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Which uni course? 'Game development', 'Computer Science' or 'Software Engineering'?

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So I'm in my second year at college at the moment, and I very much intend to go into a game programming field. As I need to select a course to take at university, my question is thus: would a game development course be better than a software engineering course? Of course, it's my choice and depends and what not, but I'd like to know which is more likely to help me get a job as a game programmer. Opinions, thoughts, etc.? Examples of game development courses I've been looking at: http://www.bolton.ac.uk/courses/course_display.asp?single=bsc_cgsd&mode=single&template=uni http://www.bcuc.ac.uk/prospective_students/courses/technology/games_development_bsc_hons_f.aspx http://www.derby.ac.uk/faculties/business-computing-and-law/schools/school-of-computing/courses/computer-games-programming-bsc-hons Example of software engineering courses I've been looking at: http://www.solent.ac.uk/courses/undergraduate/software_engineering_bsc/course_details.aspx Thanks in advance. [Edited by - tehfusion on October 4, 2006 3:39:04 PM]

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Quote:
From The Bolton University Page
The move to ‘next generation’ consoles with Sony’s Playstation2, Nintendo’s Game Cube and Microsoft’s X-Box are revolutionising the buoyant UK games industry. New technology platforms are forcing existing development firms to diversify and are allowing new businesses to enter the market.


Hardly confidence inspiring is it? :D

From my experience Games Courses in the UK are generally a waste of time, filled with students doing it because it sounds cool. One of the biggest problems is the speed that the games industry and computer graphics move. If your course is going to last 3 or four years the course material is going to need to be constantly updated and revised, do you trust a university to take the time and effort to do this? As an example I graduated from a Games Tech course this summer, I had requested that the course be revised to include such topics as programable shaders for all of my four years and there were still no plans when I left.

Having said that, there are advantages to this kind of course, you will most likely have far more free time than you would with a more intensive course and so can spend more time doing your own learning and or working on demos for future employers. They will also have resources you might not get otherwise (hordes of game programming books, ps2 linux dev kits etc) and possibly may have links with local companies that *could* help get work experience that little bit easier.

If you take a more traditional Software engineering or computer science course you will also help elave your options open. People tend to change alot in their views and life goals while at university and you may find your self leaving and no longer wanting to work on computer games. In this case having a traditional degree will leave you with far more carears to walk into rather than a Games Tech degree. However you would need to spend time learning the games programming side on your own time while still working on your traditional degree, so bear that in mind.

You may also want to take a hybrid course such as

http://www.net.dcs.hull.ac.uk/ug/whatiscsgd.htm (the only Games related course Ive heard good things about but to be fair Ive not spoken to people from every games course in the UK :D)

Which would allow you to swap to a computer science degree at the end of the first year when you have seen what the course has to offer, or continue to the game related modules.

Whatever you choose, good luck and enjoy.

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Short answer - do a 'normal' computing degree and wherever possible, choose your projects so that they are relevant for games. Try to keep up to date with the newer techniques and technologies, and work on demos in your spare time. The 'proper' degree will give you a firm theoretical base on which to add your game development knowledge, and also open doors to other jobs (which you may need, at least in the short term - game development isn't exactly a booming industry here).

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Quote:
Original post by Drazgal
Quote:
From The Bolton University Page
The move to ‘next generation’ consoles with Sony’s Playstation2, Nintendo’s Game Cube and Microsoft’s X-Box are revolutionising the buoyant UK games industry. New technology platforms are forcing existing development firms to diversify and are allowing new businesses to enter the market.


Looks like someone from Bolton has read this thread lol.
Quote:
The interactive entertainment industry in the UK and throughout the world continues to evolve at an extraordinary pace. The move to "next generation" consoles like Microsoft's XBOX 360, Sony’s highly anticipated PlayStation3 and Nintendo’s Revolution is revitalizing the UK games industry.


I would like to say the Uni I attend is great for computer games but sadly it is not. Like already mentioned modules do not get updated, believe it or not last year they were teaching directx7(directdraw), directplay and would not listen to the fact MS say they are deprecated.

You will learn more about computer games on a games degree as long as its a good one.
Good luck.

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If you're not 100% sure about going into the game programming field, then go for a software engineering course. This will give you more options, and you can still learn game related techniques and what not on your spare time (if you have any, that is).

You're probably more likely to get a job taking a game development course, but if you work hard on your spare time it really doesn't matter what course you take.

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Quote:
Original post by Drazgal
Quote:
From The Bolton University Page
The move to ‘next generation’ consoles with Sony’s Playstation2, Nintendo’s Game Cube and Microsoft’s X-Box are revolutionising the buoyant UK games industry. New technology platforms are forcing existing development firms to diversify and are allowing new businesses to enter the market.


