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Games Entertainment

An Interesting Look at the Video Game Industry 361

Posted by timothy
from the all-thumbs dept.
Bamafan77 writes "USATODAY has an interesting article in their Money section on the video game industry. The centerpiece of the story is an overview of DigiPen, the only accredited video game university, but it also describes aspects of the video game industry in general including the explosive growth of the industry (e.g. Barnes and Nobles would've reported a loss without their Gamestop subsidiary) and how many universities not only fail to prepare students for the game industry, but still don't take it seriously. However, I believe things are slightly better than the days when Trip Hawkins (EA's co-founder founder) Harvard professor told him to stop wasting time with games."
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An Interesting Look at the Video Game Industry

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  • by YahoKa (577942) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:32PM (#4806439)
    ... aren't made; they're born :)
  • by radiumhahn (631215) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:34PM (#4806451)
    I majored in tetris! I also have degrees in Donkey Kong Theory and Token Economics!
    • Re:Me too! Me too! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mr Teddy Bear (540142) <mbradfordNO@SPAMbahaigear.com> on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:40PM (#4806507) Homepage
      "No wonder: Even while the economy struggles, the video game industry has become one of the fastest-growing forms of media entertainment:" - from article

      Of course the video game industry will always thrive, just as the movie industry did in the 30's durring the depression. People needed an escape and those mediums provided the perfect way to do just that. These forms of entertainment will always do well any time when times are rough.
      • Re:Me too! Me too! (Score:2, Insightful)

        by zapfie (560589)
        I would daresay videogames might even succeed moreso than movies during these times, especially when you start talking about massively multiplayer RPGs a la EverQuest.
      • And see that Hollywood isn't doing too good. There have been a lot movie-related companies (especially SFX) going out of business in the past two years. I think in 5 years the same thing will happen to the video games industry (ie - another early 1980's style Atari crash by overproduction is coming).
      • Re:Me too! Me too! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Jace of Fuse! (72042) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @09:02PM (#4806940) Homepage
        Must I point out that the Video Game Industry isn't really doing so hot right now? Yes, the winners win really big. The loser fold, get bought out, merge, and end up forgotten.

        Interplay for instance, is in trouble. Infogrames, is taking major losses. Capcom is taking major losses. Big companies, big losses, with different base countries of operations.

        The fact of the matter is, the industry really --IS-- sucking right now, and probably for the same reason all of the other industries are. The economic downturn hasn't helped, but look at the high level of pure trash they're selling.

        I buy video games frequently. Every week, even. But when so many titles come out that even I can't keep up with all of them (and I'm something of a fanatic) then you know there is a lot of them out there. And many of them, even big name ones, are pure shit.

        Of course, there are some great titles, too. I watched many times as a wonderfully done title hardly sells, while recycled garbage soars to the top of the charts and it shows me that the industry is going to hell. Then the company that's selling the recycled garbage folds anyway and then everybody loses out.

        We're going to end up with just a few major studios in the end, just as everyone has been predicting for years. Games are getting so costly to make, and only the really big names can afford to make them. To make matters worse, margins are shrinking, start up investment costs are now higher than they've ever been, and there's a really huge used-game market now that every new title must compete with.

        Once upon a time a single title could easily sell into profitability just because a system had reached critical mass. Now days, even top-chart titles still make publishers nervous because trade-ins can dramatically cut the sales figures. Piracy is also a much worse problem now than it's ever been. Esspecially on the Playstation and Playstation 2, the two most popular video game consoles going at the moment.

        Now, articles such as the one that started this whole discussion can talk all the shit they want about how much money video games made this year, or how much a single title such as Grand Theft Auto Vice sold, but in reality those are the rare top-chart winners, and for every title in the top 40, there are several more by the same publishers doing horribly.

        Don't believe me? Electronic Arts knows it's true. They've known it longer than most publishers. That's why it doesn't break their heart to re-sell big names such as the SIMS, or anything from the EA Sports line. They know they can turn heavy profits on something that's relatively inexpensive to make because the majority of developement costs have already been spent. Everytime they make changes to an old game and call it something new it's pure profit, even if it doesn't sell as well as the original. And if it sells better, that's wonderful.

