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Physicist to Game Dev? Could use some advice.


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#1 ionized   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 11:01 PM

Hello GamDev Community,

I'll be finishing my Ph.D as a computational physicist in about a year. I've come to the heavy conclusion that I just do not wish to stay in the field after I finish my degree. Before I began the long journey to become a physicist, I was more into creative outlets such as writing and drawing. I was thinking that a job as a game developer would make good use of my technical expertise as well as give me opportunities to tap into my creative side, writing or drawing as needed by the company. Also, I have been a passionate gamer for most of my life - playing competitively in tournaments, running guilds and clans, as well as participating in community theorycrafting.

I believe I have a lot to offer a game company both technically and creatively, but I'm worried that I have much to learn and much to polish before a game company would seriously consider hiring me. I was hoping I could get some feedback/advice about what I should be refining/studying during my free time this year to put myself in a better position when I begin the job search.

Programming Experience:
I know about 6 programming languages - C++ being my most proficient. Most of my programming has been focused on computational work, so when it comes to graphics, GUIs, and windows programming I believe I'm very weak. Having said that, I do have some DX9 and OpenGL experience. I wrote a data analysis package that could display vector fields in 3D, draw arbitrary surfaces in the 3D space, plotting data on those surfaces - with some homebrew arc-ball rotation to control the view. Although I did this, I feel my work was clumsy, rushed, and done as a stepping stone to other work.

My Current Plan:
I was hoping that my technical expertise would be sufficient enough that I could spend this year working on a drawing/writing portfolio. I have one short story written, one in the works, and I plan on making a web-based series to highlight my writing capabilities. I figure in this same time frame I'll be able to produce a handful of good drawings.

Am I on the right track here?
If there's any additional information I can give you, to help shed some light on my situation, please ask.

Thanks for your time

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#2 Hodgman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 31798

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 11:16 PM

If you want a job as a game programmer, then your creative writing/drawing skills are likely to be pretty much irrelevant in your application, as they're not likely to be a part of your job description. Most companies hire full-time artists to draw, full-time writers to write, and full-time coders to code. Usually only small (read: understaffed) studios will have significant cross-over between roles.

Regarding your programming experience, you sound on-par or above the kind of experience that game-school graduates will have, so you're probably hireable for entry-level games programming roles. If you want to do some portfolio work, I'd put together a simple playable game demo of some sort.

#3 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10157

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Posted 03 February 2011 - 12:46 AM

what I should be refining/studying during my free time this year to put myself in a better position when I begin the job search.

Focus, and a focused portfolio.
Focus on the specific role you want to do, and make a portfolio that demonstrates your suitability for that specialty.
Check out the info in this forum's FAQs, and choose your focus.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#4 Uthman   Members   -  Reputation: 480

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Posted 03 February 2011 - 01:00 AM

right. you don't need to program a full game or create a portfolio with a million examples. Just focus on one thing and demonstrate how gangster you are at fulfilling it.

and never give up on your dream. once you're "in" you'll have plenty of opportunities for exploration.

"a low level aho master like you couldn't kill me even if I let you"

#5 Kayzaks   Members   -  Reputation: 137

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Posted 03 February 2011 - 03:11 AM

Speaking as a mathematician, turning to GameDev shouldn't be all that big of a problem for you.

Don't worry about not knowing too much DX/OpenGL at this point, try reading up on the Principles/Workings behind them so that you don't feel completely lost during job interviews.

I think if your probably best of breaking into the industry by first going for a Game Physics related Programming job. The problem with this is obviously that you are probably going to be type casted for future Programming roles.



#6 ionized   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 04 February 2011 - 12:15 AM

Thank you very much. I was a little hazy as to whether it would be better to appear diverse or focused - but it seems to have been answered pretty clearly here. I'll focus on making myself a good candidate for a junior programming position.

#7 Splinter of Chaos   Members   -  Reputation: 239

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Posted 04 February 2011 - 04:51 AM

I don't think it's better to be either, but few people can pull off a Jack of all trades as well as a master of all. And since there are so few with so many talents, no one is looking to hire people like that, as noted by Hodgman.

I do know of some very talented developers who do all the story, art, music, and programming for their solo-produced games, but only in the independent gaming crowd.




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