Hardly confidence inspiring is it? :D

Heh, I didn't notice that. And that was going to be my first choice, too.

Well, thanks for your advice, everybody. I can put down six course choices on the application form, so perhaps I will put three down as game development, and three down as software engineering, and then take the time to consider which would be better for me.

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hey man, i interviewed at a couple BIG names in the games industry and i'll tell ya what....they were MUCH MORE concerned about my knowledge of c++ than the "cool" 3D demos i had downloadable on my webpage. i wish i had known that going in because i spent more time tweaking my shadowing and physics demos than freshening up on some "simple" c++ concepts that i should have had the answer for instantly.

my 2 cents....good luck homie!

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funny paulshady,

I remember you were calling me on the phone asking for tips before those interviews :). But I wouldnt toss out the idea of demos, just remember you need to know what your writing, not just copy & paste.... right paulshady? haha, just givin ya crap.

Jeff.

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Quote:
Original post by paulshady
hey man, i interviewed at a couple BIG names in the games industry and i'll tell ya what....they were MUCH MORE concerned about my knowledge of c++ than the "cool" 3D demos i had downloadable on my webpage. i wish i had known that going in because i spent more time tweaking my shadowing and physics demos than freshening up on some "simple" c++ concepts that i should have had the answer for instantly.


That's because 90% of the time, new recruits are not going to be touching any low-level rendering code. The days of everybody writing their own in-house rendering engine are over.

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Edited thread title.

Again, thank you for your replies. But I need to choose soon, and still am undecided. Perhaps you could post the pros and cons of each and tell me what you'd strongly recommend? Computer Science sounds like it'd probably be most useful, but Game Development would perhaps also be useful in that the game I create as a project in the course, I could show to a future employer (if it's any good) perhaps? And it would also be more enjoyable. I don't know, so yeah, pros/cons and recommendation, please.

Thank you.

[Edited by - tehfusion on October 4, 2006 5:41:57 PM]

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If you're REALLY interested in games, I'd say go for a games course. I don't think any other course could give you better chances for getting into a game development job. Having to learn everything in your own time, as well as studying for a different degree seems unnecessary if you know it's a game programming job you want.

Check out my course at Northumbria Uni, I highly recommend it =]

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I think I would have to recommend Software Engineering for the time being. I took the course in UMIST, and while I didn't do amazingly at it, it seemed more concerned with the meat and potatoes of coding. At the time, I was thinking "holy crap, how is this relevant to games?", but when I got into the industry, everything they taught me cropped up like clockwork: Abstract Data Types, OO, all that good stuff. And when we seemed to ignore the good practice taught by the university, catastrophe normally ensued.

Although the course only had one unit regarding graphics, my interest in game development/design was more than sated in my spare time. I got this demo done about 8 months after finishing university. Admittedly, I wouldn't have been able to without a bit of parental charity, some help from a coder friend, and with a lot of smacking my head against a brick wall until code came out. But if I had gone to a game programming course, I think I really wouldn't have had a clue how to start.

I've met a few people on game-centric courses who have been pretty disappointed with it. They say that the courses tend to be "coding-lite", getting you to cut your teeth with script, but keeping you safely away from important fundamentals in coding. Middleware tends to have way too many assumptions about game design for it to be a great teaching tool, unless you don't mind making by-the-numbers games. They will teach you common game programming techniques, but since the popularity of these moves with the fashion of the time (gaming tastes change, as does hardware), who knows how long it'll be before these tricks of the trade are redundant?

Contrast that with software engineering, where they explain everything from analysis and design through to the formulation of well-formed algorithms: it's just a lot more fundamental and thorough. You'll really know the significance of what you're doing, rather than hap hazardly cobbling a bunch of tutorials together (although god knows, we've all got to start somewhere :) ).

I don't say that all Gaming courses are terrible: chances are that a lot of the courses share common units with Computer Science/Software Engineering, and those are the ones you really want to attend. I've yet to be very impressed with the game-centric parts of courses that I've heard about. Things may have changed, but as mentioned before, they just seem a bit "trendy" at the moment, and certainly, I've seen little evidence to suggest that they're encouraging creativity within game design - they might do a lot to teach the history, tell you common/cliche'd approach, but they really need to focus more on the creative side. I've heard good things about FullSail (though I think that's more about art?) and seen great things from Digipen, but they're the only real exceptions that spring to mind (I'm sure there are some others). I do hope it gets better, though.

By comparison, Software Engineering courses are considered much more professional: they've been running longer, tend to have very smart professors, and are unapologetic about their approach: so they'll teach you theory, like how a compiler works, or how network protocols work, but they'll barely ever ask you to write code until you really have to for your coursework. You're expected to learn to code on your own time - (that's what your secret demo is for :). Seriously, you'll think that the stuff they're teaching you is totally tangential to gaming, but you'll learn, as I did, that in the guts of the code, these fundamentals are all the same.

