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From school to...what?

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Well currently I'm looking at attending digipen university (after, most likely, taking a one year course at a local college in calculus, because I've never taken that before and they reccomend it). If I go into their game programming (or whatnot) course, it seems they educate you in the metods of construction WHILE you learn how to apply it (i.e. make something while you learn) which is a good way for me to learn something I believe, but, after its all said and done, and I've my degree, where do I go from there? I don't think I could just apply and work for companies like Blizzard or Bethesda, but I don't want to get stuck on some 2bit development company and end up not haivng the money to pay back my college loans. Does anyone have some advice?

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Since this the game design forum; are you looking to ultimately become a game designer, or a game programmer?

My recommendation for college choices is that unless you are really, really, really sure you want to be a game programming and are willing to bet your future on it, it's better to get a general degree of some flavour at a standard university or college. While I think the reputation of the game colleges are getting some reknown in the industry (and those with better connection or who actually attend those institutions might be able to back me up on this), if you eventually decide that the game industry is not for you then a standard degree offers you better chances in other workplaces, and shouldn't count against you if you do decide to work in the game industry. This is especially true if your particular choice of game colleges is a lot more expensive than a standard uni course (which I believe is true in Australia, not sure about the U.S.).

If you want to be a game designer, rather than a programmer, then my opinion is that it is espeically true to get a general education, as you need fresh ideas. I'd get some kind of Science/Arts combined degree, with a major in programming or maths, and minors in as many different subjects as possible. But that's just me [smile].

Note though that this is just my opinion, and I'm really unfamiliar with the intracies of how the system works in other countries!

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USNews Ranking
Engineering Schools
15. University of Maryland–College Park (Clark)

Computer Science Specialties: Programming Language
Ranked in 2006*
University of Maryland–College Park

In state tuition, well respected.

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I graduated Digipen in December. It IS a good school, and they focus alot more on traditional computer science than other 'game schools' You're still going to have things like classes in Computer hardware, Operating Systems and Data structures. The education there, dispite the game development focus, is a lot more broad than people realize. Therein lies the problem, as many potential employers are included in this group. It is difficult to get some 'serious' businesses to take a game dev degree seriously.

Although I have only an AS degree from Digipen in development with no other Post-High school education (excluding the few college credits I earned in HS,) I was only job hunting for a month before landing a good gig. I am not working in games, however the work is fewer hours and I started at 33% more salary than the next nearest offer in game development, which is before I even mention the much better benefits package. This is also something to consider as you think about a career in games. The pay is low for entry level game workers, much lower than entry level programmers in other industries. It does eventually even out more after a couple years experience, although you typically have to reach the status of "game programming god" before you make money that "really good" programmers make in other industries.

However the best, most sought after Digipen Grads are those with traditional CS degrees as well. Digipen does have a master's degree for those with outside BAs in Computer Science and a traditional degree will serve you well. If you're going to be at university getting some maths taken care of, you might as well study some Comp. Sci. as well. Even getting a traditional AS degree, then transfering to Digipen for the BS program would be a good move. Although I'd strongly recomend the traditiona BS + Digipen Masters if you can afford it. Depending on the college, that route may actully cost the same as 4 years at Digipen.

If you look back through my post history, theres plenty to read about for others who have considered going to Digipen.

I did enjoy it, I certainly don't regret it, and I do feel that it prepared me well for working in the programming industry, games or otherwise, but consider all your options.

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Yes and no. You're generally going to be trained to more company-specific methods. Every place has different coding methodologies, standards and internal libraries/engines. They expect you to be able to get up to speed with these things relatively quickly, though not immediately. At first, you won't likely be given any serious tasks, and you'll likely work on things like tools, scripting, documentation and/or work directly under someone higher up than you as a sort of code lackie unless you show a real aptitude for some specialization.

By the time you leave a place like Digipen, you've already completed 4 team-based game projects as a BA graduate. While not full-blown profesional games, they are professional in scope. The ideal Digipen game project is described as a "Demo for the game you would make if you hade 2 years and 5 million bucks." So they should be feature-complete and fun, but just a few hours of gameplay and light on content. By year 4 a typical game is 3D and has physics simulation and networked multiplayer. Some of these games are unique, some are addictive, some are gorgeous, some are wildly fun. I know people who have really taken to a specialization and can compete with years-long industry veterans. One of my former roomates who was an insanely good programmer beat out scores of people, both fresh grads and professionals alike, for a position at Bungie. I know another who would fit right in as a graphics programmer with Valve, id or the fine folks who make Unreal.

Basically, after a place like Digipen, you shouldn't need much further education if you took your studies seriously and delved into your game projects, not that you should expect to jump right in to production game code either. You should be a capable programmer, a capable learner and a capable team-player ready to meld into a working team.

