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Best Educatioyn for a Job in Game Development

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I am currently a Virginia Tech student, a junior. I was wondering what would be better for me to get a job in game programming. I am visiting seattle this week and went to DigiPen and did their tour and wasn't as impressed as I thought I would be. Does anyone know what the actual job community thinks about this school. Would it be wise to go to DigiPen to get my masters or try to stay at Virginia Tech to get my masters? [edited by - Thors1982 on January 12, 2004 2:41:46 PM]

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Pick a few game dev companies.

Write to their hiring staff, asking how they''d rank each of University, College, FullSail, DigiPen, game dev experience, other computer dev. experience, game (or graphics, or AI, or other area of specialty) demo.

If you get responses, create a report... post it here... bug a moderator until they make it part of a forum or site FAQ.

While some large companies may have seen enough graduates from DigiPen or FullSail to know if they are typically a good hire. Most game development houses will likely have had no, or very little, exposure to these graduates. They''re probably looked at similar to a college degree. The degree, coupled with a demo, shows you know something, and are interested in games. You will likely need something very special about your game to get noticed, just like everyone else applying.

But this is just my opinion... I don''t have anything to do with hiring.

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The most important thing to know about game programming, for the CS student interested in a job in game development, is that it''s still programming...

Ok, that sounds stupid, but it''s true. Having a solid foundation in programming, algorithms and data structures is the the basis of being a good game programmer. And having that foundation is going to be a lot more useful than, say, a superficial ability to code up Direct3D tutorials but no idea how to fit that into a larger software system and make it all come together. If you have the fundamentals down, the rest is application specific stuff that you can pick up as needed.

If you want to get an idea of what game development houses are actually looking for in job applicants, check out the job listings at http://www.gamasutra.com, and they will tell you exactly what studios want.

Game development has not yet come to the point where you need a game-specific degree from a place like Full Sail to get hired. Those schools are relatively new, which means there are relatively few people with that kind of education anyway. And all of the really experienced guys that have been doing this stuff for years have managed to get by without a degree that says "game" in it. Not that I think it''s a bad idea, actually I hardly know anything about full-sail, but it''s easy to suspect, especially since I''ve seen my own university add two or three programs with "game" in the title over the last 3 years, that there is a certain amount of cashing in/exploiting the growth of the game industry going on there.

[Edited by - The_Incubator on June 14, 2006 2:29:38 PM]

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That’s not strictly true. I’m a TD and do most of my companies hiring. I see 100’s of resumes a week and know about 99% of the university programs and schools like fullsail in the states. We also attend job fairs and workshops each year at a few universities.

We don’t care about an applicant’s ability architect new code or see “the big picture”. We’d rather judge a candidate by his ability to code a D3D demo. Graduates come into the industry as juniors and stay juniors for several years. As a junior you’ll be working a lead and experienced seniors under tight supervision. The code you implement will be written to someone else’s specs, not your own. The ability to architect code will be taught and comes later with more experience.

Personally, I’ll only consider university grads who’ve taken some of their courses on something related to games field. You must have done something in real-time graphics, rendering architecture or visual simulation of some sort. Graduates from schools like Fullsail are considered a step above that, but not much.

Unfortunately the job market at the moment is very tight and has been for 18 months now. We’re not actually hiring any juniors at all and I don’t know who else is. There are a lot of out of work professionals out there and we’d rather hire them. The market may open up more in a year or two, but even at it’s best we only take on one or two juniors a year.



----
WhatNo

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Do companies really care if the person has just a BSc. (one major, say, CS) or a Hons. BSc. (double major, say, in CS and something else)?

[edited by - strikernr on January 11, 2004 9:30:00 PM]

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Whatnoschedule, just out of curiousity, what kind of work does your company do (i.e., what kind of stuff are you asking applicants to do?).

I interned at a local game development house and for my job the ability to code a 3D demo was basically worthless, and this was true of most of the programming we did. Needless to say the fact that I was working on a TBS has something to do with lack of need for 3D expertise, but by the time I left they were working on 3D projects and still only had 2 guys that were really working on graphics programming.

I''m not trying to contradict what you are saying (you do the hiring, so you obviously know who you hire), just that in my experience, with the amount of work that needs to be done on any game aside from 3D graphics, having a studio full of guys who can code a 3D demo seems unbalanced. Most of the work I did required an ability to grok the overall structure of the game and write subsystems that played nice with what was already there... and more than once I heard a senior programmer make comments about guys they''d hired who could write a great demo if you left them in the closet for the weekend, but when they were expected to work in the context of an existing framework, creating code that worked well with and didn''t break the rest of the game, they fell apart.

