By doing it outside of a job. Do you own a computer? Have a compiler too? Great, you're all set. You don't need an employer to "give you a break" in order to start getting experience.


---

Re:Oh for the olden days... (2)

Osty (16825) | more than 12 years ago | (#252379)

I know it doesn't have the widespread appeal of your typical first person shooter, but it is a far superior game.

I think this is a very common misperception. Gameplay is all about how easily the gamer loses himself in the game, encompassing everything from input, to graphical representation (which doesn't need to be utilizing the very latest in 3D rendering, thus requiring a GeForce 3. For the type of game, an ascii interface is perfectly fine for nethack (I know there are tile-based guis for it, as well)), to story and plot, and so on. Not all factors always matter. For instance, graphics have little to do with nethack, and story has little to do with Quake 3 Arena. However, Quake 3 has gameplay that is just as good as, if not better than, nethack, in terms of a hack'n'slash type game (pure action). It's not even fair to hold up (arguably) the best roguelike game to your "average" or worse FPS (say, Daikatana). That'd be like holding up Half-life to the crudest roguelike out there, and thus claiming that Half-Life is a far superior game (and by saying so, also inferring that all roguelikes are poo).

Judge gameplay by context. It's pretty hard to compare an average FPS to an average roguelike, except that the "average" games typically fall short in the "gameplay" department, regardless of genre.

I think gameplay needs to come before flashy effects. People will notice quality in the long run, so if you can do this you CAN make something that competes.

The goal is balance. There's no point in pushing for the best graphics in the world if you have no game to back it up, but the converse is true as well -- a game with an interface that was clearly neglected, added on as an after thought, is not a good game, no matter how promising the gameplay. Now, going back to the roguelike games, that doesn't mean you have to have a deformable 3D world with dynamic LOD and a state-of-the-art terrain engine. It simply means that spending time and thought on your "graphics" (such as they are) is necessary, and shouldn't be simply tacked on at the end.

No Experience? No Problem! (5)

Osty (16825) | more than 12 years ago | (#252380)

The chief way to get into the gaming industry these days is a combination of modding and schooling. Many of today's "Gaming Gods" (for lack of a less-lame term) got their start doing mods. The TeamFortress people, now working at Valve; Steven Polge, the guy who wrote the first real bot for Quake1, the Reaper Bot, now working for Epic Games; GreenMarine, LeveLord, Stevie Case, and so on. Mods in the gaming industry have become the equivalent of an artist's portfolio. They give you game the creation experience you need to get a game design job.

At the same time, don't forget that schooling is important. Ignore what all the high school drop-outs turned IT bigshot turned homeless bum on the dole say about schooling being useless. It's far from it, if you take the time to apply yourself and actually learn something. Depending on what type or role you want to play, many different majors would be useful. Want to be more involved in the design of a game? Get a business major, with an English minor and an emphasis in a graphic art. Want to be an engine programmer? Take all the math you can. And once you think you have enough math, take some more. A CS degree is also useful, to help teach you proper coding and design discipline and algorithmic analysis. Want to be an artist? Attend a good design school. Want to be a sound engineer? Get a music degree. Your education shouldn't stop with a college degree, but you're that far ahead of those without one (and that gives you a slight edge against those without when applying for a job, which is very nice to have in today's economy).

Above all, though, don't forget to have fun. If you're not having fun, trying to pump out a mod or a tetris clone or whatever because you feel that you have to rather than because you want to, then you're on the wrong track. Take a step back, look at where you're at, and re-evaluate what you want to do with your life.

work hard (1)

Rick_Clark (21676) | more than 12 years ago | (#252385)

Work hard at becoming a good programmer. A good programmer can learn any toolkit. Game are developed by teams of people, so learn to work well with others.

Re:Two completely different jobs (4)

Surt (22457) | more than 12 years ago | (#252387)

I'm going to second this just to make sure it gets noticed. I've worked in the game industry for 3 years now.

Game Designer is the title for the guy with a management hat who gets the last word in making gameplay mechanics decisions and balance decisions. He is typically responsible for the game design documentation. He may or may not do any programming on the project. There is typically only one per title, this is a very hard job to get, and will involve working from the inside of an established company over a period of years most likely.

Game Programmer is the title for me, the guy who actually sits down and writes some code to make the game do what the Game Designer says. I take art resources and load them up and make them display at the right place at the right time. I make the king's prefix add damage (up to 150% damage, as specified in a spreadsheet by the game designer). There will likely be something like 4 to a dozen programmers, and one lead programmer on a title. The lead programmer gets more influence on design since he may be laying out engine features that create or restrain the type of content possible in the game.

The game programmer job typically gets some input on how the game works. Sometimes if you have a great idea, you just code it up, put it in the game, then ask the game designer: is this not cool? And if he says it is cool, you get to leave it in. This can be a fun and rewarding job, though frustrating when you lock horns with the game designer and lose. You get to mold the game somewhat, but it does not come from your vision.

If you have programming skills, and you'd like the game programmer job, a good way to get started is to prove you can do it by working on a game-mod project (say something like LMCTF for quake 2 ... that project got at least 3 people jobs with serious companies, including 2 game programmers now working for a top 3 game company).

I will also chime in on the glamour issue. It's all fun and games until the 15 months of 18 hour days starts. Then it is pretty rough on your family life, since you can't really drive home to sleep in your own bed when you're that tired. The pay is also typically significantly less than what you'd get applying equal skills to a business environment job. I've had offers at least 75% higher than what i'm making now, but I do enjoy being able to walk into fry's in my development team sweatshirt and have people in the games aisle ask me about it.

In any case, good luck with your dreams and ambitions. :-)

So I'm told... (2)

Mdog (25508) | more than 12 years ago | (#252390)

I'm told that The University of North Texas [unt.edu] and UW [washington.edu] have good gaming stuff going on. I'd investigate further and come up with better URL's, but then all hopes of getting this post moded up would fade because it'd be too late, and I am a whore!

