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10 Newbie questions: programming, design, and audio

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Hello everyone, I'm interested in joining the professional game development community but I've ran into a snag in my hours of research, leaving me with questions that go unanswered or questions that are answered but contradicted by somebody else’s answer. So here are my questions by category marked in bold if you don't want to read it all. Programming and Design: I live in Ohio, and from what I understand there are no gaming colleges nearby Columbus, and I aspire to go to school for either game design, game programming or game audio (possibly a combination). My known options are: go to school online for game development, get a Computer Science degree, or find a game college nearby Columbus. (no luck so far) 1***Will an employer look down on my resume if he/she reads that I attended an online school? 2***According to several veteran game makers, a Computer Science Degree or some kind of Programming Degree can get me into the industry the same as a Gaming Degree can. Is that true? I asked that last question because it would seem that Game Design Colleges are on the rise. I'm worried that if I get a CS degree, I may not find a job because I think employers may not consider a CS grad, when there are so many Game College grads out there. But a CS degree would be easier to obtain due to locality. 3***Where do the pros learn? People who have attended college and are making games now, where did they attend college at? 4***Where did you attend college and how are you applying your education to your career? 5***How long are typical work days for people in these gaming fields: Design, Audio, Programming, testing. 6***How long are your work days? I'm horrible at remembering things (for example I dropped a College Anatomy class because I couldn't remember depression names in bones) but I've always been good at everything to do with computers and remembering how it was done. I was using DOS to play Doom 2 when i was 10 and networking it on a modem connection. Might not be impressive to anyone around here, but I don't know anybody else that was doing that at my age other then myself and a friend. 7***How difficult is memorizing the required computer languages C/C+,C# , is it fun to learn or painstakingly boring? 8***What level of math perquisite do I need before taking programming courses. I stopped at Algebra in high school and don't remember much of it. Audio 9***Any idea where I can go to college and learn Audio Programming, and possibly Game Programming at the same time? Online if necessary but only if it's a good school and from the reviews I've read about Full Sail and Westwood people swear that they are rip-offs. 10***Any Advice about a Game Audio career? There's not much of it out there. So anyway, up to this point here are my plans: Attend College in Ohio for Computer Science or Online for game development. (Unless I can find a school in Ohio) Then transfer to a school in California (or any other gaming state). After that start an internship in my 3rd or 4th year. I appreciate any and all advice but please keep it to what your experienced at. Maybe tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do like I asked before, that will definitely help with my weighing of options. Thanks in advance for your time and answering my questions. [Edited by - sick2sick on August 13, 2008 9:07:59 PM]

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1. maybe every single person doing the hiring at different companies is different. Typically online only degrees are looked down upon.
2. According to the guys at EA a traditional 4 year CS degree is better than a game programming degree.
3. Most have 4 year CS degrees or are self taught.
4. UT arlington, I work as a defense contractor.
5 I work your typical 40 hr work week.
6 It really depends on you. I find it fun other wise I wouldn't do it. My wife finds it extremely boring.
7 None before you start taking classes, but logic is involved in programming so you will have to pick it up to get good.
8 Purdue is near Ohio and is a really good school. In ohio OSU, OU, wright state.
9 Not really just get out there and give it a shot.

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Some sicko wrote:
>leaving me with questions that ... are answered but contradicted by somebody else’s answer.

Well, duh. If you want answers that don't get contradicted, just ask one person, and then don't ask another. When you do a "mini-poll" on a forum like this, you're just going to get more of the same - more contradictory answers. As for your 10 questions (which you should have numbered):

1. Read the September 2007 column at http://www.igda.org/columns/gamesgame/gamesgame_archive.php - this is one of the most frequently asked questions there.

2. No. It's BETTER.

3. At regular universities/colleges.

4. You don't wanna know.

5. Read the FAQs on this site. Go to IGDA.org and read the QOL (Quality Of Life) stuff there.

6. Not applicable.

7. It's all difficult. Read FAQ 26 at http://www.sloperama.com/advice.html

8. Calculus.

9. No. Do your research. If you're in high school, talk to the guidance counselor for help.

10. Yes.

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1. maybe every single person doing the hiring at different companies is different. Typically online only degrees are looked down upon.

