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Zukarakox

How much is needed to get your foot in the door?

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I've been teaching myself to program for the past 4 or so years, just as a hobby, and I'm starting to look for a job as a game programmer. How much is needed to get a job without a degree? My latest game project available for show is my 2008 DreamBuildPlay entry, Minigolf. (http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?vid=c289d146-a2c6-4f6c-8e4d-3ef15ad34dd7) Is this enough? How much do I need? :(

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The short answer: Get a degree.
You simply don't get anywhere without a degree, even if you've made tons of games. As far as I know there are very few exceptions.
The game industry is not only looking for people who can write clean code of just about anything (complex 3d math, shaders, blahblah), but also people who have proven to be a capable professional (to be able to work in a team, document stuff, and a lot of things professionals need to do (the actual programming is the least important)).
To answer your question: no.

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step one: get a degree.
step two: chuck it and make a few small games that are really good, you have to prove both that you can make good code and that you can make the game look and feel great.
It's a matter of proving your skills and then just wowing them until they hire you.

That game you showed, the idea is interesting, but i think it needs a few more months in development before it's something to show to future employers.

But you need more stuff as well (like 3-4 different games and demos), use a lot of physics, AI and other programmatical things.
Make em fun too.

If all else fails you could always form a small game startup.
When it inevitably fails, you can count it as a plus, since prior work experience is valued the most.

And don't be afraid to mail prospective employers and ask them what they want to see.

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Quote:
Original post by Bear777
You simply don't get anywhere without a degree, even if you've made tons of games.

While it is undeniably harder to get into the industry (and not only the game industry) without a degree, saying that you won't get anywhere is nonsense. What ultimately counts to an employer is experience. So a degree is important when you start your career. Once that is achieved, ie. if you "made tons of games" (commercial games, that is), the degree becomes quickly irrelevant. Your track record takes over.

It's the first and second job hurdle to overcome. Getting an potential employer to actually pick your CV amongst the three billion they receive per month. A degree certainly increases your odds here, but is in no way a guarantee either. You can definitely get in without a degree, but it requires more work on your part. Means an extremely impressive portfolio.

So yeah, if you have the possibility, get a degree. It will help you. But if for some reason (time, finances, etc) you cannot get one, everything is far from lost. You just have to work a little harder.

Quote:
Original post by Bear777
As far as I know there are very few exceptions.

You would be surprised...

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Hi, thought I should chip in here as I am a working games coder with no degree.

Getting a job without one was was very hard. My demo's were way beyond most graduate demos but there are enough exceptional graduates out there that it doesn't matter. Most employers are just looking for an excuse to chuck your CV in the bin so they can narrow down the possible candidates.

I was 29 by the time I got my first games job, which I believe I was only able to swing because of my experience in setting up a and running a one man games company for a while. I actually lost money (about £15000) doing it but it counts as commercial experience and I learned a lot about non-programming related stuff (scheduling etc.) so I could impress people with that stuff too.

So I guess unless you want to be 29 and down £15000 before you get a job I suppose my advice would be to get a degree if possible =)
But if for some reason this is simply not possible you will have to do something to really make yourself stand out from the crowd, and this may mean adding things to your CV which demonstrate non-technical skills also, such as enterprise, determination and teamwork.

How old are you, by the way? Do you have a degree in an unrelated subject at all?

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I guess to narrow down my question a bit:

How much is required to 'Wow' the employers? Would a working 3D pathfinding system dynamic enough to work off just the models used for the ground be 'amazing' enough? Would a full fledged commecial game be enough? I just wondering relativley, how much more of an amazing portfolio is going to be required to get my foot in the door?

I know that the video I posted is not nearly good enough, I was rushed for time to get it into DreamBuildPlay and never really liked the idea of the game, sports games are pretty much monopolized by giant game producers.

However, would a game like World of Goo or Garry's Mod be enough to 'Wow' the employer?
Garry's Mod, as far as I can tell, used very little original programming, essentially all of the base was provided by the Source engine, but he made a very nice UI and way for people to create original content, is that enough?
World of Goo is extremely well-made and a very nice game, but the math used is limited only to 2D, would that limit their ability to get a job?


To everyone who argues for the degree: The issue is not getting the degree, I can fairly 'easily' get a degree in computer science from a state school, but I'd rather not spend 4 years getting it while piling up debts if I can just get in on hard work alone.

And to Tom: Nice website, and I agree completely, I'm continually working on new projects but it'd be nice to know how close Im getting to a job before I run out of time. Some security in my future would be nice for once. ;)

[Edited by - Zukarakox on January 5, 2009 11:04:07 PM]

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OP wrote:
>How much is required to 'Wow' the employers?

More than you got. (Since you have to ask this question.)

>Would a working 3D pathfinding system from open models be 'amazing' enough?

No.

>Would a full fledged commecial game be enough?

No.

>I just wondering relativley, how much more of an amazing portfolio is going to be required to get my foot in the door?

More than you got. (Since you have to ask.)

> I've been teaching myself to program for the past 4 or so years, just as a hobby... I can ... get a degree ... but I'd rather not spend 4 years getting it while piling up debts if I can just get in on hard work alone.

You're probably going to spend a couple more years building up a portfolio of "enough" games and demos. And since you've been teaching yourself (as a hobby), there are bound to be gaps in your knowledge.

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Okay Tom, I get it, I'll get back to work. :)

Specifically: What quality of work is expected from a lone programmer? I cant compete with commercial games or teams of people, so what SHOULD my work compare to?

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Quote:
Original post by Zukarakox
Specifically: What quality of work is expected from a lone programmer? I cant compete with commercial games or teams of people, so what SHOULD my work compare to?
You can solve that problem by forming/getting involved with a team. Among other things, working with a team on a larger project will demonstrate to employers that you have decent people and teamwork skills, both of which are very important in a work environment.

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