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Avont29

professional game programming career

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hey, im a junior in high schooll now. i want to be a professioa game programmer. i know i have to go to college and get a bachelors in computer science, its just getting into college is the prob for me. i don't have a college fund. i can't do financial aid cause my mom makes too much income, but she pays a lot of stuff, bills i guess. and a bank loan is the same way. and i probally wont get a scholarship, what can i do?

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How to make money is a topic for other forums. However you will improve your chances simply by writing games and demos. Good demos + no degree beats good degree + no demos.

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Original post by Kylotan
How to make money is a topic for other forums. However you will improve your chances simply by writing games and demos. Good demos + no degree beats good degree + no demos.


Not necessarily. If you can prove you know your crap in an interview, you can get a job without a demo. When all else is equal, a good demo is definitely a significant bonus. But all else isn't always equal.

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Original post by Troll
Not necessarily. If you can prove you know your crap in an interview, you can get a job without a demo. When all else is equal, a good demo is definitely a significant bonus. But all else isn't always equal.


Not at our company. We've hired people who failed out of uni with good demo's but never once have we hired anyone without a demo. If people don't have a good demo attached to their resume (or on a website/cd etc) then they don't even get an interview. Demo's > * as far as hiring at my particular firm goes.

As for money ... no idea, but doing your own hobby stuff and making a nice demo in the mean time definatly wouldn't hurt. Especially since you might find out you actually hate it :P programming isn't fun for alot of people.

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Original post by Avont29
hey, im a junior in high schooll now. i want to be a professioa game programmer. i know i have to go to college and get a bachelors in computer science, its just getting into college is the prob for me. i don't have a college fund. i can't do financial aid cause my mom makes too much income, but she pays a lot of stuff, bills i guess. and a bank loan is the same way.
and i probally wont get a scholarship, what can i do?


What do you expect us to do? pay your fees?

Why dont you get a part time job while at uni?
its not that hard you know. Worst case scenario you can definately get a job flipping burgers that allows you to pay for your bills!

and yes, im talking from experience... I paid my own Uni and my own accomodation and bills. It sucks knowing that after lectures you are going to work while your friend are going to the pub but its worth it... besides you dont need to work everyday.

And make sure you get demos running while studying AND working... its a hard life being a Dev.

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Original post by Troll
Not necessarily. If you can prove you know your crap in an interview, you can get a job without a demo. When all else is equal, a good demo is definitely a significant bonus. But all else isn't always equal.


It is very unlikely (although possible) that you can get a job as a game programmer without having a demo. As Kaysik said, without a demo you may not even get as far as the interview stage, and you'd have to bring something unusual and interesting to the interview to get any further (simply having a bachelors degree in computer science is unlikely to cut the muster).

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Just get a job, In my junior year I got a job and saved all my money and never spent any of it and in my senior year I'm still working and should have a good start of money for college.

There are hundreds of scholorships just ask your counselor or someone at your school. Normally it's as simple as writing an essay.

Or you can do what some of my friends did at work and take huge college loans and plan to pay them off.

If you can't program, then your already a little behind. From what I've seen most people start in 8th or 9th grade and start programming games. Also make sure your good at math. :)

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Original post by Sirisian
Or you can do what some of my friends did at work and take huge college loans and plan to pay them off.


Definitly start saving any money you can afford to.

If you plan on taking 12+ credits per semester then I would recommend student loans (In addition to any scholarships and your own money) and do not work. However, your should be able to work during your first two and maybe 3 semesters with this type of class load (12 to 15 credit hours). It will become increasingly difficult to maintain a job and your GPA as you move into your upper division classes. If you do want a job throughout your college life try and find a tech support job where you can do homework when you are not answering calls. You'll find this type of job at a place that is supporting old technology. I had a job like this supporting a product called Real/32. This was a operating system based on PC-MOS -> DR-MDOS -> Novel MDOS etc. A computer lab tech at your college is not bad as well. Usualy you can slack and get some homework in... they are (usualy) more understanding.

Your local community college is much cheaper then a university. Consider taking most of your lower division classes there, and then transfering to a university for your upper division classes. You're savings will be huge, and it also opens up the possibility you can get into a better college for your last two years (one you would have been denied based on your SAT scores).

