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Ok...before I get too far along in college and have no useful classes...

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I need lots of help! I really want to be a game designer (or more precise, work my way up to executive producer/designer). I have been at a community college for 2 years just taking regular classes such as biology/biology labs, algebra/trig, 3 different englishes, economics, theatre appreciation, psychology and so on and so forth. However, my college doesn't offer anything really in game design, just computer programming and web page design. What I need to know is...what do I need to do? Do I need to go to a school such as DeVry? What classes do I need to take to be qualified to become (or one day become) an executive producer/game designer. On average, how many years will it take? The reason why I am asking is because I know some people on this board can answer these questions whereas I don't even know how to go about getting information from anyone locally. I know that it is a process to get into that position (unless of course you somehow have the funding to create your own studio right off the bat) which I am ok with! I really want to be part of a team and work my way up. But I DO want to be qualified right off the bat though that if for some reason a studio was hiring an exec. producer/designer, I would have a great shot at it. This is my second year of college so I know I've wasted some time, but I am determined to see this though! It really doesn't matter how long it takes because it is what I want to persue. I don't know what a starting salary is...but I do know Kojima, after all those years of working his way up, lives in apartment that costs him about $10,000/month (1up.com talked about it)! Any help would be wonderful!

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Game Designers usually work their way up either as a QA/Tester, artist, or programmer.

You need to understand that game designer position are extremely competitive, mainly because their names stand on top of the credit list.

As for college classes...there aren't any classes that are specificly for game design. The classes are usually associated with computer graphic, except maybe Full Sail University have game design major and it is the only university I know that have programs specificly for game design.

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I think it highly unlikely that you'd get a job with "executive" in the title fresh out of college. Experience counts for a lot in an industry with such heavy competition for jobs. Regardless of which classes you take, you'll have to work your way up the ladder.

I hate to be a downer, but are you really sure you want to work in the game industry? It's a really nasty pressure cooker of a place to be. I'm quite happy working at a normal programming/software dev job and doing gamedev in my spare time (point being that I have spare time). Some things really should be kept as a hobby. Don't focus on the money - game design, as any other industry, does have high paying jobs, but they're almost entirely exclusive to the rockstars of the gaming world. For every person making a six-figure income, there's hundreds doing tedious test work for a mere living wage. Only go into this industry full-time if you really know you want to make games for a living (which knowledge requires having already done some amount of game development!).

Anyway, if you want to do game development at all (whether as an employee of a gamedev company or just as a hobbiest), you'll need programming experience. Take the programming classes available at your college. See if you can find classes that include manipulating graphics (and the idealist in me says that if you can find classes that don't rely on Windows-centric libraries like DirectDraw, go for them first...). Do learn your trig - it's obscenely useful. So are matrix algebra classes and possibly some linear algebra. English is, believe it or not, useful - crappy writing makes your code harder to maintain and can keep you from making an interesting game world. Hell, I could make a point for biology if you want to make complex interacting systems (especially if there are feedback loops involved). But the important classes are going to be the ones that give you the technical tools that you need.

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Game developing is all about the passion about games, as the pay are about 15%-50% lower than normal software developing

Also game developing studios recuit people with a lot of experience. Small studios like Three Rings recruits entry level programmers, most studios recruit people of at least 3 years of programming experience, and big studios like Blizzard Entertainment recruit people that have at least 6 years of programming experience IN GAME INDUSTRY.

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More Psychology [why people like/hate certain gameplay elements] and Calculus/Statistics [gameplay balancing] would definately help. Programming can't hurt.

College isn't trade school though. Make sure you get a good general education [and enjoy yourself] just in case things don't work out exactly as planned. They quite often don't.

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Alright guys I appreciate the help, but I am still a little lost. Should I be taking classes that only pertain to technology? I mean...I have taken a bunch of those but I couldn't tell you the first thing about how to start developing a game. Are there any schools out there or courses that you all have taken that you could suggest??

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Well I also had the same thoughts just like you. But currently I am a computer science major, and keeping my options open. I'll probably graduate in a year and I try to take as many game related courses as possible. You may also consider looking for volunteer programs in your university that may suit your interest. Like right now, I am volunteering for the Oceanography department in my school, and we are to come up with a Flash game that'll atrract visitors. And that'll all needs to be down in one semester!

I do agree this industry is a risky field, but that doesn't stop a college student like us from trying :)

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As far as I know, there's three main ways to become an "executive" game designer, assuming that by "executive" you mean a designer at a large company:

1. Get hired at a game company at an entry level position (programmer, artist or Q.A. tester). Work extremely hard for many years within the industry, slowly building up a name for yourself and making contacts. Then apply for a game designer position at an existing company, or start your own company using people you've met within the industry and with your reputation with a publisher to land you some start-up capital.

