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Virii

Pursuit of Education

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Hello, I'm posting this to get the opinions of everyone in my area on what I should do to pursuit my career goals. I'm recently graduated from High School, I ended high school in Geometry due to a few mistakes made by the school in transfering my transcripts between schools. My goal is to one day, be a game programmer and design video games for a living. I live in Southern, CA. Near LAX Airport (In a city named El Segundo). For those of you who are pursueing the same dream as me, or for those of you who have already accomplished this goal, what schools did you go to? What programs would you recommend for me? What classes should I take, and what college/trade school should I attend to further advance my career goals? IT Tech, Devry, Westwood, UCLA, all of them is possible. So please, give me your opinion on the matter.

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You know, I never ever been to any game programming school / college / class / whatever, everything I know I've learnt by myself. AFAIK, it's the way which majority of programmers have taken. IMHO 99% of things you can learn by yourself, in home. But it doesn't mean that you're alone...


EDIT: typo
EDIT2: typo in typo [rolleyes]

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You know this question has been raised a lot, and I've thought about it, and I think the most important thing is to find a school that really knows how to teach the basics well. If you have a good foundation in the core parts of programming, everything else really is pretty easy. It's getting over that intial 'bump' that is hard. You need to find a place that can get you over it, and from there any direction is possible with the purchase of a book or a quick search on Google.

Matt Hughson

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I've begun teaching myself PHP and C++, I began learning CGI/HTML at the age of 9 and I want to learn to make games because that's my largest hobby and is my dream job.

I can teach myself to program, but is that going to land me that great job working ata company like EA, Valve, Bioware, etc? Or do they go for a more certified person, who has certificates and diplomas from colleges?

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I'm a Digipen student so I guess this should be taken with a grain of salt...

Firstly, and no salt on this one, I would avoid tech schools. Tech schools tend to be looked down upon, and on top of that, their game design/programming courses are so new that they simply have no reputation in the games industry. I've seen some commercials on G4 and broadcast for these tech school "game design" courses that are so laughably bad and uninformed that the school instantly became in my poor graces. It goes back to my rule of thumb: never go to a school that has commercials, especially bad commercials.

Digipen has a good reputation, fullsail has a good reputation, many of the programs at *actual* colleges, such as UCLA or the Guildhall at SMU have good reputations. If you want a game specific program, any of these are good choices. But...

A more traditional degree in computer science or a related field is much more valueable outside the industry. A non-games employer likely won't take your game degree seriously. Its all well and good that you want to work on games, but in reality its a hard industry to break into, and you may have to find work outside the industry. Also, think about doing both perhaps, a BS in comp. sci. from a University coupled with an additional degree from Digipen or another game course is really an unbeatable combination in terms of your hirability. As far as your CS program goes, Software Engineering is a good course, or any general comp. sci. that focuses on practical applications (some CS programs are highly theoretical.)

I would recommend these in the following order:
BS Software Engineering + Game degree
BS Computer Science + Game degree
BS Software Engineering
BS RTIS Digipen
BS Guildhall
BS Fullsail
BS Computer Science

In any case, you will likely need to build a strong portfolio of game projects and tech demos. The major difference between a CS course and a game dev. course is that game courses will have this portfolio building integrated into the program in a structured, team based environment. Being able to complete a game project in a team environment is probably a more valuable trait than your programming skills. So much so, that its the first thing I list on my resume's "Skills" section, My "4 years C/C++" line is right below it.

If you have any specific questions that you think I can help with I'm always happy to answer an email or private message and I usually check back on my forum posts to answer any questions that come up in regards to my previous posts.

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Would computer sceince give me the needed material and skills that the game industry and other programming industry require? Also, is there a specific place I can find the specifics on what each degree would give me (IE: what specific things I would learn with Software engineering, etc).

Also, DigiPen, I can't remember if that was the online course or the college that, iirc, Nintendo runs thats based in Redmond, Washington?

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Nintendo does not run DigiPen. DigiPen rents warehouse space from Nintendo. That is basically all there is to that.

As a DigiPen graduate and industry professional I would just like to chime in and agree with Ravyne's post, which was very well said.

This question HAS been discussed a lot recently as well... if you look back a page or two in the forums you're likely to find other topics about it.

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Most CS degrees won't give you *specific* knowlege about the games industry or apply what they teach in a game-oriented fashion. That said, programming is really about problem solving, and even though they might not teach you X in relation to games, X is likely applicable. Even though games look and feel different than other applications, alot of the stuff going on behind the scenes are the same type of things. Take data structures for instance, ANY CS degree will teach you about them, what each one does, its pros and cons, and should take you through the implimentation of at least the basic types: linked-lists, hash-tables, trees, storage vectors, memory managers... These kind of things are important everywhere.
Most CS degrees will provide a computer graphics course or two. Most places do the 2D course in software, and the 3D course in either software or OpenGL. Digipen does both in software, the arguement being that actually implimenting a 3D library rather than just using it will teach you more; I tend to aggree, when I look at a D3D or GL article, I know exactly what they're talking about. Coincidentally, jpetrie was one of the guys grading my 3D renderer last year. Fullsail, IIRC, totally eschews the software approach and just teaches APIs, as they take a more results-oriented approach. Which, although I think I've learned more the Digipen way, is a perfectly valid approach.

Now about Computer Science vs. Software engineering.
Computer science is basically a catch all term for someone who has a quite broad, but not neccesarily deep understanding of how computers work and how to write software for them. Alot of theory is covered: logic, basic hardware, programming theory, design, etc. Theres also a good deal of applied work, but not always enough to get you ready for real-world employment if you just do the minimum course required work. Essentially, you will be like the old saying -- "Jack of all trades, master of none."