Re:AI? Oh come on! (1)

Spoons (26950) | more than 12 years ago | (#252392)

Generating opponents' moves has nothing to do with real AI. Yeah! You tell 'em!

Hmmm... Generating opponent's moves is all that AI chess programs do. Is that real AI? It's got decision trees and minimax, pruning etc. Sounds like AI to me.


---

Education. (2)

Matt2000 (29624) | more than 12 years ago | (#252393)


I've read about some schools that have training in video game programming and apparently their grads are quite well regarded. There was a fast company story [fastcompany.com] on one, DigiPen [digipen.edu] a little while ago, they seemed to think it was pretty good.

If you can't get right into the industry, perhaps these would be some ok options.

Re:Don't want to be a programmer (1)

Van Halen (31671) | more than 12 years ago | (#252397)

BYOND [byond.com] (Build Your Own Net Dream). Ok, you still have to be a programmer but the language is very elegant and easy to learn if you know C/C++, and the best part is, it handles networking transparently for you.

The above is certainly not for everyone. The graphics capabilities are severely limited in the current version, but if you can work within the framework they provide, you'll find that it's a joy to use and extremely easy to write your own games. It won't help you if you're looking to break into the popular 3D gaming industry, but it's great for the hobbyist/2D game writer. And who knows, when the graphics get the much needed facelift, maybe this will be the next big development platform in a few years. ;-)

Ahem (1)

rossarian (31967) | more than 12 years ago | (#252398)

Step 1: Realize that there is much more to a game than programming.
Step 2: Memorize the Nintendo mantra: games must be fun. In other words, games are not programming demos, they are interactive entertainment.
Step 3: Get into the gaming industry and be great at what you do so you get noticed. How? That's just an implementation detail. :)

Good Programming Practices (5)

Jered (32096) | more than 12 years ago | (#252399)

The best way to break into any programming field is to have a good understanding of programming practices and methodologies, in addition to being a good coder. This is the most important thing that formal CS training (i.e. a college degree) should provide you.

I've seen many awesome coders who can knock your socks off with projects they've done, but have no formal CS training. And I wouldn't hire most of them. They understand how to write code, but they don't understand why it's necessary to design before implementation, extensively document code, have a process for source review, use a revision control system, implement a unit test strategy, and the like. All of these things are necessary when working on a large project with multiple engineers.

Most games are a huge undertaking. I last worked for a games company, Turbine Entertainment Software, that had dozens of people working on a single project. In addition to the fact that they were all really smart people, if they hadn't followed good programming methodologies nothing would have ever been shipped.

Today, I'm Director of Software Development for a storage software company, and implementing good policies is key to keeping on track. All code is required to be reviewed by another team member before it may be checked into the repository. All modules must have unit test cases. No code may be written until design of the module and its interfaces are complete. This might sound draconian, but it means that we know what we're writing before we start coding it, we know it works when we're done, and we know what it does when we look at it again 3 months from now. Fewer bugs, fewer unexpected surprises, and fewer late nights trying to fix something that has to have been done last month.

Games companies are often hiring; they tend to not pay as much as other computer industry jobs but can also be a lot of fun. If you want to break into the games industry, send a resume to some companies you find interesting. Show that you can write good code, show that you have the creativity to design an interesting game, and show that you understand what's necessary to actually complete a team project.

--Jered

Re:A good start (1)

Monthenor (42511) | more than 12 years ago | (#252404)

Oh yes, and to get this job I had to learn Java in a week. So what did I do? I made a game! Simple little "us vs. them" spaceship thingie, with one team of circles versus another team of circles.
Then I added multiple frames.
Then I added individual popup menus.
Then a point-based ship building model.
Then keyboard shortcuts and tab stops for every ship.
By the time I felt I was ready to move on to Geology Explorer, I didn't really want to. My precious little Spacewars has sat unused on my work machine for weeks now...
------------------------

A good start (2)

Monthenor (42511) | more than 12 years ago | (#252405)

I lucked out. I've been playing games since I was 4 (Donkey Kong on the ColecoVision, biytach!) and programming in every BASIC I've found since I was 10, but just recently I managed to get what I consider my big break. NDSU hired me on to work with their Geology Explorer. [nodak.edu]

Basically a Java shell for the LambdaMOO backside, it's got a good mix of graphics, interface, AI, and MOO specifics. After a couple months, MouseListeners are my willing slaves, and most of the niggling problems I had coming in have been ironed out. Mostly I've been making the graphics both run fast and look nice AND be functional. Yay, me. Sure, I didn't actually make the thing, but in my opinion it's much harder to tweak someone else's code anyway.

Um, by the way, I wouldn't recommend using the Explorer in the next couple days. I'm in the process of revamping EVERY SINGLE CLICKABLE OBJECT on the planet, which means that about half the world is broken right now :) Silly me.
------------------------

Education vs Do It Yourself Knowledge (1)

Rhonwyn (49658) | more than 12 years ago | (#252410)

I did not break into the gaming industry, but I do know a couple of people who did. One of the first people I knew to get a game programmer job was extremely self motivated. There were few courses geared toward game programing, but there were graphics and heavy programing courses. Every chance he got, he would write either a game or an API for a game he was writing. His Java project was a Defender type game that was actually a lot of fun.

The best way to break in is to learn and experiment on your own. There are classes, such as graphics, advanced programing classes, and matrix math courses, that help, but nothing will compare to having a portolio of games that you have written.

Just do it (4)

ikekrull (59661) | more than 12 years ago | (#252414)

If you want to be a game designer, go out and design a game. Nobody is stopping you.

If your question is 'How do i get paid to be a game designer?', then the answer to that is that you need to have designed games without being paid before you have a chance to get paid to do it.

You're not going to get hired to design a website that someone's business depends on without even knowing HTML.

The key is to be able to demonstrate and communicate your skill and talent to a potential employer.

There are millions of people in this world who can talk shit about designing games all day long, and only a tiny percentage on them that can actually deliver.

Most employers want people who fall into the second category.

