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Jon987

Working in the games industry

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Hi I'm in desperate need of some advice! I'm about to graduate from university with a BSc(Hons)in Computer Science and I've always wanted to work in the games industry so I need advice on what to do next. In particular, I'm aware that games programmers tend to be specialised in a certain field(such as network programming, UI programming etc) but I'm not sure about myself. I've made a few games/demos(see some of them at http://users.cs.cf.ac.uk/J.OShea) in my time and I've really enjoyed making *complete* games(simple ones but still complete) i.e. I love the creative aspect of making games - turning my ideas into reality... well, close enough :) BUT I'm not interested in being a designer/artist because I enjoy the programming side. So I suppose my question is: what sort of position/role in a games company would be right for me? Please help me - I'm struggling to be decisive and I'm running out of time. I think I've gotten too comfortable with student life ;) Also, what is the general opinion on games-related MSc courses? Over here in the UK there are only a few universities which do them but these tend be very low ranking universities! Could be a coincidence of course but anyway I'm wondering what people think of such courses. Oh and can anyone recommend any other forums where I can ask for help? Any advice welcome :)

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I can only speak from my experience (which is several years old now I've moved away from the mainstream industry, and is in a different country), but most fresh-out-of-college hires at medium to large game companies I know of in Australia start in tool development or working on helpful snippets of code off the main code base, at least until they've settled in. The specialist roles of graphics programmer, AI programmer etc. tend to be ones you gravitate to later, unless you've already got experience in that domain.

You can apply for a junior programming position with a BSc.(Hons) fresh out of college and (at least in my opinion) have a good chance of getting hired somewhere if you've got decent grades and can present yourself well in your resume and interview.

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Start sending your resume to game companies. With any luck, you'll get a bunch of phone interviews. Depending on your skills, you'll get some in-person interviews. Depending on your skills you'll get zero or more job offers.

I would also suggest talking to a recruiter like DAM ( http://www.digitalartistmanagement.com ). Game companies hire recruiters to find employees. They will be able to take your resume and talk with you about what kinds of jobs they think you would qualify for, and they will help you get and arrange interviews.

In short, if you want a job, you should be interviewing. It's not atypical to go through dozens of phone interviews with different companies, answering all kinds of questions and filling out all kinds of small written tests. Have fun with it and good luck ;)

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I don't have any experience in the industry, so this is just speculation, but if I were you I'd be spending my spare time polishing up those small games/demos into something presentable so you can show what you're capable of.
Or, as a BSc hons student I'm sure you've created something decent in the last few years which may be completely unrelated to games dev. Either way, it can't do any harm if you have some quality work to show off.

cheers,
metal

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As Trapper Zoid said, a lot of entry level programmers are more generalized "game programmers". Occasionally you'll get the guys who has a Master's in AI and is just plain damn good at what he does and so is hired because of it, but most programmers start in a more general role and gravitate towards specialization once they're in at a company.

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Any competent programmer can get a job as a junior game programmer. You don't have to spend tons of time perfecting a 'demo' if your time would have been better spent actually working. If you're a solid competent C++ programmer, you're fine.

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Quote:
Original post by RDragon1
If you're a solid competent C++ programmer, you're fine.

Absolutely true. The number of candidates that apply for a job where I work, as supposedly "fluent C++ programmers" and who don't even know what a virtual function or a constructor is, is unbelievable.

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Quote:
Also, what is the general opinion on games-related MSc courses?

The only decent one I personally know of in the UK is from the University of Hull. The year I graduated, they had at least a 90% employment rate.

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Quote:
Original post by Jon987
So I suppose my question is: what sort of position/role in a games company would be right for me?


realistically, if you are straight out of university, apply for a graduate position at a company. It's unlikely they are going to let you anywhere near the core networking/AI/Graphics systems just yet.... More likely you'll start out at the bottom and work on things like gameplay, GUI work etc.

Quote:
Original post by Jon987
Please help me - I'm struggling to be decisive and I'm running out of time. I think I've gotten too comfortable with student life ;)


Make your demo's polished and concentrate on doing one or two things as well as you can. Demonstrating you have some skill in many areas is useful (i.e. you are an allrounder), but demonstrating you can complete a full usable and well documented library is a damn good thing for interviews....

I'd also give you a small piece of advice. If you want to work in the games industry, don't be disheartened if you don't get any responses from your applications. It's normally the case that you can be looking for anywhere upto 6 months before finding a job. 99.99% of the time, this is because there are simply no jobs going, and not because you are not capable to do the work. So don't give up, keep improving your demo's, and keep sending out CV's and demo-reels to various companies.

You can always go down the route of using an employment agency, who will typically keep pestering the companies on your behalf, but expect to earn upto 5k less than if you were to find a job yourself. (the agent will take a cut of your 1st years salary).

I'm also going to say that this really is quite a bad time to be looking for work in the UK at the moment. The UK films/vfx/games industry hasn't got a huge amount of work going on at the moment, so there are a large number of people looking for work at the moment (especially around soho). I suspect you might have to be pretty determined to get a job at the moment, so an Msc might not be such a bad idea right now....

Quote:
Original post by Jon987
Also, what is the general opinion on games-related MSc courses? Over here in the UK there are only a few universities which do them but these tend be very low ranking universities! Could be a coincidence of course but anyway I'm wondering what people think of such courses.


It's no coincidence. The ex-polytechnics tended to be vocationally focussed. When CG first came around, the traditional-well-established universities tended to see CG more as a hobby instead of an academic subject. People wishing to set up courses for CG, then had to go to the places where they would be welcomed, which pretty much meant teeside and bournemouth.

So, whilst Bournemouth and Teeside are both low ranking universities, their CG departments are certainly not. Both of those departments have been skillset accredited, and Bournemouth's CG research department has been awarded 5 stars (the top mark available).

I'd suggest looking at the Msc Computer Animation, or MSc Masters by Project courses at the NCCA in bourenmouth.... both are excellent courses, and will allow you to specialise in Games if you choose to (and both have high employment prospects after graduation).

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I'd just like to say Thank You to everyone who's replied - you've been a great help :)

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