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PadMasher

College advice?

12 posts in this topic

Hey, everybody. This is my first time posting here so I didn't know where I should post this question. I hope I'm not being disruptive by posting this in general discussions. Anyway, I need some advice about what to do about going to college.

I have a few options already laid out (ASU, MCC, UAT, & Baker College) and I'm wondering which school I should go to. I'm currently filling out all my information to go to Baker which seems to have a pretty good Game Development program but, I'm still a little skeptical after hearing controversy about trade schools. I'm mainly interested in the design of video games (story, characters, level design, game mechanics, etc.) and sound (mainly music) in games. I was also considering CRAS but, I want to do more than just the sound for video games. I was thinking that since people with real industry knowledge frequent this site that maybe you could give me some advice before I make my final decision. Any help at all would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]

(Sorry about the double post. I don't how that happened.) [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/sad.png[/img] Edited by PadMasher
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I would highly suggest against the idea of a "game degree." The main reason being what will you do if you cannot find a job doing game development? Or more interestingly, you might find that after in the game development field for a few years, you hate it.

Many times when you combine "work" with something you enjoy you will get a result that turns what you used to enjoy into something you hate.

Besides this however, a degree in say computer science, or software engineering opens up many doors for you then the niche of just "game development." Many employers may think your degree in game development is laughable, but some may find it useful (specifically game development companies).

However in my experience most people with game degrees do not necessarily end up with jobs in game development, perhaps ask these colleges your considering what the rate is for their students to end up in game development. I am willing to bet only a small handful end up in game development. This is why a degree in computer science or software engineering would suite you much better.

All games are basically pieces of software the only main difference is they are games, and designed as such. You will also learn much more useful things in a computer science or software engineering curriculum then you will in only a game development curriculum.
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@DevLiquidKnight

I have read a few articles that did suggest that the Game Degrees could be a waste. That's kinda disappointing because gaming is one of the few things I'm truly passionate about but, you do make some good points. I've notice that the more I learn about gaming in general, the more irritating it becomes. I'm not saying that I hate games (far from it) but, I remember what it was like to blissfully play the games without worrying about what company made it or how good/bad its reviews were and so on. I guess what I'm saying is that I've already lost some of the "innocence" of playing games without knowing anything about them. I like to believe that I'm ready turn my passionate into work (though, if you love doing it, is it really work?)but, job security does seem like a big issue for some reason.

I talked to some advisors over at UAT a few months back about job placements and they made sound like the only garunteed job you could get after graduating was Game Testing. Not to sound ignorant but, do you even need a degree of any kind to test games? I can understanding maybe having a computer science background but, you aren't writing any of the actual code when all you do is test it. That's why I was hoping Baker would be a good school since they boast about their employment rate but, I guess the question now is if I'm okay with being pigeon-holed into the gaming industry? I never had any major CS related interest outside of gaming now that I think about but, CS is still the only stable career I can think of that I would care about to even attempt to get a degree in. So maybe just go to ASU?
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My advice is, keep your curriculum as broad as possible (in your domain of interest, that is). Keep your options open for you will regret it if you lock yourself into something you later find to not like as much as you thought you would. Remember hobbies and interests change quickly and often, but it is comparatively quite difficult and tedious to obtain late degrees in today's educational system. "Following a dream" can be dangerous, it's important to put things in perspective and keep an open mind before committing yourself.

[quote]I'm not saying that I hate games (far from it) but, I remember what it was like to blissfully play the games without worrying about what company made it or how good/bad its reviews were and so on. I guess what I'm saying is that I've already lost some of the "innocence" of playing games without knowing anything about them.[/quote]
I hear that. I wish I could go back to that time of my life myself, now I can't seem to enjoy even simple games. In addition, recent "improvements" in software distribution seem to be hell-bent on putting as many obstacles as possible between my game and myself, with huge patches to download (I'm on a cap), "servers are down", etc... back in the day I just went to the store, picked up the damn game, and played it without fuss [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/angry.png[/img]

You don't need to put as many tags by the way [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/blink.png[/img] Edited by Bacterius
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[quote name='PadMasher' timestamp='1341127408' post='4954449']So maybe just go to ASU?[/quote]
I would say yes to this, ASU is also a non-profit public school. So you will likely get a better looking degree purely from that standpoint. Many employers don't like the idea of for-profit degrees. If you can I would also recommend taking a course in linear algebra. It is heavily used in game development, as well as CS, and many CS curriculum's do not cover it, which is disappointing in my opinion.

I was once interested in the curriculum at UAT myself, but after have been doing stuff for awhile now. I have realize just how limited their curriculum truly is.
[quote name='PadMasher' timestamp='1341127408' post='4954449']That's kinda disappointing because gaming is one of the few things I'm truly passionate about[/quote]
I used to feel the same way, I still develop games in my free time. A lot of the people on this site actually do it more as a hobby then as a profession, partly due to how bad the industry is, this however is entirely dependent on where you work. However if you consider just how many games get produced every year, and how many are actually a success. The idea that yours will be a success, is pretty much like winning the lottery.