Re:No Experience? No Problem! (1)

Fanmail (61003) | more than 12 years ago | (#252415)

My only comment to that is what about fields that aren't quite defined in the gaming industry, such as the one I'm trying to break into, the role of the art technician, or technical artist in some cases. They're supposed to bridge the gap between programmers and artists, and yet, going to college, there is no real way to emphasize something that is so set in the middle. College will help with the specialized notions, but for those of us that are diverse in our skills, we're penalized for being diverse. Don't mind me, I'm just an irate, out-of-work college graduate.

Re:AI? Oh come on! (1)

captredballs (71364) | more than 12 years ago | (#252418)



"Real Artificial Intelligence"? Well, if what you mean is "closer to human intelligence", doesn't that make game AI (being less human-ish), MORE artificial and therefore MORE worthy of the term "Artificial Intelligence"?

Its not that I don't want you to feel smart, its just that I want to feel smarter. Thats a joke, see?

So you want to be a computer game developer? (2)

geofft (79878) | more than 12 years ago | (#252425)

Take a look at this online book [makegames.com].

Their advice is similar to advice given to writers (that I've seen attributed to Stephen King): you learn to be a writer by writing. Lots.

Most of the people I know in the game industry who went the CS route built a portfolio of code, engines, and demos that they could show to folks that alreaady are in the game industry. Coders that want to be in the industry are legion, coders who are willing to put together a decent portfolio aren't as common.

If you're serious about it, you should probably attend industry events like the GDC [gdconf.com], E3 [e3expo.com], and the various GDC roadtrips to network. And if I'm not mistaken, the GDC even allows you to be a volunteer to get a discounted admission fee.

How I did it (3)

Crowdpleazr1 (80140) | more than 12 years ago | (#252426)

Read, read, and then read some more about how games work, how they are made, etc. Go to sites like Gamasutra.com, flipcode.com and gamedev.net. Practice your skills by writing 3d Demos (getting OpenGL books and reading the DirectX doc tutorials come to mind). Buy Game Programming Gems and read it cover to cover. Get to know people in the game industry, and keep them as contacts (but be nice and friendly). Actively get involved in a mod for any game (Half-Life, Quake3, Unreal Tournament, Tribes2) and whatever you do, stick it to the end. Companies will recognize polish and hard work. Also, play lots of games to try and figure out how they work.

What not to do/expect:
1) Don't expect everyone to help you. Try to figure things out for yourself. The net is your best research tool.
2) Don't expect to get in right away. I busted tail on reading learning and working for several years before I got a break.
3) Don't listen to these trolls who tell you that all the hard work is pointless or that a nice demo won't help. They will, and those that review demos will recognize it for what it is.
4) Don't think that because you are a good coder or have played a lot of games or your friends say you are smart that you deserve a shot. You don't, because all the others trying to get in are the same way. You need to learn about the industry. I finally got in because I didn't expect anyone to help me but me.

QA (3)

Dids (85677) | more than 12 years ago | (#252430)

One of the most common ways nowadays is to enter a company thru QA.

Testing games usually leads to position in game design or producer positions.

I've seen programmers come out of QA but that's pretty rare.

Be ready to work A LOT, game testing is one of the most thankless job I know.

If by 'game design' you mean programming then your best bet is to start working on some demos on PC. The more you can show the better chance you have at landing a junior programmer position.

I got my break in the industry because I used to spend my time writing demos for the Amiga back in Europe.

Hope this helps,
-D

How I got in (4)

sprayNwipe (95435) | more than 12 years ago | (#252433)

I managed to get in by making mods for games like Quake 2 and Half-Life - nothing shows your skills at making a game more than actually making a small game!

As for education, I don't have a Uni degree, and quite a few of the other designers I know don't have degrees either, so it definitely isn't a prerequisite.

Most of the stuff that you're thinking of learning about though seems very programmer-oriented (D3D, AI coding). There is a difference between Design and Programming (and Art), although in most cases a designer also has skills in another area.

Your best bet is to make a small game or a mod, and submit it to a game company asking for a job at doing what you like doing best. If you enjoyed making the levels and game rules, then be a designer. If you enjoyed coding the engine, then be a programmer. If you enjoyed making the models, be an Artist. If you just enjoyed playing it, be a QA guy!

Oh yeah, also check out GameJobs [gamejobs.com] and The GarageGames marketplace [garagegames.com] for positions

Creativity over Programming? (2)

Abstruse (100599) | more than 12 years ago | (#252435)

I also thought of pursueing a career in video game creation, however, I have little to no programming skills. I'd like to be the person that writes the stories for games such as Final Fantasy, ChronoCross, or Parasite Eve. As video games stories become more and more complex and moving, is there a job market for a Video Game Writer?

Never underestimate the power of your TI-83! (5)

crashnbur (127738) | more than 12 years ago | (#252455)

I got my first break coding for my TI-83. The TI calculators use the same (or very similar?) processor as Nintendo's Game Boy, made by ZiLOG [zilog.com], and I just gradually studied the code for the chips and learned more and more about programming games in that way. Granted that aiding in the design of Game Boy games is not exactly a huge break - in fact I do very little - but I know several people who's game designing careers were sparked by an early interest in programming whatever they could get their hands on... calculators, computers, toasters... you name it!

Don't take this entirely serious or entirely sarcastically. I aim to amuse, but I'm also partially serious. Find your foundation and go from there!

Re:QA (1)

baxissimo (135512) | more than 12 years ago | (#252463)

But game testers don't even get the general sympathy for having a tough, often mind-numbingly boring job. People think "what a lucky bum -- get's to play games all day", and can't even conceive that it could be real work.

Re:Get into the industry (3)

baxissimo (135512) | more than 12 years ago | (#252464)

That's completely silly. Run a website and game companies will suddenly hire you as a game designer? I doubt it. Learn some math, code up some demos that show what you can do. THEN maybe they'll hire you. A mod will definitely get you points. A website might get you noticed, but it won't get you the job you want.

ask hook (1)

Felipe Hoffa (141801) | more than 12 years ago | (#252471)

Instead of askink slashdot, just "ask hook" [voodooextreme.com].

