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IronCOOKARU

FIEA or Guildhall? HELP!

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I am having an incredibly tough time deciding between the two schools. I was considering Level Design at Guildhall and Production at FIEA. I'll list positives and negatives of each.

FIEA positives:

-Even better facilities, office like work area that emulates industry
-Largest MoCap facility on the east coast, rented out for commercials and commercial games frequently, makes for great networking
-Allows students to take classes that arent in their concentration, I have a strong interest in art
-ZBrush instruction and access to tablets
-8:1 student faculty ratio
-required introductory classes of all concentrations

FIEA Negatives:

-Relatively short, 12-month program 16, including possible intern
-only 30 credits
-Production track doesn't seem to include as much design
-Placement rate is high, but seems to be more limited to the same several studios that are local
-most students aren't able to take advantage of the freedom to attend other classes because they are too busy

Guildhall Positives:
-Longer 22 month program (57 credits)
-All students seem to get some production instruction in addition to whatever their concentration is
-Level design students seem to get more scripting experience than at FIEA
-Required introductory classes of all concentrations
-Seems like more formal instruction overall in addition to team based projects
-Seem to place more students around the country in more game development studios, less students at places like zynga or cartoon network.

Guildhall negatives:

-Smaller but still adequate mocap lab
-no ZBrush or Maya, just 3ds Max
-Seems to be more preoccupied with "modding" most student work is Gears mods
-cannot take courses in other disciplines beyond intro classes unlike FIEA
-slightly larger 12: student faculty ratio
-no tablets

FIEA Curriculum: http://www.fiea.ucf.edu/joomla/index.php/curriculum/course-descriptions

Guildhall Curriculum: http://guildhall.smu.edu/Program-Outline.170.0.html"]http://guildhall.smu.edu/Program-Outline.170.0.html

I visited both schools. I was very impressed at each. I preferred the facilities and environment at FIEA a bit more. The students also seemed to be more well rounded and socially apt.

Both programs are accredited Master's Degrees. Both include powerful laptops. Both have outstanding facilities. Both require instructors to have a certain amount of game industry experience. I'd lean towards FIEA if I knew I could handle Production and a minor in Art but some of the production work can be very dry and if I was strictly limited to that discipline I may prefer the Design focus at Guildhall for its relative creative freedom. FIEA seems to be more open and flexible in general. There are producers who are also artists. Programmers who are project leads. Producers who focus more on management and producers who are more creatively involved in game and level design.

I am a bit apprehensive about FIEA because of it's relatively small amount of credit hours. 16 months with little break is a long time and i know the classes are very demanding but when comparing the curriculum it just seems that Guildhall offers a larger spectrum of instruction despite FIEA's flexibility which can't be easily capitalized on. 57 credit hours in 22 months (with more break time) or 30 credits in 16 months (less break time ).

Any thoughts of those of you with experience at either school would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

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I'd say FIEA is better, since it allows more modern ways of game design. However, both schools could be improved a lot.

Artists actually need to build complete models which include scripts for model specific setups (at least during loading), like moving transparent meshes to foreground world (in deferred rendering engines), or setting up physics bodies and joints for ragdolls and similar IK animated characters.

Then the programmer can focus on his job and doesn't need to do parts of the artists job.

Musicians need to do some similar scripting too, if the 3D location of a sound plays an important role in the music. Most music workstations have only 1D location (stereo pan) of the sounds, which is also an essential part of the song. Sequencers have at least 2D location, but I've not seen any 3D sequencer except when using a game engine.

Completely isolated skills are quite ineffective and costly, since modern game development expects that everyone can finish their job at their own and not being dependant on other team members.

Also the programmer needs some basic modelling skills to make placeholders.

[Edited by - Lumooja on July 16, 2010 9:23:16 AM]

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Quote:
Original post by IronCOOKARU
I am having an incredibly tough time deciding between the two schools. I was considering Level Design at Guildhall and Production at FIEA. I'll list positives and negatives of each.

Do the positives and negatives add up equally on both sides of the decision grid?
http://tinyurl.com/2dovj63

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Well the issue is I don't know whether or not some of those positive and negative impressions are entirely accurate. They were just impressions I was given based upon research and visitation. So I guess I was looking for anybody with experience at either of the two schools.

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Do you want to do level design or production?

Seems silly to go into a production program to learn level design or a level design program to learn production.

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Well I might have more of an interest in level design but being qualified for production may give me more freedom and employment opportunities.

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Hey IronCOOKARU,

I'm a producer currently attending FIEA and I thought I might be able to answer some of your questions. I can't speak for the Guildhall, but I can lay down some facts for you about FIEA. First, let's address the negatives that you've listed for FIEA.

1) Relatively short, 12-month program 16, including possible intern

The program itself is a full 16 months and being a short program isn't necessarily a bad thing. You could look at it from the perspective that it doesn't take you as long to acquire the necessary skills and then venture off into the real world. Trust me, what you're learning in just those 16 months is an incredible amount.

