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Vespertine

Game Design - viability and course of action - please help!

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Hello, I am new to this forum, and I'm going to start off with a post that is a result of my sense of urgency. Forgive me if it is too long or narcissistic. I don't mean it to be. I only need to express all these things to give you an idea of where I stand, so that you can best help me figure out what I can do. Here we go... Early Years My first gaming system was the NES. It basically sparked my already huge love of gaming. I was always good at drawing. I was the 'class artist' in virtually every grade up until late highschool. In grade 4, I used to tape pieces of paper together, end to end, and draw entire platform levels on them. I used to design entire characters sets, each with different attributes (Strength values, Agility values, etc.) - their stats always reflected the character's name and appearance. It was like I was making a mini MMO in my head. I even did this to all my classmates... I drew them as caricatures, all with 'future life stats' and such. Both the appearance and stats I gave them were entirely dependent on their personalities and appearance as I knew them. Thankfully, I kept these drawings. I used to draw many mazes on paper. I spent days on them, and they were probably the most complex 2-D mazes you could ever come across. They would fill an entire page, corner to corner, having paths no wider than 1 mm. It would only have one true path; all other paths would lead to a dead end. I would purposely design paths that led the player astray for the longest time. Only at the final stages would they realize they made a wrong turn long before. Grade 8 A class assignment was to make a marble maze out of Popsicle sticks. To describe what I mean: you would have a big piece of cardboard, and would glue Popsicle sticks onto it and construct a maze. You would then hold the maze in your hands and rotate it about, making the marble move through it. I made this epic dungeon maze with locked doors that were colour-coded, and you had to fetch a key of the according colour to be allowed to pass through (of course you could cheat and just go through but if you followed the rules you would have to fetch the key). The maze even had a jump that went across one of the maze paths - literally a physical jump (you had to tilt the maze downward and the marble would complete the jump perfectly and land in the appropriate path... I actually gauged the positioning and everything). My teachers were extremely impressed. Grade 10 A class assignment was to make a board game, based on a random topic we were assigned. I made mine multi-boarded. I'll spare you the details, but trust me when I say that it genius, considering I didn't originally pick the subject I had to design it around. I even used parts from an old boardgame of mine to give the whole game a 3-D structure while still maintaining the theme of the game, as well as added my own cards, etc. I spent countless hours on it, paying attention to the most minute game details. Again, the teacher was extremely impressed. It was nothing like she had ever seen. Students were also in awe. Grade 11 (Programming) Our introductory Java programming class final assignment was to make a computer game, and we were allowed to work in partners - I chose to work alone. I made a multi-level top-view platformer game. I worked on it overtime on many evenings, learning the code necessary to make it work (things that weren't taught in class). Every level was different. The game had sound effects, music, and sprites all drawn by me in Paint. The whole class was amazed. Everyone had worked in pairs, making a basic Pong or checkers game, with no more than a couple hundred lines of code. Yet here I was, working alone, and had built an actual 'video game'. I usually like to mention the 2,500+ lines of code I wrote, but I think that's more a testament to my determination, rather than my coding skills at the time (it was inefficient, but I made it work, and that's all that mattered :P). Postsecondary Now you would probably think: "Surely, this creative individual would have gone to some sort of arts or computer school, in hopes of pursuing a career in game design?" Wrong. I got an offer from a leading computer science school in Canada. I rejected it. Don't ask me why, I couldn't tell you. Instead, I chose to stay in town , and work on a general science degree at a well-known university, in hopes of medical school. Back then, I was really good at lying to myself and convincing myself that I wanted to be a doctor. Four years later, with a biology degree in hand, and no aspirations for medical school (I didn't even apply), I'm totally lost as to what to do. And for whatever reason, the past few days I have realized that I still have a huge drive for creating amazing worlds, expressed as games. The only problem is, I am no longer 18 and fresh out of highschool. I am 23. Ironically, even while working toward my biology degree, I was still trying to find time to create things. I spent the better part of a summer creating an entire Warcraft III campaign, complete with storyline, cinematics, character development, and maps. The project remains unfinished due to me losing motivation along the line (largely in part due to the lack of time, given my academic life), but recently I have wanted to take it up again and finish it. But why? Why would I do this now? I should be searching for a job related to my degree, in hopes of working toward a career in biology. Perhaps I could apply to pharmacy school? While not a passion of mine, I guess I could see myself doing it - and it guarantees a 'comfortable' life should I be accepted. The only reason I should bother to go back and finish that campaign, would be to rebuild my portfolio! And the only reason I should rebuild my portfolio would be to drop what I'm doing now and pursue a career in game design! Oh, the insanity! Crazy? Perhaps. I have already lost 4 years. Thankfully, I'm not in any financial debt due to my parents' help. But aside from that, I'm 4 years behind, and you can't put a price on time. But does it matter? I spend most of my hours on gaming forums, including Blizzard's StarCraft 2 forums, posting often, and with passion, about things I believe should be urgently changed in the upcoming game. I post with 100% belief that I can make a difference. I dream of being on the Blizzard team, working with an amazing group of people to make an amazing game. Now I don't want to give the impression that I have unrealistic expectations. It is the dream of many gamers and game designers to work at Blizzard. However, I am just trying to describe my true passion for games. It's not everyday you see someone devoting hours of his day to getting Blizzard's attention on a tiny detail of SC2 - especially not from a 23 year old biology grad that should be looking for work instead of being an unpaid, unacknowledged, yet completely devoted member of the SC2 dev team. Believe me when I say - I actually get excited by the mere thought of creating games like SC, and would do almost anything to have the chance to do it someday, and to have my creative voice heard. Nothing else gets me this excited - no, not even playing the games. I'd rather design SC2 and never have a chance to play it! So I guess, at the end of it all, what I am asking is:
  • Is it too late to change paths and work toward a career in game design? Would employers be willing to take me up at the entry level when I'm already 4 years 'behind' everyone else?
  • If it's not too late, what is the best course of action? I am doing research on this, but would like some input if possible.
  • Is my biology degree even 1% useful in the game design field? At least to make me stand out in any way?
  • Am I crazy?
If you read this far, thank you. :) I want to make it clear that any information or opinions you give me would be much appreciated. Rest assured, I won't hold you responsible for any courses of action I end up taking, nor will I make any decisions based solely on your views. I am merely trying to collect as much information as I can on the topic to come up with my own decisions. I will hold myself solely responsible for any outcomes of those decisions. [Edited by - Vespertine on June 29, 2008 7:38:13 PM]