College loans are not as bad as some people may tell you. I have a friend who took out a 60,000 USD loan for a BS and MS. His yearly salery is now above 100k.

Glad to see you are thinking of a CS degree. Great degree to have when your family does not want to move again.

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You don't have to go to college IFF you have a serious and insatiable need to learn and experiment in programming and game design. I got my first job without a college degree or a demo per-se, but I had lots of mod and other misc game-related programming work on my resume.

Oh, and always remember that a CS degree is only as good as you want it to be. I've interviewed people with CS degrees who seemed to have trouble drooling and talking at the same time (ok that's a little harsh). I've worked with a man who allegedly had a Master's degree, but somehow he couldn't draw a proper state diagram on the whiteboard.

Formal education is not a silver bullet.

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I had the same problem; my parents make too much money, but they also have too many bills, so they can't financially support me. I was able to get a little bit through scholarships, but not nearly enough to cover full tuition/room and board. Not to mention the other expenses accrued during college.

My solution? Private loans with a co-signer. While your mom might make too much money to get you enough through federal loans, if she has a good credit score, she can co-sign a private loan with you for a relatively decent interest rate. Unlike federal loans, private loans accumulate interest while you're in college, but you don't have to pay for it until you graduate/drop below full time. Plus, once you get a good credit score for yourself, which you can do by getting a credit card and being responsible, you can start getting loans under your own name without a co-signer.

It's worked for me. Every single dollar that has paid for my education so far is either through a scholarship or a loan under my name. I was able to take out loans without a co-signer by my junior year. The interest rates weren't as good, but at least I could finish college. I will graduate with a debt about twice as much as the average four-year graduate, but considering I will have a Computer Science degree, I expect to make enough money to cover it. :)

You have several options for private lenders; I get my loans through Sallie Mae.

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Quote:
Original post by jjd
...you'd have to bring something unusual and interesting to the interview to get any further..

Like a guinea pig?

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Well that's unusual but not really interesting. I think you'd have to have something like a guinea pig that can solve sudoku puzzles while doing to the macarena.

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I am sitting on $100,000 in private bank student loans because DigiPen wasn't accredited when I started my degree there (so scholarships and federal loans wouldn't accept it).

In the end, the question isn't how you can pay for it, but how much you want it. You can always find the money, it just might be private bank loans (such as the Key Alternative Loan from KeyBank, which is what I have).

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Quote:
Original post by jjd
Quote:
Original post by Troll
Not necessarily. If you can prove you know your crap in an interview, you can get a job without a demo. When all else is equal, a good demo is definitely a significant bonus. But all else isn't always equal.
It is very unlikely (although possible) that you can get a job as a game programmer without having a demo. As Kaysik said, without a demo you may not even get as far as the interview stage, and you'd have to bring something unusual and interesting to the interview to get any further (simply having a bachelors degree in computer science is unlikely to cut the muster).
Troll (who isn't a troll, but a long-time industry professional) is right on the money and I agree with his quote above 100%. Certainly it holds true for our studio: I have interviewed hundreds and hundreds of programmer candidates and never once have I cared about a demo (nor will I ever care about one).

In a nutshell, the problem with demos is the following. If I were presented with a demo I have to ask myself questions like:
  • Did the candidate write this or is he trying to pass of someone elses work
  • Did he use other peoples code or is it all his
  • Does he understand the <3D math he used to control his spaceship> (or whatever topic) or did he just cut and paste an answer from, say, gamedev.net
  • What data structures did he use for <something>
Compare this with a situation with no demo. I don't have to ask the first two questions, and I can still ask the last two questions without a demo:
  • Describe the <3D math needed to control a spaceship> (or whatever)
  • What data structure would you use for <something>
In short, a demo doesn't tell me anything that I cannot more easily extract out of someone just by asking direct questions! For me, a demo would only serve as a tiebreaker if all other things were equal.

That said, demos remain valuable to candidates, because there are other (crazy!) people out there in hiring positions who think there is a value to demos.