2. Start a small indie company. Release many games, the first few which will remain obscure (because you don't have any market presence). Hope for a big hit that will give you the money and reputation to expand your company or get hired as a big game designer.

3. Become famous in something that could cross over into gaming, such as scriptwriting or writing. Use your name in the other industry to cross over into the gaming industry.

My opinion is the first is the most likely to lead to a big game designer role. It's also true that all three paths are hard work and involve quite a few risks along the way. The chances of someone being hired in the game designer position in a medium to large company these days with no experience are very slim. Even if you do decide to go down the first path, you've still got many other people aiming for the role of the designer.


Assuming you want to work your way up to the designer position, it depends on which entry level role you want to start in. Pretty much anything that lets you experience what the industry is like is a possible path to the role of a game designer, as long as you are motivated. It depends entirely on what you are interested in, and what you are good at.

I'd still keep a wide variety of classes though. You've got a really good mix in there, and I think a variety of interests is the mark of a good game designer. Understanding programming would be beneficial, but I wouldn't learn that to the exclusion of your other classes.

Keep in mind though that it will take a lot of hard work, will probably take years, is unlikely to involve earning copious amounts of money, and there is a good chance that you might decide that life in the game industry is not for you once you've experienced it for a bit, so don't put all your eggs into one basket with your choice of classes.

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My first advice to you is - don't count on your collage. You might want to get that computer programming classes it offers to get some programming theory and basic programming skills(I am taking a dishevelled guesswork that you have really poor programing skills or none at all)

If you accept to sign in to a class or a course and let a teacher turn you into a game designer, you better wake up. That's not going to happen. You need to do alot of studing by yourself.

You can use the man's best friend - the internet - to learn game design, but don't think you can just type "game design" in google, click "I'm Feeling Lucky", and get a tutorial that will make you a pro(Just tried it, and what I got looks like an overview article about the industry).


I know this is a harsh post, but life are hursher. You are not asking "I want to make my own game. Where to begin?". You are asking "I want to make big $$$ in the gaming industry. Plan something for me".

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2 things...

first, allow me to give you the insight to my recent computer science diploma i earned. one thing people definately dont realize is that computer science programs usually dont teach you how to 'program' in the sense of real world programming. they are teaching you to be 'computer scientists'. they are loading your face down with theory that you will never probably touch again unless you go into grad school. but they are training you in hopes that you will come up with the algorithm that sorts faster than log(n/2). they arent teaching you that you need to find out what the customer needs, put in a good design, or anything like that. i only did 1 GUI program all throughout my 4 years there. the rest was coding algorithms and solving problems.

second, if you want to use your college to make your game design dreams come closer to a reality, start learning some opengl/sdl/directx/whatever you want to do something small. while you are doing that, go find a club on campus that does game design, programming, graphics (in the sense of opengl/directx/cg coding) or whatever. become friends with them because they already know people. from this, you will be able to learn a lot more and a lot quicker than if you just relied on your CS courses. hope this helps.

and dont go to a tech school. you miss out on the fun parts of college :).

*EDIT*
and btw, i make more money at my programming job doing webapps than my friend working at EA :P

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Quick note on the utility of college - right now at my job I spend all my time writing scripts that parse huge reams of data and distill it all down to something that a human can understand. There's lots of scaling issues and performance is very much a concern. No, there's no GUI to speak of (mostly we just generate text files or send data directly to other programs), but honestly relatively few programs in the world have GUIs. The ones that do just happen to be the ones that people see, because, y'know, they're graphical. Games tend to be graphical as well, so if you want to do game development, you'll need to learn to do graphics. However, graphics are not especially relevant to most computer science jobs.

Design is relevant, though, regardless of what kind of program you're writing. Learn how to design software. Well-designed software makes the difference between a program that runs efficiently and gets the job done and a program that segfaults as soon as you start it and you have no idea why. A small community college may not have classes on software design; likely you'll need to go to a larger or more technical school for that. Don't underestimate the importance of design, though; you need it if you're going to write any significant amount of code at all.

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Quote:
Original post by Derakon
Quick note on the utility of college - right now at my job I spend all my time writing scripts that parse huge reams of data and distill it all down to something that a human can understand. There's lots of scaling issues and performance is very much a concern. No, there's no GUI to speak of (mostly we just generate text files or send data directly to other programs), but honestly relatively few programs in the world have GUIs. The ones that do just happen to be the ones that people see, because, y'know, they're graphical. Games tend to be graphical as well, so if you want to do game development, you'll need to learn to do graphics. However, graphics are not especially relevant to most computer science jobs.