-That's what I was thinking.

2. According to the guys at EA a traditional 4 year CS degree is better than a game programming degree.

-Good to know, did you learn that from somone on these boards?

4. UT arlington, I work as a defense contractor.

-Defense Contractor? So you program on the side?.

8 Purdue is near Ohio and is a really good school. In ohio OSU, OU, wright state.

-I will look into those schools and ask them about thier audio courses and what kind of work I can get besides game development just in case.

9 Not really just get out there and give it a shot.

heh, I'm 24 and seriously I don't think I've heard that enough. I Appreciate your comment.

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Quote:
Original post by sick2sick
1. maybe every single person doing the hiring at different companies is different. Typically online only degrees are looked down upon.

-That's what I was thinking.

That's great that you got one opinion that agreed with what you'd been thinking.
But you also got a contradictory opinion...

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Some sicko wrote:
>leaving me with questions that ... are answered but contradicted by somebody else’s answer.

Well, duh. If you want answers that don't get contradicted, just ask one person, and then don't ask another. When you do a "mini-poll" on a forum like this, you're just going to get more of the same - more contradictory answers. As for your 10 questions (which you should have numbered):


I expected it, but not this much. Nobody can agree on what I feel should be basic shared information. I don't want to argue my views on this point but IMO it's a billion dollar industry, there should be more information and it should be easier to obtain.

Anyway, I probably pointed out the contradictions in frustration. I've spent hours digging for information and I still have questions remaining. Not to mention even before this post I already read almost every topic on your page. Lot's of interesting and informative stuff there btw.

But the point is, the more opinions from professionals I get, the more confident my final decision will be. I appreciate your answers but if you plan to disect and critique my typing style please don't respond to any more of my questions. I tryed making this letter readable and professional as possible but I am far from perfect. And I'm sure my responses will be even further from perfection because I'm going to spend less time on them then I did initiatlly on the thread. Remember, I don't do this everyday, so just please try to answer my questions for what they are.

2. No. It's BETTER.
What year did you finish your latest video game and what was it?

4. You don't wanna know.
Sure I do. If it pays the bills for the longterm...

5. Read the FAQs on this site. Go to IGDA.org and read the QOL (Quality Of Life) stuff there.

Will do


10. Yes.
Thanks

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1.
I can't imagine wouldn't be a plus, you would definitely need demo's or projects to show that you knew your stuff.

2.
Very true, this is how people got in before game degrees, and many still consider it a better option (count me among those as of right now). Computer Science puts you on the track for being a programmer, but if you realized you didn't like it and went a different track the knowledge will still be useful (many designers will still need to code a bit). However, before you get hired you will want be able to put game demo's, or projects on your portfolio so companies know you have experience in that area as well. I hear a lot of people work on them during summer, or if they can fit it into their schedule in the school year.

3
Everywhere, I've heard many stories about people who didn't even have a related degree that got in. Of course you wouldn't want to rely on luck, so attending your local college in Computer Science would get you on the track for that.

4
I haven't attended yet. I will be applying to the following.
University of Washington (local)
Georgia Tech
Carnegie Mellon
University of Oregon
Rochester Institute of Technology
Digipen (as a safety school)

7.
I have never actively memorized anything while programming, I just look things up every time I use them until they stick. I hate memorizing, understanding is superior, but I love programming.

8.
Well, that may be a problem. You don't really need math to program, just the problem solving techniques. To program games you will need to understand trig, algebra, and if you go graphics, linear algebra.

9.
You should be able to study either while going through a normal CS curriculum, ask colleges you apply to if they would be lenient towards that. I've heard ok things about Full Sail, but I don't trust it. Westwood is horrible, don't go there.

10.
Nope... I've read a couple articles about reflecting sound waves, but have never done it.

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2.
Very true, this is how people got in before game degrees, and many still consider it a better option (count me among those as of right now).


What resources have you heard that from other then EA and Tom Slopers page?



