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Digipen: The best college for programming?


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#1 RadioactiveMicrobe   Members   -  Reputation: 107

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 01:56 AM

So, I know there's a similar thread a bit further down on the page about digipen.

And I've read the material in the replies there, and, throgh they are helpful, were posted long ago, when the industry was much different (As even the articles themselves mention.)

I've naturally been thinking about Digipen, since it's, you know, Digipen. I've been looking at the requirements for admission, and the requirements confuse me. For the BS in Game Design, it says I'm required to complete a summer sketchbook thingy. IS that reall something I have to do as someone who is interested in the software engineering aspect of game development? Looking over the requirements sugests that Digipen focuses more on the creative aspect than the technical.

This got me thinking, is that something that is expected for top-tier programmers? To have a background in art as well? I don't know, I rationalized that this would make communication between programmer and artist easier.

Basically, in today's industry, is Digipen really the best for someone interested soley in the programming aspect? Or is Digipen right in asking me to somehow acquire artistic talent?

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#2 Olof Hedman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2946

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 02:28 AM

"Game Design" is the creative side of it.

There is no real difference between game programming and any other software engineering, only what problems you solve.
If you are interested in the technical side, my general recommendation is to get a solid technical education, and apply it on your interest, that is, do the game programming on your own time.

You can't become a "top tier programmer" from education alone, it takes lots and lots of practice and self study, and then some more practice.

#3 SimonForsman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6288

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 03:41 AM

"Game Design" is the creative side of it.

There is no real difference between game programming and any other software engineering, only what problems you solve.
If you are interested in the technical side, my general recommendation is to get a solid technical education, and apply it on your interest, that is, do the game programming on your own time.

You can't become a "top tier programmer" from education alone, it takes lots and lots of practice and self study, and then some more practice.


Indeed, a solid CompSci or Software Engineering degree is usually the better choice for programmers, software is software and those degrees make it far easier to get programming jobs in other industries. DigiPen offers a: "Bachelor of Science in Computer Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation" and also a "Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering" which are more suitable for aspiring programmers. (I don't know how well they hold up compared to a similar degree from a traditional tech school like MIT though).
I don't suffer from insanity, I'm enjoying every minute of it.
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#4 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 22683

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 10:48 AM

The forum FAQ's entries on game schools still seems very applicable. What about them do you feel is outdated?

Check out my book, Game Development with Unity, aimed at beginners who want to build fun games fast.

Also check out my personal website at bryanwagstaff.com, where I write about assorted stuff.


#5 RadioactiveMicrobe   Members   -  Reputation: 107

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 11:51 AM

The forum FAQ's entries on game schools still seems very applicable. What about them do you feel is outdated?

I just look at the post dates of those articles, and they were written in 1999-2004. Even in the articles themselves, they mention that the industry is rapidly changing, and how instructors constantly have to adapt the curriculum to suit the changing industry. Since these were written right around the very start of the explosion of games into the mainstream market, I assumed many of these points may be have been moot.


I thought the general advice was helpful, but I wondered if the specifics about Digipen, and the quality of programs in other schools, were outdated.


So generally, Digipen may not be the most... prestigious school for software engineering, and as long as whatever school I choose has a stronger background in Software engineering, I should be okay? If anything, maybe I can consider Digipen for my Master's, since Washington is somewhere I'd love to be.

#6 Ravyne   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 8050

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 12:21 PM

As a Digipen grad myself (now several years ago), I will say that there are both pros and cons to going the Digipen route.

But first, a detour.

Just like there are little-c colleges (e.g. University of Middle-of-Nowhere) and there are big-C Colleges (MIT, et all), so too are there game schools and Game Schools. little-g game schools are places like Devry, as-seen-on-TV schools, and other such degree-mills. Big-G Game Schools are a category occupied by, IMHO, Digipen and games/multimedia-focused programs at Universities such as the Guildhall at SMU. Then there's FullSail, which occupies a weird sort of middle-ground, not poor enough to be called a degree-mill, but not up to the level of a University or Digipen, either.

End detour.

