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well im in college write now taking game design courses, hoping to have my dream job. but before i get all stary eyed about the job i want to know what i should expect in a realistic world. I've come to terms that I'm going to be spending long nights, and be under stress. But I want to know what i should really expect. By this i mean is the actuel starting salary for a fresh designer, how hard is it to get a job, and what are companies are looking for when they are going to hire somebody. I want to get my best foot foward on this so please help.

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I don't really think game development is that stressful. As long as you devote a few nights a week or so and just keep working towards your goal, you'll learn enough.

The best thing to do is start small and never stop building. The first game I ever wrote was actually a little 3D FPS demo. It took me about 3 months as it was my "I wanna learn opengl!" project. I started out with NeHe's tutorials and just built from there. It was a pretty dumb game, robots just popped out of the ground and you'd have to shoot them before they got to you, but it was an amazing learning experience.

Still, while that was a great way to learn about OpenGL, it was a pretty inefficient way to learn about game design. I probably learned more, proportionately speaking, from the pong/breakout combintation I did as my "I wanna learn Java!" project. It only took me a week or so, but I learned a ton! You never really appreciate a game as simple as pong until you write it yourself and hit the simple, but often tricky, roadblocks.

A word on your "spending long nights, and be under stress" comment. I often find that the best way to solve a problem is not to drive yourself crazy over it for several hours. When I was doing Brick Assault (the aforementioned java project), I hit a big roadblock with collisions (I don't really remember what). I stared at it for about an hour but wasn't realy getting anywhere. This was, of course, after spending about 3 hours doing some other stuff with the program. I was at the end of a 4 hour coding session, so I was definitely not at my best. So I said to myself "Ok, i can get through this. I'm just a little mentally drained right now. I'm stuck on this, but I got alot of good work done today. Let's call it a night. So with that, I shut down and went to bed.

The next morning, I hopped in the shower and after about 10 minutes of just sort of standing there in the shower (I do love a good shower though I feel bad about wasting the water) it all of a sudden hit me. "That's how I have to do it!" I thought to myself. And much to my delight, I was right. The program worked beautifully. So the moral of the story: sometimes you just need to step back and let your mind and body recharge. A lesson well learned from our displaced friend Archimedes.

Anyway, sorry to deviate so far from your question. I'd definitely say "go for it!" As long as you're willing to work hard (and I mean actually work) and don't really expect all of this stuff to be handed to you in the end-all be-all of tutorials. People always look for that one, magic book or article that make everything snap for them when they don't realize that all of the information they seek can be googled or found in just about any book on the subject. I was the same way. I tried to learn OpenGL from the redbook initially. I didn't give it too long before I went searching for some other, some magic, source of information that would make it all clear for me. Anyway, luckily I happened across NeHe's tutorials next and they did the trick for me. However when I look back at the redbook, I realize all of the same information was there and available to me. I just needed to be patient with it, read the material and actually attempt to comprehend what it was saying to me.

Alright, I hope that was enough of a lecture for you on the questions you didn't ask. Let's stick to the topic at hand, shall we?


well im in college write now taking game design courses, hoping to have my dream job. but before i get all stary eyed about the job i want to know what i should expect in a realistic world.

Good, you should attempt to maintain a realistic, down-to-earth perspective on the situation. That is, it's a very competative industry. It's everybody's dream job, making video games. That means you have to stand out. How? Hard work, knowledge, and dedication. Giving up on a project just because it's not going well is going to look terrible to an employer.

I once replied to a "looking for programmmers" thread. The poster emailed me back saying they had something like 15 people on their team. That's humongous for an indie project, if you don't know, and suggests they are attempting to make up for quality with quantity. Anyway, the final straw for me was when the guy said "Oh yeah, we've been working on this on and off for 6 years now. We have alot of the story written and our modeller did a 3D helmet." Right there, he lost me. The helmet thing says "We started with it but couldn't see it through." That is a huge flag to an employer that an individual is not dedicated to see a project through from beginning to end.

You mentioned you're in college. Working towards and finishing a 4 year degree plan is a great way to show an employer you have what it takes to see a large committment (which making games is) from beginning to end. It's generally not enough alone, though. You'll learn the foundations you need (if you're a programmer, for example, you'll learn alot of the computer science side, though probly not much game programming). But it's what you do on your own that will set you apart from the rest of the (rather saturated) college crowd. Work hard on your studies, learn what you can from college, and put forth an extra effort to learning everything you can about the stuff they don't teach you on your own.


I've come to terms that I'm going to be spending long nights, and be under stress.

I'm not part of the industry (yet, knock on wood) and I've heard the typical "working 80 hours a week to meet impossibel deadlines" horror stories about EA employees. Perhaps they're true. I'm not sure about that, but if that kind of thing bothers you, have a backup plan. You mention your college offers game design courses. That's good. Some colleges offer degrees in game design. While great, I'm sure, for doing what we're all here to to, make games, it awards you few other options. Now, having a degree in computer science or visual communications design (art) gives you more options. If you don't like the crunch of the game development world (many games don't ever break even because they're so costly to produce and so employers attempt to rush their workers), you can move on and do something in the IT or graphics design world (respectively). Leave yourself some outs.


By this i mean is the actuel starting salary for a fresh designer,

Not sure, honestly. I'd imagine somewhere between 30,000-50,000 would be reasonable (though 50 does sound a little high.


how hard is it to get a job

Again, it's extremely competetive, but not many people have the drive to really see this dream through all the way. As long as you work hard now, you probly won't have much trouble finding a job (again though, this is just speculation).


nd what are companies are looking for when they are going to hire somebody

I'd say dedication, enthusiasm, creativity, the ability and desire to learn, and extensive knowledge of your area of experties (you can never know too much.

Anyway, I hope you've taken something from my response and I'd like to welcome you to our own little slice of paradise/madness. I apologize for ranting a bit during this post (I'd say "alot" but relative to my normal verbosity (is that a word?) it's not that outrageous), I'll blame alot of it on the Nyquil which has all but knocked me out (take that, sore throat and congestion!).

I hope you realize your dream one day. Know that it won't be easy and it won't be quick, but take comfort in that respecting that idiom will set you ahead of at least 50% of others like you who are looking for an easy way into a dream job. Perserverience is key. Don't shy away from the challenge. You can do it!

Good Luck!

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A portfolio can really help when trying to get yourself a job. Some simple, yet complete and polished (complete with menus, high score screens, etc) games, made on your own time. These show you have dedication, you stick with it, and you don't just stop when it's "good enough", you go the extra mile to complete projects. They also show than you can practically apply your knowledge - having a degree is great, but it's not useful until you can show that you know how to actually use all the things you''ve been taught. In addition, if some of your demo material is made as part of a team (I'd recommend at least 1 thing, but it's not a requirement), it will show your teamwork. When putting together my portfolio, I like to include sourcecode, an executable, and a video of gameplay. This allows an examination of your coding style, they can try the game (or demo/simulation/etc, whatever it is) if they want to/have time, but can view the short video showing key features if they don't.

My advice to you:
Read every good source of information you can find on related topics. It's good to have a broad range of knowledge, even though you may not know much about some areas (it's best to have some sort of specialty).
Apply what you learn - build small example programs, and try to make them interesting.
Stick with it - it's a long hard road, but it can be done.
Keep asking questions like this one, and develop as much of an understanding of the industry as you can.

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