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The path forward/old guys and software development

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Hello,
First off, I've been reading and enjoying the articles here for a while, but this is my first time posting. I apologize if this is redundant, I took a quick look over the first few pages and didn't see exactly what I was looking for.

I'm 33, an experienced automotive engineer who is now in purchasing. In highschool, I was deeply into programming (C, assembly, Pascal, BASIC) and spent hundreds of hours learning and teaching myself. I had always thought I would move into software development for my profession, but somehow ended up in engineering. Ten years down the road, I'm looking back with a little regret.

Getting to my question. I'm not looking for anyone to hold my hand, but what would you experienced folks see as a transition path for me? I'm teaching myself C++ (Prata's book, online notes, this site), studying the newer system architectures, and trying to wrap my head around the exponentially increased complexity to game development projects today vs. 20 years ago. Would it be a good idea to sign up for classes, or just continue to teach myself? I want a good holistic understanding, and to be able to move into software development in the next two years. There's just so much to learn and become familiar with that honestly I'm a little confused to which path to take. Any insights would be kindly appreciated.

Thanks.

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That would be a rather large career move. Generally employers look for a combination of CS degrees and software development experience.

It is not impossible, but you might have to take this in several stages.

First would be experience.

It is not a big step to jump from a database programmer to a gameplay programmer as the skills are transferable. Being an "automotive engineer who is now in purchasing" probably does not give you experience that transfer to being a gameplay programmer. The experience gap may be pretty big, so you will likely start out lower than similarly-aged coworkers.

Next, the skills.

You will need the skills which are generally taught at a university. The diploma means you have a fairly standard minimum skill level and experience level; it is difficult to tell if you have the full range of needed skills if you don't have the degree. If you have the means, it is probably a good idea to get some sort of certifications or even a degree. A CS degree is the normal HR barrier, but you can sometimes get by that by knowing the right people within a small studio where a trade degree or certificate could be enough.

Age is a fairly minor barrier relative to the skills, but it may (unfortunately) be an issue.



You might have an easier time if you make this a two-stage transition. First become a programmer in the industry you are already in (change roles within the same industry). Then move from a programmer in that field to a programmer in game development (the same role but a different industry).



Also, I'm moving this to the "Breaking In" forum, please read the forum FAQs. [Scroll up, click the "breaking in" link, follow the FAQ link on the right hand side.] Edited by frob

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Hi Jon,

I learned programming long ago, and have been doing it my whole life, so what I say comes form that background, not having learned it recently.

I would suggest learning on your own, with all the references the internet has to offer. Since you have a some background in programming, it won't be as stiff a learning curve. But, be sure and take it one step at a time, don't try to make MMORPG KILLER GAME as your first game. Start small, check out some examples (Check out the [url="http://www.gamefromscratch.com/page/Game-From-Scratch-CPP-Edition.aspx"]SFML tutorials[/url], and lazyfoo has some good SDL tutorials), and at some point try and make your own simple game and go from there.

I'm older than you, but still enjoy programming simple games for fun, and I'm sure you can get to this point too (and enjoy doing it too) as long as you don't try and bite off too much early on.

Good Luck!

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You should put your experiences to good use to get a foot into the software industry. I know lot of people working in the (standard) software industry without any degree in CS (a college graduate with IT/software development experiences have good chances, at least here in Germany) . It depends heavily on the industry branch and role, not everyone working in IT is a coder. Have you other skills/experiences like requirement engineering, business analyzing, consulting. Though a degree is a must have for certain companies, you could have a chance to enter the software industry from the back door, as frob already mentioned, by working in the IT branch of the automotive industry.

The game industry seems to be more competitive (only worked for ~2 year in it), there are not many jobs compared to other industry branches, often with the requirement of a good understanding of math and/or CS background.

If you are really good, an impressive portfolio (demos) could open the door for you, but this could be quite hard.

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[sub]Thank you for the informative replies, I'm sorry for putting this in the wrong section. I'll read through the FAQ before I post again.[/sub]

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[quote name='Jon79' timestamp='1343238501' post='4963000']
1. I'm 33,
2. what would you experienced folks see as a transition path for me?
[/quote]

1. I thought you said your question was going to be about old guys??

2. Choose an entry path and build a portfolio. See FAQs 7, 27, and 41.

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If you want to make sure this is worth the risk, try to mod an existing game. You'll be doing a lot of what you'd do in the industry (you very rarely get to start from scratch your own thing nowadays, and mostly buildup on pre-existing code) and you'll see if:
a - You like it
b - You can do it

Once you do have a mod done, it will be a very nice asset to have in your portfolio, even better if you have fans of that mod, which will teach them there' sufficient polish.

Good luck!

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