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If you'd just given up a 20K programming job

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and wanted to be a games programmer, where would you start? This question goes out to people in the industry or people who are / have been in a similar situation. Brief history: I''ve been a commercial programmer for two years. I have C systems programming experience and web development experience. I completed a part - time software engineering degree last year and have my A level maths exams in June. I''m 28. I''m totally committed to a games programming career. I''ve just completed a ray casting engine and ray tracer, but know that it''ll take more than that to impress a prospective employer. I''ve got two months to put together a demo disk before I stretch my girlfriend''s good will to far. I appreciate that it dilutes the value of the site every time someone posts a "Where do I start?" question, but I''ve just jacked in a reasonably will paid job to pursue this, so I''d like to hear what you have to say. Serious responses please from those in the know. Much appreciated. Martin

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Hi,

I would suggest learning DirectX, cause most games are done in DX, plus it''s great. If you''ve done programming before you''ll have no problem learning DirectX. BTW, buying a DX book is no must, the SDK documentation is enough for most. Learn DirectDraw and try coding some small game, then go on with Direct3D. With D3D you can code pretty impressive thing in a short period of time, since it can do almost everything for you, lighting/transformation/rendering.

Good luck.

Greets Tobias

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Guest Anonymous Poster
well, judging by what you said, you have a fairly good math and programming background. if i were you, i''d start working on a 3d engine, or start working on *something* with the intent of ending up with a 3d engine. two months is plenty of time to end up with a half decent demo, and if you know the math, i''ve found that most of the obstacles are purely psychological ("but.. but.. ive never done this before"). keep it modular, think the design through and through before you start, otherwise it''ll take you a year instead of two months. hope this helps.

-goltrpoat

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Hello.

If you already have the ray caster just use that as your demo. Don''t hesitate to start looking for job right away. Find out what game companies are in your area, do up a good resume and head on over, well at least to the ones you want to work for. While looking for the job, work on improving your demo, but that will end up being secondary. Your first priority should be making yourself known. Also remember to get a tour of the place, sometimes high profile studios have a crappy working atmosphere. The studio''s people and working atmosphere should factor heavily in your decision to work there. Nothing sucks more than going to a job you love at a place you hate to work.

You don''t have to be the crazy kick *** coder when you get hired. Hell I wasn''t! But I''ve learned a ton and can now crank out high out quality stuff. If you show enthusasim and a good ability to learn and innovate that goes far beyond a demo. Remember that if you haven''t made commercial games before no matter how good your demo is you probably won''t be made the lead of project, you''ll most likely start out under someone till you prove yourself.

I seen very good demos from people we didn''t hire, and I''ve seen medicore demos from people we''ve hired who have far surpassed all expectations.

Good luck!


Arn
Psx/Psx2 Coder.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I can''t believe you''ve been working for 2 whole years in programming and
only gotten 20k/yr? Damn, that''s only $10/hr. What''s considered poverty
level? Something like 15k/yr ($7h/hr) and under? I think you''ve been
screwed over royally by your previous employer.

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Much obliged for the responses folks.

Incidentally, I live in Manchester, England, so please don''t confuse the dollar with the pound.

Fortunatley, my girlfriend has agreed to support me over the next couple of monnths, so I''m going to use the opportunity to learn some techniques before starting work.

Regards,
Martin

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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster

I can''t believe you''ve been working for 2 whole years in programming and
only gotten 20k/yr? Damn, that''s only $10/hr. What''s considered poverty
level? Something like 15k/yr ($7h/hr) and under? I think you''ve been
screwed over royally by your previous employer.



Ok, so even at the conversion rate of dollars to pounds, that is still not so great in pay. Here in the states, a basic network support guy makes, starting, 45,000 U.S.

I would be curious to know what the standards are over seas and other markets. I have been fishing around lately. I have checked on Brainbuzz.com and they have target salaries based on years of experience and knowledge base. Only comprehensive thing I have found on the subject of money.







