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How do you know if you're 'right' for games programming?

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Apologies for the obscure title, but please bare with me. :) I'm nearly 25 and I've been on the internet and using computers for a lot of years. I've started with programming quite a few times in the past, the first time was with Java. I've always been a game fanatic, and always wanted to be a games programmer. I've just felt discouraged by quite a few factors. The maths and physics have always worried me, I got a B in math's GCSE (I'm in the UK sorry, I'm not sure of the US equivalent, but it's high school standard) but that was when I was 16. The logic of programming feels hindering too hmmm.. I guess I'm just not all that confident. So when do you reach a point where you feel like you actually *can* be a games programmer? I'd really love to hear some of the members 'stories', as it were. Backgrounds, what got them into it, if they always knew they were right for it, if it was a hard battle with themselves or anyone else they finally overcame.. just anything to maybe inspire me and newbies like me looking at the forums and getting into programming and games development for the first time :)

Any advice or information really appreciated!

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You can only go as far as you try, if you feel like something is wrong then yeah your doing it wrong; but its not the end - There are usually other ways to go about it.

Buy some books, attend some classes, view some example sources and muck around, try build your own of the same example but use it as a reference - try make it into something of your own style etc

I also want to get into Games Programming (though only as a hobby/learning experience), and like you - the maths and physics worry me. I bought a book called 3D Math Primer for Graphics and Game Development, I think its a good book to own - I find it explains the math very well (but no physics in this one, seems like that is something entirely different), and has some source code examples (in C++). You'll probably want to read it 2-3 times. I don't want to resort to using engines just yet, as a thumb rule I believe its necessary/helpful to understand what your going to be working with.

You just have to aim low and build from there, from text based to tetris. I have yet to reach the tetris stage :P At the moment I'm learning DirectX in 3d (I have had alot of experience with 2D DirectX in the past, but never 3d) - While I find I am understanding most of the basics, things like the 'Eye' Camera confuse me still.

But besh wishs to you! I am also curious to hear of other peoples stories.

Though as for the game programming logic, I don't think there is 1 right method to do it. Its almost like an art form. It'll vary from person to person, of course in a team there has to be some uniformity.

Just keep trying, aim to build something and aim to learn. Eventually something will click.

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The sooner you start programming the sooner you will be a game programmer. I am a newb, yet I am already a beginner programmer. I will give you some resources you _should_ check out:

  • NotPron The hardest riddle available trough the Internet.

  • ProjectEuler Some really nice Math/Programming challenges.

  • Wolfram|Alpha really nice knowledge search engine.

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So when do you reach a point where you feel like you actually *can* be a games programmer?


when you program games. After your first not-so-basic game, that you did ALL BY YOURSELF*. This seems very rare nowadays: everybody is so bound to tutorials, it just blows my mind.

I was forced to make my first game (Scorched Earth clone) all by myself (no internet, no serious programming in school, no friends with similar hobby). I didn't have to "feel" I could. I "knew" I could. That's why I always suggest to struggle through at least one of your first games autonomously. You have to grow up once.


*all by yourself doesn't mean you don't use some reference, documentation or even a tutorial for a particular problem/API-thing.

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So when do you reach a point where you feel like you actually *can* be a games programmer
Two things.

1) You actually enjoy the programming problems. I'm not talking about games. I'm talking about programming itself. Do you enjoy the problems you encounter in programming?
2) You look at your life, and consider it feasible to devote your time to programming.

That's it. You may be able to fulfill requirement 2. Requirement 1 is what many people get wrong. They enjoy games. They don't enjoy programming.

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So when do you reach a point where you feel like you actually *can* be a games programmer?
Do you mean professionally or as a hobby?

Try the same question a few different ways:

When are you ready to be a mechanic
When are you ready to be an artist
When are you ready to be an architect
When are you ready to be a teacher


Anybody can work on vehicle engines as a hobby, assuming they have access to the equipment. Anybody can sketch on their own, assuming they can get the tools. You can draw out house plans, or tutor those who need help.