He has been answering questions thrown by people for some years, also check his editorials.

Who is he?

Brian Hook, a damn fine programmer, friend of the community, Ultimate Fighting Championship contestant, member of the Save the Whales foundation, the man that controls the black-market on baby seal pelts, and a member of the "probably yo' daddy" foundation is here to share some of his technical expertise mixed in with a few smart-ass remarks that are guaranteed to chap your booty, put a sparkle in your eye, and a shine on your car. And hell, the chicks dig him.

Fh

CS degree (1)

quickquack (152245) | more than 12 years ago | (#252476)

"Is a CS-degree the best way?"

Do you get an honorary counterstrike degree if you play it 24/7? :P


------------

Re:ugh (2)

dmccarty (152630) | more than 12 years ago | (#252477)

P.S. I was drunk during my first interview, and got the job. Maybe being drunk helps...

Maybe applying in the gaming industry helped.

--

Re:Richard Garriot is an asshole (2)

SandsOfTime (156312) | more than 12 years ago | (#252480)

Bottom line: The gaming industry is just like the entertainment industry.

Good point. From the outside, it's all too easy to glamorize the computer gaming field. In truth, day to day it is more like "battle of the gigantic egos" and not nearly as fun as it might seem. And just like in the entertainment industry, there is far more supply than demand for people who want to be game designers / game programmers / movie stars / oscar-winning directors / rock stars.

starting in the mail room (2)

_|()|\| (159991) | more than 12 years ago | (#252482)

start at a lower position.

That's what some of the folks said in "Meet the New Game Gods," PC Gamer 11/00. Stevie Case got a job in Ion Storm QA after beating John Romero in a Quake challenge. She says, "I was the lowest paid person when I started at Ion Storm out of a hundred people--the lowest paid, and I just used my free time, I did everything extra I could, I offered to help, I was learning level design, learning to write strategy guides, all this extra stuff. And if you put in the extra effort, they see that and move you up."

American McGee, who started at id, says, "I started anwering the phones and went from that to writing code, doing levels, doing sound effects, making music, I mean just everything and anything I could get my hands on I would take over and do the best thing I could with it."

Ed Del Castillo parlayed contacts from a video arcade into a Mindcraft support job.

some more articles (3)

_|()|\| (159991) | more than 12 years ago | (#252483)

Here's another vote for Gamasutra [gamasutra.com]. Check out the Business and Legal features.

Also, check out the Ask Devs section of Voodoo Extreme [voodooextreme.com]. Kevin Levine, Brian Hook, and Tim Sweeney have addressed this topic.

"Meet the Next Game Gods" in PC Gamer 11/00 touches on how some current designers got their start.

Not actually "in the biz," but... (4)

Corvidae (162939) | more than 12 years ago | (#252486)

From what I've seen (I've been in the Half-Life mod development community for over a year now) is to get involved with an editable game and do some design work. Come up with ideas and implement them. In my (albeit limited) experience with CS, you don't learn much if anything that's directly applicable.

Not to pimp myself unduly, but I've learned a LOT about large-project management, design, and the like by working on my own projects for Half-Life(Granted, HL's not Linux friendly yet, but the same deal applies for really any game. It's just that HL has a very actuve community). Nothing will prepare you as well as actual experience will... I know probably half a dozen people who were hired at games companies solely because of their work on a mod or independant game. They're looking for those kind of people, and if you happen to be where they're looking, well... =)

Experience == paid work? (5)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 12 years ago | (#252488)

From a personal experience, companies may rate interests and hobbies very high. I've never had formal training in electronics or coding (well except bits of op-amps and FORTRAN with physics :-), yet I've been hired for responsible positions in serious projects involving both. Real life experiences are usually valued more than theoretical education. Of course, the best of such experience is often from a paid work... Nevertheless, if you're interested and talented in a certain area, why not get the formal qualifications as well?

--

Do it. (3)

IvyMike (178408) | more than 12 years ago | (#252492)

I recommend a CS degree; you'll learn higher-level concepts that will be hard to pick up otherwise. However, you might not apply those skills day-to-day.

For that, the only way to go is to start programming games. You might not be able to make a world-class first person shooter during your spare time, but you might be able to make a Wolfenstein 3D. Consider it a necessary part of your education; you will never take a class that teaches you all of the skills, so you have to force yourself to make time. The experience you gather from doing something like this cannot be gained any other way.

Game Designer or Programmer? (3)

Nakoruru (199332) | more than 12 years ago | (#252505)

If you want to be a designer, then programming skills are not completely required. Design, most of the time, is a management position. Its like being a movie director, you don't nessecarily need to know all the ins and outs of how to use a camera.

It sounds like you want to be a programmer. For that, you need to know math fairly well, especially Linear Algebra for 3D Math. Program everyday and put together a portfolio of demo programs. Its not nessecary to do everything from scratch! Game developers are looking for people that can take existing librarys and put them together. One way to show them that you can work with existing tools is to do a game mod or two for games like Unreal or Quake.

Get together with someone who can do artwork and/or music because programmers are rarely artists, and you won't have time to do good artwork and program anyway. Either create your own engine, demo programs, and/or mods and put it all together so you can send it along with your resume to game developers. Make sure its easy to install and virus scan it.

Read, read, and read some more, and write programs to make sure you have learned what you read about.

Good books are:

OpenGL Programming Guide

Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice - by Foley, Van Dam, et al

3D Game Engine Design - by David H. Eberly

Mathematical Elements for Computer Graphics and Procedural Elements for Computer Graphics

Good Luck!

Years of work is what it takes (3)

Natak (199859) | more than 12 years ago | (#252506)

Something I've never understood is to many people think that just by playing video games and having ideas would mean they would be a great game designer. I'm not a total expert on how to get a gamming career, but I have turned down job offers from gamming companies (development jobs, not designing), and my current job involves designing software (non game related), at the same time I know several people who do work for gaming companies and I've talked with them about their career path and what it takes. So here is what I know.