Instead of writing demos, my recommendation to people wanting to break into the industry is to fill their websites with sample code and technical articles and to participate in industry forums (like gamedev.net) and post on technical topics. To me, these things are much more valuable than a demo, because I can read them and directly begin to evaluate the candidates technical skills and decide whether I should sort them at the top or the bottom of the pile. (Demos serve a similar purpose, but not as strongly.)

Of course, it goes without saying that the sample code, technical articles, and forum posts all must be solid stuff, or it's just going to work against you! Oh, and post under you real name so when that resume comes across my desk I can associate the name with all those great posts that you made to gamedev.net; otherwise the posts, however amazing, won't make you much good!

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Well, you say thay you don't think demo's are useful because there are several problems with them, but your solutions suffer from exactly the same problems.

It is more probable that a candidate would cut-and-paste a code sample, than an entire program. So even if they do have a code sample on their website, you still have to convince yourself that it is their own work. Furthermore, I don't care if they didn't write all of the code. I don't want them to write all of the code. I want to see them program smartly and use the resources at their disposal.

A demo provides a good starting point to probe the candidates understanding and ability to solve problems. If a candidate provides a demo that they don't understand, they're just providing the rope to hang themselves with.

A demo also provides information that a code sample doesn't. It provides insight into their ability to design and solve problems. It represents a set of decisions that the candidate has had to make and that provides another opportunity for questions to gain greater understanding regarding their ability.

In my opinion, a demo is a good thing to have. It enables you to gain greater insight into candidate than you would otherwise have and it does not stop you from asking any of the other questions you want to ask. In my experience, it provides an efficient way to gauge a candidates ability.

Having a website to demonstrate your skills and involvement in the community is a great idea. However, the last thing I want to do is search through forum posts, most of which will be trivial, looking to see if the candidate knows their stuff. If their demo, cover letter, and CV cannot get them in interview, then their forum posts are unlikely to help.


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I completely agree with Christer on his points. The other day I was interviewing someone that had a pretty nice looking demo so I decided to ask him questions about it.

He couldn't draw a rotation matrix.
He couldn't draw a scaling matrix.
I asked about how objects moved around in space and there was a lot of hemming and hawing and 'oh I just call this function' but I never did manage to get an answer.
He couldn't explain how he got the shadowing.
He couldn't explain the collision he was using at all other than "oh that's in the scene graph"

So who knows if it was even his demo as he didn't understand core principles.

Also to the poster that said:
Quote:

Furthermore, I don't care if they didn't write all of the code. I don't want them to write all of the code.

It isn't about writing all the code, it is about understanding the code.. as quite honestly you shouldn't be using code you don't understand, that is like using a data structure that you don't know the performance/memory usage of. There is quite a massive difference between using an existing implementation after grasping the concept and having an understanding of exactly how it works, and doing the good old copy & paste and pray it compiles. If somebody hands in a demo I would expect them to be able to answer any questions I ask about it.

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Keep in mind that your demo doesn't necessarily have to be a game, or even a real-time simulation. A good game-related concept or idea that you can implement and demonstrate goes a long way. For instance, while I was interning in the industry this summer the company I was working for hired a college graduate who had a very nice procedural city generation tool. The tool itself was nothing fancy, but it did a damn nice job of generating believable cities. With a little more work an entire tool could have been built out of it that saved designers hours of work. Of course his tool wasn't the only reason he was hired, but the point is that studios are looking for more than just people who can write game loops or physics code, but also those who can take interesting ideas and apply them to game development. Don't be afraid to be a little innovative and come up with maybe a new algorithm or approach to an existing problem, even if it doesn't work out perfectly in the end; or heck, even if you know it probably isn't as good as an existing solution. That type of thinking is far more valuable to a company than someone who's good at writing boilerplate code.