        And while people who normally don't play a lot of games fork over cash for the latest Madden or the SIMS expansion, we have publishers of entirely better games struggling to stay afloat.

        Has it become business? Yes. It's become a whole lot like the movie industry, and it's not better for the gamers in the least bit. In fact, you want proof that the video game industry has now gone to shit? Take one look at the people buying Playstations and you'll see.

        You see mostly uneducated average joes that don't read much, they watch a lot of TV, and can't be bothered to play deep and involved games. And while there are some shallow yet fun games, and there are some mega-hits that both the main-stream AND the die-hard gamers can enjoy, the rest of the crap is pure rubbish. Just like the rest of pop culture.

        And we're all guilty of it, even the die-hards amoung us. Have any of you ever played a Pokemon game? Do you truely, HONESTLY know what it's about? Do you care? Probably not. Given a choice between being given the next Pokemon game for free, or BUYING the next installment of Grand Theft Auto most of our minds are already made up. It doesn't matter if the Pokemon games are fun or not. I wouldn't know, personally, and I doubt many of you do, either. That just illustrates my point further.

        There is something seriously wrong with the video game industry, and to the post I'm replying, no it's not going to thrive. It's going to survive, it's going to change, and it's going to destroy much of the things we once loved about video games. In doing so, it's going to become just another segment of Hollywood and the Entertainment Industry.

        Having said that, the Video Game Industry isn't going to Thrive. It's already on it's way to being dead.
        • Wow. A bit harsh, dontcha think?

          You must've bought Rez [penny-arcade.com] too, huh [penny-arcade.com]?
        • Games are getting so costly to make, and only the really big names can afford to make them.


          I'm not convinced it has to be this way. The problem as I see it is that every game is made as if its going to be the number one hit game of the year. Which it never is, because it looks exactly like the number one hit game of last year, and there are now 10 different titles that look exactly like it. The business people who run everything are simply looking at other successful companies and doing what they do--but doing exactly what your competitors have already done is a recipe for failure in video games (and probably most software) as the economic picture you describe proves.


          The solution is to start making cheaper games that appeal to fringe, niche groups. The game of the year may require the latest graphics technology and oodles of expensive artwork and massive marketing push--but a great game can still be made without the absolute best visuals. How much do you think these [popcap.com] games cost to make? How much do you think the Pokemon games cost to make? How many units does the average GBA game need to sell to break even? Cheap, successful games are possible, and I suspect we'll see way more of them in the future.



          And we're all guilty of it, even the die-hards amoung us. Have any of you ever played a Pokemon game? Do you truely, HONESTLY know what it's about? Do you care? Probably not. Given a choice between being given the next Pokemon game for free, or BUYING the next installment of Grand Theft Auto most of our minds are already made up. It doesn't matter if the Pokemon games are fun or not. I wouldn't know, personally, and I doubt many of you do, either. That just illustrates my point further.


          I'm not disputing your main point here, but to me at least, there isn't much difference between free and $50 relative to the true cost of the game, which is the time I invest in playing it. I'm sure if I took all of my Pokemon or Grand Theft time and worked at something productive instead I'd make enough to make actual cost of the game meaningless. If you like console RPGs, I highly recommend Pokemon. It has the depth of PC RPG with the simplicity of the console RPG. The battle system is much better thought out than, say, any Final Fantasy game. There isn't really any serious story, but its pretty fun to collect and build up the Pokemon.

    • I always did well at my Mega Man lessons, but I had a bad habit of forgetting everything I learned when it was time to study the next chapter.
  • by billethius (543553) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:36PM (#4806474)
    At the small private college I attend, we have absolutely nothing that might prepare us for programming in a game environment. Especially nothing graphical or in the realm of artificial intelligence. The only thing I have done with graphics so far has been writing a small solitaire program in java for a class on object oriented programming. And even then all we learned was enough to get the program to draw itself correctly. The focus was more on the actual objects in the program. As to artificial intelligence, there is usually a course offered here once a year, and I have yet to have the opportunity to take it, so we'll see how that turns out.