2) only 30 credits

I'm not exactly sure why you listed this as a negative, but I can assure you that the credits don't actually matter. The most important thing to remember is that ultimately the knowledge you get from your education is what will get you a job not the number of credits that you took in grad school.

3) Production track doesn't seem to include as much design

This is a straight up myth. I'm not exactly sure who told you that there isn't a lot of design involved in the Production track, but I assure you that there is. The job of a Producer is to wear a variety of different hats. As a producer you'll never just be managing a team. You will have ample opportunity to get your hands dirty with the game and leave your mark on it. At the same time you do get to learn the business of making games and what comes with the territory.

4) Placement rate is high, but seems to be more limited to the same several studios that are local.

To be honest FIEA is still a relative newcomer in the war waged between Game Schools. As such the studios that know about FIEA more intimately are the ones located around the Orlando area. This isn't to say that some of the more renowned studios aren't starting to take notice. I'm part of the 6th class to come through FIEA and I can say that companies are definitely around the country are becoming more familiar with the FIEA name. So by the time you come around, if you choose to go to FIEA, you might be able to reap the benefits of talking to some non-local developers. Keep in mind though everyone has to start somewhere, so local developers aren't always a bad choice.

5) Most students aren't able to take advantage of the freedom to attend other classes because they are too busy.

The first semester of the program you're required to either take an Intro course to Art or Scripting. In most cases you could do both that first semester, and become a little more familiar with both art and scripting. After that the workload does start to pick up and students become rather busy. However, that doesn't usually stop us from going to the other classes. That just means that we have to learn to manage our time a little more efficiently to accommodate those extra classes. Also keep in mind that as a producer you want to have a large toolset so that you can be helpful, but eventually you have to pick a specialty. Being a jack of all trades in a team environment isn't actually that useful. You want to be able to have a skill and do it well so your team can count on you. So if you have to miss a few extra classes because you're busy working on something to hone your skills towards a specialty then it's not that big a loss.

Something to add about your apprehension to the short program time at FIEA is that once you're in the industry you're gonna get very few breaks. Think of FIEA as the stepping stone to get from education to working. Get use to the fact that your summer vacations will disappear as you head into the real world. But that's not to say you won't have Christmas vacation like other college students. You'll still get those and you can do what you want with the time. Relax, recuperate, or just work on other side projects that will help you get that job. The teachers here do their best to pass along the skills and knowledge that you'll need to be successful in the industry. At the same time though they're not gonna hold your hand. Alot of what you learn here at FIEA is based on your own personal drive and initiative. So if you wanna go to other classes, no matter how busy you are then you're gonna have to make it happen for yourself. The best advice I can give you is that a strong work ethic will take you a long way, no matter what school you're going to.

I hope this helps you in your decision making. No matter what decision you end up making we're all aspiring game developers here and hopefully we'll all end up making great games.

On a side note I would not discount places like Zynga or Cartoon Network. The rise of casual gaming is not something to scoff at, but something to take notice of. Zynga is doing something pretty cool on Facebook with Frontierville, and their games are actually kind of addicting. So do a little research before you write these companies off.

If you have any other questions or just wanna talk games feel free to message me anytime.

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Quote:
Original post by SLBoarder
Hey IronCOOKARU,

I'm a producer currently attending FIEA and I thought I might be able to answer some of your questions. I can't speak for the Guildhall, but I can lay down some facts for you about FIEA. First, let's address the negatives that you've listed for FIEA.

If you have any other questions or just wanna talk games feel free to message me anytime.


Hey, this is exactly what i was looking for. You don't know how much i appreciate this. I saw Shadows of Abigail at the status update several weeks ago when I visited. You had demo'd the fireplace carpet sequence for the first time.

The reason I am apprehensive is I want to make sure I get the most out of a program if I'm spending 50k+. I understand a lot of FIEA's educational philosophy involves being thrown in the fire and making mistakes and I totally understand the value in real world experience but I worry with so few courses dedicated to specialized instruction the many hours students put in might be because of trial and error and mistakes that could have avoided with more instruction. Guildhall has more breaks but subtracting them still doesn't bring it down to FIEA's credit hours. They also have a project based curriculum but seem to have more instruction as well. It is my understanding that artists for example often get accepted with no prior digital media experience. Based on the curriculum it just seems to me such a short time to get really proficient in apps like ZBRush, Maya, Photoshop not to mention Mo-Cap when you have no experience coming in.

I guess I'm just a bit concerned I'd be paying a ton of money for a few introductory courses and for someone to throw me into groups in which we inevitably have a learning experience when we fall on our faces and the instructors point out everything we did wrong. Whereas at Guildhall, it at least seems that by the time students begin their more serious projects, they are closer to masters in all their respective specializations.

Despite these concerns I was still incredibly impressed with and excited by my visit there and it may be my first choice at this point. Thanks again for all your help!