Pros:
  • Structured, hands-on environment (4+ game projects of increasing scale/complexity).
  • Surround yourself with passionate, like-minded individuals.
  • Focus on C++ (Don't limit your world-view to C++, but many programs offer no hands-on C++ at all)
  • Deep dive into stuff relevant to game development.
  • Some really great instructors.
  • Engaging coursework.
Cons:
  • The degree is less portable, most hiring managers have no clue what to make of it if they're outside games or entertainment.
  • Somewhat shallow coverage of some traditional CS coursework (Operating Systems, Compiler theory, etc)
  • Little exposure to topics well outside of game development methodology (e.g. Functional programming)
  • Limited interaction with people outside the gamer mentality (If you attend Digipen, I suggest making friends at nearby University of Washington)
  • Less opportunity to study or pursue other interests (few non-technical courses, no theater, sports, or practical skills courses, for example)
  • Male-female ratio of about 30:1 (better in the art programs, worse in the technical programs)
  • Some pretty poor instructors.

It's been about 7 years now since I've graduated, so its hard for me to say with 100% authority how much things may or may not have changed, and for better or worse. More-recent grads I know have the grizzled-look of someone who's "survived" Digipen, but the majority are happily employed, and a few of those doing really amazing things. One measure I do have, is that nearly all of the great instructors I had in my time are still around, and most of the poor instructors I had are long-gone. Whether the bad eggs were replaced with better ones I don't know, but to their credit, Digipen has always been very serious about their teaching staff, and pays wages well above what a typical University instructor receives (in general, University work is appealing to most instructors because of reasonable pay, combined with tenure and funding opportunities for research they're interested in).

Overall, I'm satisfied with my degree (though, at the time I got mine it was about 35% less expensive than now) and, despite being only an Associate's Degree, which they used to offer mostly as a means to those who had already graduated from a CS degree (I hadn't, but I had programming experience) it's served me well enough. There's a slight misconception that Digipen is completely devoid of teaching any theoretical underpinnings of computer science, and while its true that some of the more-ancillary aspects are given a shallower treatment than they might be in a good, traditional CS program, they still do introduce a fair breadth of topics and teachings. You're not going to write an operating system (well, the computer engineers probably do, actually), and you're not going to write a compiler (but you will perform optimizations on abstract syntax trees), but you will design logic and breadboard simple designs, study data structures and big-O analysis, learn how computer networks operate at low-levels, and lots of other things that you probably don't get at any of those little-g game schools.

In the end, its really a question of location, expense, the teaching and peer environment you prefer, whether you're the kind of person who would prefer to cobble together games while at University, or to flesh out your CS theory while at Digipen, and whether the added portability and "safety" of a University degree is important to you.

Edited by Ravyne, 24 October 2012 - 12:29 PM.


#7 RadioactiveMicrobe   Members   -  Reputation: 107

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 12:36 PM

As a Digipen grad myself (now several years ago), I will say that there are both pros and cons to going the Digipen route.

But first, a detour.

Just like there are little-c colleges (e.g. University of Middle-of-Nowhere) and there are big-C Colleges (MIT, et all), so too are there game schools and Game Schools. little-g game schools are places like Devry, as-seen-on-TV schools, and other such degree-mills. Big-G Game Schools are a category occupied by, IMHO, Digipen and games/multimedia-focused programs at Universities such as the Guildhall at SMU. Then there's FullSail, which occupies a weird sort of middle-ground, not poor enough to be called a degree-mill, but not up to the level of a University or Digipen, either.

End detour.