    All in all, I'd say that most universities turn out computer science students who know how to program applications. Word processors and the like. I doubt that many universities take video games seriously because they only came onto the scene in my lifetime. Give it another 10 years and we'll see where things are at then.

    • by Cruciform (42896) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:46PM (#4806547) Homepage
      I don't think any of the professional game coders I've asked for friends have said they learned anything applicable to the industry in University.

      When you tell that to the person wanting to know how they can get into the industry though, they don't want to hear it.

      For someone without programming knowledge school is a good stepping stone, but currently you have to turn to online resources and bookstores to find the real treasures.

      It might be quite a while before we see real growth in the area too... the people who really get it are too busy doing what they love... many of the most qualified would probably be miserable teaching.
    • by Evil Adrian (253301) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:57PM (#4806635) Homepage
      As far as college preparing you for programming in a game environment, what you learn in college (for Computer Science anyway) is mostly algorithms, data structures, and most importantly, how to tackle problems. The hope is that you will understand how to tackle any computer problem with an API reference and your knowledge.

      I have programmed real-time video projects, yet received no training in college on real-time programming, graphics, video, etc. Would I have been able to do it without what I learned in college? Sure, but I would have had to teach myself for quite a while. The college education certainly made things clear-cut, and comparatively easy, for me.

      What do you need to do video games? Programming experience, probably in C++... some linear algebra (so you can do the matrix multiplication that is so shmooper in 3D gaming), some Physics 101, OOP, Software Engineering, Computer Graphics... all standard for any decent school offering a CompSci degree. Really, you can do anything you want with computers with a CompSci degree.

      The way I look at it, college prepares you for the video game industry as well as it prepares you for any other programming job. You can code anything as long as you sit down, think about the problem, and familiarize yourself with the tools you need to get the job done.
      • by redragon (161901) <codonnell@mac.cE ... minus physicist> on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @09:29PM (#4807141) Homepage
        Well said...

        Of course, CS programs should be including at least a basic graphics course (3D Geometry, vectors, matricies, transforms, clipping, pipelines, etc...not Photoshop or Maya...though I've seen some good courses that have written shaders for Renderman, but I digress). What you learn in school shouldn't be what you'll do in the real world.

        CS programs don't teach you C++, C, Pascal, Fortran, or even Java. They teach you concepts. Sure you may realize them in a language, but you're learning how to attack a problem. You learn how to manage projects, and a whole lot of other things, that aren't VB applications. You may be employed writting such applications, but your CS department didn't put you in that place. This is why CS departments most often don't care if they've got Visual Studio .TURKEY. It doesn't matter if they teach you the correct concepts.

        Honestly, that object oriented design world that you're coming from is just now beginning to take hold in the gaming world. So often C++ was bashed for not being fast enough (and they were right, the compilers didn't do a good job), but only recently has component based design started to take hold. This is why companies are making money with physics engines (among others).

        Gaming is a weird world. Games need art, more than they need code. I've found that art drives the technology. "We need this effect..." Well, that wasn't in the engine, so hopefully our well desgined engine doesn't make ti to hard to add that.

        Unfortunately, it's a tough place to land a job. Everyone wants to work for a game company, and there are so many mediocre programmers out there. If you want to break in, write some code (it's really not hard), and learn how to write games. Don't sweat it, you may spend your first few weeks reading lots of documentation...you'll figure it out. Don't copy programs out of books, what do you learn? Take their application and make it better. Go code!

        Ok...

        Done.
      • IMO, for the *most part*, CS skills are best learned outside of the classroom. Good programming habits come from debugging bad code. Good programming skills come from being forced to implement very complex, real-world systems. Good programming habits/skills come from doing this while under deadline pressure.