Design is relevant, though, regardless of what kind of program you're writing. Learn how to design software. Well-designed software makes the difference between a program that runs efficiently and gets the job done and a program that segfaults as soon as you start it and you have no idea why. A small community college may not have classes on software design; likely you'll need to go to a larger or more technical school for that. Don't underestimate the importance of design, though; you need it if you're going to write any significant amount of code at all.


You probably meant it, but just to be sure, I'd like to point out that even if most programs aren't graphical, many of the techniques are the same or easily adapted to graphical applications.

Example: Neighbor lists are important in simulations (which is what I do), but they're not so very different from many of the spacial partition structures used in graphics. Why? Because they serve roughly the same purpose. We use neighbor lists because we only want to perform calculations on other particles within a sphere; graphics programmers only want to perform calculations on triangles within a cone.

Then again, I'm also a believer that your major doesn't matter as much as the degree itself and that the degree is useful only in so far as it helps to show you have the ability to learn/think.

Example: I have a friend who was a theater major. She recently added a geology major. She had little trouble picking up geology. She had to hit the books a little harder to start to catch up on the background information, but that's it. She'd already gained the appropriate analytical skills in other ways.

Of course, take it all with a grain of salt. I just jumped from one ivory tower to the next after I finished my undergrad. However, from my friends who entered the work force after graduation, I hear it is true that you only use 5% of what you learned (as far as "facts" are concerned, the skills are, of course, well used).

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by tont
and btw, i make more money at my programming job doing webapps than my friend working at EA :P


Aye, whenever anyone says "I'll never sell out" (meaning they'll only program games they enjoy instead of getting a job programming webapps, they'll only paint works of art instead of getting a job in graphics design, etc.) I point out that those "living the dream" tend to also be those "living in an efficiency" and those "living off ramen noodles".

Of course, money isn't everything. If it were, I wouldn't be in grad school (you're usually better off, money wise, spending those years working up the chain).

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I guess programming classes are a must no matter where you go in the gaming industry, to a certain degree.

Like a previous poster said, software design is important, actually, VITAL to game development. Current games take software design and everything taught in that discipline to the extreme. It makes for shorter more efficient life cycles, easier debugging and higher reusability and expandability. Gone are the days where hacking out code is all you need to be able to do. Even as a software programmer, you have to also learn team skills. So, apart from taking classes, take initiatives and join or create group projects with friends. Sometimes doing something wrong and failing or struggling is the best way to realize how valuable and relevant topics in text books are.

Personal drive is also an issue. When it comes to being a good programmer, habit is a big part of it. Standardize coding methods and documentation methods and get into the habit of doing it because you'll do it alot in any industry related to software. Also, remember, you only get as much out of a class as you are willing to put in. If you only listen to lectures and take tests, you'll only learn so much. Push what you learn into actual hands-on practices and don't be afraid to ask your professor for help, that's what they're being paid to do. Don't just take what you learn at face value, always try to incorporate and put things together. Like my advisor constantly says, knowing is the first step. The hard part is understanding. Only after you understand will you gain wisdom.

Sorry, I digress.

Here's a helpful hint though. EA just started an accredited graduate program with the university of central florida in game development. The program only accepts applicants who have bachelor's degrees from accreditted 4 year university, to be sure that the students are of a certain quality. You will also need to submit a portfolio, and you will be able to choose to study to be a designer, programmer or artist. Its a intensive training program taught by industry insiders, which will almost guarantee you a job in the industry, if not EA, if you do well. It seems very possible to finish the program and directly jump to the position of designer. So, that may be a route to pursue. Would save you a few years working up the chains, but will take alot more hard work in the short term.

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Original post by WeirdoFu
Here's a helpful hint though. EA just started an accredited graduate program with the university of central florida in game development. The program only accepts applicants who have bachelor's degrees from accreditted 4 year university, to be sure that the students are of a certain quality. You will also need to submit a portfolio, and you will be able to choose to study to be a designer, programmer or artist. Its a intensive training program taught by industry insiders, which will almost guarantee you a job in the industry, if not EA, if you do well. It seems very possible to finish the program and directly jump to the position of designer. So, that may be a route to pursue. Would save you a few years working up the chains, but will take alot more hard work in the short term.


this is true(i actually got my degree from UCF hehe), and its probably the best way to get your foot in the door to the game industry. apparently you will be getting your own cube and everything. but the program is going to be extremely expensive. but UCF itself has a very well respected computer science program, along with many useful clubs on campus that can help you get along you gaming needs :).

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