Pros:

  • Structured, hands-on environment (4+ game projects of increasing scale/complexity).
  • Surround yourself with passionate, like-minded individuals.
  • Focus on C++ (Don't limit your world-view to C++, but many programs offer no hands-on C++ at all)
  • Deep dive into stuff relevant to game development.
  • Some really great instructors.
  • Engaging coursework.
Cons:
  • The degree is less portable, most hiring managers have no clue what to make of it if they're outside games or entertainment.
  • Somewhat shallow coverage of some traditional CS coursework (Operating Systems, Compiler theory, etc)
  • Little exposure to topics well outside of game development methodology (e.g. Functional programming)
  • Limited interaction with people outside the gamer mentality (If you attend Digipen, I suggest making friends at nearby University of Washington)
  • Less opportunity to study or pursue other interests (few non-technical courses, no theater, sports, or practical skills courses, for example)
  • Male-female ratio of about 30:1 (better in the art programs, worse in the technical programs)
  • Some pretty poor instructors.
Overall, I'm satisfied with my degree (though, at the time I got mine it was about 35% less expensive than now) and, despite being only an Associate's Degree, which they used to offer mostly as a means to those who had already graduated from a CS degree (I hadn't, but I had programming experience) it's served me well enough. There's a slight misconception that Digipen is completely devoid of teaching any theoretical underpinnings of computer science, and while its true that some of the more-ancillary aspects are given a shallower treatment than they might be in a good, traditional CS program, they still do introduce a fair breadth of topics and teachings. You're not going to write an operating system (well, the computer engineers probably do, actually), and you're not going to write a compiler (but you will perform optimizations on abstract syntax trees), but you will design logic and breadboard simple designs, study data structures and big-O analysis, learn how computer networks operate at low-levels, and lots of other things that you probably don't get at any of those little-g game schools.

In the end, its really a question of location, expense, the teaching and peer environment you prefer, whether you're the kind of person who would prefer to cobble together games while at University, or to flesh out your CS theory while at Digipen, and whether the added portability and "safety" of a University degree is important to you.

Thank you so much for the information!

Male-female ratio of about 30:1 (better in the art programs, worse in the technical programs)

Had to chuckle at that a bit.

But really, thank you for some first-hand advice on the matter. It really helps in getting an idea on what to expect for the programming aspect of the school.

So it comes down to;

A) Getting a strong game development background at the expense of shallow coverage of the traditional CS work and experience. (The benefit being the exposure to the game industry, making it easier to get yourself known.)

B) Getting a strong software engineering background, then translating it to game development. (The benefit being that it has a bigger "safety net.")

From what I've read on here, it seems that many agree that it's more effective to take option B. Am I right in thinking this?

Edited by RadioactiveMicrobe, 24 October 2012 - 01:21 PM.


#8 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 22683

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 01:40 PM

B) Getting a strong software engineering background, then translating it to game development. (The benefit being that it has a bigger "safety net.")

From what I've read on here, it seems that many agree that it's more effective to take option B. Am I right in thinking this?

Correct.

Programmers who write game code are still programmers. Become a good programmer and you can work anywhere inside or outside the games industry.

Check out my book, Game Development with Unity, aimed at beginners who want to build fun games fast.

Also check out my personal website at bryanwagstaff.com, where I write about assorted stuff.


#9 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10147

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 02:10 PM

it says I'm required to complete a summer sketchbook thingy. IS that reall something I have to do as someone who is interested in the software engineering aspect of game development?


What did Digipen say when you asked them this question?


The forum FAQ's entries on game schools still seems very applicable. What about them do you feel is outdated?


1. I just look at the post dates of those articles, and they were written in 1999-2004. Even in the articles themselves, they mention that the industry is rapidly changing, and how instructors constantly have to adapt the curriculum to suit the changing industry.
2. Since these were written right around the very start of the explosion of games into the mainstream market, I assumed many of these points may be have been moot.


1. We would still say that today! We don't know what's going to happen with the coming generation of consoles, how/when the industry is going to go online-only, and so on. The industry is still rapidly changing. A 2012 article would still admit that.
2. By "mainstream market," you mean casual/social games, I take it?

Edited by Tom Sloper, 24 October 2012 - 02:15 PM.

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#10 Ravyne   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 8050

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 03:12 PM


B) Getting a strong software engineering background, then translating it to game development. (The benefit being that it has a bigger "safety net.")

From what I've read on here, it seems that many agree that it's more effective to take option B. Am I right in thinking this?

Correct.

Programmers who write game code are still programmers. Become a good programmer and you can work anywhere inside or outside the games industry.


To be fair, most people do argue for option B, and I think that mostly comes down to what I mentioned about the degree being less-portable, rightly or wrongly.