I believe several players think they could be a great game designer because they think of features or ideas that are not in their current game, and then poof 6 months later they see the same feature idea in a different game and they think "hey I thought of that first". Somehow gamers think this will also make them a great game designer. First, most game designers will also be the project manager. The reason for this is the game designer has to weigh the feature idea, to how much effort it will require to implement the feature, along with issues such as staff, figuring out how much art work is required, how much development work would be required, etc. A project manager has to put a dollar value on a feature, and has to weigh it constraints. Designing games or any software for that matter is not just sitting down and thinking up cool features. Anyone can do that. So back to the original question, what does it take to become a game designer? Well given a feature idea, you have to have a good idea on what it takes to make that feature a reality. This means you need to either know how to program the feature yourself, or you've been involved with enough projects first hand that you can make a really good guess. This is why the majority of great game designers are also programmers themselves. But even being a programmer it isn't enough, you just have to have enough projects under your belt that you can run a project with your eyes closed. So if you can do that, you are ready to be a game designer. How do you get enough projects under your belt? Well you get a job working for a game company, and you either write software, create levels, or do art work. I'm not talking about some little mod, but you work as part of team. Do that for several years, get promoted and then one day your name will be on a cover of the next greatest game. You also have to realize, that making games is a businesses. As cool as making games is, it has to turn a profit. So in order to be a game designer, you also have to be in a position where you can be trusted. Some biz guy is going to give you several million dollars, and say ok go make a game that can make me even more money. How is someone like this going to trust you? The only way is if you've done 5 other projects that where all successes.

The route takes a lot of time, but there is one other way you can do this, start your own game company. The guys at Blizzard where just a couple of guys in college who wanted to do games. Day 1 they where game designers. You can do that to, just be expected to use a lot of your own money, and make sure that if you start you will never give up. You can succeed. I belivie this route may be difficult, because you will be competing with real game companies, but its possible. Now days you see lots of game companies going out of biz because it's a difficult market.

Oh for the olden days... (5)

arnald (201434) | more than 12 years ago | (#252507)

The sad thing is, it's far harder to "break into" the game industry in the same spectacular way as did, say, the wunderkids of the 1980s. (I'm thinking of Crammond, the Oliver twins, Braben and Bell, etc etc.)

These days, there's such an emphasis on expensive production effects (full motion video, Hollywood actors, life-modelled action, and so on) that you can't really do anything that competes on your own.

Such is the price of progress. It's a far cry from the day when one teenager could write a best-selling game (Jet Set Willy) or two undergraduates could introduce a totally new genre into gaming with one game (Elite). The question is, have we lost something? Does all this glitz and glamour stifle true innovation?

Over to you kids...

Designer/Programmer? (2)

strags (209606) | more than 12 years ago | (#252511)

As others have pointed out, there is a world of difference between videogame programming and design.

If you think you have (or can develop) the technical skills to become a games programmer, then I'd strongly suggest you take that route. The fact is that the demand for programmers is so much higher than for designers - a good games designer is worth a great deal, but there are simply many more of them out there.

There's also a misconception that a games designer spends much of his/her time coming up with new ideas for games - not so. Ideas for games realy are two-a-penny - implementation is what's important. The vast majority of the games designer's responsibility is in areas such as level layout, AI script tweaking, etc... etc...

If you're a reasonably competent programmer, then there are any number of books to get you started (eg. Tricks of the Game Programming Gurus, Game Programming Gems). However, in my experience (been programming in the games industry for 8 years), the best programmers are the ones who teach themselves. I did a 3 year computer science degree, but didn't learn anything games-related directly. It did, however, give me 3 years during which I didn't have to worry about getting a job, and was therefore able to play around with hand optimised assembly. Most of my game development skills at the time came from downloading demos, and trying to figure out how the hell the latest effect worked.

If, on the other hand, you're more comfortable with game design, then a near encyclopaedic knowledge of videogames is pretty much a must. Be able to describe exactly what it is about your favourite game that makes it more fun to play than the others - gameplay is almost a mystical, intangible quantity - one that is highly sought after. Be able to compare and contrast games in the same genre, and identify what you think the strengths and weaknesses of each are.

Anyway, best of luck - it's one of the best industries to be in - if also one of the most demanding.

CS is the way (2)

dnh (210171) | more than 12 years ago | (#252512)

Game programmers need either a CS degree or a CE degree. These games take an incredible amount of skill. There is a need for speed, so many critical parts are coded in assembly, and the less critical parts must still be programmed well. CS/CE is the only place you'll learn it, trade schools just don't cut it. If your interested in design, but don't want a computer of engineering degree there is also a large demand for Artists.

Be aware, its a good paying industry, but its highly competetive and hard to break into.

At my current school they offer a gaming speciallization. Its after the second year, so i'd assume its a lot of GL, DirectX and assembly.

Good Luck

Other route (1)

RedLaggedTeut (216304) | more than 12 years ago | (#252515)

An completely other route, and about the only route where other studies than CS make an effect, is to be interested in history, since knowledge about history is what is needed to make scenarios.

Get into the industry (5)

BigumD (219816) | more than 12 years ago | (#252519)

I can't imagine a better way to break into a game company other than getting involved in the industry. Run a gaming website (or work for DailyRadar... oops! heheh), make mods for existing games (the guys that did 3wave CTF and Rocket Arena got jobs this way), or even do skins (read: Paul Steed). Anything that you can do to attract the development companies' attention has got to be a definate plus.

You can start by reading this ... (5)

openbear (231388) | more than 12 years ago | (#252526)

I came across this article a while back and for some reason mentally filed it away. Read through it, it appears to answer all of your questions. Its by Kenn Hoekstra at RavenSoft.