4
I haven't attended yet. I will be applying to the following.
University of Washington (local)
Georgia Tech
Carnegie Mellon
University of Oregon
Rochester Institute of Technology
Digipen (as a safety school)


Good luck! :)



Full Sail, but I don't trust it. Westwood is horrible, don't go there.

I checked into those 2 schools and it's amazing that people don't bother to research them. There's just as much dirt on Full Sail as there is Westwood.

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it's pretty well documented that a CS degree is better than a game degree, but frankly a CS degree isn't mandatory. the vast majority of game programmers have CS degrees.

I've read plenty of game developer profiles that mention CS, Comp Engineering, Math(a very popular one),bio,chem,physics. You'll have more attention paid to a Demo and/or in-interview testing than what field your degree is in. That being said, if you don't have a degree in SOMETHING, don't be suprised if you don't get a call back

btw: try not to come across as arrogant, esspecially when asking such pedestrian questions

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1***Will an employer look down on my resume if he/she reads that I attended an online school?

I think so.

2***According to several veteran game makers, a Computer Science Degree or some kind of Programming Degree can get me into the industry the same as a Gaming Degree can. Is that true?

Many places prefer a traditional degree, though that is changing. You typically are better off with a portfolio on top though.

3***Where do the pros learn?
People who have attended college and are making games now, where did they attend college at?


Everywhere and anywhere.

4***Where did you attend college and how are you applying your education to your career?

Somewhere in England, not really relevant to you. I apply my education in every single line of code that I type.

5***How long are typical work days for people in these gaming fields: Design, Audio, Programming, testing.
6***How long are your work days?


I work 40-hour weeks, as does pretty much everybody else in the company here.

7***How difficult is memorizing the required computer languages C/C+,C# , is it fun to learn or painstakingly boring?

You don't memorise them, you learn them. There is a difference. There's no massive list of vocabulary to recite. You get given some basic tools, ie. language constructs, and you practice building things from them. Whether it's fun or not depends on whether you enjoy making programs or not.

8***What level of math perquisite do I need before taking programming courses. I stopped at Algebra in high school and don't remember much of it.

No idea. But you're going to have to become very good at algebra again.

9***Any idea where I can go to college and learn Audio Programming, and possibly Game Programming at the same time?

No, but audio programming is not particularly specialised enough to need to do it separately. Furthermore, there are probably few jobs in that area since most audio needs are covered by existing libraries.

10***Any Advice about a Game Audio career?

Practice writing music and recording sound effects. I wouldn't get your hopes up on audio programming unless you want to do exclusively that (eg. working on writing sequencer software) rather than games.

Quote:
I expected it, but not this much. Nobody can agree on what I feel should be basic shared information. I don't want to argue my views on this point but IMO it's a billion dollar industry, there should be more information and it should be easier to obtain.

No, the world doesn't work like that. It's a billion dollar industry because there are so many companies involved in it, and each and every one has different processes, standards, and preferences.

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1***Will an employer look down on my resume if he/she reads that I attended an online school?
We don't have online schools over here. I guess UK employers probably would do, then.

2***According to several veteran game makers, a Computer Science Degree or some kind of Programming Degree can get me into the industry the same as a Gaming Degree can. Is that true?
I 100% recommend Computer Science as a degree over 'Gaming.' Aside from the fact that lots of places are trying to get in on the game-degree "fad" with extremely poorly designed courses that take your money and don't make you ready for work in the industry, there's the undeniable truth that game programming is just an application of computer science anyway. Gaming courses are to Computer Science like "House Building" is to "Engineering and Architecture."

The best game programming courses are good at teaching you game programming techniques that are in use today. Computer Science gives you the depth of understanding you need to quickly pick up the game programming techniques that will be in use tomorrow.

As an example, Concurrency has been a part of any worthwhile Computer Science course for decades; it wasn't in the games courses because the PS2 and Xbox were single-processor. Then the next-gen consoles were all announced with multiple cores onboard; the courses had to scramble to introduce some concurrency content, while people who'd already graduated from them were on their own. The computer science courses didn't need to change a thing, and the graduates were ready for it.

