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sluchie07

Game Development Schools

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I'm interested in becoming a game designer (I'm in college right now). But I've looking at this school in Florida called Full Sail, which is supposed to have one of the best game development programs in the world. I'm wondering if I would get a better education going there or sticking with a 4-year college and getting a degree in Computer Science. Just looking for some advice

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My thoughts. In short, I don't believe its worth it to go to a place like DigiPen or Full Sail, especially if your aspiration is "game programmer" versus "game designer." But you have to evaluate the programs (specifically) and decide for yourself.

But even if you want to be a designer, I don't see a lot of advantages -- study what you find interesting. Design, especially, can benefit from an number of educational backgrounds. Full Sail or DigiPen can be good choices for some, poor choices for others, but rarely are they affording you anything special that you could not get elsewhere (perhaps with more work on your part... but converse is also true).

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I just started in Devry, and I'm kind of getting a bad feeling about it and the whole "Game and Simulation Programming" degree. It almost feels like a gimmick, really... but that could be a feeling that passes.

Anyway, I have the same kind of question as sluchie07... are these kinds of schools really such a good choice? And is a computer science degree more impressive than a game programming degree?

Edit: I forgot to mention that jpetrie's post was very helpful. Thanks for the info.

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Fullsail is certainly better than places like Devry or ITT or any of those other places that advertise on TV, but they're not great by any stretch in my opinion. I have major issues with their curriculum -- specifically that it does not seem to cover enough advanced math, physics, or CS fundamentals. Their "accelerated program", in my opinion, is about 2 years of leaning (compared to my experience at Digipen) hyped as 4, but taught in 3 so that they can call it "accelerated" whilst also managing to charge you an additional year's worth of tuition. Another red flag, for me, is that they teach classes on both OpenGL *and* Direct3D -- If they teach 3D fundamentals like they should, then teaching two APIs that do the same thing is unnecessary. I say this as a Digipen graduate (which has a much better curriculum in my opinion), and while I have no personal grudge against fullsail (call it a philosophical difference instead), you may want to take my words with a grain of salt.

If we ignore the pure, traditional CS (those with no particular game focus) route for a moment, and I were to rank "game programs" by category it would go something like this -- On top we have traditional Universities with game-related tracts (such as the Guildhall at SMU, among others) and Digipen. At the bottom, we have the as-seen-on-TV degrees such as ITT, Devry and Brown (again, as-seen-on-TV Brown, not the University, which I understand has a pretty good CS program.) Somewhere in the nebulous middle we have fullsail.

Plenty of folks might well disagree with my view of things, there's a pretty usual cast of characters that appear in threads like this -- Myself, Josh Petrie, Tom Sloper and others, who typically express different viewpoints which are all valid from our respective positions. Its up to you to parse it all and make sense of it :)

The one thing we traditionally agree on is that no degree program is an end unto itself, nor does any one program yet provide a true one-stop-shop for becoming a formidable game developer with specialized education and a true computer scientist with impeccable fundamentals. Whether you choose to follow a more specific game-related program or to stick with the more traditional route, you're going to need to do a lot of work on your own to fill in the missing pieces to the education you desire. A more traditional CS degree might be lacking in practical, hands-on experience (particularly in game technologies) so you'll likely have to get your own hands dirty with these things in your spare time... Likewise, Digipen, for instance, had plenty of hands on-experience (all presented with an eye towards games) and a good grounding in core fundamentals, but lacked in some perhaps-unnecessary-but-incredibly-useful fundamentals that are common requirements in more traditional programs, and you'll have to fill in those gaps too.


Personally, if you're more than a year into your current program I'd tell you to stick it out, focus your electives towards game-related areas, and develop a portfolio both on your own time, and by designing free-choice projects that are related to some element of gaming technology. Also, if you stick out 4 years at University and still feel your understanding of game technology is lacking, Digipen and other places offer real Masters programs where you can attend for a year or two studying the technology in a game-focused environment and developing a thesis project.

If you're still in that first year, or you're finding your current university to be completely demotivating/demoralizing/uninteresting, and you truly believe that something more games-focused will give you the motivation to make the most of your education, only then would I consider switching to another program.

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I guess my biggest worry is that I'll go to Full Sail and get a degree, but won't be able to find a job because a degree from there doesn't carry much weight.

But on the other hand I'm worried I'll go to a place like the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities and get a degree in computer science, but I won't get the experience I need to get a job as a game programmer or game designer.

What do most companies look at when you apply? Does it depend more on your portfolio or on your education background?

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"sluch" wrote:
>I guess my biggest worry is
>But on the other hand I'm worried

You gotta stop all this worrying! Just collect information and make a decision. Worry will just drive you crazy. Besides, you've been given some great answers. If you keep on going on about "worry" this and "worry" that, you haven't absorbed what you've already been told.