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Guest Anonymous Poster
well in manchester you have
Infogrammes , Warthog and Spiral House .
or try Liverpool .
Rage, Psygnosis , Magenta and Studio 33
also were i work @ Jester Interactive ( music and music 2000 psx )
send a cv and demos to me @
jed@jesterinteractive.com and we''ll see what happens

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Umm shouldn''t you''ve found out how to start in the games industry before quiting your job??

----------
Drago

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You may also want to look at gamejobs.com to see if there''s anything in your area. I''m not sure if it covers non-U.S. jobs or not.

Good luck! You''re gutsier than most, quitting without something to go into.

Breakaway Games

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Maybe gutsy. I''m totally comitted to games programming. Hell, after two years of commercial programming, I know exactly where the action / fun is.

As for finding out how to start, well, I''m pretty sure that you need at least one of the following to start:

1. Game programming experience
2. Any programming experience (C / C++ really)
3. Demo
4. Relevant degree

No necessarily in that order. I''m failing on number 1. here no matter what, but I''ve quit my commercial job to take care of number 3, and 4 and 2 are already in the bag.

Fun / scary weeks ahead...

Martin

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It''s good that you have programming/math background, it would seem that for you its a job and qualifications mix, which is a good one.
It would probably be a good idea to learn an API, such as DirectX and/or OpenGL infact, it would be in your best interests to learn both - but you may not have that luxury with only 2 months down time.
If you know those API''s, just plan a demo of something (like a terrain engine - they seem to be popular) and code it - if you get stuck (which I doubt) then browse the internet for help, it''s unlikely you won''t come up with anything

Good luck,

-Mezz

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While spending your time learning an api is good, in my experience, what most companies like to see is working knowledge of the methods behind your work. Knowing an API shows you understand those particular calls (at least somewhat) _but_ you will probaby be switching to an inhouse library, or possibly switching api''s from what you are used to coding. Get a demo together, (make sure your code is modular and efficient) and start sending it around. Also - and this is really important - make sure you have a good grounding in 3D maths before you jump in.

- OR -

you can do what i did - start out in a different department, and schmooze your way into the position you want.



jfeser@ea.com
Senior QATLG Developer
Electronic Arts Canada

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Ok, first develop a game idea, wether it be a 2d or 3d game doesn''t matter, but it should be relatively fun and should teach you majority of aspects of the API.

I''m finishing my small, simple 2d game and in the process I''ve used DInput, DDraw, DSound and DMusic. I''ve also done some 3d only stuff before starting on my game and that helped a little. Make sure your game has an intro screen, story screen, main game screen and ending screen. My game consists of approx. 6,000 lines of code and uses DX7 helper cpp files. It took about 3-4 months to do if you work alone and have to make your own graphics and find sounds and music on the internet. I wish you good luck

Jerry

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Don''t work for a game company.
I did it while in college and it sucked. The company wasn''t that great but my first project was writing anim scripts for a Polly Pockets for Mattel.

The company was Gorilla Systems and they made the interactive Barbie and My Interactive Poo.

The problem is they don''t pay squat, hours are long, you get moved from project to project and get virtually no praise for a good day of work.

I am a lead developer at a large fortune 500 company and make 72K in a low cost of living area with 2 years of professional software development experience and 5 years of networking experience and lots of certification. I''d probably be lucky to make half that in the gaming industry.

They know you want to be a game programmer so they pay you crap.

Gaming is fun. Let it be a hobby.

MCSE, MCSD, Sun Certified Java Programmer
Pimp Daddy ;)

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This brings up the age old statement that you should work where you are happy. And then the age old question, if you are happy where you work, does the amount you make matter? I say no, as long as you can live comfortably (i.e. not eat Mac-Cheese every night ).

For any job, game or Fortune 500 whatever, I think for most people, a job is more fun when you have direct control over what your product, or can give some input. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think most people think the video game industry is a lot of fun because they think they can go in and have tons of say-so on a project. But in reality, there are the same mundane tasks that need to be done for a game that has to be done for a bank software company.