3***Where do the pros learn?
At good universities, in good courses. At the dev I worked for in Oxford, lots of people had degrees from Oxford University. The company's Head of Technology was a chemistry graduate.

4***Where did you attend college and how are you applying your education to your career?
Oxford University, and I don't even know how to begin answering your second question.

5***How long are typical work days for people in these gaming fields: Design, Audio, Programming, testing.Everybody worked around 9:30am to 6:00pm (with an hour for lunch) when not crunching; when crunching people would often stay as late as 11pm every night of a week, and occasionally till like 2am.

6***How long are your work days?
I generally kept to 9:30am-6:15pm.

7***How difficult is memorizing the required computer languages C/C+,C# , is it fun to learn or painstakingly boring? You don't memorize them, you use them. The more you use them, the less you'll need to look up details of how parts of them work.

8***What level of math perquisite do I need before taking programming courses. I stopped at Algebra in high school and don't remember much of it.
Algebra and set theory would be helpful, but actual prereqs depend on the course you take.

9***Any idea where I can go to college and learn Audio Programming, and possibly Game Programming at the same time?No. Both are a waste of time anyway, you can just learn Computer Science, and then reading a book on each will get you up to speed.

10***Any Advice about a Game Audio career?
Are you talking about music composition, sound effects and foley, post-production, or software development?

As for me, I'm the webmaster of this site, with about two and a half years experience working for game and middleware developers.

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Quote:
Original post by sick2sick
2***According to several veteran game makers, a Computer Science Degree or some kind of Programming Degree can get me into the industry the same as a Gaming Degree can. Is that true? [/b]
That's definitely true, and as mentioned by some of the other responders some (but not all) industry employees may look down on these degrees or favour a regular CS degree if given the choice.

See On Game Schools for some more reading material on this point of view.

Quote:
7***How difficult is memorizing the required computer languages C/C+,C# , is it fun to learn or painstakingly boring?
You don't memorise programming languages, you learn to program and over time remember significant details about whatever languages you use on a regular basis, and supplement this by being good at quickly researching any holes in your knowledge as required.

Quote:
10***Any Advice about a Game Audio career?
Check Starting your career as a composer-sound designer (FAQ and answers) in the Game Design forum, as well as anything that looks of interest to you from this thread.

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Still anonymous and still sick in Ohio:
>Nobody can agree on what I feel should be basic shared information.

Welcome to the real world! Everybody's got opinions. Everybody's had different life experiences. Look, I know I gave you a hard time right off - the reason is that my latest pet peeve is, "look at all these guys who see conflicting advice out there, then ask us to give them non-conflicting advice, and that's an impossible request, why can't they see that?" Then you posted. (^_^)

>IMO it's a billion dollar industry, there should be more information and it should be easier to obtain.

Sounds like somebody's got a case of the shoulda's! (^_^) After you've read all the information that IS out there on the industry, then come back and tell us what's missing, and how to make it "easier to obtain." Then since you see the need, why don't you be the one to provide that easy-to-obtain information for those who come after you. Can you take care of that for us by next week, please? (^_^)

IMO, you've already received the information you were seeking. You have to deal with some conflicting advice, that's just the way the world is. The possibilities are endless, and you have to pick your own music out of all of that noise.

FWIW. The reason I say my education isn't applicable is because I got educated before video games existed. The reason I say my working day isn't applicable is because I'm consulting, writing, and teaching.

As for my non-reply on your Q10, read IGDA.org's Career Paths page and my FAQs 53 and 65.

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Quote:
Original post by superpig
1***Will an employer look down on my resume if he/she reads that I attended an online school?
We don't have online schools over here. I guess UK employers probably would do, then.


That's not entirely true: The Open University has a very good reputation. It's a pioneer of distance learning. ("Online schools" are the same thing. The term merely emphasises the medium used. The OU is also now an "Online" school by that definition, although they used to use late-night broadcasts on the BBC until the Internet came along. You'd set your VCR and record the appropriate video lecture.)

Also, many certification courses -- MCSE, CCNA, etc. -- are frequently taught through distance learning techniques. Microsoft's courseware is designed for the format. (Computeach, for example, simply reprint MS' books using their own covers.)