That said, I had taken graphics courses and could code a 3D demo...

[Edited by - The_Incubator on July 13, 2006 11:02:46 PM]

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It would depend on the company, the project and the actual job description. There are several positions for people that know how to program and that have different strengths besides 3D programming. There are typically quite a few game industry jobs that don''t require the employee to know or do any 3D programming.

Many companies license a huge amount of ''graphics code'' from third party entities. It isn''t feasible for every company to have a group of 3D graphics gurus, nor even necessary.

I wouldn''t place any money on ''what'' a particular company will find to be the be all end all of ''how'' they hire. Most hiring processes are bullshit anyways. You should know your strengths and weaknesses, seek to improve both and get your ass out and interview like there''s no tomorrow.

Lastly, how should anyone know if it is ''wise'' for you to stay and get your masters? Do you actually want to get your masters? Do you just want to get your masters to theoretically appease some percentage of employers in the industry? Ask yourself what you want and if getting your masters will bring you closer to what you want. If you don''t know, then get out there and find out.


.z

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University Of Abertay Dundee in Scotland have been doing games degrees for quite a long time now. That is, if you consider taking the degree abroad.. it's probably alot cheaper than doing a degree in the US anyway.

Recognized Scotish and UK based developers recruit from Abertay, as do large coorperations like EA.

[edited by - BiTwhise on January 12, 2004 6:57:50 AM]

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quote:
Original post by dmikesell
quote:
Original post by whatnoschedule
The code you implement will be written to someone else’s specs, not your own.


How detailed are these specs? Can you give an example? Doesn't sound like much fun :-/



From my experience, it's coding standards from within the company. The way you structure your code, you format it, naming conventions, comments (need comments, a lot of them), using sub-systems and engine code, make sure it is cross platform and implemented for all platforms if not, no spaghetti code, reducing dependencies, some code design (flow charts, for stuff like memory card menus and other state machines), perhaps some documentation, and what not.

you've got to abide to it, for the sanity of the other programers. You work in a group, so you've got multiple check outs (VSS) and code merging, make sure your code is safe when building a release for the publishers, using other people's sub-systems, ect... That's probably the hardest part for a noob (and even later). Lead coders have other things to do than debug your code and workout what's going on in your head. And it is doubtful you'll start on a renderer. Probably not even on the engine, but most probably, on the game code, adding new entities to the game, and other boring stuff (menus, ect...).

Could be a pain at first, but in the end, you get used to it and it makes everybody happy. keep your lead a happy puppy. Buy him doughnuts, massages, ect....

[edited by - oliii on January 12, 2004 8:22:18 PM]

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quote:
Original post by The_Incubator
I''m not trying to contradict what you are saying (you do the hiring, so you obviously know who you hire), just that in my experience, with the amount of work that needs to be done on any game aside from 3D graphics, having a studio full of guys who can code a 3D demo seems unbalanced. Most of the work I did required an ability to grok the overall structure of the game and write subsystems that played nice with what was already there... and more than once I heard a senior programmer make comments about guys they''d hired who could write a great demo if you left them in the closet for the weekend, but when they were expected to work in the context of an existing framework, creating code that worked well with and didn''t break the rest of the game, they fell apart.



I should have clarified my remarks a bit better ;-) We put a lot of value on a “demo”. So much of the industry involves 3D math now that we like to see something graphically orientated. There are a lot of guys out there for example, who are pretty experienced in the phone/GBA market. We don’t take them on either until we see something in 3D.

It’s not that we want all engine programmers, it’s just that the smallest tasks in the industry involve some 3D math. That’s the area we’ve had the most trouble in with new applicants so the area we qualify first.





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WhatNo

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quote:
Original post by dmikesell
How detailed are these specs? Can you give an example? Doesn''t sound like much fun :-/



Probably not as detailed as you’re thinking, but certainly “directed”. For example, a lead will sit down with a junior and go over some sub-system or area of the game he’ll be working on. He’ll certainly outline the other systems that interface with the new code, and go over how not to do things. I usually do this with the guy on the whiteboard, then perhaps throw a few ideas how he can program the internals, 9maybe going over something similar I’ve done in the past).