This combined with publishers restricting creative design to maximize profit, makes for a less then fun environment in some cases.

That is not to say you shouldn't go into game development, but you may eventually find yourself wanting to do something else. Edited by DevLiquidKnight
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@Bacterius
Point taken. I've been talking to my Mom about this quite a few times and she tells me to follow my passion which I can understand because she made the mistake of not following hers but, she was trying to become a journalist. I think we're all in agreement that becoming a Game Designer (especially in the AAA market) is not easy and it would be nice to have somewhere to turn to if I'm not successful in Game Design though, she insist that I'm being too pessimisstic. I feel like she's basically forcing me into college at this and I'd hate to have to pay off student loans for a degree that wasn't really worth it. Also, I totally agree that there is too much in the way of simply playing the games nowadays. I hear a lot of complaints regarding things like DRM. They don't simply release the games anymore. It has to come with mandatory updates, DLC, etc. I'll remember to go easy on the tags next time.

@DevLiquidKnight
That's very good advice. I didn't know linear algebra wasn't covered in most courses. My mother and I weren't to impressed by UAT's curriculum after sitting in some of the classes. I liked all the technology they had there but, some of their classes looked kind of useless. Not only that but, you have to have one major (just programming, just animation, etc.) which I think really limits your skill set. I'm pretty disappointed to learn that it's this hard to get into gaming. I guess that's simply reality but, with the way a lot of publishers work, I'm not sure I want to work with them. I guess if I want to see my visions come to life I should just get a CS degree and work on games on the side? I was hoping I could make games for a living and make the kind of games I grew up with as a kid (which looking back was a pretty naive thought) but, I don't know how I could do that if the chances for success are that slim. I hear that indie gaming is starting to rise in popularity. Should I try maybe going the independent route?
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Well now I say it. A CS program is a good thing, that is if you wish to work with with other more academic stuff like research related contents and theories. IF you really wish to make games and only that then you will have to take a risk(living is a risky business). You will have to ignore what we people are saying and just follow your passion, which means a Game related degree or starting a team with someone who is more experience than your self.

Now why would I write this? Well for instance this website has plenty of people who took the save road(a CS degree) and they did NOT ended up doing games. In fact many of them are too tired after a 40-60 hours week to even touch game development(you guessed it they do not work in the game industry). And the little spare time they have left goes for their kids and wife / husbands.

The chance that some other industry drag you into their fold is very high and you will end up with a fine salary and perhaps even a life with quality. BUT... BUT if you only wish to develop games you might start finding that some of the stuff some CS programs offer you is rather dull or perhaps not but still a waste of time(However some classes are really useful, but I have still not used my Turing machine knowledge ). And even your life become rather borrowing after some time in this very safe job position after graduation.

Another thing to take into account is the tuition fees for college and trade schools. Are they a good investment? Well many people would show you statistics that say yes, but here is the truth about these numbers(I have taken some fine classes in this topic from a fine University), they do not tell you about all the people who did not find a good well paid job. A trade school is way too expensive as the chance is that you might end up not liking what you see after a semester or two or you might even end up unemployed for some time. This goes for a CS program too.

In the end the decision should be yours. If you choose the trade school you will not have the safe job waiting for but then again that might be the same for CS programs in these years too(remember that out sourcing is more normal now and we have a financial crises too).

You should choose the road that appeals to you the most and stop thinking about safe roads and jobs as these only comes with your ability to produce something people wish to pay for and not the paper alone. That kind of skill level will only appear after many years of constantly hard work, which means doing it and not just writing about how to do it. Making games is mostly a craft and not only a science(we use stuff that science has invented though).

Also have you read any books? Do you know how to program? Do you know how the different tasks done in a game production is split up among different majors(music, art, programming(scripting), AI programming, 3D engine development(if no pre-build engine is used)). Do you want to end up being a X within the industry? Then you should learn to master Y major...

That was my two cents about why you should listen to your self. Now do as Tom Slope would say. Sit down and make your self a decision grid where you have a Traditional CS program vs Trade School vs Something else you like and then start writing your pros and cons about them all(I my self did do this back then [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/cool.png[/img] ).

I decided to take the CS degree(which is like reading a history class about computing... Zzzzz) and produce my own game along the process(currently doing).

Good luck and we all hope to see you around here [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]
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[quote name='Dwarf King' timestamp='1341133842' post='4954467']
Now why would I write this? Well for instance this website has plenty of people who took the save road(a CS degree) and they did NOT ended up doing games. In fact many of them are too tired after a 40-60 hours week to even touch game development(you guessed it they do not work in the game industry). And the little spare time they have left goes for their kids and wife / husbands.