>What do most companies look at when you apply?

They look at your resume, at your portfolio, and at YOU.

>Does it depend more on your portfolio or on your education background?

That's a classic bad "two-choices" question. The answer is "both, and then more besides those two things."

You've gotta slow down and stop. Re-read what we've written above. Read the FAQs here, and on my site. Then come back with further questions anytime. But enough "worrying" already!

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Alright, my thoughts.

The weight of a Full Sail degree may not be that "heavy", but if your portfolio is above up to par, then you can expect to get a job somewhere, even with a high school diploma.

At any rate, let me just give some insight on Full Sail. My brother (12 years older than me) attended Full Sail as an Audio Engineer. I have to say that the campus is pretty amazing, take a tour of it sometime. The courses are very intensive, and if you miss even one day, you will be severely behind. It will make you stressed.

But as some positives, Full Sail does provide what you need! (As well they should with how much you pay for tuition.) My brother received full 600 paged text books for each class, along with a 200 paged lab book in which to perform the labs. (Remember, that is per class.) So they go very in-depth. Plus, my brother received a Mac Book, and 2 Power Mac G5s with 8 GB of RAM and specialty PCI-X Creative Audio Cards. The Mac Book was for labs, and the G5s for home. Also, on top of that, he received a MPC (MIDI Production Center now known as Music Production Center) which is specific to sound engineering, and a Full Mastering Board (those things you see with a crap-load of switches.)

These days he is pretty insane at audio engineering, and even has his own indie record company, but the debt that Full Sail inflicted on him is quite severe.

At any rate, choose carefully. I would say that you should ditch Full Sail, gain a BS in Computer Science/EE/Software Engineering, and learn your stuff in the industry. No sense in going to a game school and paying all that money. The internet is also a great learning tool to build up your skills enough to build a portfolio for your interviews.

But if you could get scholarships to Full Sail, then I really don't see a problem with attending just for the hell of it.

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Quote:
Original post by Tom Sloper
You gotta stop all this worrying! Just collect information and make a decision. Worry will just drive you crazy. Besides, you've been given some great answers. If you keep on going on about "worry" this and "worry" that, you haven't absorbed what you've already been told.


Er, I would say that a fair amount of worry is pretty well-placed. I didn't worry too much about the type of college I was going to go to, and here I am regretting it more and more every day. If I could do it over again, I'd choose a different school; right now I'm trying to figure out if it's surely enough a bad decision for me to go through the hassle and cost of changing to another school.

Anyway, I have another question for the people here. Someone mentioned that a good portfolio could get you a job, even with only a HS diploma. Assuming one has a better-than-average portfolio, is it worth considering not even going to college?

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Quote:
Original post by Syriven
Anyway, I have another question for the people here. Someone mentioned that a good portfolio could get you a job, even with only a HS diploma. Assuming one has a better-than-average portfolio, is it worth considering not even going to college?


Short answer: No.

Longer answer: The odd of this happening today, in such a competitive market that favors hirers about 20:1 over hirees are vanishingly small. It does still happen from time to time, but its not at all something you should be happy to hang your hat on. Game companies are demanding, they expect a smart candidate to have a degree and a degree that proves they know what they're doing in the majority of cases. Others require that you complete a programming test, many of which cover things that fall firmly in the "fundamentals" category of programming, which are the things that a self-taught "game programmer" is likely to have glossed over. Game companies literally get 10s and even hundreds of applications for a single position, and 70+ percent of those often are from wishful thinkers who think games are cool but are no where near qualified. They will cull that pile ruthlessly, so you must separate yourselves from the wannabees. A great body of work can do this, but they often won't even bother to look at your work if they don't see what they want in the first half of your resume. Often times this process is automated and no human will ever evaluate those bottom 70%.

bottom-line, a college degree helps make you stand out in a highly competitive field.

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Quote:
Original post by Ravyne
Quote:
Original post by Syriven
Anyway, I have another question for the people here. Someone mentioned that a good portfolio could get you a job, even with only a HS diploma. Assuming one has a better-than-average portfolio, is it worth considering not even going to college?


Short answer: No.

Longer answer: The odd of this happening today, in such a competitive market that favors hirers about 20:1 over hirees are vanishingly small. It does still happen from time to time, but its not at all something you should be happy to hang your hat on. Game companies are demanding, they expect a smart candidate to have a degree and a degree that proves they know what they're doing in the majority of cases. Others require that you complete a programming test, many of which cover things that fall firmly in the "fundamentals" category of programming, which are the things that a self-taught "game programmer" is likely to have glossed over. Game companies literally get 10s and even hundreds of applications for a single position, and 70+ percent of those often are from wishful thinkers who think games are cool but are no where near qualified. They will cull that pile ruthlessly, so you must separate yourselves from the wannabees. A great body of work can do this, but they often won't even bother to look at your work if they don't see what they want in the first half of your resume. Often times this process is automated and no human will ever evaluate those bottom 70%.

bottom-line, a college degree helps make you stand out in a highly competitive field.