        These can and are taught in school, but when most classes cover theory and small, 'neat', unrealistic examples, and little debugging or re-use of old code is done, I think folks miss a lot.

        Most programmers I talk to agree: once you hit the real world, everything changes. You don't have time to do things all pretty, and you don't have a prof leaning over your shoulder reminding you to comment your code.

        Bottom line: I think college is for becoming an all-around, mature person who can communicate and work well with others. Technical skills usually come from experience, regardless of the field. I think that's often a truth of life.
    • An RTS is just graphical accounting software.

      If you learn the application of concepts instead of concepts, you're screwed no matter where you go.

      I've taught myself how to make games by analizing how games work. I also taught myself how to code. My university is teaching me how to code well.

      You don't need a university to teach you how to make games which is obvious since it's very unlikely that too many of those in the game industry went to DigiPen.

      If "applications" (like Word, ect) geared university is going to screw you over when it comes to making games then a games based university is going to screw you over when you try to make a supporting app for your game project.

      The fact is, you need a rounded understanding of concepts and it shouldn't matter where you start, you should easily beable to do both apps and games. Otherwise you need to come up with a new career idea because the concepts are very much the same.

      I wasn't taught how to make games or apps. I was taught how to code. That's the way your education should be.

      Ben
      • Actually, from what I've heard, DigiPen is laughed at from within the industry. Regardless, a good conceptual knowledge of the concepts is more important than "knowing how to code." Hell, at the university I attend, we aren't taught programming languages, really. Some of the intro classes are taught in Java, but after that, you're expected to learn languages and APIs on your own, and you can use any language you wish to code programs. This is the way the real world works too. Your employer probably isn't going to have a class on OpenGL, at the most you may be able to borrow a book on OpenGL but you have to learn it on your own.
    • Try an EE Degree.. (Score:4, Informative)

      by xtal (49134) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @09:38PM (#4807192)
      Some of the best game developers I know aren't CS people, they have EE / ME degrees. (Hey Jess, you out there? Still at EA?) This is something I'd consider if I wanted to get into game development and was looking for a career path. Engineering is very focused on how to model the real world and real world physics and stresses, something pretty much what games do today. You're not going to learn much about automatic control systems in a CS program, and that is very relevant to advanced simulator design. American engineering schools aren't quite as rigorous (Canadian perspective here), but it's pretty much the same thing. I have an EE degree, so obviously I am biased.

      Another benefit to having an engineering degree is it gives you great distinction from the packs of CS people. For better or for worse, this has been something that has benefited me in job searches, especially in this economy.

      If you are an engineer in Canada, you are required to do much more complicated math than most CS undergraduates get into. At the core of all games is some very complicated mathematical modelling - I'd even argue someone with a pure math degree would be a better bet than someone from a more specific program in game development.

      Let's face it, going to a school that's going to just teach you game development would be very nearsighted IMHO. I would much rather have a solid grounding in the fundamentals that I can apply to whatever comes along. Anyone who is destined to be a great game developer is smart enough to implement their own gaming engines and games, learn about game physics and AI, etc, on their own. I would give a harder look to someone with a degree and their own open source project in one of the above areas than someone who graduated from Video Game U. Unless of course, I was looking to save money.. and of course, there are exceptions to every rule.

      Most of the time those who have a natural talent and interest stand out light years ahead of those who trudge through a CS degree for the money. Perhaps this is what you mean by an "applications developer".

      My $0.02.
  • Hmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by Patik (584959) <cpatik@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:37PM (#4806482) Homepage Journal
    Trip Hawkins (EA's co-founder founder)
    So he's the guy that found the guy that founded the company with another guy? Wow, what a guy!
  • by SpaceRook (630389) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:38PM (#4806490)
    However, I believe things are slightly better than the days when Trip Hawkins' (EA's co-founder founder) Harvard professor told him to stop wasting time with games."

    Gamers [toastyfrog.com] have been begging Trip Hawkins to stop wasting time with games for years. I guess Hawkins' prof was just ahead of his time.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:39PM (#4806499)
    how many universities not only fail to prepare students for the game industry, but still don't take it seriously

    Yeah, when I tried to explain to them the reason I was flunking out was because of playing Final Fantasy, they decided to suspend me anyway!