Getting A Job In The Game Development Industry [ravensoft.com]
http://www2.ravensoft.com/getajob.htm

Here is the index of the article:
  • Introduction
  • The Basics
  • The Question of Education
  • 2D Art
  • 3D Art
  • 3D Animation
  • Game Designer (Idea Guy/Think Tank)
  • Level Design
  • Programming
  • Sound Designers
  • Webmasters
  • Writers
  • Putting Together A Resume
  • Where Are The Jobs?
  • Interviewing Skills
  • Get Your Foot In The Door
  • I Have A Great Idea For A Game...
  • Last Minute Advice?
  • Recommended Reading
  • News Groups

Connections (1)

Chibi (232518) | more than 12 years ago | (#252527)

I've got a friend that recently got into the gaming industry, and these seem to be some of the factors that came into play.

It's a combination of a few things. You've got to be smart, have a good programming foundation (mostly C and C++), and be a gamer. They're doing some pretty hardcore stuff, so obviously they need people with the ability to execute it all. Also, they want people that are going to be passionate about their work.

But probably one of the things that would help your cause, as with many industries, is connections. Who you know is at many times more important than what you know. This is not to say that it's the only thing (I listed some of the others), but you need to get your foot into the door first, right?

Open Source 3D engine (2)

spoocr (237489) | more than 12 years ago | (#252533)

There's an open source 3D engine out there that has a huge community behind it, and is capable of decent graphics quality. Find it at their web site [genesis3d.com]. They will be releasing a next-generation engine soon, called Genesis Classic, which, among other things, will feature deformable geometry. It's written for C++, but I belive there are Delphi and VB wrappers out there for it too.

-- Chris

Re:Play Quake (1)

Foss_Eats_Sod's_Meat (246138) | more than 12 years ago | (#252537)

God knows what moron modded this as flamebait.

This is in fact exactly how to become a game designer....sort of...

Programmers do not become game designers, artists do not become game designers, people who have spent several years doing a 'videogame design' course at university do not become game designers.

Game testers, the lowest of the low in any videogame company, or at least the ones who have an IQ greater than or equal to that of a chimpanzee and who possess those rarest of game tester qualities: motivation and ambition, (an unsurprisingly tiny proportion admittedly) become game designers.

If you want to be a game designer you must subject your poor creative brain to years of mind-numbingly tedious and repetitive games playing until someone notices that you've somehow managed to avoid transforming into a vegetable and haven't yet quit for a more profitable career flipping burgers.
They will then promote you to 'assistant designer'. If you are any good you get to be a designer after many gruelling years, otherwise they 'promote' you to head of the quality assurance department.

Sound tempting now?

The answer he wants to hear... (5)

fmaxwell (249001) | more than 12 years ago | (#252541)

Dude,

To be a game designer/programmer, you have to spend almost every waking hour playing Quake III, Unreal Tournament, and every current first-person shooter. Sure, I know that some kill-joys are going to tell you about becoming a proficient programmer, going to college, and all that stuff. Or they will go on about how there are so few jobs in that field and so many eager candidates that it's real unlikely you will get such a job. Don't listen to them. Just sit there day and night playing games until your fingers bleed.

Designer? That's a loaded question. (2)

Proud Geek (260376) | more than 12 years ago | (#252544)

To be a designer, you need talent and a portfolio. Forget education; the only thing it will get you is help in making your portfolio.

If you want to be a designer, you have to show something good. Not necessarily technologically impressive, but something with good gameplay and good ideas, preferably well implemented. A simple solo project is fine, but to be really impressive you probably want to get programmers and artists involved.

You might also try making some really neat and original mods and maps for existing games. Show off your design skills, and remember that as a designer you'll have other people to implement the stuff so long as you have a good vision to drive it.

As for game programming, look for the same things as any other programmer, but substitute game related stuff into the skills you show off. Do some graphics or AI projects. An education is a good thing here, but make sure to take applicable courses. Abstract math is pretty useless, but graphics, AI, UI and algorithms could all be useful. Again, though, experience is the key. Have some existing work to show off in your specialty.

Gaming houses don't have huge profit margins, and their problems are pretty simple. They aren't looking for the best or the brightest. They want people who may have limited abilities, but can solve their problems right away, without any training. To get hired, you have to be one of those people.

Re:specialized schooling? (1)

stinkythumbs (261417) | more than 12 years ago | (#252545)

Digipen offers a curriculum to turn you into a programmer for Nintendo products. I'm not sure how global the skills that you learn there are but they are specifically a Nintendo console school. It is also only for residents of the US.

CDIS is another school in Vancouver with a gaming curriculum that lasts 3 years and costs about $30 grand Canadian to complete. They offer a bit more global game training then simply console. Their website is at http://www.artschool.com

Although these schools teach you a lot about game specific fields, they are a lot like college or junior college is to university. That kind of education will be very specialized and they tend to gloss over some of the more important aspects (MATH, etc).

I've taken two years of computer science and I currently have a job programming, and I've sat in a class at CDIS and from what I've seen it would probably be better to get a CS-degree from a good school. Not only will it cost less, but it will help you to understand how the whole computer works and the math/logic behind it rather than just how C++/DirectX and OpenGL work.

Ask the developers...(sorry if it's a double post) (1)

TeldakSS (265917) | more than 12 years ago | (#252549)

contact a game developing studio, and ask them what they did. try to interview them or something. try www.superxstudios.com. my friend owns that company, and they released their first game about half a year go in UK. I have a copy that i could play, but this crap computer can't handle it. jthrush@superxstudios.com [mailto]. he owns it and is the main coder. -teldak

Re:No Experience? No Problem! (2)

Sarcasmooo! (267601) | more than 12 years ago | (#252551)

If you take the route of mod-maker to get your foot in the door, hire a lawyer if and when you're offered a job. I'm not 'in the biz', but I would imagine if you let yourself get all starry-eyed at the chance of working with the Disco Pirate [somethingawful.com] himself, you'd be more prone to signing away the lives of your children and grandchildren.