But if we focus on "become a good programmer" then you can do that at a place like Digipen or Guildhall too. Sure, a grad from a top CS school like MIT or what-have-you is likely better versed, and is likely in a better place in life by virtue of the name on his degree. But can someone come out of Digipen and be just as competent as the average or even above-average graduate of your typical, good University CS program? Absolutely.

Anecdotally, and I'm sure people have equally anecdotal horror-stories about ex-Digipeners who just squeeked-out a degree, my own interaction with University of Washington students, and interactions I've observed, is that those students and Digipen students were largely on par with each other. We knew some things that they didn't, they knew some things that we didn't, but at the end of the day we could all converse on the same level and solve problems equally well. University of Washington, mind you, is not a run-of-the-mill CS school. They're a top-10 program with an impressive, multi-million-dollar facility, and lots of interesting research going on. I concede this is not a deep analysis or comparison of traits or abilities of these students, but I believe it counts for something.

At the end of the day, I would say that University is, hands-down, the safer route, but that there is no definitive statement one way or the other that its the better route.

The last thing I'm telling the OP is to choose this school or that school. My aim here is merely to share what experience I've had and observations I've made, so that he can make his own choice. However, the tone here is often so seemingly dismissive of Digipen that one could come away with the impression that no Digipen student has ever "stacked up", when in reality, they stack up just as well as University grads, for the most part.

Keep in mind that the typical Digipen grad you see out in the wild looking for work are not always the cream of the crop -- About the top 5 or 10 percent of Digipen's would-be graduates are poached by game companies each year and never officially complete their degrees. Others form their own companies, and others still are so much like their university contemporaries that, once hired into a company, no one ever learns or cares what school they might have gone to. It's really only the poor performers or chronic job-seekers that people notice, and then say "Oh, they went to that school..." when trying to explain it all.

Again, I'm not trying to sell anyone on Digipen or not. It's a school like any other. Which is the point I'm trying to make, really. It shouldn't be put on an altar, nor should it be dismissed out of hand.

#11 RadioactiveMicrobe   Members   -  Reputation: 107

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 03:22 PM

What did Digipen say when you asked them this question?

Well, you got me. I haven't really talked to any colleges. I really have no idea what I'm doing with that. My high school hasn't really told me anything about that, so I've been just kind of winging it.

2. By "mainstream market," you mean casual/social games, I take it?

Not necessarily social/casual. What I mean is that right around that time is when the game industry itself became more mainstream in the eyes of the public. Like, nowadays, games have become a lot more acceptable media of entertainment than about 8-9 years ago. So naturally the industry changed a lot and evolved, which lead to the influx of the casual/social games we see today.

#12 jackiebeehler   Members   -  Reputation: 110

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 04:07 PM

Hello,
My name is Jackie and I am a Senior Admissions Outreach Coordinator at DigiPen Institute of Technology. I would be more than happy to clarify some of your questions about DigiPen.

To apply to the college, the summer sketchbook assignment is not required That is only for students that have been accepted into the program. The requirements for the application can be found here: https://www.digipen.edu/?id=7864. The application to the game design degrees in particular requires 3 additional essays.

DigiPen's BS in Game Design (BSGD) program prepares students to design electronic and digital entertainment. Graduates will be able to use a variety of languages to program computer software and will be well-versed in game design theory, level design, artificial intelligence design, and general programming skills. While DigiPen's BA in Game Design (BAGD) is an interdisciplinary degree program that prepares students to become designers and artists. Graduates will be well versed in game design theory, level design, artificial intelligence design, and general art skills.

If you are looking to focus primarily on the programming for video games, the academically rigorous and highly integrated BS in Computer Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation (BSCS) program offers extensive training in mathematics and physics as a foundation for the various topics presented in general computer science and computer graphics.

A background in art is not required for any of these 3 degrees, especially the BS in Computer Science. The BA in Game Design will integrate some art classes into the curriculum, but it is not required to have any art background previously.

I hope this answers some of your questions. Please feel free to contact me directly at jbeehler@digipen.edu or 425-629-5041 if you have any more questions!


