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Aquila

New to game programming - well, all programming

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Heya all, Well, as subject states, really... eh heh. Alright. I'm 16, looking to go to university next year. Recently (in the last 6 months) I've taken an interest in programming which has grown into a desire to end up in a career as a game programmer. Really, I guess I'm just looking for advice and opinions on my chance of success. So, what chance does someone with no previous programming experience have trying to get into the gaming industry? I'm looking towards perhaps getting a BCMS (Bachelor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences) degree at university, majoring in CS. What chance do you think I'd stand against people who've been programming since they could talk? Like, what's the chance I'd get the degree, and then never really get where I wanted because I was still getting overlooked in favour of people with far greater experience? Also, how difficult is it to learn computer programming? The first-year courses all say 'no prior programming experience assumed' but realistically... how would I do? Would I be likely to gain the degree with good grades? I am what you'd call a bright student - I've been top of math the last 3 years in my year at school, and in fact topped the year overall as well. Looking on Gamasutra at the job listings, I see a lot of them also like someone with a "Solid basis in 3D mathematics & some physics", "Mathematics (particularly linear algebra, trig and vectors)"... that kind of stuff. What do they mean, by this? What is 3D math? Is all that stuff taught in a CS degree? Since it is really a BCMS I'm looking at, I would be able to take math papers also - which ones are recommended? I want to take first year algebra and calculus - would this be enough by itself, or would I need to carry on and do various 2nd and 3rd year math papers? The degree, btw, is a 4-year one. Really, I guess I want a realistic opinion(s) of my chances in the game industry, coming from a non-programming background. Also - just as an extra, and I'm far more interested in the first part of my question - is C# likely to become a standard game programming language? I've been learning it the past week (yeah, not very long, haha, but school's finally eased up for a bit. Oh, btw - I live in NZ.) Back to the original question about programming - how useful do you think this would be, as extra qualifications after a CS? Would an employer be more likely to look at an applicant with one of these: http://www.mediadesign.school.nz/diploma_of_game_development_overview.asp (the programming stream). How useful would that be? Aughh, so many questions!! Sorry!! Hope you get my drift, and can give me some answers... All opinions much appreciated!! ~Aquila

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I don't know too much about what courses you should take at uni and so on, but I can say one thing: 90% of all the job descriptions I've seem relating to game programming states that you need a degree in Computer Science, because that's a requirement. Either that, or, at the very least, it is preferred.

That said, you shouldn't wait till you get into Uni to learn programming. Start learning it now, and learn as much as you possibly can. If you're going into game programming as a career you might as well start learning C++ right off the bat, though, to be fair, alot of newbies finds the language frightening at first. My strongest advice is to take on game programming as a hobby. If you can't "use" it as a hobby, then you're probably not going to last long as a gameprogrammer, because it is exceptionally hard work and involves alot of overtime work etc.

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Original post by Aquila
What chance do you think I'd stand against people who've been programming since they could talk? Like, what's the chance I'd get the degree, and then never really get where I wanted because I was still getting overlooked in favour of people with far greater experience?


I started programming when I was a bit older than you and it never bothered me. You have more than four years - that is more than enough time to create awesome game demos on your free time.

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WORRYING IS A WASTE OF YOUR TIME AND ENERGY. Spend your time and energy following your your passions, learning new things, doing a good job at work, finding and nurturing your soul mate, and working on personal projects that you enjoy. You can not let your fears rule your life. The great general Stonewall Jackson said the same thing. "Never take counsel of your fears." Worries and fears will only sap the life out of you and take over your dreams... turning them into nightmares. So lose them... and have a good life.


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Original post by Aquila
Well, as subject states, really... eh heh. Alright. I'm 16, looking to go to university next year. Recently (in the last 6 months) I've taken an interest in programming which has grown into a desire to end up in a career as a game programmer.

How come? Just curious, but what made you decide that all of a sudden? (If 6 months can be called "sudden")

Quote:

So, what chance does someone with no previous programming experience have trying to get into the gaming industry?

As a programmer? None. But if you add the bachelor degree, the picture changes a lot.

One thing to keep in mind though, is that Computer Science tends to be rather theoretical. That can be a good thing, but it also means that you may have to find opportunities outside of university for practicing all you learn.