  • by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:40PM (#4806505) Journal
    I'm confused. I know what a founder co-founder is (one of the parents of the founder), but what is a co-founder founder? The original from which the co-founder was cloned?

  • by kaxman (466911) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:41PM (#4806514) Journal
    ...outsold the motion-picture industry by a billion dollars last year, and movie studios and record labels wonder why they are losing money? Come on! I've always thought that it was an obvious fact that 'x' dollars only go so far, and if some kid chooses to spend his allowance or paycheck on a computer game, there's that much less money LEFT to spend on a CD or movie ticket. Don't forget, either, that even just last year video games weren't nearly so prevalent. There are a lot more choices out there for me to spend my money on, but (go figure) I don't seem to have any more money this year to spend... The times, they are a changin', and the dinosaurs will be left in the dust.

    Yeah, I sound just like a million other people, but I imagine myself and all those other people will continue to say the same things until they no longer need to be said.
    • by Anonvmous Coward (589068) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:57PM (#4806632)
      "Come on! I've always thought that it was an obvious fact that 'x' dollars only go so far, and if some kid chooses to spend his allowance or paycheck on a computer game, there's that much less money LEFT to spend on a CD or movie ticket. "

      I think you're on the right track, but there's more to it than that. The Game Industry does a far better job of ensuring customer satisfaction than the Movie/Music industry does.

      -Game reviews are plentiful.
      -Demo/rental versions are easy to acquire to try out.
      -You can trade/sell a game to try out other ones. There's more entertainment for your buck.
      -You have the time to sit down and enjoy the game at your leisure. (as opposed to being at a theater by a certain time...)
      -Mods, mods, mods...
      -A bad game isn't as bad as a bad movie. (Your mileage may vary...)

      It's funny, if you think about it: Video games cost quite a bit more than movies. You'd think that the industry would be all over trying to get things like P2P shut down. But they don't. They understand that people are willing to pay for games, they just need reassurance that the game will do what they want. (Hence the popularity of Demo CDs...) If the *AA would learn from that example, then maybe they wouldn't be $1B behind the Game Industry.
      • by rw2 (17419)
        It's funny, if you think about it: Video games cost quite a bit more than movies. You'd think that the industry would be all over trying to get things like P2P shut down. But they don't. They understand that people are willing to pay for games, they just need reassurance that the game will do what they want.

        There's also that little bit about having a unique key to open your game. That slows down the pirates enough to make it easier to pay the money than to spend the time getting the game free.

        There is a truth to what you say though. I would much rather get Neverwinter for $50 which I know I'll play for many many hours than Eminem which I suspect I'll listen to a few times, rip to ogg and then not put on a playlist because I'm already weary of it.
      • You're kidding, right?

        -Game reviews are plentiful.
        Movie reviews are even more plentiful.

        -Demo/rental versions are easy to acquire to try out.
        Last time I went to Blockbuster there were more movies for rent than there were games.

        -You can trade/sell a game to try out other ones. There's more entertainment for your buck.
        And you can trade videos and DVDs. I'll give you the "more entertainment for your buck" since that's a subjective thing.

        -You have the time to sit down and enjoy the game at your leisure. (as opposed to being at a theater by a certain time...)
        You don't HAVE to watch the movie in the theaters. You can wait for it to come out at the video store or on PPV or on one of the premium cable channels.
      • The Game Industry does a far better job of ensuring customer satisfaction than the Movie/Music industry does. -Game reviews are plentiful.

        So are movie [metacritic.com] reviews [rottentomatoes.com], which also happen to be in newspapers.

        -Demo/rental versions are easy to acquire to try out.

        So are movie rentals. And first run movies only cost $5 to $7.

        -You can trade/sell a game to try out other ones. There's more entertainment for your buck.

        Ebay sells used movies and games. Also, newly run movies cost $15 to $25 while first run games cost $30 to $50.