The company I went to work for never hired programmers because of Game Programming courses, rather, it was the opinion that even a bad course couldn't stop you from making a great demo. So, you gotta wonder... if going on a gaming specific course doesn't actually increase the chances of you getting a job, why not just go on the proper coding course?

My advice is go for software engineering, and do the game stuff in your own time. The engineering background will feed into your ability to make games (although it won't seem like it at first). Before you make art, know thy canvas.

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My biased opinion is to consider a course in maths instead.

If you can program already you can probably pick up new programming concepts fairly easily. Maths courses opens your mind up to several fundamental disciplines which are crucial to programming, including...

rigour
logical thought and reasoning
abstract ideas
modelling (i.e. simplification of problems to make them easier)

Also, maths won't go out of date as quickly as todays computers.

My tuppence 'apenny worth anyway.

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Consider this another vote for Software Engineering. Depending on where you go coding might not figure highly however the concepts you'll need later will do... very much so.

They key thing to remember however with the course is; you are not doing a 'programming' degree.

You are really doing an engineering degree in that you are being taught how to build software which works well (at least in theory [wink])

(not to say I've got anything against Game Programming degrees as such... heck I've got a half a mind to take another year in education and go onto a teaching position at the place I'm currently at and I figure that would be the degree I'd be best suited to do anything with and given my final year project *waves in the direction of his journal* that might be possible.. we'll see...)

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Please consider that Computer Science courses (with Games word attached to them) are more theory based than, for example, Applied Computing, so if you're more after the hands-on approach, you should consider the second one. An example would be the course called "Bachelor of Computer Science (Games Technology)" at Charles Sturt University in Australia, and the "Bachelor of Applied Computing (Games Technologies)" at Ballarat University. I've been doing first one for 2.5 years, however I've grown thinking that its not for me, and am thinking about studying the Applied Computing.

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Howdy,

I do a mixture of software engineering and computer science -- the science part helps me with the math and key concepts in the field, the engineering part is more practical pragmatic stuff about how to start projects -- proposals, design documents etc. So, this is -another- vote for software engineering, just don't forget it is really useful to learn the theory behind the way systems work -- after all, the most clever programmer will always be one who knows system quirks and reasons why -that- certain algorithm should/should not be implemented in certain circumstances :D

~Shiny

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Quote:
Original post by Bezzy
chances are that a lot of the courses share common units with Computer Science/Software Engineering, and those are the ones you really want to attend.


If I remember correctly in order for a degree to class as technical (Bsc over Ba) it must include one module of OS/memory management theory and on of basic Software engineering practices (waterfall iterative model etc) other than thay they are pretty much free to teach want they want.

Quote:
Original post by tehfusion
erhaps you could post the pros and cons of each and tell me what you'd strongly recommend?


Fair enough, as far as Ive seen it:

Games Courses

Pros:
Everything (in theory) that they teach is to do with what you want to do. Some courseworks will be suitable for job demo applications.

Access to console dev kits (usually only the ones publically avliable anyway but its a money saver)

Access to computer game text books from university libraries

Future contacts, since most of your class mates will be trying to et game industry jobs knowing a few now might help later, games degrees also try to develop links with local companies.

Cons:
Courses are generally 'soft', since many of their target students are doing it due to the cool factor rather than a deep love of programming, therefor courses have to be scaled down in order to keep drop out rates low (not true for every uni but Im yet to see a serious games tech syllabus)

Course material usually not cutting edge due to 'the industry' advancing faster than universities can quire the knowledge to teach it.

Generally skimp on more general programming practices. It's all well and good being taught opengl beginner infomation but if you cant describe the quicksort algorithm (or such) when you go to a job interview you'll be shown the door fairly sharpish. This is a major downside as you are more likely to do your own game programming learning on a CS course than more private computer science learning on a games course.

To be honest if you are seriously about Games Programming at a profession you will have to go so far beyond the standard UK games tech course in private study you might aswell do a CS/SE degree and do the games on the side anyway. Remember that games courses are relatively new and are still finding their feet.

As some posters have already said doing either degree will not help or hinder your change at a games job (nobody is going to go "ooo oo a games tech student hire him now!", and conversly nobody will say "burn his cv!") since with any degree private study is a large part. You need to choose a university that will give you the best grounding to be able to go off and do your private study and unless you are looking for 3/4 years to do entirely your own study I seriously suggest a more conventional SE/CS degree.

However if you are already advanced enough to make small games (2D and 3D) and you are just looking to do lip service to get a degree while you work on some stunning demos then a games tech course is ideal since you will be able to blitz through the courseworks easily and spend alot of time working on your own projects.

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