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BSXrider

UK bods: What should I do?

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I''ve recently graduated with a BSc in Physics from Imperial but want to get a development job of some sort, possibly games related. I''ve always been keen on programming but never had the time to do as much as I''d like. Just recently I''ve decided to drop everything and spend all day learning. I''ve dusted off and improved my c++, dabbled into the world of win32 and am now learning openGL. So what do you suggest I do to "further" myself. I don''t think there''s any point in me applying for jobs yet, my plan is to put together a portfolio of code to try and impress people. Good idea? I was wondering if there''s any courses I can take, whether it be a masters conversion course or a HND/HNC/whatever-the-feck. Any tips? - seb

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Personally, from my limited experience of dealing with agencies and developers, I would say forget further studies and make a portfolio. Many employers don''t care what degree you have if you can show a decent demo. And the fact that you have a degree in a sciences subject rules out the "he''s a retard who happens to be good at programming" hypothesis, so no-one will reject you on those grounds.

Of course, it won''t hurt to do a one year MSc conversion course, but you may find your time is better spent on coding something game-specific.

[ MSVC Fixes | STL | SDL | Game AI | Sockets | C++ Faq Lite | Boost ]

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I must say the only conversion courses I can find are in "computer science" which is pretty much useless, really, isn''t it?

"Not a retard" by any means. But I did only get a 3rd because I''m a mug and didn''t do any work, ever. That said it''s from Imperial which is second only to Oxford in the leauge tables...

- seb

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Ha! Thats almost the same situation i''m in, only my course was in Computers and Electronics. Well if your going to stuff something up you might as well do it in style, who wants a 2:2 anyway. Thats like, "i tried, just not very hard", better off with a 3rd, then people know your not lazy, just had other priorities.

Anyway, definately go with making a portfolio, i think just about everywhere want''s to see some examples of your work. Also if your looking for agencies or direct applications you could do worse than checking the back pages of Edge for some stuffs.

There are a couple of uni''s in scotland that have started up games programming courses, they *might* be offering a masters and possibly even some sort of conversion course but they won''t be taking people in for another 8 or 9 months so you might as well make some kick ass demo and get a job instead :-)

Good luck!

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I thought you needed a minimum 2:1 to do a Masters ?!

In most cases a degree to an employer shows that you have the will to learn. I have a degree in computer science and I''m no nerd, I''ve been in development industry for 10 years now after leaving university, my uni was miles behind oxford in the league tables - and DON''T think that by going to a uni and getting a third just because it''s at some posh tot uni will get you a job easier than someone with say a 2:1 from UMIST!-) IT WONT''T!

If you are to get into game development, I would personally get some demo''s done, ALL game companies will want to see a portfolio of your work. There are too many people around showing on their cv''s that they can do C++, JAVA, DCOM, ATL, MFC, DIRECTX, OPENGL but without actually showing anything this doesn''t prove anything.

Reg''d,
Steve

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I theory you need a 2:1 minimum to do a masters, but I think a lot depends on what your degree is in. Someone with a 3rd in physics is less likely to struggle than someone with a 1st in History of Art. No offense to History of Art students, it is just the physicist is more likely to have the right mindset.

I took a MSc conversion course in after a degree in physics (I got a 2:2) and although I found much of the programming to be easy (I had already written some basic DX stuff) I learned a lot of stuff that I might have otherwise glossed over, and got a much more rounded knowledge base as a result. Spending a year doing this may or may not be quite useful to you, and you might even be able to develop a portfolio while you are doing it.

However, regardless of what qualifications you have, I think a portfolio is essential.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
A quick post, as i have to get to a lesson. I would also like to get into gave devlopment, and am currently doing my A levels. So i would like to ask, is it essental to do a degree? As I feel that 6th form is a waste of my time. I know C++, and am learning DX, so should I carry on with 6th form, and go onto a degree, or learn as much programming as possible and put some demos together. Ah gotta go to lession, thanks for anyones advice.

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AP: While having gone to uni isn''t essential i think it helps, mainly because you will learn a lot about the proper way to do certain things that you may not otherwise knoe from self-learning or even highschool classes.

Not sure about the age thing either. I''d imagine that a slightly older applicant 22vs18 would usually get the job, based on the fact that he definately knows that he want to program games for a living, whereas someone who hasn''t really tried anything else might not. Dunno, it''s just a guess.


You can do a masters without a 2:2 or above, it just depends on the uni and the course. Then again, the better the grade the better your chance of application. Don''t quote me on this but i''m pretty sure you can do a masters/phd without having a degree at all, industry experiance counts for a hell of a lot these days.

zipless

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You can do a Masters / PHD without doing the degree first, but it takes more work to get onto a course.

Personally I have a degree in Biology and work programming for an Engineering Company doing process control. This has given me the incentives and mindset to begin to learn C++ etc..

As to the Uni / Not Uni Question, a Degree will not necessaily teach you the latest tricks & Techniques. Most Uni Text books and courses are 2 - 3 years behind Cutting Edge, but most companies are too. Look at the Y2k problems, a lot of which was Cobol based from the 60''s !. A degree will prove that you can work and think to a certain level and you understand certain basics and theories. You may well know these without going to uni, but that piece of paper certifies it.

