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Hi all, I would like to get a job in the game programming industry, I have decent programming skills and I'm definately not a novice. However I know I will need a degree to show especially since I've never had a game programming job. I am not looking to spend alot of money and my credit is poor, can't get financial aid. Can anyone point me in the right direction here?

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Once you pick a local school, you might as well apply for financial aid. It is very easy to do. Pretty much any student can qualify for some financial aid, even if it is a loan and not a grant.

The worst that will happen is they tell you you don't qualify. The best that will happen is that you get scholarships, a Pell Grant or some other 'free' aid money.

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The local colleges here hasn't much at all to offer for programming or game development.

I have applied for a BA at Westwood College Online in 'Game Software Development'. The way they explained it almost sounded like there's never really any problem with financing for students.

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FYI, while a degree is useful you don't always need one. It's not as true as it used to be but if you knocked up a good demo the degree may not be too much of an issue, dependant on your coding style / age / other employment /etc etc

Just something to think about especialy if money is tight. I've also known people to show up with little 'games' background then offer their time for free for a couple months, they never get the juicy jobs but (assuming you can feed and water yourself for a couple months) it's an easy way to get some very valuable experience if they go for it, then shift to somewhere that'll pay. Cheaper than a degree too i'd imagine

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Quote:
Original post by RdF
FYI, while a degree is useful you don't always need one. It's not as true as it used to be but if you knocked up a good demo the degree may not be too much of an issue, dependant on your coding style / age / other employment /etc ete

Remember that you aren't the only person applying for the job.

When culling the stack of applications, we generally throw people out if they have neither (1) a degree or completing a degree, nor (2) major game-related work experience at various studios already.

A single game demo with no post-secondary education is not enough to get an interview here.

The degree doesn't even have to be in the same field of interest, but you still need that paper. Some of our programmers have degrees in non-programming fields, including anthropology, astronomy, and the generic major of humanities.

Regardless of your choice, you should learn that any college degree -- even a generic two-year associates degree from a local community college -- will benefit you for the rest of your working life irrespective of your career path.

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Quote:
Original post by euphie
The local colleges here hasn't much at all to offer for programming

Well, that's out, then.
Quote:
or game development.

So what? You already said you can't afford game school. And you don't need a "game degree" anyway. http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson34.htm
Quote:
I have applied for a BA at Westwood College Online in 'Game Software Development'

Not as good as a community college education, but if you can afford the one but not the other, then you can only play the cards you've been dealt.
Good luck.
Tom

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Quote:
I have applied for a BA at Westwood College Online in 'Game Software Development'. The way they explained it almost sounded like there's never really any problem with financing for students.


Run! Fast and far away from Westwood Online, they are THE WORST college I have ever seen. The financial aid screws you around and doesn't give you a straight answer, and yet still bills you for classes you don't take.

My girlfriend signed up for it three years ago, she was supposed to have a degree in business in 3 years via the online program. She now only has 3 semesters worth of credits for her, and owes them $50,000, has had to repeat classes because the school removes her for weeks at a time because of financial aid that they gave her the run around on.

I applied to them too, I paid the $100 fee, and then I ran as far away as I could from them.

If you're looking for a good online program, I'm currently looking into UAT Online (uat.edu, University of Advancing Technology). EGM rated them in the top 5 best game schools.

frob, what are your companies opinions on schools like this (Online Game programming majors), and what would it take to get an interview if they didn't have work experience or a degree?

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Quote:
Original post by tleisher
frob, what are your companies opinions on schools like this (Online Game programming majors), and what would it take to get an interview if they didn't have work experience or a degree?

Hiring is a process of elimination.

Although it isn't this easy, this is the basics of my thought process:
...
if(!degree && !gameStudioExperience && !uberdemo)
interview = false;
if( !collegeIsAccredited )
interview = false;
if( ( degree || degreeFinalProgramYear ) && collegeIsAccredited && IsExperienceAdequate() )
interview = true;
...

bool IsExperienceAdequate() {
if( uberdemo )
return true;
if( demo && stableWorkHistory )
return true;
if( gameStudioExperience )
return true;
if( !demo && DoesDemonstratedExperienceFitOurNeeds() )
return true;
return false;
}


I mention it on all the job application and resume threads: You absolutely need to include what you did on your projects and how you used the tools, not just that you did a project or that you are experienced on a tool. That is the only way we can carefully look at your demonstrated experience.

Somebody just saying "Expert at C++, some networking and graphics experience." doesn't get an interview. It doesn't have anything near the impact of this: "For a networking project, I developed a distributed infinite-detail Mandelbrot renderer using a simple server to divide the viewable area and unlimited number of clients to render the patch and return the resulting image." The first one would fail the "DoesDemonstratedExperienceFitOurNees" function. The latter description might pass.

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Perhaps a portfolio of applications you've developed may help in the pre-interview stage.

Not every human excels at every thing. There are CS degree holders who cannot actually develop quality software. By showing that you can design and program software that has focus, in a form that explicitely solves a single problem well, you will have become equal or better to a CS major.

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Quote:
Original post by tleisher
So if they have no degree, they don't get an interview at all?


Changes from company to company, but very often they get so many applications that the easiest way to sort CVs is to throw out those who haven't bothered to get a baseline education.