For the guy looking to get into the game industry, there is always the path of 1) Getting ANY job in a game company, 2) After getting a little experience, go up in rank, or make break off with half of their staff and make a new company where you will have whatever control you want. Of course step 3 for most companies tends to be ''fail'' because the new game company thinks they can take on too much.

Just some thoughts...

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I haven''t looked recently, but Blizzard seems to ALWAYS need programmers. Check out their site.

But then, there could be a reason they always need programmers...

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I remember reading in various places that some companies like to take on people as game testers. Perhaps you can offset the money situation by testing 10-20 hrs a week while studying. I would think that a company would promote someone within the company as long as the skills are there. You''d already be in the company at that point, which would make it easier for them to promote you to another position. Especially if you are a good worker.

I''m not talking about a volunteer situation. Something where you are an actual employee.

Martin
dpedia@hotmail.com

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I''m currently working as a commersial programmer and I plan to stay as one until I get a break at releasing my own game and get to work as a games programmer at my own company. I think that is the only way to make good mony out of this hobby, but it takes patiens and lots of it. Since alot of people wants to be gameprogrammers the pay often is bad.
I''ll mail when I start and you can work for me
--
Someday I''ll have something of my own...

Eating muffins makes every programmer happy...

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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster

I remember reading in various places that some companies like to take on people as game testers. Perhaps you can offset the money situation by testing 10-20 hrs a week while studying. I would think that a company would promote someone within the company as long as the skills are there.


A guy formerly of Bootprint gave a lecture recently at my university. He had risen from beta-tester to lead programmer at a previous employer, but he made it clear that this is not a good way to get into a company. Basically, if you have programming experience and you become a beta tester, you will probably be the best beta tester they ever had, which means they''ll want to keep you at beta tester

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20K? Please tell me that's not US dollars.

Edited by - Buster on May 14, 2000 2:10:51 AM

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20k... Interestingly enough in the uk we get less for a codeing job than the states and theres a major it shortage...

go figure!

As for game codeing, As long as you know teh theory of 3d and all those funky maths + code experience thats all you need.

Should warn you that game coders get even less than normal ones (16k+) for a new recruit.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Popular discussion, well in the UK I started on 12K, 3 years or so ago. That was for very long hours and it doesn''t do much more than double. However the US is sunnier (the parts with the most games companies anyway), cheaper and they pay more like $60-100k. However many companies are impressed with english developers and pay for visas/green cards on top of that.

Go figure 2.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Hi All,

I live in Manchester, so the 20K is not in dollars. I only mentioned the money so as to indicate that this was a serious post and not another adolescent question.

It seems that the real money is to be made in the US!

As for going in as a tester, pah! I''m 28 with two years commercial programming experience with strong maths. I''ve set my sights just a tad higher than tester. As for working my way up from the bottom, well, no frankly. It''s down to me to impress at the interview and assemble a good demo. I''ve completed one 3D engine, so I guess I''ll be ready to start job hunting soon. I''d better wait until I sit the maths A level in a few weeks, though.

I''ll let you all know how I get on. Many thanks for the many (and helpful) comments.

Cheers!

Martin

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Hi,

I graduated from UMIST last year and most of my mates have got jobs now. £16-18,000 a year seems about average for grad. S/W engineers with no experience.

I''ve held back, I want a job I''ll enjoy. I fear that working for Barclays IT department or somesuch for two years would put me off computers for good.

I''ve managed (I admit I was lucky) to get some consultantcy work. That''s nice ! Some US company is paying me 40 dollars an hour.

If you''ve got the maths, you have a goodish degree and you''re competent at writing good maintainable code (I know people with firsts who can''t engineer for toffee) then you''d romp an interview right now. Use the months to make a portfolio.

I''d like a games job - I''m more into writing tools and libraries for support (like image and object loaders). I guess I''m pretty sad like that.

Paul Groves.
http://home.clara.net/paulyg/ogl.htm
OpenGL for Beginners

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