The chance that some other industry drag you into their fold is very high and you will end up with a fine salary and perhaps even a life with quality. BUT... BUT if you only wish to develop games you might start finding that some of the stuff some CS programs offer you is rather dull or perhaps not but still a waste of time(However some classes are really useful, but I have still not used my Turing machine knowledge ). And even your life become rather borrowing after some time in this very safe job position after graduation.
[/quote]

I'm one of those people who went into computer science to become a game developer but ended up doing a completely different job (military computer scientist). "Game Dev" is like the gateway drug into other development jobs. But, game dev certainly isn't the most interesting dev job of all the available jobs (from an engineering perspective). There's just SO many fascinating jobs out there!!! You've got cryptography, virtual machines, distributed computing, artificial intelligence, database systems, low level assembly code for hardware platforms, operating systems, fractals, scientific simulations and modeling, network coding, robotics, mobile devices, etc. Development is like having a big pile of legos in front of you, waiting to be built into all sorts of interesting contraptions. The field of game dev is certainly interesting, but it's like spending all of your time building space ships out of legos (which is cool!) but there are lots of other very interesting things to build too!!! You might like legos and you might like space ships, but if you go to a school which shows you only how to build lego space ships, you're doing yourself a disservice by missing out on all of the other cool things you could build. A good CS program can introduce you to all of the other possibilities available and arm you with the basics to get started (95% of your post-CS education is learned on the job).
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Thank you all for the pointers you gave. I have a better idea about what I want to do now and I have learned a little more about what I should be trying to learn. I know I'm taking a risk but, Game Design is something I think I'll truly love so I'm properly going to go through with Baker. I tried the decision grid Tom mentioned and Baker and ASU seemed liked the best choices and based on my sit-ins at ASU, I think I'll simply be too bored there. I suppose that could be considered immature but, I don't see myself getting a good education if I'm falling asleep in class. Also, Baker gives me the option to do classes online which I think would be better for me since I'm pretty socially awkward. I guess the only question I have left is what do you guys think about it? The school is private and non-profit so it seems pretty legit but, some people don't like the idea of online colleges. Anyway, I really appreciate the help you guys have given me. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]
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[quote name='PadMasher' timestamp='1341216263' post='4954825']
Thank you all for the pointers you gave. I have a better idea about what I want to do now and I have learned a little more about what I should be trying to learn. I know I'm taking a risk but, Game Design is something I think I'll truly love so I'm properly going to go through with Baker. I tried the decision grid Tom mentioned and Baker and ASU seemed liked the best choices and based on my sit-ins at ASU, I think I'll simply be too bored there. I suppose that could be considered immature but, I don't see myself getting a good education if I'm falling asleep in class. Also, Baker gives me the option to do classes online which I think would be better for me since I'm pretty socially awkward. I guess the only question I have left is what do you guys think about it? The school is private and non-profit so it seems pretty legit but, some people don't like the idea of online colleges. Anyway, I really appreciate the help you guys have given me. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]
[/quote]

If the tuition fee is not too high and you and your family feel comfortable about this choice and know that it is not a safe choice then I think it is a great idea. Also I guess you are young so you got plenty of time to learn the stuff you need to. Just make sure to learn about algorithms and programming in general as that knowledge is really useful later on) I would recommend you this book(it is a bit old but rather fun compared to the more theoretical book about algorithms from MIT), after you have learned some C/C++ programming.

[url="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Structures-Programmers-Premier-Press-development/dp/1931841942/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1341223285&sr=1-1"]http://www.amazon.co...41223285&sr=1-1[/url]

Wish you all the best [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img] Edited by Dwarf King
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@Dwarf King

Thanks for the information. I'll keep that book in mind. I also have a couple of C++ books Iying around that might be helpful once I'm able to actually understand what they're talking about. Algorithms and trigonometry are listed in the courses so I should definitely learn it. Their CS degree also has a course for linear algebra though, I don't get why that course isn't in the Game Development program so I'll make sure to ask about it.
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The only thing I can say is to concentrate on the math courses...calculus, linear algebra, parts of discrete math in addition to programming. As a CIS major I sidestepped some of the more math intensive courses and it's making shader programming a bit difficult because I'm having to relearn some of the stuff I glossed over in college.

Also, I would recommend a CS degree instead of a specialized "game development" degree. It's a lot more portable, and the way the economy is you may not get a game dev job right out of the gate. Also, I would strongly recommend doing your own side projects (not necessarily connected to school)...if you can do some really cool stuff on your own it'll be easier to get a job after college.

Another thing...don't fixate on what school to get into. Things change so fast in the software dev world that you'll have to learn to teach yourself and experiment in order to keep moving anyway. College is just the beginning...and the instructors are really there just to guide you along and give you a sort of safety net. The real world is much less forgiving.

Hope some of what I said makes sense...good luck.
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