Having been on the other side of hiring discussions, in my experience a Degree will beat A Levels (even if only slighlt relevant) and a Sandwhich course at 2.2 will beat a 3 year course 2.1 as industry experience counts for a lot.

But, there are many companies out there looking for entry level programmers and trainees, and any good candidate should get a look in, especially one with demos. (I got my 1st job as I could supply a series of graphics demos to do with fractals, and my Thesis used PC''S in a big way)

I''d say forget the follow on trainig (new courses don''t start till September anyway) and try to build up a CV / portfolio. (Get involved in open source or community projects, you can learn a lot from other people even if it is the best way not to code something !)

OK, thats my 2p''s worth.

Bp.

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I have very good A-levels in maths and physics (4 "A"s) so hopefully that''ll counteract some of the damage done by my excessive mountain biking during my physics degree [:D]

As for the portfolio, any tips? I suppose I need to try and do something original instead of just another doom clone or just another racing game etc...

- seb

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An idea: think about an MCSE in Visual Studio, if it''s available. You know, the Microsoft exams.

As for a portfolio, you need to think about which specific area you want to go into. If it''s graphics, for example, do some amazing graphics demos - perhaps you could take an existing simple game and make it look extremely cool.

I seem to remember an article that listed the four portfolio-starters: Pong, Tetris, Pacman, and Mario (or some other side-scroller). Do clones of them (preferably with your own original take) and they should demonstrate a knowledge of just about all aspects of game programming. Pong has game basics (along with a little game phsyics), Tetris is more complex, Pacman brings in AI, and Mario has most elements. The only thing I can think it''s missing is networking, but Pong could always become NetPong.

Superpig
- saving pigs from untimely fates
- sleeps in a ham-mock at www.thebinaryrefinery.cjb.net

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Stupidly I''m setting my targets higher than things like pong. I''m currently conceptualising how I can make myself a random terrain generaotor but in the guise of a rally game or something. So it generates a stretch of terrain, with random corners and lumps and bumps and stuff. As you move forwards the next section is generated etc.

One of my other projects is a pretty accurate car physics sim so hopefully I''ll eventually tie the two together...

- seb

PS yes I know I should start small etc etc...

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Anonymous Poster - sorry, but if you are serious about getting into the industry, a degree is a must. It shouldn''t be, but a massive proportion of employers won''t even look at your work if you don''t have that qualification. Remember that game programming jobs are very popular and so they can afford to be picky. There are some places that will look at your work regardless of your qualifications, but you are limiting your chances without that degree.

There''s nothing to stop you going to university and applying for jobs while you are there.

BSXrider - I don''t think originality buys you very much in your programming portfolio. Probably better to show diversity (2D and 3D graphics, input, sound, networking) than a single really interesting design. Originality is perhaps more useful if applying to be a designer, but even then it''s debatable.

[ MSVC Fixes | STL | SDL | Game AI | Sockets | C++ Faq Lite | Boost ]

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The University of Abertay, Dundee (www.abertay.ac.uk) does an MSc in Computer Games Technology. It's a year course, you learn DX and OpenGL, do some host-target console stuff (Yaroze at the mo, though next year I think it will be xbox or GBA) and build a portfolio as you go.

Along with programming modules there's modules on stuff like 3D math, game design and the games industry and legal IPR issues. You can even learn Japanese while your there They have close links with the games companies in the area - like DMA Design, Visual Sciences, Digital Bridges and Denki - and ppl from those companies and others often come by and give seminars.

If you want to go down the education route then it's probly the best course. You need a first degree and you need to already know C/C++. It's a good way to build a portfolio, you learn a lot about the industry, and get another qualification in the process.

Galgiel.

PS: Yes, I am on this course

Edited by - galgiel on January 16, 2002 3:21:45 PM

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A quick question for the UK folks out there!
I would like to know if the BSc CS(Graphics and Games) degree offered at Middlesexd Uni is good?

I browsed through their website and was impressed a bit. Is there anyone out there who went through that course? I was planning to take it next year.

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Galgiel, is that course any good? I was actually thinking about taking it myself after I finish my BEng Software Engineering degree. Although I''m concidering switching to Computing (Districuted Information Systems and Communication) as I think the empahsis on network/internet programming and architectures would be very useful in the games industry and especially in other computing areas.

Would you say it''s worth doing? You are on the MSc version right? What sort of grade do you need to get on the course. What kind of things do you learn on the course apart from the DirectX/OpenGL stuff?


I actually got onto the BSc version of the Computer Games Technology but decided not to take the place because I didn''t want to move to Scotland for 3-4 years. Sometimes I wish I had taken up the place because the course looks so good and I know I would have loved every minute of it.

However I think it worked out to be a better decision as doing a normal computing degree gives more diversity to my knowledge and doesn''t restrict my options if I decide to leave the industry at a latter date.