Just the same, you can work on your own hobby game with little to no skill. You need the equipment and ability to tinker, but beyond that, it is entirely up to you and your present skills and perseverance.

A child can put together a bunch of scribbles and call it a drawing of their pet gerbil, then hang it on a wall.

Just the same it takes very minimal ability to start creating games. If can write "hello world" and write a program to accept a single letter as input, you have the skills necessary to write tic-tac-toe.

If you know how to manipulate arrays and handle a few simple logic rules you can put together much more complex games. Many culture-changing games were very simple. You don't need graphics or complex designs to implement games like chess, checkers, go, and Hunt the Wumpus. More complex rules give games like Zork, Rogue, and MUDs.



But that's at a hobby level. To do it professionally there are certain levels of education and certification that are expected. For a programmer that is a bachelor's degree.

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Lots of great responses in this topic. Thanks loads for taking the time. Some really good questions posed too. It's a shame my local university doesn't do a programming course though, else i'd already be on it. It's family related things that stop me travelling to universities that do game programming courses though (engaged with a baby on the way).. I really liked the 'Do you enjoy the problems you encounter in programming?' question. No, I don't. But I absolutely love working hard at them, and the feeling of accomplishment once I've overcome them. Does that count?

Also, thanks frob for your really detailed response - it puts things into perspective. I guess a lot of people who love games have many ideas for them, but I'd love to work on an idea and see it through to the end - see it come to fruition. But I'm under the impression that just isn't the way of the industry. It's a job afterall, and once employed you can't always know which game project you might end up on.

Is it a feesible idea to work on something as a hobby and just hope it comes into fruition one day as I previously described? Independent I guess.

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Original post by Kiada
Is it a feesible idea to work on something as a hobby and just hope it comes into fruition one day

It's not just feasible to hope -- it's normal and natural to hope. But hoping is not a plan of action.

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Original post by Kiada
Lots of great responses in this topic. Thanks loads for taking the time. Some really good questions posed too. It's a shame my local university doesn't do a programming course though, else i'd already be on it. It's family related things that stop me travelling to universities that do game programming courses though (engaged with a baby on the way).. I really liked the 'Do you enjoy the problems you encounter in programming?' question. No, I don't. But I absolutely love working hard at them, and the feeling of accomplishment once I've overcome them. Does that count?

Also, thanks frob for your really detailed response - it puts things into perspective. I guess a lot of people who love games have many ideas for them, but I'd love to work on an idea and see it through to the end - see it come to fruition. But I'm under the impression that just isn't the way of the industry. It's a job afterall, and once employed you can't always know which game project you might end up on.

Is it a feesible idea to work on something as a hobby and just hope it comes into fruition one day as I previously described? Independent I guess.


If the thrill of accomplishment out weights the frustration when solving the problem, I'd say that is a plus. There are many times I want to toss my computer out the window when working out problems, but the feeling once it is solved makes it all worth it.

Before you can enjoy game programming, you have to enjoy programming, because you will need to learn to program before you can learn to program games. You will spend a bit of time writing simple and fairly boring command line programs to begin with, and your programs will progress in complexity and difficulty as you become more familiar with your tools and ability. If you simply want to design games, developing them may not be for you. I get a thrill out of building and creating things, and an empty eclipse project is like a blank canvas for me.

I started out with my eye on game programming, but a very strong desire to learn programming in general. I can tell you that as of now, I work full time as a software engineer, and in my free time I create games for mobile phones.

So yes, you can create games as a hobby, and make some money from them too.

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game programming is like women (sorry!), you don't know. you just try (date!). which languages is best for you? which sdk/api? which methodology?

but last but not least, I think it was not about 'right', it was more about 'fun'. i'm not saying fun as in having fun, but fun as in you enjoy all about game dev. because if you don't, you are going to have a very hard time.

but like marriage, there are times when enough is enough. i used to like game dev when it's simple and small. nowdays, i'm just doing it for fun, like browsing astronomy picture of the day, reading popular science and popular mechanic books. i no longer do it because i want to tinker in hardware, i do it because i like it. it just fun to see your work being interactive on screen.

i don't know, maybe things changed. the last time I really want to understand something was GBA game development. after GBA died, replaced with NDS, i was like, meh.

so the conclusion is, there is no right or wrong. you just feels it.