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Dont sweat it.

Most people with degrees arn't always in job fields respective of thier majors. Those with Political Science degrees can end up in system administration. Others with a Botany degree can end up managers at Wal-Mart. Its said on average people go through seven career changes in thier lifetime. No big deal.

As far as your age. Richard "Levelord" Gray was in his mid to late 30's when his spare time hobby landed him a job at 3D Realms. Legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto, with a degree in Industrial Design, was in his mid 40's when developing Zelda:OOT for the N64. Most of the great game designers are hitting thier 50's right now. Age is only a problem if you let it be.

The MOD scene is a great way to express your artistic game development side. Even as a hobby you can put your skills to work. It can make for a great community, and even a few noteable compaines have used such as a great recruiting tool. Who knows maybe Blizzard might take notice of your work.

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Some Canadian Londoner asked:
>Is it too late to change paths and work toward a career in game design?

Why, how old are you? I didn't read your ridiculously long post. If you're over 40, the answer might be yes.

>Would employers be willing to take me up at the entry level when I'm already 4 years 'behind' everyone else?

Where's that crystal ball... Oh, yeah, I forgot. I don't have one!

>If it's not too late, what is the best course of action? I am doing research on this, but would like some input if possible.

What did your research indicate that you should do?

>Is my biology degree even 1% useful in the game design field? At least to make me stand out in any way?

No. So what?

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Go to High Voltage's (an independant game developer) website, and check out the Jobs section. Look at how little they want! They want nothing! I could go in, kick down the door and be all like everyone geddown! I'm mahkin' my game nawwwwwwwhhh! There's like 400000 game developement companies out there, each with too many workers (looking at you, EA) so it can't be that tough. Great game designers aren't measured in college degrees, but what they produce.

That said, college degrees are nice. Not only do they say "I applied myself!" they also can come useful. In ultra-high end AAA titles, like Gears of War or Halo, most of the concept artists and modellers would have to know anatomy in order to create and rig models properly.

Is it too late? You're 24. Or maybe 23, I don't want to check again. Surgeons have to go to school for, what, 10 years plus more training before they get a job (don't hold me on that, though, I think it's true, though) so there's plenty of time left. Lets pretend you live to be...oh I dunno, 25. No, I'm kidding, like 90. You've got 60 years left to develop games! It's hardly too late...

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If you had a mortgage and three kids to feed, then it would probably be too late, but you are a fresh-faced biologist who knows a good deal about programming and game design, so what's holding you back? Is it the same thing that made you give up CS 4 years ago? Are you afraid that a full time job will kill all the joy in creating games?

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I turn 25 in September.

I have a wife, a mortgage, and probably kiddos in the next year or two.

I attended a 4 year university, left with a BA in Japanese language, promptly let it rot, picked up an A+ cert and started working in I.T.

Just this spring I started my first semester pursuing a CS undergrad, starting fresh (hadn't taken a math class since high school). In the fall I'll be taking my first full-on programming classes, calculus, and some gen-ed prereqs.

Point: it's never too late to change your path, especially so in your (or my) case. I have a co-worker in his late 40's that worked in medicine for 15 years before deciding he didn't like it anymore and now has a job as a high level sys-admin. 23 is still very young in the "real" world. Will you be on-par with the 23-year-old programming gurus who started when they were 14 and never veered off that path? Of course not, but I'll bet you're more well-rounded and easier to have a conversation with :)

The only wasted time is time spent floundering about doing nothing at all. The experience and accreditation you've already picked up are worth the time spent.

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