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A Programmer's choice

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As I did research on game programming and the jobs you get after college,something I can't figure out. When you go to college for programming you learn many different things. But when you enter the gameing industry you only do one specific thing(i.e networking, or Animation).It just don't seem right that you go to college and learn so many things and only apply one thing. I wanted to know do you picked for whatever you are good at or what the company needs,I may be wrong,but give me your opinion anyway?[smile]

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In order to do anything good you have to understand how everything else generally works. Also a CS degree will just give you the background you need in programming for further self taught concepts or higher level courses that are more specific to what interests you.

If you apply for a job it lists what position they need, so I'm not really following you too much. It might be that job expectations might change, but I'm just speculating.

Having a solid background in things will help you to understand the big picture which is important when working with complex systems. Imagine someone else programmed a game object system and you are asked to integrate the networking component. It's a good idea to have experience in things to know generally what needs to be serialized and such. There's probably better examples. Also if you get "done" with your part I'm pretty sure you'd help someone else in that kind of position. (again speculation).

Also I'm not sure if game programming works like software developing, but you may be asked to maintain something you haven't written. A large part of this is experience but you have to be able to analyze an algorithm even if it isn't your specialty and work with it. (I work for a university and this is 95% of my job, something breaks and the last employee is long gone).

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Unless you did your thesis project in one of those specific areas you're not likely to be hired into one of the more specific roles you talk about -- Graphics, Networking, Physics, etc. -- those roles for core components are generally pretty demanding and not for the fresh hires in most cases.

Coming right out of school, you're much more likely to take on a more nebulous role such as "gameplay" or "generalist" programmer, scripter, tools or to basically be assigned to work under one of the leads in an area that you show promise in order to be mentored under someone more experienced.

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The vast majority of the things you learn at college are not in the classroom. How to get up on time, keep out of trouble, do what you're supposed to without people watching, how to hold your liquor and hopefully how to use contraception, (amongst other wonders of being an adult).

And implementing anything is going to take math and physics usually; teamwork, communication, tact, planning...

But in general, you do what you're told to do. Your boss will want to keep you happy by letting you do what you want to do, but that comes a distant second to getting everything done, and well.

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Today alone I worked with code in:
-Rendering
-AI/Gameplay
-Menus
-Build Pipeline

So it's a pretty big generalization to suggest all professional game programmers do one thing and one thing only.

There are specialists, but in order to specialize in something you usually have to have a pretty broad understanding of all things related. And also, people who specialize generally do it by choice rather than by getting stuck there.

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Quote:
Original post by 2 Fresh 4 U
But when you enter the gameing industry you only do one specific thing(i.e networking, or Animation).


While there are people who work at specific things this isn't always the case. Where I work we have a group of coders who have the freedom to work anywhere in the code base as long as it's working towards getting our assigned tasks done.

I started just under two month, and within the first two weeks I'd already contributed a major improvement to our scripting system in the engine. This, however was done with a view to making what I was working on easier, I then went on to upgrade this over the next couple of weeks. At the same time I was working on game play and talking with the modeler/artist I was assigned to work with. (Learning to work with others is an important skill picked up in college/uni as well).

While people do have areas of the engine they know more about, simply because they have worked on it, no one is working only in that area, if only because the team is too small and the deadlines too short.

So, while there may be positions where they want a graphics programmer at a company, often this comes complete with 'needs X years experiance' something you probably won't have out of college, so you'll just end up taking a starting position and working on whatever, and those you get by haivng your bit of paper (which shows you can learn and improve on your own as much as anything) and by showing that you can do the job.

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If you know that working for a game studio is your relentless goal, look into a 4 year game programming school. I'm not talking about the 2 year non-accredited online degree's either. My college focuses on math, programming and development practices. In addition we touch on 3d modeling, game design (mechanics, narrative, theory, balancing, etc...), professional writing/communication, public speaking/presentation, scripting, mod making, level design...

So, in addition to spending 80% of your time learning code and math you learn a bit about the environment you'll be diving into.

One example: In my modeling class I've seen what it takes for artists to create simple models. I've developed an appreciation for it. If I want to I can make simple models to test in my code. There are many benefits really.

Hope this helps

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In school you learn the foundations of programming. Programming paradigms, data structures, algorithms, numerical analysis etc... In the industry you apply these foundations to lots of different areas. They are necessary to be effective in whatever you do and what you do will change often. It is very common for people to change what aspect of development they are focusing on.