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I can see your concern with wasting time, but the best way to learn is to fall on your face. You say that you feel like the students at the Guildhall become masters of their specialization, but the way they become masters is by trial and error. If you never make mistakes then how do you learn? You cannot master a craft without enduring failures, and where else better than make mistakes then in school where a real world development studio setting is simulated?

One of the things I've learned at FIEA is that when you're interviewing for a job one of the things they look for is war stories. These war stories usually involve you or the team having failed in some capacity, and realizing what those failures are. Having these war stories is important because it proves that you are first and foremost...a developer who has gone through the process. At FIEA you will definitely accrue those war stories because I definitely have a bunch of them.

16 months may feel like a short time to master your respective art programs, but I can assure you that you will have more than enough practice to become proficient with ZBrush, Maya, etc. All of the artists in my cohort have become extremely familiar with all of the programs you've listed and we're not even done with the summer semester yet.

Personally I feel that hand holding is not going to do you any favors with regards to learning the lessons you need to learn in order to be a experienced game developer.

Thanks for all the kind words about our games. We've all been working really hard and at this point we're in the final stretches. Trailers for all three games should be up on the FIEA website really soon so check those out when you get the chance.

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Hey there-

I'm also a Producer at FIEA, here's my comments:

FIEA positives:

-Even better facilities, office like work area that emulates industry

This needs to be emphasized. At GDC many companies were impressed when I described the work environment. It was modeled directly after EA Tiburon's studios, down to the same docks/monitors and cubicle arrangement. It is truly an industry office, populated by students.

-Largest MoCap facility on the east coast, rented out for commercials and commercial games frequently, makes for great networking

This will not matter except for a small handful per class. It's cool, but I've been in the mocap studio twice during my time here. The artists use it, it's a huge boon, but if you're a producer don't put much stock in this, nor the one at Guild Hall, it's just irrelevant.

-Students seem more socially apt

I'd like to emphasize this as well. All too often game devs are stereotyped as basement dwelling mouthbreathers. Sadly, it's more true than not. Going to GDC I met a lot of people from other schools and many of them were really awkward and creeped out the recruiters. We had a recruiter from Obsidian come by and he actually commended our normalcy, something that unique to the game industry where being normal is actually a bonus, instead of a requirement. I'm not knocking Guild Hall specifically here as I've never even heard of it until this post, but the social nature of FIEA means you can't be a total bridge troll, and your social skills will improve during your stay here since you need to work with other people.

FIEA Negatives:

-Relatively short, 12-month program 16, including possible intern

I think this is a bonus, since I didn't want to spend more precious time in school. It can be a bit daunting but you are willing to soak it up and learn, you will be fine. One of the Producers in our class came in from an English/Writing background. He was so overwhelmed by the hours, the demands, and the technical aspects (scripting) that he was considering quitting. He stuck to it, and by the end of the first semester (3-4 months) he was given one of the precious few Lead Designer positions. Now, 7 months after that, he's one of the best level designers we have, and the game he has been the Lead for is now being called the best game to ever come out of the school by the staff. I don't think he was handicapped by the short duration of the program.

-only 30 credits

This seems irrelevant. Credits are an arbitrary number that lead to a degree. If our classes were worth 5 credits each (since you certainly spend far more than the class time on them) then we'd be a 50 credit program. That doesn't change how much you learn.

-Production track doesn't seem to include as much design

I'll actually disagree with SLBoarder and say you're right in your assessment here. There IS design to be done, but the overall focus of the program is more about emulating the industry and following the process than making everyone into their own little designer. The first semester is heavy on design and the Rapid Prototype class involves you making 5 separate games in 2 week increments across the whole semester. There's a lot of design there because each project is governed by certain rules (ie the first one is you HAVE to use Flash, and it needs to be Fun (easy right? Try again), others involve telling a story, following an intellectual property, or working on an existing game) so you need to design within constrictions, which is how all design in the real world is.

FIEA won't make a designer out of everyone, but if you commit to it and do your own research and practice, you'll come out ready to design at any studio right out of the gate. At GDC I talked with several companies, and was able to get interviews with Blizzard, pretty much the hardest company for a student to get an interview with. It's there for the taking if you can push yourself.

-Placement rate is high, but seems to be more limited to the same several studios that are local

Yes and no. Our staff is nearly all ex-Tiburon employees so not only does EA Tiburon knows what kind of curriculum we do, but trusts the recommendations of the staff when they give them. That said, FIEA graduates are Project Leads at EA Tiburon merely a few years after arriving. The previous class has/had people at Zynga, Bethesada, Neversoft, Midway Chicago, Irrational, Lockheed Martin, Timegate, Aeria, and others I can't recall off the top of my head. It's not just local, my class currently has people taking tests for Riot Games, Rockstar, Obsidian, etc. You won't be stuck in Orlando if you don't want to.

-most students aren't able to take advantage of the freedom to attend other classes because they are too busy

Yup! You're busy as all hell. Some producers have the art chops to do both, but if you came in with no artistic skill or experience with the tools, you aren't going to leave here a 3D modeler. If you came in with chops and utilize them on their games, you'll get better naturally from the experience.

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