        -You have the time to sit down and enjoy the game at your leisure. (as opposed to being at a theater by a certain time...)

        Online gaming has comparable time constraints, especially for team games. And liesurely home viewing of movies is very common.

        -Mods, mods, mods...

        Phantom Edit, Extended Editions, Renderman Licensing...

        -A bad game isn't as bad as a bad movie. (Your mileage may vary...)

        Sure does. $50 wasted is much worse than $25 wasted.

        But I agree that video games have more room to grow, and perhaps more potential overall.
        • "So are movie rentals. And first run movies only cost $5 to $7."

          Months after the movies are released... Not to mention that deceptive trailers are the only demos of movies you get.

          "Phantom Edit, Extended Editions, Renderman Licensing..."

          The Phatom Edit was a rare example, and extremely rare to come by. Unlike the 4.3 billion Quake mods out there...

        • I think some of your points are pretty ridiculous in this context. A game demo is often times free, I was playing the Jedi Knight 2 demo the other night I downloaded while I was in the shower, it cost me the electricity to leave my computer and cable modem turned on. That happens to be a lot less money and a lot less hassle than going to see a specific movie showtime or renting a movie.

          Online gaming has few constraints besides your network speed. I don't NEED to play a team game in order to play the game. I can fire up UT2003 or CS and be fragging away whenever I want. I can't do that so easily with a movie.

          There's nothing to really compare an extended edition DVD to a game mod. Day of Defeat and CS completely change the gameplay of Half-Life, that is no way compares to some fan edit of the Phantom Menace or a bonus DVD with some deleted scenes.

          I'm not a video game fanatic either, I'm much more of a movie fanatic and have spent more time in the last month watching movies than playing video games. I'm not poking holes in your argument to defend gamers everywhere. I'm doing it because your comparisons suck.
      • If the *AA would learn from that example, then maybe they wouldn't be $1B behind the Game Industry.


        Read the article. Then read it again carefully. The *AA is not $1B behind the Game Industry. The Game Industry makes $1B more in total revenue than the MPAA makes in box office sales. You totally forgot about the market for DVDs, Videos, Rentals and Cable deals.
        • The Game Industry makes $1B more in total revenue than the MPAA makes in box office sales.

          Actually, even though the article doesn't say it, if you dig up the real facts on your own I think you will find the comparision is even more "apples-to-oranges" than that. As I recall, the real numbers were total international game revenues vs. domestic box office sales.
    • by Lumpy (12016)
      what you say doesn't make sense...

      A kid that doesn't have many $$$ will not drop $59.95 on the latest game... he will buy 1 $19.95 older game and 1 $29.95 freshly old game. because he will have plenty of fun with GTA3 and it isn't worth paying full boat for GTA vice city.

      This Christmas season when I was shopping last weekend showed me this.. Kids looking at the games and even though the parents are doling out the cashola... they cringe at the overpricing of the games..... and I quote 1 15 year old waiting for the cashiere to unlock the case, "They must be completely nuts to think anyone will pay $59.95 for these games."

      and yes ... he is right. I bought my PS2 and gamecube when they first came out... I was in there elbowing the soccer-moms and making a child cry because I got the last one.. but I'm happier now that the "classics" are available for $9.95 to $19.95 at best buy... I bought more games for both systems in the last 2 months than I have cince I owned both systems.

      Dumb kids spend all the cash on a "gotta have, gimmie gimmie" impulse... the smart kids are getting 2 times the games for the same or less money.

      • I tend to buy games when they first come out, but I also only buy 'safe bets'. Basically that means that I play the game before I buy it.

        It's nice to get old games for cheaper and all, but I'd rather spend $50 on one good game that I'm going to play for a long time than on two shitty games that I'll play once and forget.

        GTA: Vice City is a perfect example. If you have played the game, it's much more mission-oriented than the first one... Granted, some of the addons are pretty stupid (like buying property), but the story actually is pretty decent and the new vehicles, guns, etc. are pretty cool.