Distance Learning institutions vary greatly in quality and course content, so this is something to be wary of. If nobody has heard or recommended the institution to you, or you've only heard bad things about it, then don't use it.

The same, sadly, goes for pretty much *any* learning institution. A crap course from a crap bricks'n'mortar university will be looked down upon by most employers. Most of these institutions have courses that are considered their core strengths. Warwick University has a good reputation for electronics and computing, for example. Another university might be highly recommended for its Archeology courses, but pointed and laughed at for the sheer mediocrity of its quota-filling IT courses.

You need to do some research of your own here. We're limited in the help we can offer you as your post suggests you are, yourself, rather vague in your intentions and aspirations.

What, in short, do you want to be?

Quote:

2***According to several veteran game makers, a Computer Science Degree or some kind of Programming Degree can get me into the industry the same as a Gaming Degree can. Is that true?
I 100% recommend Computer Science as a degree over 'Gaming.' Aside from the fact that lots of places are trying to get in on the game-degree "fad" with extremely poorly designed courses that take your money and don't make you ready for work in the industry, there's the undeniable truth that game programming is just an application of computer science anyway. Gaming courses are to Computer Science like "House Building" is to "Engineering and Architecture."


Okay people, enough! Please, PLEASE re-read the original post! Sick2sick hasn't even decided on what aspect of games development he wants to do! (Witness the questions on audio and references to "game design" in his preamble.)

Sick2sick: We CANNOT help you decide what you want to be. Making games isn't simply a case of swearing at a PC for six months until a game comes out: there are a number of roles:


  • Design is the job that involves explaining to the team exactly what the game will be about, why it's a great idea, why it'll make everyone involved rich, and how it'll all work.

  • Programming involves explaining to the designer why that can't possibly work because computers don't work that way. And anyway, it'd take years just to get the AI working right.

  • Graphics artists are fine as long as the game will have females with large breasts in it. Or cars. They like cars. (And bubble-wrap, but that's a whole other story...)

  • Audio covers everything from composing sweeping orchestral pieces to be played as cheaply as possible by the Riga Philharmonic, and then mixing it into the game such that it's not entirely masked by all the explosions and gun-reload samples.

  • Production is management: ensuring the Programmers, Graphics Artists, Audio guys eventually produce something that at least vaguely resembles the original design doc they showed to the publisher in order to get the funding. (It's like herding cats, except cats are small, can't talk and won't sue you if you threaten them with violence.)



Only one of the above *requires* anything like a CS degree. Many designers can come from screenwriting backgrounds. They might even have degrees in Psychology or History. They'll often work in partnership with other designers and department heads -- programming, art, audio, production -- to nail down the final design specification, so a lack of formal programming ability isn't necessarily an obstacle these days.

This does not mean that knowing about the other disciplines is a Bad Thing, but a Great Designer will have studied them anyway. Usually long before he's entered college. (Often before he's even graduated from high school or gained his GCSEs.)


An aside to my fellow cantankerous old buggers:

We need to remember that computer games have been around for more than a generation now. Today's freshly-minted graduates are familiar with the language of games. Many will have a feel for them that the previous generations have never had the opportunity to build from an early age. We had to learn it all as we went. They don't have to. However much this riles me and makes me feel bitter, cynical and twisted about the unfairness of the universe, there's nothing I can do about it besides venting my spleen in this site's Lounge forum. (Oh yes: your eyes are fine; you just need to clean your glasses.)


Good graphics artists tend to go to good art colleges. (Many programmers will consider the last three words of that previous sentence oxymoronic, but we'll ignore them.) Great graphics artists will have been into art from the moment they first clapped eyes on this planet and considered remodelling their parents using better normal maps.

Good audio people will usually have a recognised qualification in either musicianship, composition, or sound design / production. The first are the orchestra musicians, the second are composers. The last are modern conductors. Only the last two are likely to work full-time in game audio; just because you can play a piano, it doesn't follow that you know how to write music or master a mix. Great audio people tend to be all-rounders, able to play music, compose it and mix it down. They'll even be able to direct voice actors and probably sing in the shower too.