Best,
Jackie Beehler

#13 adam17   Members   -  Reputation: 227

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 01:05 AM

Just to give the quick TLDR response to this, I would highly recommend looking into universities with high game development rankings. Check their media school ranking if you want to do game design or check their computer science school ranking if you want to do software development. I did a lot of research for schools and how they rank for software development and game programming. My search showed that USC has the best program. I am currently attending school at USC and I have to say it is very rigorous, but it will open you to so many different aspects of software development. They teach concepts on very detailed levels which will be extremely beneficial to your future in or out of the game industry. Take a look around and see what is out there. Personally I would recommend staying away from tech schools and look at universities instead. That's just my opinion though.

#14 Dwarf King   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1910

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 02:45 AM



B) Getting a strong software engineering background, then translating it to game development. (The benefit being that it has a bigger "safety net.")

From what I've read on here, it seems that many agree that it's more effective to take option B. Am I right in thinking this?

Correct.

Programmers who write game code are still programmers. Become a good programmer and you can work anywhere inside or outside the games industry.


To be fair, most people do argue for option B, and I think that mostly comes down to what I mentioned about the degree being less-portable, rightly or wrongly.

But if we focus on "become a good programmer" then you can do that at a place like Digipen or Guildhall too. Sure, a grad from a top CS school like MIT or what-have-you is likely better versed, and is likely in a better place in life by virtue of the name on his degree. But can someone come out of Digipen and be just as competent as the average or even above-average graduate of your typical, good University CS program? Absolutely.

Anecdotally, and I'm sure people have equally anecdotal horror-stories about ex-Digipeners who just squeeked-out a degree, my own interaction with University of Washington students, and interactions I've observed, is that those students and Digipen students were largely on par with each other. We knew some things that they didn't, they knew some things that we didn't, but at the end of the day we could all converse on the same level and solve problems equally well. University of Washington, mind you, is not a run-of-the-mill CS school. They're a top-10 program with an impressive, multi-million-dollar facility, and lots of interesting research going on. I concede this is not a deep analysis or comparison of traits or abilities of these students, but I believe it counts for something.

At the end of the day, I would say that University is, hands-down, the safer route, but that there is no definitive statement one way or the other that its the better route.

The last thing I'm telling the OP is to choose this school or that school. My aim here is merely to share what experience I've had and observations I've made, so that he can make his own choice. However, the tone here is often so seemingly dismissive of Digipen that one could come away with the impression that no Digipen student has ever "stacked up", when in reality, they stack up just as well as University grads, for the most part.

Keep in mind that the typical Digipen grad you see out in the wild looking for work are not always the cream of the crop -- About the top 5 or 10 percent of Digipen's would-be graduates are poached by game companies each year and never officially complete their degrees. Others form their own companies, and others still are so much like their university contemporaries that, once hired into a company, no one ever learns or cares what school they might have gone to. It's really only the poor performers or chronic job-seekers that people notice, and then say "Oh, they went to that school..." when trying to explain it all.

Again, I'm not trying to sell anyone on Digipen or not. It's a school like any other. Which is the point I'm trying to make, really. It shouldn't be put on an altar, nor should it be dismissed out of hand.


I sadly only can give you one vote up here, but your comment deserves a ten fold vote up, for what you write is very wise. The only thing I have noticed as a con about digipen is the tuition fee. I find that the tuition fee is rather high.

Also for the OP the best college for programming is self education(after school/University/college you program in your spare time). Even though my traditionally CS program has taught me some useful stuff I still learn more by reading books about programming and by actually programming(C++/java or some scripting in an engine).

No school can teach you all the stuff.

Edited by Dwarf King, 25 October 2012 - 02:55 AM.

"The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education"

Albert Einstein

"It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education"

Albert Einstein

 


#15 RadioactiveMicrobe   Members   -  Reputation: 107

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 04:18 PM

Well, after some searching around, I found out that among software engineering schools, UW Platteville ranks among the top 10? That certainly surprised me, and it's quite a bit cheaper than Digipen or U of W.

Anyone know anymore with Platteville?




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