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Questions about colleges, universities, and programming

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Hello all, This sounds typical and many have asked similar questions before, but I'd appreciate your help nonetheless, as my questions are slightly different. I've always wanted to be a game programmer, but with the realization that I'd more than likely have to work more than 40 - 50 max hours per week, I've been rethinking it. I do, however, intend to be a programmer of some sort, if it is with gaming or not, and for that, I need help. I need to know what are the best colleges and universities for computer science degrees, not necessarily regardless of price, because I'd like to know about good colleges and universities from all the different price ranges. Now, for a game programming school, I know I'd go to DigiPen, but I'd only do that if I knew some developers don't work their employees like slaves. Also, DigiPen offers a M.S. in Computer Science. Does anyone here think this qualifies as a general computer science degree, so that, if I tried game development but did not like it, I could fall back onto this degree for a more "sane" programming job? I guess that's about it for now. I'd really just like some recommendations about good computer science schools, and an answer to my DigiPen question above. Thank you very much, Josh

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Josh,

Unfortunately, I cannot tell you which are the best colleges for a Computer Science degree. What I can tell you is that whichever school you decide upon, make sure it offers/requires the following:

Many math classes, especially Linear Algebra
Physics classes
Computer Architecture and Design
Programming (preferably C++, as that is the industry standard)
Data Structures
Analysis of Algorithms
Software Engineering
Computer Languages and/or Translators
Network Programming
Operating Systems
Object Oriented Paradigms
Graphics Programming
Artificial Intelligence

If you find a good, reputable state school or university which offers all or most of the above, you'll be doing just fine.

As for game programming schools, I was responsible for hiring for the internal tools department while I worked for Pandemic Studios. I can tell you that if you're set on going to a game programming school, DigiPen is the one to go to. In my experience, DigiPen graduates did much better on the programming tests then recent graduates from other game programming schools.

In my opinion, however, its best to get a general computer science degree from a 4-year college or university and then focus your electives and Free Time(tm) on game development. This ensures that you've got a solid degree to fall back on when you leave the industry.

As for "if I knew some developers don't work their employees like slaves."...you can rest assured, there are some developers that do NOT work their employees like slaves.

I was fortunate enough to work for Pandemic Studios for a few years before I left the industry. Pandemic is a development studio of the highest caliber. Decent, reasonable managers, weekly movie outings, company sports teams, gym memberships, full medical, dental, vision, and life insurance, yearly parties, and above all else a fun, friendly work environment. Unlike many companies in the industry Pandemic doesn't require their employees to "crunch." Instead, they plan ahead, develop solid and reasonable deadlines, and then ask people to work only as hard and stay only as late as necessary to get the job done. If you're always on task...you'll do your 8 hour day and go home. Except for Friday....on Fridays at 5:30 everyone who's finished their work (21 or older) grabs a beer from the fridge and calls it a day.

When picking a company, pay very close attention to the average age of the employees (older is better) and whether or not the owners are married and have kids.

Cheers and good luck!

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Just to point out:

Because of class action lawsuits out of California, some companies are switching SEs to hourly (meaning you get paid for overtime). Since actually paying people for overtime is too costly, it'll probably work out that people work their 8 hours and then go home (it's cheaper to pay an extra person to do five people's overtime than to pay the five people overtime).

I personally am not hourly. I work overtime. Sometimes a little (45-50 hours) sometime a lot (60-70+). Often I don't work overtime at all. I love my job and am willing to work the hours when need be. No one tells me to work overtime (unless we're close to a deadline), I just work hard so that I can do the best job I can do.

Game programming isn't for everyone. But I think that in a few years there will be a lot more viable options for prospective game developers who aren't into working a lot of overtime.

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I graduated DigiPen a little less than a year ago, and now work for Snowblind Studios. I look forward to going to work everyday. The people are wonderful, and everybody is truly invested in and passionate about the work we do. We rarely work long hours, and when I do work more than 40 hours it is typically by choice. And like Pandemic...we have a good time on Friday nights, too. I think you will find that there are more and more companies today that can cope with development schedules and keep their employees happy. I do not regret DigiPen at all, and neither do the other 7 DigiPen graduates that I work with. I know that if I needed a job outside of the game industry that I would be well prepared, but I don't think I'll stop making games for a long time.

-Scott

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Quote:
Original post by jwalsh
I can tell you that if you're set on going to a game programming school, DigiPen is the one to go to. In my experience, DigiPen graduates did much better on the programming tests then recent graduates from other game programming schools.


This probably has already been asked before but I was wondering if FullSail ain't better then DigiPen, I'm almost done with my Bachelor of Computer Science and I was planning on continuing with my study in the US. I've requested some information about FullSail and after I read it they gave me the idea that they are _THE_ school to go to if you are into making computer games. Or can't you just compare it with DigiPen?

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Full Sail is an equally reputable school. If you look at the course listings, you can see they cover more or less the same material with a few exceptions. The primary difference you will see is that Full Sail is not a four-year program, but still attempts to cover much of the same material. This means you better be able to keep up with its much-faster pace or the quality of your specific education will suffer.

I know a couple Full Sail graduates, and a lot of DigiPen graduates (I went there, and actually worked with scott_l_smith up there quite a bit). All of these people are at the top of their class, but they would have been that way even had they not gone to DigiPen or Full Sail. You get out of college what you put into it; the most important thing you can do is make sure you consider all your options at this point -- look at the courses and the culture of a wide variety of schools, visit them if you can -- and choose the one that best fits you, be a "game school" or a regular university.

What I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't cull out "regular" univeristies just because they are not game schools. Both types of schools have their advantages and disadvantages and you want to make sure you make an in-depth study of both, because your education is very important.

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Quote:

This probably has already been asked before but I was wondering if FullSail ain't better then DigiPen, I'm almost done with my Bachelor of Computer Science and I was planning on continuing with my study in the US. I've requested some information about FullSail and after I read it they gave me the idea that they are _THE_ school to go to if you are into making computer games. Or can't you just compare it with DigiPen?


Vegettex: unfortunately, my comparison of DigiPen vs. other game development schools specifically included FullSail. Before I make the following statement I would like to preface this with -

"Disclaimer: This is not intended to criticize the techniques or quality of FullSail or any other game development schools. This is merely an observation made empirically while grading tests for a programming position at a AAA game company."

With that being said, I graded nearly a dozen programming tests submitted by programmers from FullSail. All but one failed the programming test (roughly 11 failed). On the other hand, I graded half a dozen tests from DigiPen, and all but 1 passed (1 failed). With the above statistics it "appears" as though DigiPen candidates were better prepared for the industry.

Now, with that being said...I firmly believe that game development is a blend of "skill and will," as I like to say. It may very well be that the DigiPen candidates I interviewed had inherently more will to get the job done, while the FullSail people had just as much skill, but less drive to accomplish their goals. I guess what I'm saying is that simply based upon test scores, it's impossible to truly tell which is the better school. But that was my observation, so take away from it what you will.

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Well thanks for the information guys! My major is AI. I just want to be a great programmer, with knowledge on a lot of fields, one of them is definitely gamedevel. I would really like to continue my study in the U.S. After a little research I noticed that Digipen has also a Master education. That sounds really cool to me :) I am going to check it out!

Thanks!

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