In larger companies, HR will usually pre-filter everyone without a degree anyway : they don't know much about your actual skills, but they have a check-sheet from the development division, and their mission is to pair down the applicants to something manageable for leads to interview.

Allan

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Quote:
Original post by tleisher
So if they have no degree, they don't get an interview at all?


Almost certainly they do not. The only exception would be someone with industry experience or very relevant non-industry experience: i.e. some dude who left high school in the 80s or early 90s and has been working in the industry ever since.

After about 3-5 years of employment your college degree doesn't matter nearly as much as your experience. It is, however, a necessary pre-requisite these days for getting those first jobs.

A college degree today is as necessary as a high school degree was in the 70s and 80s for getting your first several jobs.

-me

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Quote:
Original post by tleisher
So if they have no degree, they don't get an interview at all?

You do not exist in a vacuum.

There is a tall stack of papers describing people with college degrees, rapidly finishing their degrees, and/or relevant industry experience.

Those with appropriate proven industry experience (nearly) always get calls back.

Those with prominent uber-demos often get calls back, but almost universally they have college degrees or are finishing degrees. One uber-demo was a full featured 6-player online game that we could probably have shipped within two or three months if we focused on it.

Those with solid educational backgrounds and excellent life backgrounds (see my previous comment about describing it) frequently get calls back.

We usually fill the job openings before that list is exhausted.

I have never worked with another programmer who didn't have one of those criteria.

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> what would it take to get an interview if they
> didn't have work experience or a degree?

Nepotism or networking. I'd suggest networking.

-cb

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Let me chime in as I never finished university nor was my degree CS.

After three years ( game play, later lead for one or two 3d games on mobile platforms), now I want to join the horde pursuing graphics engine/shaders positions.

Commercially I have no experience on shader capable platforms, though I have or will have done typical "nex-gen" shading techniques and certain advanced rendering methods.

But I fail on sorting/algorithms, which form the stable of interview questions.

Now, what should I focus on?

a) Finish the degree? My school is name brand after all.
b) Improve non-graphics algorithms skills to pass interview questions?
c) Improve graphcis techniques/math? Uber demo?

I am strictly doing c) if I have time. After all, I got my first job with a full featured software rasterizer demo.



Quote:
Original post by frob
Quote:
Original post by tleisher
frob, what are your companies opinions on schools like this (Online Game programming majors), and what would it take to get an interview if they didn't have work experience or a degree?

Hiring is a process of elimination.

Although it isn't this easy, this is the basics of my thought process:
...
if(!degree && !gameStudioExperience && !uberdemo)
interview = false;
if( !collegeIsAccredited )
interview = false;
if( ( degree || degreeFinalProgramYear ) && collegeIsAccredited && IsExperienceAdequate() )
interview = true;
...

bool IsExperienceAdequate() {
if( uberdemo )
return true;
if( demo && stableWorkHistory )
return true;
if( gameStudioExperience )
return true;
if( !demo && DoesDemonstratedExperienceFitOurNeeds() )
return true;
return false;
}


I mention it on all the job application and resume threads: You absolutely need to include what you did on your projects and how you used the tools, not just that you did a project or that you are experienced on a tool. That is the only way we can carefully look at your demonstrated experience.

Somebody just saying "Expert at C++, some networking and graphics experience." doesn't get an interview. It doesn't have anything near the impact of this: "For a networking project, I developed a distributed infinite-detail Mandelbrot renderer using a simple server to divide the viewable area and unlimited number of clients to render the patch and return the resulting image." The first one would fail the "DoesDemonstratedExperienceFitOurNees" function. The latter description might pass.


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Quote:
Original post by frob
Quote:
Original post by RdF
FYI, while a degree is useful you don't always need one. It's not as true as it used to be but if you knocked up a good demo the degree may not be too much of an issue, dependant on your coding style / age / other employment /etc ete

Remember that you aren't the only person applying for the job.

When culling the stack of applications, we generally throw people out if they have neither (1) a degree or completing a degree, nor (2) major game-related work experience at various studios already.

A single game demo with no post-secondary education is not enough to get an interview here.

The degree doesn't even have to be in the same field of interest, but you still need that paper. Some of our programmers have degrees in non-programming fields, including anthropology, astronomy, and the generic major of humanities.

Regardless of your choice, you should learn that any college degree -- even a generic two-year associates degree from a local community college -- will benefit you for the rest of your working life irrespective of your career path.


I'd much rather see a good demo than a degree. We've had a lot of graduates apply and I'd say at least 80% have not even been worth interviewing. Even of those we have interviewed most aren't up to it. A good demo shows you can at least make some sort of game, which is not something people seem to be taught in degree courses.
As for unrelated degrees, I consider them irrelevant when making a decision. So what if someone has a degree in astronomy? How does being able to read the stars help with making a game?

I'd also say completeness is better than flashy effects. Someone who can see a project through is more useful than someone who codes a few shaders then gets bored.

Another thing that will cause an immediate cull of the application are big holes in employment/education history, nothing looks worse than a couple of years where nothing seems to have happened.

One other thing - the only thing worse than no demo is a bad demo, you really don;t want to submit a bad demo. Get a few people who you trust to give an honest opinion to critique it first if you can.

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