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Transitioning to Game Development

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Hi everyone, this is my first post here and probably my last until I have more substantive questions to ask or answers to contribute. I am just shamelessly asking for advice, preferably from someone with experience, for transitioning to game development from a general software development job. I graduated with a degree in math in 2005, I now have ~1 year of experience programming in C#. I have really only worked on one project that will be complete sometime later this year - an image processing application for Windows (specifically working with images of various commercial and properitary formats, generated by x-ray machines). I have no experience with animation or any game-related API. I am an avid gamer (beyond avid, really, its nearly a sickness) and would ultimately be interested in design, but I think I can leverage my programming skills to break in to the industry. I'm very interested in both physics engines and AI. I'm interested in RPG and action games, but I'm willing to work on anything to get my start. What sort of advice do you have for direction for me? Will my current experience be at all valuable to a development studio? Is a degree in Computer Science important? I realize individual employers may have different ideas about these questions, but I'd like a general response to how much time and money it will take for me to make this transition. I realize I'll probably take a pay-cut to get an entry-level job in game programming and I certainly don't mind the hours (it helps to train yourself to function on 4.5 hours of sleep/night). I've signed up for IGDA and plan on attending meetings in the area (I just moved to Baltimore, MD). From my general survey of guides online it seems most people have suggested it will take years of learning and producing just to be considered for a job in games. It seems to me there must be a wider entry-level - I'd like to be working in games by 2009. In any case, I /will/ be a game developer, but at 23 years old I already feel behind the ball. Thanks for your time, everyone.

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You are on my path. I graduated w/ a degree in neurobiology & worked in web java dotcom jobs for about 3-4 years after graduating. Now I work in games. My path was:

1) start hobby development -> wrote a 3D openGL game engine from scratch. took about 2 years & was relatively crap when done. =)
2) quit job
3) move to LA
4) obsessively read gamedev every day
5) apply to every game company here & rewrite game engine as a demo for interviews; also work on an organized hobby project w/ some friends.
6) 6 mths pass
7) get job

funtimes.

Your skills are most certainly relevant. programming is programmming. there just tends to be more math & physics in game programming (which given your major will work out great). Getting a job will be about having a good demo running and be able to competently answer questions about game architecture & basic linear algebra.

-me

[Edited by - Palidine on February 13, 2007 4:44:09 PM]

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Palidine: Thank you for your reply. I find your story very encouraging - even though I'm hoping not to be unemployed for 6 months.

Currently the path I've charted for myself, in light of the reading I've done about the experiences of others, is as follows:

1) Continue to work, making the world a safer place (like Jack Bauer, except not as cool). Oh, and getting paid.

2) Work with C# (which I'm comfortably fluent in with respect to data structures, syntax) and XNA (which I have a lot to learn about) and make a hobby game. I'm going to start with a few easy ones and then try to move toward something more complex, hopefully with others.

3) Continue to work on my kickass Neverwinter Nights 2 mod.

4) Apply for gaming jobs in ~1 year. That will give me ~2 years experience in programming and a year of making games as a hobby. I think that should be sufficient for an entry-level job?

5) If I can't get one, I'll go to DigiPen and do their MS in CS, or something of that nature, to make some contacts and signal a higher level of preparedness.

Suggestions to and criticisms of my plan are welcome. And thanks to GameDev for providing such great resources.

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