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Quote:
Original post by Christer Ericson
Quote:
Original post by jjd
Quote:
Original post by Troll
Not necessarily. If you can prove you know your crap in an interview, you can get a job without a demo. When all else is equal, a good demo is definitely a significant bonus. But all else isn't always equal.
It is very unlikely (although possible) that you can get a job as a game programmer without having a demo. As Kaysik said, without a demo you may not even get as far as the interview stage, and you'd have to bring something unusual and interesting to the interview to get any further (simply having a bachelors degree in computer science is unlikely to cut the muster).
Troll (who isn't a troll, but a long-time industry professional) is right on the money and I agree with his quote above 100%. Certainly it holds true for our studio: I have interviewed hundreds and hundreds of programmer candidates and never once have I cared about a demo (nor will I ever care about one).

In a nutshell, the problem with demos is the following. If I were presented with a demo I have to ask myself questions like:
  • Did the candidate write this or is he trying to pass of someone elses work
  • Did he use other peoples code or is it all his
  • Does he understand the <3D math he used to control his spaceship> (or whatever topic) or did he just cut and paste an answer from, say, gamedev.net
  • What data structures did he use for <something>
Compare this with a situation with no demo. I don't have to ask the first two questions, and I can still ask the last two questions without a demo:
  • Describe the <3D math needed to control a spaceship> (or whatever)
  • What data structure would you use for <something>
In short, a demo doesn't tell me anything that I cannot more easily extract out of someone just by asking direct questions! For me, a demo would only serve as a tiebreaker if all other things were equal.

That said, demos remain valuable to candidates, because there are other (crazy!) people out there in hiring positions who think there is a value to demos.

Instead of writing demos, my recommendation to people wanting to break into the industry is to fill their websites with sample code and technical articles and to participate in industry forums (like gamedev.net) and post on technical topics. To me, these things are much more valuable than a demo, because I can read them and directly begin to evaluate the candidates technical skills and decide whether I should sort them at the top or the bottom of the pile. (Demos serve a similar purpose, but not as strongly.)

Of course, it goes without saying that the sample code, technical articles, and forum posts all must be solid stuff, or it's just going to work against you! Oh, and post under you real name so when that resume comes across my desk I can associate the name with all those great posts that you made to gamedev.net; otherwise the posts, however amazing, won't make you much good!


I tend to agree with you. To be fair, I don't see any value in a demo. A demo don't prove anything, except the fact that you actually think that you are good at coding - which might not be the case at all - while a degree actually prove something (you were able to work as hard as it was needed to get this degree). Time spent on a demo would be better spent on learning and on learning how to learn. Should I spent some time to interview a guy that decided that doing a demo was more important than going to school? Not sure. Maybe he is the kind of guy that feels more comfortable when he does things he loves, and his job is typically full of thing he won't enjoy at all. So far, the dedication he showed in making the demo is not an indication of the commitment he'll have to put in a real product.

IMHO, the companies which requires a demo before the interview are shotting themselves in the foot. By putting the demo above all, they miss the great, clever guy that actually knows lot but due to time constraint was not able to make a good enough demo. Worse, they'll hire the guy who can barely code and only have a limited understanding of what goes under the hood instead of the guy who have a strong understand of the current technology and very good coding practices for the sole reason that the first did a demo. That's not a reasonable choice, and that's actually one of the reason why the industry is cluttered with poor engineering practices. The game industry continues to see itself as the 1337 coding industry1, requesting any applicant to show their fancy ub3rsk1Lz0zr, while it should step down and hire capable software engineers in order to face the coming next-gen challenge. Capable software engineers are known to be able to adapt to new constraints - will the fancy hacker be able to follow? It is more important than ever, and it seems that games companies are still unable to see it2. They are not mature enough - and they still have to grow up.

Note that this is entirelly different for artists: without a portfolio, it's kind of hard to hire an artist: but art is not as technical as coding.

Now, that's only an opinion [smile].

1: that shows a very poor understanding of the software industry in general. Game programming is by no way different from application programming. For most part, it is actually easier, as the constraints that drives game programming are far less important that the constraint that drives most other programming industries. If you don't believe this, try answering this question (quietly: I don't want a flame war here, as it serves no purpose). From these two software, which one is the most complex: Halo2 or a stock exchange monitoring application? Doom3 or Linux? WoW or Google (both are a collection of softwares, but don't consider the front end - only the server part)?
2: Sorry Christer and Troll - I was not speaking about your respective companies but there are still a lot of companies that think or seems to think in this way.