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Thanks, that was rather helpful. One of my other concerns is a rather dispairing comment made by a student in my AP Comp Sci class saying that you basically had to be programming games seince you where 12 (like that bethesda guy) or younger if you want to land a job in the industry.

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I would think having programmed since you could first use a keyboard is helpful to getting into a game programming job but more impressive on your resume would probably be a working game demo or five...

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I think my main advantage as a designer would be that I would haunt forums like this to see what people want...so that way we're not telling them what to like. But I'm sure others already do that.

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It's also largely impractical -- what players want often doesn't jive with what is possible or, at the very least, sane.

I was reading the GameFAQs boards for an upcoming RTS I'm involved with and one user was disparaging our choice of "only three races" to choose from, saying he'd prefer to have "more than 20" and that it is "trivial" to create and balance that many races: "you just start them all the same, and make little changes to them so they are all different but balanced." Right.

In any case, DigiPen is not a design school and not the best place for aspiring game designers. It's a highly technical program that caters to game programming. Additionally, I feel that you get the most out of it when it is supplementing a previous computer science degree, because they skimp on some computer-science topics that are, in my experience, important and useful.

However, the rumors you've been hearing about needing to program since you were twelve, or whatever, are complete BS (the fact that it came from a fellow student should be a sure tip-off; traditionally high school and college freshmen computer science students *think* they are hot stuff and know everything :D ). The game development industry is not much different from any other, in terms of "getting in."

If you end up with a BS degree related to what you want to do -- programming or design -- you should have no trouble getting into the industry provided you do, in fact, have a clue what you are doing.

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Thanks j *ranks*. Yeah I didn't think it made seince...I mean, I serriously doubt much of anyone on the scene (except for that college dropout guy who programmed for Doom 3) walks into the program and is a sombody.

I was thinking maybe an internship somewhere might be of a good help? Like an internship with Bethesda softworks doing something (I remember they had intern positions but not exactly for what). Get a name out, get a company behind my name.

BTW Game developers...I have a clue WHAT they are but what do they DO?

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Your education means almost nothing to employers in this industry. Education is what it should be; a way for you to learn something. Not just something to put on your resume. Then you can use what you learn to prove your abilities by creating demos and what-not. If you feel you can do this anyway then your education isn't going to help much.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by Limdallion
Your education means almost nothing to employers in this industry. Education is what it should be; a way for you to learn something. Not just something to put on your resume. Then you can use what you learn to prove your abilities by creating demos and what-not. If you feel you can do this anyway then your education isn't going to help much.


I found this to be true for me. Here's my story (dont worry its a happy ending)...

I've been programming since I was really young. I've always been working on some game design or demo with friends or by myself. It's always been a dream of mine to get a job making games. So naturally I thought if I saved up my money for college, took as many game related classes that I could, that I might just have a chance to live that dream. Well, I started taking online classes focusing on game design, programming, and even art just to cover all the bases.

While some of the information was new and interesting, I found that I had already done most of what was being taught, previously in my spare time. What I concluded was that I would benefit more from the classes had I not been previously interested in game development. So I decided to just continue working on side projects unrelated to school that were more interesting and challenged my abilities.

So I put up a site and started show casing my work. Then one day one of my projects takes off and news of it starts to spread. Several news websites do a little article and next thing I know emails start coming in. I keep thinking, wow, maybe this is my ticket in the door. I finally get up enough confidence/courage to start applying to the big game developing companies (you know who they are), to try my luck. To my surprise, I got one reply back. They wanted me to take a programming test. For a whole week I felt like I was the happiest person alive. That was until I didnt hear back from them. Later I found out they had 'lost my email' and were very sorry.

During that time I was pretty down and started wondering if maybe I should just stick it out through school and get that piece of paper that says 'I bought my education at well known X college, now hire me damnit'. Thats when I got an email that changed everything. It started out like all the other emails I got about my projects but it had more direct questions that interested me. I decided to chat with the guy and found out he's a professional game developer working for a big company (one that I hadn't applied at or even thought of (life is strange...)). He tells me his company is hiring and thinks I would be a good candidate if I was interested. I go through the whole application process focusing on my projects that I worked so hard on during my free time and next thing I know I get the job and here I am today.

Conclusion: Maybe I just got lucky or maybe self taught experience is actually better than school. What I can conclude is that not only does it help having someone on the inside vote for you but that if you put your work out there for people to see (that shows your characater and motivation), then the people you are looking for will find you. Life is strange...

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Thanks for the input Anon. I'll see about getting to a community college for that associates; then I'll worry about Digipen.

Any additional wisdom is welcome here.

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