Someone who gets out of university and who has done nothing to try "real" programming might not be all that attractive to employers. But one who has that degree, and has shown herself capable of programming on her own (at other jobs, or as hobby projects or, well, anything that gives you practical experience and preferably something to show for it) is probably near the ideal candidate. [wink]

Quote:

Also, how difficult is it to learn computer programming? The first-year courses all say 'no prior programming experience assumed' but realistically... how would I do? Would I be likely to gain the degree with good grades?

Hmm, couple of points here. First, when they say 'no prior programming experience assumed', they usually mean it. They're not afraid to say it when they do assume prior knowledge for courses. Some universities deliberately try to trip up "experienced" programmers a bit, just to even the playing field a bit (By starting with an obscure language that follow different paradigms than the languages the "experienced" students usually know, like C/C++ or Java).

Also you might be surprised at how little of the degrees focuses on actual programming. For the vast majority of topics, programming is just a tool that comes in handy, but not something that's relevant to teach, because they've already given people the neccesary foundation to be able to pick up new languages when required.

Second, the difficulty? Hard to say, it varies a lot from person to person, and depending on how it's learned/taught. Some concepts tend to take longer than others to sink in, obviously, but generally, it's not actually too bad. The hard part is if you're learning it all on your own, and of course it takes time to really get *good* at it. And some things just won't make sense to you until you've had a few months to be perplexed in [lol]

Overall, it tends to be a lot of work, but it's generally not too *difficult* in itself. The difficulty comes in all the related disciplines you also have to learn(CS-related stuff like complexity theory, algorithms & datastructures, compiler or OS theory, as well as more distant fields like maths and physics and... whatever else you might want to make use of in your programs)

At university, everyone tend to pick it up during the introductory courses though. The big difference comes later, when some students practice and study it further, and others just try to avoid practical programming.

Quote:

Looking on Gamasutra at the job listings, I see a lot of them also like someone with a "Solid basis in 3D mathematics & some physics", "Mathematics (particularly linear algebra, trig and vectors)"... that kind of stuff. What do they mean, by this? What is 3D math? Is all that stuff taught in a CS degree?

Not neccesarily, but they usually offer courses on it (Whenever you get a bunch of computer-orientated people together, you can usually rely on a few of them to be interested in graphics and/or games, which means they'll make sure it's taught). That's for 3d maths and phyics, at least. Linear algebra and the other stuff is usually part of the required courses, so you'll learn that no matter what.

And if you're taking math as well, you'll definitely get a chance to pick up all the required maths in any case.

Quote:
Since it is really a BCMS I'm looking at, I would be able to take math papers also - which ones are recommended? I want to take first year algebra and calculus - would this be enough by itself, or would I need to carry on and do various 2nd and 3rd year math papers? The degree, btw, is a 4-year one.

I'd say ask the university, and plan for one year at a time. After the first year, you'll be much better equipped to determine which courses you want and will need.

Quote:
Really, I guess I want a realistic opinion(s) of my chances in the game industry, coming from a non-programming background.

If you're dedicated and want it, your chances are excellent. When you come out of university, you might easily be as good as those who have programmed virtually all their life, at least with a bit of initiative. It's also possible to do as little as possible work, get a degree, and still be a lousy programmer.

Quote:

Also - just as an extra, and I'm far more interested in the first part of my question - is C# likely to become a standard game programming language? I've been learning it the past week (yeah, not very long, haha, but school's finally eased up for a bit.

Standard? I doubt it. It's going to be more used than it is today, probably, but I doubt it's going to replace other languages for game programming.

That said, don't worry about it. It's still a good language to start with, and once you learn one language, picking up others is a piece of cake. (And usually, the more languages you know, the better)

Quote:

Would an employer be more likely to look at an applicant with one of these: http://www.mediadesign.school.nz/diploma_of_game_development_overview.asp

Hard to say. If you want to get a job in game programming, it's obviously useful ot have something that shows you know about the game part as well as the programming part. As such, it may be useful there. But I'd say your university degree is the main thing. If you can get both, it obviously can't hurt. [lol]
(Here, there's a similar game development diploma thing that recently started up, and which works in collaboration with existing schools and universities, so I can actually get both my CS degree and that game dev diploma with no extra effort. It mainly consists of taking game/graphics related courses at university, and then participate in a few group projects developing small demo games, which I can get credit for as well. So in such a situation, it's a win/win situation, really. If you had to take it entirely separate, well, it depends. I don't know that particular school, or how well regarded it is in the industry)

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Most CS students didn't do CS before college. You should be fine (honestly) as long as you have a passion for it. And the game industry really isn't that exclusive a club.

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