I don’t actually write the guys .H files, but you can think of it as “structured” in that way. I tell the guy what public methods we absolutely need, how they should be named and the types of parameters other game classes/systems pass in. Every company, (in fact, probably every team), has their own code design and calling procedures. Also remember that the lead or a senior is probably one of the few guys on the team who knows what the other programmers are doing, what code is going to plug into yours, what problems we’re going to have if they don’t work as expected.

You just can’t say to someone, “write a particle effects class and just tell me what methods to call when you’re done”.





----
WhatNo

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Guest Anonymous Poster
quote:
Original post by Thors1982
I am currently a Virginia Tech student, a junior.


I can''t answer your question but I just thought it was kind of interesting that there was another Virginia Tech student reading these forums. I haven''t really met anyone while I''ve been there (Fall 2000 - present, graduating in May) that was interested in game programming. Kind of cool.

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I''ve been hiring for game dev and other highly technical positions for many years. A Real Degree (tm) from a Real School (tm) (any of the states major Us, and any of the major privates) usually correlate better with actual performance on the job, than any of the specialized game development schools.

Make sure you know it. Write code on your free time, to understand the major hardware and APIs out there (caches, virtual memory, C library internals, DirectX, OpenGL, etc) and take "real" stuff in school. Get all the math you can.

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I''d stay a way from one of those specialty schools because if you cant get a job in the game industry right away then you still have something to fall back on for a short while. As everyone is saying, the game industry isnt easy to get into.

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im begining to see a trend here, u guys are basically saying that doing a specialist degree is acctually not really that helpful!. am i right in this assumption?

ok, here is my question..with the next generation consoles...ps3 xbox2 and sofort comming out. it is expected that the ps3 will be harder to code than the ps2....how can we better prepare ourselfs than acctually getting a specialist degree...which has modules in console programming.>?...to develop our skills.

also, studying in digipen is harder than studying at any private or government uni''s. mainly because of the major emphasis on maths, advance programming and physics...so why is it that a grad from digipen has about equal opportunities for getting a job in the industry as a normal cs grad.

it should be the total opposite acctually, infact a digipen grad should have a greater than average chance of getting a job in the game industry?......this is my oppinion....i would appreciate yors as well.

i just want to know what are your opinion about this...

thanks

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Wouldn't expect PS3 to be harder to program then the PS2.. not in terms of technical implementation at least (maybe in concept, as you would need to take advantage of the parallell structure.. which would not be up to a junior programmer anyway)
Tools will probably also be better than what was released from Sony with the PS2

Anyways, I believe the important thing would be to gain skills in programs structure, algorithm, methods, .. a good maths foundation, physics or other specializations, etc.
There will allways be Project/Platform - specific concepts that you will need to adapt to. Since you can't really forsee what will be thrown at you, stick to the basics and foundations. Obviously that would include general Console/Embeded device developement as well.

As for which degrees/schools are most recognized in the industry, I'm not too sure myself (being a student), but I would reckon an important factor to seperate you from the crowd would be experience.. perhaps try to get a work placement in a games dev or even normal software dev company while in school.

[edited by - BiTwhise on January 13, 2004 10:24:20 AM]

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Maybe my previous question wasn't as clear. So let me elaborate a bit more. Sorry, this is little out of topic.
I wonder if it really matters for fresh university graduates when finding a job (not just in game industry but in IT industry as whole) if they have just a B.Sc. in CS or a Hons.B.Sc.? I am almost done my CS major and finished my Math minor this year. Two majors or a major with two minors with total of 20 credits will give you a Honors degree and one major with total of 15 credits gives you just a Bachelor's degree. So, i was thinking if i should spend one more year in the school getting a Hons.B.Sc. (getting a another minor).

BTW, I go to University of Toronto incase you might be wondering.

Thanks.

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[edited by - strikernr on January 13, 2004 12:12:58 PM]

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A lot of people keep saying get the basics down. Don''t worry about specialized school. But, I already said I am getting my degree in CS at Virginia Tech. I have enough basics down to graduate. I was just wondering if a masters will be worth my time, effort, and money?
Would it be better to go to digipen for my masters or stay at Virginia Tech for my masters. Like I said I believe I have the basics of programming down. I just don''t know much at all about networking/graphics/ or even GUI.

Also, I do realize programming games is programming and I enjoy programming in general so thats fine. I am well aware of what is required in this industry.

Also, my big question is also why wouldn''t a specialized degree mean anymore than a regualr CS degree?