I've been programming games professionally for a long time. I've mentored lots of juniors, given lots of interviews and talked to crowds about how to "get into the biz". My advice has always been the same:

Get a 4-year degree from a strong but general college. Learn the theory from school and learn the practice by making your own games and demos on your own time. Over the summer after your junior year, get an internship -it's really a multi-month interview. Do well in the internship and you can easily get a job at the same company after you graduate. Work on a game there from start to finish there and you are golden. You can stick with that company or start shopping around for someplace better.

Worked for me. Learn hard, work hard and it'll work for you.

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This is all approaching the problem from opposite direction.


Some person has an idea. Starts small, then forms a company. Sales grow, work accumulates, market expands. Eventually, they need help. So they start looking to hire other people.

Why would other people work for someone? Well, money, survival, the common stuff.

So the company offers a job opening for position X, with salary Y, with requirements Z.

And this is where you come in. Along with 590 others. 17 of those will have MSc, 43 will have BSc, 76 will have one of game-specific schools, others will have no degree. 14 of these will have more than 10 years experience, 65 will have more than 5, 102 will have more than 1 year experience, others will have no experience.

Where are you among those?

Ok, employer then allots 4 hours of interview time, and picks 3 candidates of those 590 to meet in person (530 were discarded immediately, the remaining 57 after more detailed screening, phone interview and off-site test.

So they talk to these 3. And one of them says: "well, I don't wanna work on one single thing, I spent so much time in college".

Employer says: "Thank you, we'll call you". And the story ends.... Job candidate #2 gets the job in the end.


Moral: In job market, employer either contacts you first, and asks you to come work for them, because you're so renowned and have good reputation. Or - you're nobody, and need to struggle really hard to just get a job. The competition is fierce.

This will hold true for any job. If you don't want to do it, there's thousands of others that will. For less money, with lesser demands, for less benefits.

Why do you even study, learn and gather experience? So that when jobs do appear, you can apply for them, knowing you can actually do it. That's all that matters - that you're the most suitable of those thousands that apply. How you get there however, is irrelevant - it's just about being the best person for the job.

PS. Nepotism and Networking are not included in above example.

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Quote:
Original post by 2 Fresh 4 U
But when you enter the gameing industry you only do one specific thing(i.e networking, or Animation).


I don't think that is the case. Most people I know in the industry don't just work on one specific thing for the rest of their lives. A small few do, but most either specialize on something most of the tile while helping with numerous other things the rest of the time, or tend to change what they specialize in for different projects. Depending on the size of a company, you'll likely meet some people (like me) whom you'd have a hard time naming a part of a game engine that they haven't touched on some project within the past year or two.

In any case... If all you can do is network programming, it'd be a lot harder to find a job than if you can work on any part of a project.

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Quote:
Original post by Antheus
Why do you even study, learn and gather experience? So that when jobs do appear, you can apply for them, knowing you can actually do it. That's all that matters - that you're the most suitable of those thousands that apply. How you get there however, is irrelevant - it's just about being the best person for the job.


QFE

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Quote:
Original post by corysama
In school you learn the foundations of programming. Programming paradigms, data structures, algorithms, numerical analysis etc... In the industry you apply these foundations to lots of different areas. They are necessary to be effective in whatever you do and what you do will change often. It is very common for people to change what aspect of development they are focusing on.

I've been programming games professionally for a long time. I've mentored lots of juniors, given lots of interviews and talked to crowds about how to "get into the biz". My advice has always been the same:

Get a 4-year degree from a strong but general college. Learn the theory from school and learn the practice by making your own games and demos on your own time. Over the summer after your junior year, get an internship -it's really a multi-month interview. Do well in the internship and you can easily get a job at the same company after you graduate. Work on a game there from start to finish there and you are golden. You can stick with that company or start shopping around for someplace better.

Worked for me. Learn hard, work hard and it'll work for you.


I think this is pretty intresting because this is one of the 2 sides I've seen. You have the ones who believs strongly in the old fashion university degrees, and the other side which recommends more hands on and game development targeted educations. I've personaly been to both, started out with a dregree in computer science, but felt that the university structure of handling education wasn't well suited for game development. And that it in fact wasn't very inspirational/motivational. So I dropped out and began a game development focused education which was shorter, but a much higher tempo and more focused. It also was a much better enviorment overall to be studying in, because there was a lot more like minded. I'm under the impression that at least here in Sweden the game dev oriented educations are rated higher than the university degrees, I'd guess about ~90% of the people from my year is now in the industry, and that I'd call pretty good numbers.

In the end I'm pretty biased in the same way as I'd claim corysama is, I'm a product of one of the 2 paths.

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Well in the schools I've seen you do everything for one or two years - then you move on to a specialist subject depending on what you were best at to begin with or what you want to do.

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