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Its been a long road for myself before I determined I will be doomed to program for the rest of my life, lol.

Before any real experience with programming I really enjoyed just playing games. I think what really drove me to start learning how to program and develop my own games was when I played a game to the point where I wished there was a way I can change it to have additional features. Modding was too gimmicky to me because It was not really "your" game and there are always limitations to mods.

I ended up learning c++/opengl in ms visual studio very slowly and developing many many many game demos and experiments before I developed Pipe World (www.impellerhead.com). After I made Pipe World I really needed income and ended up getting a "real" job at software company doing nothing related to game development.

Since I started working at a real programming job (boring) I have been having a growing feeling that I need to get back to game development because I feel thats where my passion is at. Working at a real software development company has definitely helped my skill set though as I have exposed myself to tools and ways of developing software I never thought of. For instance I never knew about the power of version control (even for a single developer), the power of the VIM editor, the usefulness of a unix environment for development and how to properly use and exploit database software until I was exposed to it at my job. I feel as if I will be able to develop much more complex games when I get back to it (soon I hope) and hopefully get them done faster. My goal is to get my indie game company going again. I don't ever intend to work for another game company as I feel the entire creative part of game development goes away after you are simply told what to program.

I think when you get to the point where your constantly thinking about new game ideas and ways of implementing them, that's when you know your "right" for game development (programming them anyways). Playing the games is not enough, you have to want to get your hands dirty.

One more note about the math. I don't think you need to be a math genius to develop 3D games. There are many options available out there to develop 3D games without requiring you to develop a big time consuming library. I am a fan of the Orge3D graphics engine because its just a graphics engine that will do all the HARD 3D stuff so you can concentrate on building your game. I myself don't ever plan to write a graphics engine as the Ogre3D engine does everything I would ever want.

[Edited by - NegativeGeForce on October 22, 2010 2:25:01 AM]

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Here's my story--maybe it will help.

I got interested in programming during junior high when I stumbled upon some BASIC programs in my algebra textbook. I already loved games, and once I figured out I could tell a computer what to do, I knew I wanted to be a game programmer.

I then spent most of my teenage years reading books and just learning on my own. I moved from BASIC to Visual BASIC to C and to C++. Eventually I went to school got a degree in Computer Science.

After graduation, I got sidetracked in boring software development. I ended up in a job I didn't enjoy, so I quit. I spent the next year doing part-time web programming on a contract basis and building a game demo...from scratch. I figured if I could build something substantial on my own, I might have a shot.

Turns out that the demo was *very* useful in catching the eye of potential employers. I ended up with a fabulous job at a fantastic studio.

Anyway, it all boils down to this: do you love programming? Do you love it enough to spend your free time getting better at it? When you write code, do you really think about how to improve it and make it better? Do you consume books, articles, and other sources of information that will help you design and implement things in more efficient and elegant ways? If you can do those things, then you can be a great programmer, and by extension, a game programmer.

Despite taking physics and math courses (including linear algebra) at my university, I never really felt confident with them. One of the goals of my demo was to change that. It worked! Practice really makes perfect.

It can be done if you want it enough and are willing to sacrifice for it!

P.S. -- I made the transition from "boring" software development to game development at age 28, so it's not like you're too old or anything.

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Wow, lots of inspiring stories and pieces of advice. I think I'll get down to learning C++ with books and tutorials today and see how it goes. Hopefully it's going to be the start of a long learning process that I can stick to. I hope this has helped some newbies in a similar position to me too, and by all means if you haven't posted yet and have something to say - please do :)

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You can practise math you know, just like anything else. When you (and others) say that you are not very good at math it sounds a bit like you don't consider getting better a possibility. PM if you want a mentor. :P

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