One way to break in... (3)

Srayer_CA (303596) | more than 12 years ago | (#252553)

...is to start at a lower position. I work in the industry, and started out as a tester. Over here, when a team needs a designer, they often look in-house. They usually start with the test department, since it's full of people who know and play games. Hell, a lot of the designers and artists around here don't even HAVE degrees. (Having one doesn't hurt, of course.) The other benefit is that you can learn how the design process works before actually diving into it yourself... not to mention learning how company politics work.

The company I work out does mainly console and coin-op games, though, so YMMV in the computer gaming world.

Many paths to game design. (3)

abucior (306728) | more than 12 years ago | (#252555)

I work for a major gaming company as a programmer. Most of the game designers I've worked with seem to come from a variety of backgrounds. Quite a few start off as game testers and work their way up through the ranks. Others are programmers who decided they they preferred the design side of things. Some are writers or video-game store managers who decided to pursue other careers. Still others come from even more obscure backgrounds. Often it's a matter of being in the right place at the right time with the right experience. The main thing is you need to be able to prove to the company that you can be a competent game designer, however that may be. But getting your foot in the door is the first step. Very few people start out right in game design. Often it's a matter of working your way up from something like game testing. Best of luck!

Here's what I know.. (long) (2)

Graelin (309958) | more than 12 years ago | (#252558)

Obviously, experience prevails above all. The thing you must consider is what role you wish to play.

For various reasons, games are segmented into pieces. You've got the engine, the AI, the content (graphics, sounds, etc. etc.), environment (worlds, maps, game boards, etc. ).

I do not work in the game industry, I wish I did. I've read up on it quite a bit and I've talked with several hiring managers with game companies.

The core of any game is the engine. It is responsible for talking to the user. It displays the graphics, plays the sounds, handles input, and lots of other details that are mostly product dependant. If you enjoy writing 3d engines, dealing with the corrupt MicroSux API, tweaking the abilities of the hardware and writing the smallest, fastest code possible - this is the place for you. Learn C/C++ and Assembly. The AI of most games is also incorporated into this piece, but not always.

The content of the game (or media) is just as important as any other part. You can have the best 3d engine ever but if you're textures look like they were made with M$ Paint you've got serious problems. If your sounds aren't of the highest quality (no screaming mom in the background ordering you to your homework) your game will be a joke. Are you a talented artist? I sure hope so.

The game environment is probably the funnest job. If you enjoy making maps for Doom, CS, Quake 3, Wolf 3D, etc. etc. you'll enjoy this job. Design the worlds the people play in. It is difficult to study for this though. The qualities software companies look for in this position cannot be expressed directly. It's the little things that count. Did you use crates in your CS level or did you actually build objects to create a unique environment? If you drop that egg, does the yoke spill on the floor or does it just crack open and disappear.

If you want to get started, get involved with a project. Start writing your own game, or join an existing project. Most projects die long before completion because of lack of resources, by joining a team you are adding to your skills and increasing the probability that the game will actually finish.

If you decide to do your own thing, don't worry about areas you're not looking for a job in. If you're an artist, use one of those pre-made game engines. They won't be judging your game engine, or your AI system they'll be looking at the astetics of it all. If you're skills reside in coding don't worry so much about the artwork, most programmers couldn't draw to save their lives and most companies realize this.

Once again, I'm not in the game industry. But I've got two cents for sale so here they are.

Re:specialized schooling? (2)

BIGJIMSLATE (314762) | more than 12 years ago | (#252561)

Digipen is a holdover from the old (S)NES days. It doesn't carry the same weight as it did 6 or 7 years ago.

My advice? Make the best game or mod that you possibly can, and try to market it to these companies. Remember Counter-Strike before it was an OFFICIAL part of Half-Life?

Or what about Remedy, which was basically founded by a few guys who made a car game with shitty 2-D graphics, but was addictive as hell.

DO, or do not. There is not try. If you want to learn how to do something, DO IT. Hey, you may go nowhere, but you'll at least go somewhere (or...er...something like that).

Game Design at Northwestern University (2)

critic666 (317551) | more than 12 years ago | (#252564)

Schools like Digipen focus mainly on platform programming, eg how to code for the N64. That's fine and dandy, but happens when it takes 4 years to do the curriculum and then the hardware's outdated? http://www.cs.nwu.edu/academics/courses/c95-gd/ind ex.html [nwu.edu] is worth looking at--it's Northwestern University's current game design course where the focus is on true design. It's a great class!

Re:What About DigiPen Institute of Technology? (1)

Nurgster (320198) | more than 12 years ago | (#252565)

Fullsail [fullsail.edu] is probably a better option than DigiPen.

DigiPen only accept US citizens (the bastards), and only offer 2 courses. Fullsail, on the other hand, accepts anyone and have a whole range of new media programs on offer.

Re:just dive in! (2)

Nurgster (320198) | more than 12 years ago | (#252567)



On the development side, the consensus seems to be that becoming a game developer involves being serious about it, and not just sitting around thinking about it. Check out GameDev.net for insights from professionals on how to get started.


GameDev.Net is a site run by amatuers for amatuers (not flamebait here, not one of the staff has actually worked for the games industry, and very few of the articles are from people in the industry). For a site aimed at professionals, however, use GamaSutra [gamasutra.com]

(Disclaimer: I moderate the Linux forum at GameDev.Net, I have nothing against the site. TANSTAAFL, on the other hand, is a complete asshole)

Re:ugh (5)

Nurgster (320198) | more than 12 years ago | (#252568)

As someone who worked in the mainstream game development industry, I can confirm your statements.

You work 80 hours a week (no overtime), have co-workers egos to battle with, endless paperwork. Every aspect of the code has to be documented. Programmers have nothing to do with the creative process, that is up to the producers, designers and publishers.

All in all, it's a shitty job and not worth the effort.

BUT.... if you really do want a job in the industry, contact an agency. I don't know where the poster is, but in the UK there's Aardvark Swift [aardvark-swift.co.uk], Datascape [datascope.com] and Gamejobs [gamejobs.co.uk].