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Go to gamesindustry.biz and brows through their list of companies.
Send out a set of emails to the people that actaully work on hiring staff for developement teams. Perhaps pay extra attention to companies near you.

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"Also, my big question is also why wouldn''t a specialized degree mean anymore than a regualr CS degree?
"

Because a specialized is degree only prepares your for grad school. This is what my CS profs. say.

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quote:
"Also, my big question is also why wouldn''t a specialized degree mean anymore than a regualr CS degree?
"

Because a specialized is degree only prepares your for grad school. This is what my CS profs. say.




also, correct me if I am wrong here, but a CS degree has a more global outlook compared to getting a specialized degree(i.e. there still is alot of focus in the humanities)that people come out into the world of development "better adjusted". I mean, people at digipen might be smart, but one of the keys of being a programmer in a team IS the ability to be a team player, which alot of highly intelligent people do not have(this is why you dont see many MIT/Stanford/Cambridge grads doing games IMHO).

@ whatno: how do you judge colleges when you review resumes/applications? Do you really care what college someone went to if they show a firm grounding in 3DMath/Algorithm design/etc.?

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Guest Anonymous Poster
You could do what I''m doing, I''m currently a second year student @ teesside uni (UK) studying Computer Games Programming SW BSc (HONS). Its a sandwich couse so you get to do a work placement in your third year, but it is optional. The first year was a walk in the park, just basic C and maths. But things pick up in the second and you get to do lots of OpenGL, DirectX, 3D mathematics, API''s, C++ etc... My coursework for one of my modules is to make a game in DirectX ;-) cool!

Here''s a course description,
http://www-scm.tees.ac.uk/courses/degree/compprog.html

it''s a little out of date, but most of its there...

They also run a course called Computer Games Design BA
http://www-scm.tees.ac.uk/courses/degree/compgames.html



Hope this helps,
bangz.

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The thing that troubles me is that those in the industry don''t understand just how much programming, *GAME* programming, we do at a "specialty" school.
When I graduate, I''ll have made about 10 games. Mostly 2D and atleast one 3D. They aren''t full-blown, 20-level games but the structure and foundation are still decent enough where extrapolating to that point would be quite possible if the time were available.
I program 6-12hrs/day, 6 days/wk on top of the programming done in classes. About 75% of it is in a gaming context.

Compare that to the experience of someone fresh out of uni and you''ll find they''ve often never made a game and have hundreds of hours less experience writing code. And often the time they have spent is negligibly game related.



I really feel that hiring a ''specialty degreed'' junior would be a better choice. We''ll be able to pick up on stuff alot faster than someone that has never seen the guts of a big game before.

Cheers

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You guys at UCI drop me some e-mail... I'm looking for some help locally in Irvine/So. OC.

quote:
The thing that troubles me is that those in the industry don't understand just how much programming, *GAME* programming, we do at a "specialty" school.

Hmmm. I find it troubling that someone who paid an arm and a leg for a private 'specialized' education doesn't realize how much of a 'normal' CS degree applies directly without question to game development. Notice I didn't say 'game programming'. Monkeys can be trained to write programs in the API du jour. Application development includes design, analysis, implementation, refactoring, testing, repeat ad nauseum. Most people doing 3D these days are using high level APIs (open GL and D3D come to mind). As long as you take lots of math (and any good CS degree will require that!), you are on even footing with others, providing you can learn an API. If you aren't that bright, and need handholding to learn high level APIs, then definitely go to a special school where you can get the extra help.

quote:
We'll be able to pick up on stuff alot faster than someone that has never seen the guts of a big game before.


If you are writing 10 different games during that time, I'd be understating the fact that you won't know what a big game looks like either... A 'big' game isn't something you hack out in a semester or two with a group of 3-4 programmers. That would be a small game by industry standards.

I'm not trying to bust on you specifically, maybe you are a genious and will end up creating the next revolution in gaming technology. But if that's the case, it won't be because you went to some specific school... I think some people overrate the impact of their education on their future career. I got my first gaming job without a degree... I went back and finished it while I worked full-time at Sony, so I've seen both sides.

To the original poster - a masters will only help if you apply your research/specialty to an area that allows you to specifically explore a game development topic such as networking or AI. Even then you should try to come up with research in that field directly applicable to gaming in some way. Most post-graduate graphics programs I've looked at don't deal with real-time 3D graphics renderers much, so I wouldn't bother going that route if you are solely looking to improve your chances of getting into a gaming career.

[edited by - fingh on January 17, 2004 1:48:19 AM]

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