Producers are managers. They wear suits, drive cars so large that each end is in a different time zone, and play unhealthy amounts of golf. Not only do they bandy about phrases like "Sarbanes-Oxley", "Best Practices" and "ISO 9001", but they actually know what they mean. These are the same people who invented such concepts as "synergising", "downscaling", "resource allocation refinement" and "Tarquin". Many of these have an MBA of some sort.

Truly Great Producers know that the secret of management is to keep all lines of communication clear and noise-free. Anything else is best described as "a fecally-oriented semantic clarification opportunity" invented by a "purveyor of equine excreta" hoping for a career on the lecture circuit.

*

In summary: Decide what you want to do *first*. You're certainly old enough. And, if you've missed the subtle hints above, you should realise that the best of the best, regardless of their role, tend to be all-rounders. They're forever learning, and constantly aware that there is always more to know.

And now I'll stop. I'm looking for work and have much to do. (Not the least of which is deciding whether to delete this post...)

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#1: Seeing as you are in Ohio, I thought this might help:

CSCC has just launched an associates degree in "Game Art and Animation" starting next quarter.
They are also offering an associates in "Game Programming" starting next year I believe.

You could get an associates then transfer to get a bachelors at 4 year school.

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Quote:
Sean wrote:
Producers are managers. They wear suits, drive cars so large that each end is in a different time zone, and play unhealthy amounts of golf. Not only do they bandy about phrases like "Sarbanes-Oxley", "Best Practices" and "ISO 9001", but they actually know what they mean. These are the same people who invented such concepts as "synergising", "downscaling", "resource allocation refinement" and "Tarquin". Many of these have an MBA of some sort.

That's a bald-faced lie! \(^_^)/ I do not wear a suit. I have no idea what Sarbanes-Oxley is (it sounds like some kind of thing the U.S. congress would come up with). "Synergizing" is a Marketing word. "Downscaling" is executivespeak. And I think "Tarquin" is a Japanese anime, or I'm confusing it with an actress who did voiceovers in a Japanese anime. And most producers probably don't have an MBA but I think it'd be a good thing if we did.

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Quote:
Original post by Tom Sloper
Quote:
Sean wrote:
Producers are managers. They wear suits, drive cars so large that each end is in a different time zone, and play unhealthy amounts of golf. Not only do they bandy about phrases like "Sarbanes-Oxley", "Best Practices" and "ISO 9001", but they actually know what they mean. These are the same people who invented such concepts as "synergising", "downscaling", "resource allocation refinement" and "Tarquin". Many of these have an MBA of some sort.

That's a bald-faced lie! \(^_^)/ I do not wear a suit. I have no idea what Sarbanes-Oxley is (it sounds like some kind of thing the U.S. congress would come up with). "Synergizing" is a Marketing word. "Downscaling" is executivespeak. And I think "Tarquin" is a Japanese anime, or I'm confusing it with an actress who did voiceovers in a Japanese anime. And most producers probably don't have an MBA but I think it'd be a good thing if we did.


You're right, most of that should be aimed at Marketing. I proffer my humblest apologies. Allow me to rephrase...

Production management is the fine art of telling both Marketing and PR to piss off and stick to selling the f*cking game -- as bloody designed! -- and quit trying to force the development team to include every fashionable buzzword they've heard on some random gamer website. (This may explain the golf: it gives the Producer something to talk those Marketing and PR people into doing instead.)

Sarbanes-Oxley (often shortened to "SOX") is a compliance standard that came out of the collapse of Enron and WorldCom. (It is a US thing and that's pretty much all I can remember about it. Ask me about ITIL! An attempt to make IT in corporations fit a standard, "Best Practice" model, regardless of the corporation's actual business. The first release involved a stack of books over a *metre* high. It's now on v3. And it's British too -- which explains much.)

As for "Tarquin": I have no idea why any sane parent would saddle their poor, misbegotten child with it, but I swear I've never met a Tarquin who wasn't in either Marketing or PR.

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