I find that quite scare-tactical and insulting to self-taught programmers. First off, the tests that are given are not hard at all, even for the most competent programmer. That's just a way to weed out the beginners, and to provide them with a way to assess your problem solving abilities. But once again, they are not hard.

Now on the note of an automated process. I really haven't heard of any large companies using this process, to be honest. Could you provide some documentation on that?

Epic Games looks for great talent! So if your portfolio is up to there, then they will most certainly notice, regardless of your resume. And also, people need to be a little self-independent. Contact them, visit the company grounds, request an interview. Those are all things that make them know your serious, and if you have a portfolio to back it up, then it puts you in an even greater light.

A college degree may make you stand out, but it won't make you stand out enough. I am not against college degrees, and I believe you should obtain one, but don't hold it as your golden ticket. You're negligibly closer to a position with a company.

It's not hard to land a job in the game industry. Simple as that. You could even work for SCEA or SCEE (depending where you live), and have a PS3 devkit with a PS2 devkit sitting on your desk. And SCE is nothing short of needing workers. ;)

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My two-cents on the subject:

Go to college. As an undergraduate, don't worry about game development. A traditional Computer Science degree will take you much further. Consider going to graduate school, or get a job in the field after you get your degree. If you decide you'd like to go to graduate school, DigiPen offers a Masters in Computer Science - that's right, Computer Science, not Game Development. The Masters in CS is a great idea - the education is not limited to Game Development, yet the material is taught through game development.

[Edited by - Shakedown on November 10, 2008 9:18:59 PM]

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Quote:
Original post by Halifax2
I find that quite scare-tactical and insulting to self-taught programmers.


As a self-taught programmer, I thought it was spot on (except the 70% figure; I think that's quite low).

Quote:

Now on the note of an automated process. I really haven't heard of any large companies using this process, to be honest. Could you provide some documentation on that?


Every company I know of with an HR department culls resumes; either via automated process or via HR drone which is even worse.


As a self-taught programmer, I also strongly recommend against it. More than just because of the HR roadblocks too. There are things you just don't pick up via experience. The nice formal math and CS background is invaluable if you don't want that lack of knowledge from limiting your ceiling as a programmer.

Personally, I think trade schools like DeVry are even worse than that (since you don't get the formal math and CS background *and* you waste time and money). YMMV.

UMN-TC is kinda hit and miss in their CS program from what I've seen. I know a few really good programmers, and a number of kinda shoddy ones. Still, it's probably the best CS program within a 4 hour drive (arguably 10). For the OP, I'd probably recommend sticking with UMN and doing some programming in your spare time to make sure you get practical experience and some game-specific concepts under your belt. And don't neglect the general ed courses or the fun college times either [grin]

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Quote:
Original post by Halifax2
Quote:
Original post by Ravyne
...


I find that quite scare-tactical and insulting to self-taught programmers. First off, the tests that are given are not hard at all, even for the most competent programmer. That's just a way to weed out the beginners, and to provide them with a way to assess your problem solving abilities. But once again, they are not hard.


Don't get your undies in a twist now :) I'm not here to scare anyone, nor am I discouraging self-learning. I was self-taught as well, from the time I was 11, up until age 18 when I entered DigiPen. I learned a great deal on my own, and I daresay I was even a decent programmer by the end of my solo run. I certainly hit the ground running much more so than most of my fellow students, save (most of) the ones who had attended some amount of university already.

The programming tests are designed to weed out the pretenders, yes, but the second function is to separate the cream from the milk. Its not about just solving the problem, its about solving it well, its about demonstrating insight into the problem, its sometimes about solving the problem under odd constraints -- EG write a palette-fading routine, but you can't use floating point, and you only have X bytes of RAM available in your budget, or implement a system for an arbitrary number of queue data structures in C that fits inside this 2k buffer -- no additional storage is allowed, and make it as efficient as possible for both space and time complexity. Both of those are examples of actual programming tests I've completed, and neither are trivial to do well (the latter more so than the former).

The overwhelming, vast majority of entirely self-taught programmers just don't have the knowledge or focused experience to solve these types of problems elegantly, or to deal with the kind of curve-balls I mentioned above. secondary education won't teach you how to tackle these problems directly, of course, but it will expose you to techniques and a body of knowledge you can draw upon to craft an elegant solution... Show me a test that a merely competent programmer can pass, and I'll show you a test that does absolutely nothing to evaluate the testee, or, perhaps, a studio which has set the bar very low in order to find cheap, disposable labor for menial tasks.

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