And I''ll only have to move to Scotland for one year (Not that there''s anything wrong with Scotland, but being so far away from my friends and family for 4 years would have been hard )

- Kaijin

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hey all

I applied to uni''s through UCAS end-of last year, and I''ve got all my offers... Manchester (ABB), Nottingham (BBC), Nottingham-Trent (BCC), Kent (BBB)... Am thinking of going for Nottingham...

Anyway, does anyone have any insider-experience of those uni''s (srtaight compsci course)??

Methinks that a straight compsci course is much better than those games/graphics courses - unless you''re 101% sure you want to do games then you''re narrowing your choices waaay too much imo. assuming you''re in upper/lower sixth now, how can you be sure you still want to do the same thing in 4yrs time, and what if the market is saturated then and you cant get the job you want (you dont have any others paths to fall back on)... may well be fine by you, but I dont like that sort of gamble

Secondly, does plain industrial experience (be it in finance/business, multimedia or research) help when getting a game development job? do they like industrial experience (a whole year)?

Thirdly, I assume that if you had already published a game then you''d be in a very very good position. Whilst I''m not allowed to disclose any details, I am working on a commercial game (with a proper publisher)... which will be released BEFORE i start my uni degree - will that be looked upon well?

many thanks for any insight nice thread...

Jack;

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galgiel, any chance of some more info on the course? It sounds really quite interesting and might be a good choice if i can''t break into the industry anytime soon.

Do you do much in the way of AI? And have you touched upon any graphical effects like particle systems, lens flare, plasma fractals etc?

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Zipless:
If you actually want to be _taught_ specific topics like particle systems, lens flare etc. from an engineering perspective then you would be out of luck. You would undoubtedly be taught that stuff on the BSc though.

There''s not enough time on the MSc. For our OpenGL module for example most of the lectures were just that, lectures, (i.e. not in a lab), where the guy would cover the theory and the math for a particular effect (including stuff like partical systems and lens flare). It would then be our responsibility to go away and actually do some coding. That module was graded on a single piece of coursework - a game or interactive environment that used as several of the techniques we''d learned.

Because it''s postgrad it''s a lot of ''here''s the theory, go figure the rest out for yourself'' type stuff. The lecturers are there if you need them but your expected to work fairly independantly. Like most postgrad qualifications.

We didn''t do any AI while I was there - there wasn''t time. But they do have couple of AI researchers there so it''s a possibility for the future. My first degree is in CS and AI so i didn''t mind

Kaijin:
I don''t think the entry requirments are particularly high, they just want enthusiastic ppl. The course is the oldest of it''s kind but it''s still fairly new - it needs work. You get out of it what you put in, all the resources and opportunities are there, but no one is gonna push you to make use of them. Having said that it''s probly the best course of it type, and it certainly has the strongest links with industry.

Apart from graphics modules there''s a heavy emphasis on the business side of things - starting a company, IPR, contracts, approaching publishers, pitching a product etc. There''s also a game design module where you are teamed up with artists from the BSc Computer Arts course and develop a Design Document and a prototype. There''s a module on 3D Studio Max as well. And others. You can also learn Japanese while your there, if you can find the time.

The BSc course is really good because they cover a lot more ground and get to spend a lot of time on the design side.

Your right about moving to Scotland though. I wouldn''t want to live in Dundee for more than a year

Wow, that was a long post,
Galgiel.

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Cheers for the info galgiel. Could you tell me the other places that offer this sort of thing? It''s the only games course I''ve heard of in the UK.

What''s the college like? Good male/female ratio?

- seb

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Sound pretty cool, that fact that the course has industry ties is a big incentive for me.

The BSc isn''t an option, i cant afford neither do i want to spend another 4 years stuck in student *hell. As long as some of the theory is covered i am more than willing to put in my time to code up solutions.

I''ve sent off a mail asking for info on the entry qualifications but it''s still a last resort, mainly as i can''t afford to sit around jobless for the next 8 months. Cheers for the info, hope you do well in the course.

zipless





* my definition of hell mainly consisted of one big hangonver, brightened up with areas of programming and then decending into a never ending pit of electrical mathematics and signal processing.

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Other uni''s that I think do courses are: Middlesex, Linconshire & Humberside, Teeside, Essex, Salford. Check out Edge magazines annual jobs guide supplement thingy.

BSXRider - Abertay itself isn''t great. The Union sucks big time. However, Dundee University has a supurb union with several bars and a large club - and more importantly a healthy population of fit birds. There''s a nurses school as well...

I did my BSc at Leeds, (and that place rocks, btw) and after that Dundee was like a ghost town. But it''s only a year so you grin and bear it I imagine the change of pace would be even worse if you''ve been doing your BSc in London.

Galgiel.

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Sorry galgiel, a few more question

Would you say the course is worth doing if yiou already have a good grasp on DirectX and OpenGL? I''m not expert yet but in 2 1/2 years time when I graduate I''ll be pretty good I should hope. Is there much on game architecture?

Would it be worth doing just to have the quaitfication even if I wouldn''t learn that much new stuff in terms of technical skills?

You said that the uni has a lot of industry links, would you say that there''s a lot of good oppotunities to network and make contacts?

- Kaijin

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