Ever since playing my first video game (Super Mario for NES) I knew that I wanted to try my hand at programming games. This was a primary reason I decided to major in Computer Science. After graduating, I took a job working on fighter jet simulators for the defense industry. I thought this might be close enough to game development to quench my thirst, but alas, I was mistaken.
I recently completed another degree, which my company has paid for. However, I am obligated to stay with my company for at least two more years (otherwise, I must repay them for my education). I plan to take this time to learn and expand my knowledge of the game industry and brush up on the required skills to work as a programmer in the game industry. I am currently working on a master two year schedule that will allow me to become a more sought after candidate. This schedule will ultimately be broken down into monthly milestones, and perhaps even weekly "inchstones", allowing for me to track progress and adjust accordingly.
I am looking for some guidance/suggestions from any veterans of the industry as to what some good tasks , exercises, and/or reading material may help me better prepare for such a transition and to help build a portfolio. I have recently started searching through job postings on gamasutra.com to get an idea of the requirements of game programmers. Below is a rough list of tasks/exercises I have currently come up with.
+ Become familiar with OpenGL Programming in C++ and Java - complete NeHe Productions OpenGL tutorial set - read at least 2 books on the subject. Also, look into how OpenGL is being used on mobile devices
+ Become more proficient with Java Development (primarily a C/C++ developer right now) and Object Oriented Programming in general - perhaps port an older open source game into Java? - read up on design patterns
+ Become more familiar with commonly used development tools throughout the gaming industry - create a small, polished game using Unity3d / C# - familiarize self with Unreal Development Kit / Scripting. Complete a small project/game using this toolset.
+ Brush up on algorithms related to AI and gain exposure to new techniques - read one book on AI design specifically for games - read a no less than 5 white papers on recent AI techniques used in modern games. - Try to implement at least two algorithms from white papers
+ Review 3D Math / Linear Algebra - read Mathematics for 3D Game Programming and Computer Graphics
- pull out old college text book/files. Try to complete handful of questions from tests/homework
+ Better understand game design and what makes games fun - read at least 3 books on game and level design - create "complete" game design documents for two smaller game projects mentioned above - complete David Perry's Game Challenge (play 100 games and write 1 page critique for each on their design, keep journal on "cool" ideas from games)
+ Learn more about the industry and network - read daily blog update from gamasutra - subscribe to and read number of RSS feeds for industry news - attend at least one game development convention (next years GDC?) - get involved with local game development enthusiast group. - attend as many game jams as possible... (at least 2) - if possible, try to make contacts with industry veterans using social media without being creepy or annoying.
Is there anything huge or obvious I am missing here? Is there anything listed that may be unnecessary? If anyone has any specific ideas for projects to help build a portfolio, I would be anxious to hear any/all suggestions.
Thanks for your time and all feedback is greatly appreciated!
I apologize in advance for the rather lengthy post. I have a rough idea for a story for a detective "like" game and was looking for input from this talented community. My main problem is right now I have a story, but haven't established game play. Here's the "pitch" so far....
Basic Theme: The idea I want the player to constantly be presented with or thinking about throughout the game is this: The cost of security is personal freedom. How much freedom are you willing to sacrificedin the name of security?
Story: After watching a documentary on William Colby (Director of CIA who went missing for some time, eventually found dead once it seemed CIA 'dirty secrects' might be exposed) I decided WIlliam Colby's story would be a perfect way to present the main theme of the game. The basic story would be inspired from William Colby's life.
The main character would be the son of a William Colby-like character who is investigating his father's disappearance. The further he digs, the more he begins to realize the true nature of his father's work. Throughout the game. the main character discovers his father had maintained records on most citizens and most of the population was being spied on in secret without warrants. The agency had even organized assassinations on its own citizens, deemed "terrorists", that posed threats to the nations security. Essentially, he discovers that privacy is simply an illusion and the agency is able to obtain almost any piece of information on citizens without warrants and operate with unlimited authority, all in the name of national security.
The Father's Character: Despite the overreach of the agency into its citizen's life, it is important the father is not painted as a villain. As the story progresses, he discovers his father was actually a true patriot. Before becoming director of CIA, he had served in the military, volunteering for some of the most dangerous missions taking place behind enemy lines in the Vietnam war. Eventually, he is recruited to work for the government as intelligence analyst and is later promoted to Director. He dedicates his entire life to insuring the safety of the nation's citizens. He sacrifices his personal/family life, public image, and political relationships to protect the agency and the nation's security. By the end of the game, it is revealed that very few people actually REALLY knew him. Even his own family's image of him is a facade...
His perspective regarding the theme of the game ("freedom vs security") is freedom can't truly exist without security, therefore, security must be established regardless of the cost.
The Main Character's Backstory: The Main character is a much less extreme version of his father. He is rather straight laced and even served in the military (as demanded by his father) as a military policeman. After his service, he worked for the local police force in his hometown for some time before making detective. It is while he is working as a detective that his father goes missing. Despite a somewhat rocky relationship between him and his father he becomes very concerned when he hears of his father's disappearance.
After the a VERY brief investigation of the disappearance, investigators quickly abandon the case (for reasons that are revealed later in the story). The main character gets frustrated and begins his own investigation and finds out much more about his father than he ever realized. He is able to use connections in the police force and contacts from his past military service to find out "sensitive" information that would be unavailable to most. Throughout the game he is conflicted about where he stands relative to his father's principles and the views presented by his companion (player x).
Player X: I am looking for ideas for another character, very close to the main character, who's views are the absolute opposite of the father's character. They are more of a "free spirit" at heart and believe that citizens rights are being trampled over by the powers that be. They believe the general population accepts this only because of the government's use of fear tactics to gain acceptance by its population causing people to forfeit freedom for security. This character's primary role would be to provide the opposite view of the father and challenge the player with ideas/principles opposite of his father. I am thinking this could be the main character's love interest or a best friend from childhood. Any suggestions?
Gameplay: This is currently my largest concerned. I want to capture the essence of a detective novel (sherlock holmes, hardy boys, etc). The main character will explore, gather information, questions individuals, search for clues, and through these interactions slowly uncover a very deep storyline. However, I am concerned this won't be enough to hold the player's interest. I have been trying to decide on a genre of gameplay that a small development team with limited art skills could implement successfully. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated here.
Does anyone know of any great "detective-like" games I should check out for inspiration? Unfortunately, I have been unable to uncover any games that are similar to the idea I am trying to go for.
Any and all input is greatly appreciated! Thanks for taking the time to read through this rather long post.