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With the greatest possible respect, I think some of you are mad. :) Of course a demo can be ripped off, but it also shows how they choose to organise and comment their code, how much error-checking they perform, whether they appreciate the benefits of readability and meaningful identifier names, etc. They also demonstrate initiative and often hint at specific areas of interest. Obviously you do have to cross-examine them on the code and ask further questions but there is so much you can see from someone's actual work that you won't get from merely talking to someone.

Besides which, a more important point is simply a numerical one - companies don't have time to interview everybody. Checking CVs/resumés is one way in which they can cut down the number of people to interview. A demo is another way. It's not a perfect representation of the candidate's abilities, but then nothing is. If you want a decent chance of getting to the interview then a demo is a must.

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Quote:
Original post by Saruman
I completely agree with Christer on his points. The other day I was interviewing someone that had a pretty nice looking demo so I decided to ask him questions about it.

He couldn't draw a rotation matrix.
He couldn't draw a scaling matrix.
I asked about how objects moved around in space and there was a lot of hemming and hawing and 'oh I just call this function' but I never did manage to get an answer.
He couldn't explain how he got the shadowing.
He couldn't explain the collision he was using at all other than "oh that's in the scene graph"

So who knows if it was even his demo as he didn't understand core principles.


Maybe I wasn't clear on my points, but this is exactly why I think a demo is useful. He has produced a bunch of code that you can ask him about. It gives him a chance to explain why he did what he did and how it works. It's kind of nice for the applicant because it gives them a chance to talk about things they (should) understand. In your particular case, you found that he didn't know some things he clearly should have. Surely this was useful info for you. The flip side is that it is pretty easy to draw those matrices, and it wouldn't be hard for an applicant to know the algebra without an understanding of how to implement or when to use them.

Quote:

Also to the poster that said:
Quote:

Furthermore, I don't care if they didn't write all of the code. I don't want them to write all of the code.

It isn't about writing all the code, it is about understanding the code.. as quite honestly you shouldn't be using code you don't understand, that is like using a data structure that you don't know the performance/memory usage of. There is quite a massive difference between using an existing implementation after grasping the concept and having an understanding of exactly how it works, and doing the good old copy & paste and pray it compiles. If somebody hands in a demo I would expect them to be able to answer any questions I ask about it.


Umm, that's pretty much what I stated in my third paragraph, i.e. exactly what happen in the case you mentioned: When asked about his code the applicant demonstrated that he didn't understand what he was doing. Or, as I put it above, he provided the necessary rope (his demo) to hang himself with.

I'd also like to add something so there isn't any misunderstanding. I don't think a demo should be obligatory. I think it is a useful tool. For programmers trying to break into the industry without much experience, it's a useful way to give their prospective employer a chance to see what they are capable of. I don't think this is an issue that is hugely important one way or the other. I think that a demo provides useful info. Others people disagree, and I'm fine with that. There is more than one way to peel a grape.


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Guest Anonymous Poster
You'll probably need to learn how to spell before any serious company (in any industry) will hire you.

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One of my college classmates applied to an EA studio in Florida right out of college and the first thing they had him do before any face to face talking was take a test. The test had him implement an entire file system in 64Kb of memory in the most efficient manner possible. He had to take a test like that just to write code that changes the color on the shirts of spectators in a crowd!

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Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
You'll probably need to learn how to spell before any serious company (in any industry) will hire you.


Hello AP. My name is Will. I'm a profesional game developer, and I can't spell.

For more than 10 years I have hidden this shaimful fact from my various employers. Shurely if I were ever to be found out, I would be cast away like a something-thats-not-wanted-anymore, and relinquished of my awards and gold discs for my multi-million selling games, and stripped of my promotions to the senior ranks of game development.

In fact I am so afraid of being found out that I am thinking of giving up game development completely to find something more suitable. Perhaps an English teacher, or maybe Profesor of spelling at Oxford, would be more suited to my skills, and will surely have much less stringent spelling requirements than my current game programming position.

I hope you can advise me on the path I should take.

(Edit: corrected spelling mistak)


[Edited by - WillC on October 2, 2006 4:29:02 PM]

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