Software Engineering, while it coveres most or all the material a CS degree includes, has a focus on applying the things you learn in production-level code. There is also a particular focus on the overall design of the program as a whole, how to apply certain design methodologies to certain problems therein, and how to write maintainable software, particularly large software bases. Software Engineers are highly sought after, both in the games industry and other software sectors.

Think of CS grads as the workers at a building site; They do what they're told, have a general idea of the plan, and are skilled at what they do. Software Engineers are like the building engineer and construction foreman roled into one; They have a detailed blueprint all worked out, can coordinate and guide other workers, and can step in and fill basically any role when neccesary.

Software Engineers are well suited to becoming Technical Directors and Lead Programmers. A standard CS graduate has a lot more to learn before they will be qualified to move up to that role.


Digipen is a real school, As jpetrie said, it is not run by Nintendo, however there is some limited relationship between the two. Claude Comair, who founded Digipen, is also the president of Nintendo of America, and digipen is sort of his pet project. I wouldn't go as far as to say Digipen recieves any special treatment from Nintendo, they're just neighborly.


And finally, Petrie, always nice to see you on the boards now that you're onto bigger and better things.

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So, my main focus is to major in software engineering? What type of math programs and what schools would you recommend to study such a major in California?

I've been looking into Westwood College, UCLA, and a few other local schools.

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I can't possibly tell you whats best for you, I am really just giving you my observations and what little insight I have as a Game Programming student going into the job market soon. This information comes from my years at DP, Lectures given by industry profesionals, profesionals I've met and was able to talk with, and the things I've read or observed.

Software Engineering is a good way to go, but not the only way. CS degrees are fine as long as they focus on applied techniques and not so much theory. Most game outfits a looking for grads with a BS CS for their entry level positions, but theres a lot of people trying to get into the industry so you need to make yourself stand out. One way is with a more advanced degree such as Software Engineering, another is to simply be a kick-ass programmer, yet another is to wow them with an excelent portfolio. Honestly, sometimes there are people who get hired without a degree strictly for their advanced self-taught skill and kickass portfolio; This is pretty rare these days, but it still does happen on occasion (these people tend get jobs through networking, rather than submitting resumes to HR.)

As for math, get as much as you can. A minor in math would look excelent on your resume. As a minimum, you should know standard Algebra, Caclulus and Linear Algebra, and in particular: Linear systems, vectors, matrices, integration and differentiation. Other good topics include Quaternions, discreet math, high-order surfaces, and many others. You can get a pretty good idea of what you should know by taking a look at the math section of Digipen's course catalog, which is available to read on their website [www.digipen.edu]

UCLA would be a good choice. As for Westwood, here's a qu0te from their Game development program, (which appears to be an online course, so its already dodgy at best.)
Quote:

This program helps prepare a student for an entry-level position in the game Software Development industry including the following roles: Game and Interactive Software Tester, Game Maintenance Administrator, Game Documentation Writer, Game Requirements Analyst, and Game Support Specialist.

I don't see anything there that tells me that their program is any good, or even confident in its own ability to get you a programming job. If a course describing itself as "Game Software Development" doesn't qualify you to be a *game developer* then thats one HUGE red flag. I know *I'm* sure not going to take a course that "qualifies" me to be a game tester... Although testing positions generally like more, my HS diploma "qualifies" me for a testing position equally well.
Their "Game design" course is probably equally dodgy, as "Game desgin" courses are. Heres the thing, a Game Development course *should* be able to turn a reasonably intelligent, motivated individual into a competent(at least) game developer. A Game Design course, cannot meet the same expectation. If you don't have the creativity to come up with a truly fun, original concept and how to transfer that into an interactive medium, then you're already dead in the water. No amount of training in the world will make you have good, fun ideas. At best, a game design course can take a good designer and make them a better designer. Possibly it will take an average person and equip him to make a competent rip-off of someone elses blockbuster hit(And we DON'T need any more of these people around!) at worst, it will drain the bank account of a starry-eyed youth, leaving the poor individual with a worthless degree. Don't make the mistake of believing that you're a better designer than you are, as most people do. How many truly great games have come out in the last 4-5 years? Thats probably about the number of truly great designers in the entire games industry. They are truly great because they are gifted designers, not because they took a course at a tech school.

As I said above, avoid tech schools. I'll also restate my rule of thumb, in bold this time:
Never go to a school that has commercials, especially bad commercials.

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Quote:

And finally, Petrie, always nice to see you on the boards now that you're onto bigger and better things.


Thanks! I do miss school andthe west coast though. It's a change, alright. But you gotta do what you gotta do.

Quote:

For my programming and game development education I went to Google and GameDev. Free, right in front of you, what more can one ask for?


Google, GameDev, and the plethora of other readily-available resources on the internet are great, and you can get a whole lot of knowledge from them. You are still likely to have gaps in your education however, since you will be studying by-and-large what YOU feel is neccessary, and there may be some things that you do not know to be neccessary, that in fact are.

Also, no matter how intelligent and skilled you may be, "Google and GameDev" won't get too many people sorted to the top of the resume pile.

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The thing with me is that I am dedicated, motivated and creative but I don't know how to start from an idea and completly code it into a workable game, or even mod a previous game (HL2) to make it what I want.

I'm looking at majoring in Software Engineering and Game Development, but I want to get a head start and start working on my portfolio sample projects and tech demos now.

I recently bought a book titled, Wiley's Teach Yourself C++, I'm wondering what other places and/or books I should read in order to begin learning and be able to program/mod games before I head off to college, that way I will have a head start on all those there and have a portfolio already starting my first semister.

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