Experience is not required, but good indepth programming knowledge is (I was quizzed on preventing memeory fragmentation and fast database sorts. I wasn't asked a single questions about graphics).

I have no qualifications, and all my expereince before the games industry was working as a sysadmin.

I got involved with GameDev.Net (me=Godfree^) which was all the C.V. filler I needed. Oh, and I was writing a book a game programming at the time.

That;s it.

P.S. I was drunk during my first interview, and got the job. Maybe being drunk helps...

Richard Garriot is an asshole (1)

KingAzzy (320268) | more than 12 years ago | (#252569)

This reminds me of a couple of years back Richard Garriot was trying to get in the pants of my best friend's girlfriend and proceeded to convince my best friend that if he developed a game as a resume that he would somehow hire him at Origin (told to him via his girlfriend whom he met at a bar etc etc).. Anyway, my friend spent months of his life whittling away at this little 2D shooter that was nice and cute and all but Garriot never even looked at it or gave my friend the time of day. I warned him about this during the whole process.

Bottom line: The gaming industry is just like the entertainment industry. It's about who you know, who you fuck, and who you fuck over, and don't expect it to be an easy entry or lucrative unless you're just brilliant or have sucked the right cock.

Two completely different jobs (5)

kruhft (323362) | more than 12 years ago | (#252572)

I've worked in the game industry for about 6 years now, and I'm not sure if you really understand all that much about what you're asking. Game designers and game programmers are two completely different beasts (except for a select few, but most of those have moved on to being producers in recent years (lord british, etc)).

You can get all of the basic skills of being a game programmer from a CS or Comp. Eng. degree. But remember, those are the basic skills. The main thing that seperates the good programmers from the bad is experience. Being able to create a doable schedule and make milestones is just as important as knowing killer 3d and ai hacks. As a game programmer you don't really have that much input into the design of the game simply because you are too busy trying to get everything done on an impossible time frame. Sometimes you have say in the design but that job is better left to...

Game designers are people that eat, live and breath games. Most of the game designers I have met have generally been people that were good at thier job (testing, art generally, but sometimes programming) but wanted to move up the food chain. The best skill a game designer can have is the ability to organize reams of data and present it in a clear and coherent form for the programmers and artists (in the design doc). Having moved from the more technical side of game development they have a better idea of what goes into each part of the game, be it technical or artistic.

The best game designer i know was an artist that started out on the Atari ST and worked his way through all the consoles up to the Playstation. He had great technical knowledge about artwork and the limits of each console and could design the game appropriately for whatever system he was working on.

With all that, your best way to get a first break is as follows. If you have no skills whatsoever, try and get into the testing department. Slowly but surely, if you're good at your job, you will have to chance to learn the skills that will let you move up in the company (just don't but everyone while they're working :). If you have or art taking a CS degree, try and get a co-op term during school, or try and get an entry level position on one of the game or tools teams. Then you just work and work and work while you get some real experience making games. It's kinda like climbing the corportate ladder, but slightly more fun.

But always remember, making games is fun, but it's not as glamorous as it seems.

Re:The answer he wants to hear... (1)

KilljoyAZ (412438) | more than 12 years ago | (#252579)

One thing you should do is become a proficient programmer. You should also go to college. However, don't get your hopes up. There are so few jobs in the gaming field, and so many eager candidates applying for them, that it's real unlikely you'll get such a job.

Seriously though, testing is one way to break into the field. During my college years, I spent my summers as a QA tester at Spectrum Holobyte/Microprose/Hasblow Interactive (don't blame me for the bugs, there's only so many I could find in 3 months time :) ), and a few of the designers and programmers there got their start in QA.

Re:Oh for the olden days... (5)

Magumbo (414471) | more than 12 years ago | (#252580)

Yeah, but simply having eye candy doesn't make a good game. I mean, look at nethack. I know it doesn't have the widespread appeal of your typical first person shooter, but it is a far superior game.

I think gameplay needs to come before flashy effects. People will notice quality in the long run, so if you can do this you CAN make something that competes.
-

No experience (1)

Dizzo (443720) | more than 12 years ago | (#252583)

How can you gain experience if all jobs require you to have had prior work experience?

Do you really like to code, or just write stories? (3)

6EQUJ5 (446008) | more than 12 years ago | (#252588)

The sad story is that some kids (including myself) go to get a CS degree simply because they play pc or video games whenever they're not doing homework. "Duh. I like playing Metal Gear. Therefore it follows that I'll enjoy programming." That was my mentality, anyway.. NOT GOOD. You have to love math and graphs and lab science to begin with. 7 years experience as an adult:

- place science first in your life (assuming that's you're 1st love and philosophy)
- happiness second (ie stick to your hobbies, quit your job if you're miserible, etc..)
- money is third (assuming you want to eat and maybe support a family someday)

Not that you should listen to me, for I am only One Man.

Thoughts on CS Degrees and Gaming (2)

jhendow (448473) | more than 12 years ago | (#252592)

As a developer, I would say that my CS degree program was helpful in learning programming theory; and it certainly helped me get a job. But gaming is a specialized application of programming skills. You need to understand how to optimize every instruction you write. It means having a deep understanding of how to manage memory, object behaviors, and how your rendering engine communicates with the graphics hardware on a very low level. Plan on becoming a high priest of C++. Game programming is a very competitive field... but if that's where your muse leads you, then start with baby steps and MASTER them... learn how to write game mods/levels and ASK a lot of questions. As you master the gaming object-behavior models, learn how the gaming and rendering engines work. You can find the source code for some games and it's worth dissecting them to see what makes them tick.
The knowledge base moves very fast so you might learn more from discussion lists than from published books. For what it's worth, keep your sense of humor in overdrive and your ego in neutral because gamers are a tough (talking) crowd. You will spend a year toiling on your amazing new game with its secret new gaming engine and somebody will gripe that your shrapnel dispersion algorithm doesn't obey pure Newtonian physics. The good news is that gamers can also be fiercely loyal and willing to offer mods/levels if the game is cool.
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