        That, and the bonus of getting all the 80's innuendo that's slathered all over the place (not to mention the GTA1 flashbacks...) is totally worth it :)
    • Hah.

      The game industry, in total sales, made more money than the US domestic box office.

      You're forgetting some minor areas: World Box office, Video/DVD sales, PPV, cable, and Network TV.

      These easily total to around $30-40 billion, without even beginning to touch merchandising or other revenue streams.

      Games have come a long way, but Hollywood's still way out in front.

      -Brett
    • ...outsold the motion-picture industry by a billion dollars last year, and movie studios and record labels wonder why they are losing money?

      That games made more money than movies is a popular myth. Games make more money than the box office, yes, which isn't too surprising considering that games cost $30-50 and movie tickets cost $6-9. But if you factor in VHS and DVD sales, then games are way, way behind.
  • Free Games! (Score:5, Informative)

    by MoThugz (560556) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:41PM (#4806516) Homepage
    DigiPen has a cool collection of downloadable games created by their students here [digipen.edu]... None of them open source though :P
    • They have a very slow pipe or are slashdotted, downloading is very slow. So tell what is worth trying.

      So far I've only tried out the Wyrm one. It had promise, but was a dissapointment. The flight model was very hard to use - sometimes my dragon would be furiously flap his wings and end up going backwards. On top of that you don't have enough "mana", or it doesn't recharge fast enough. Considering that you need this to shoot, flap your wings, and cast spells, about 15 seconds after you enter battle you end up sitting on the ground exhausted while the computer dragons shoot you to death.

      Tim
  • Games industry (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Funkitup (260923)
    Personally i found the games industry very enjoyable at first. Then, once the novelty of having the latest gaming hardware and software in the office (Rebellion where we worked on AvP) wore off, I realised what the (western) industry really is like.

    It's a macho male dominated industry where predominantly male ideas such as 'cars and guns are cool' and 'hit your competitor (colleague) before he hits you' dominate. The executives sell products to children which are antisocial, addictive and are rarely educational.

    The people who work in the industry can be genuinely nice, and it is interesting work - but I didn't see the point meself. My particular company seemed to prefer to pay its staff as little as it possibly could get away with and the whole process of having to threaten to leave to get a pay rise left me with a sore taste in my mouth. I left before AvP was realised and hence didn't get a penny (not that i'd have got any money anyhow), or my name on the credits of the game.
  • Job Demand (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WPIDalamar (122110) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:42PM (#4806520) Homepage
    There's sooo many people who would love to go into game development, there isn't really a need to specifically train people. Those who want it the most, will learn. It's hard enough to find a game job right now as it is, If we were spewing forth graduates with a BS in GD (Game Design) then what would happen.

    But I'm happy making educational software [tomsnyder.com] ... it's more fun than business apps, is mildly morally rewarding, and doesn't require 60 hour weeks like I'm sure a lot of game shops gave.

  • Better games (look and feel; gameplay-wise, etc) requires more and more resources over time.
    Anyone remember PONG?
    Compare it now to any games made today. PONG is s simple and requires less hardware capability.

    Gaming industry is one of the driving forces that PUSH the technology development.

    Why would one need the latest and greatest Graphic Card?
    Mostly for games......
  • by callipygian-showsyst (631222) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:43PM (#4806528) Homepage
    Judging from the dot-com fiasco, where it was proved wrong that "education doesn't matter, just stick some high-school grads on the problem, and they'll do it faster/cheaper than old farts", is "video game education" really necessary?

    If I need someone to write a story, I'd hire an English major who studied playwriting.

    If I need someone to make artwork, I'd hire a Fine Arts major

    If I need a (virtual) space designed, I'd hire an architecture major.

    And, if I need software written, I'd hire a math/engineering/computer science major.

    Then, you'll get the job done right! I'm doing work for a company that a bunch of people with a degree in "Entertainment Technology" from a leading university. While many of these people are quite good, many times I feel we'd be better served if they hired smart math, engineering, fine arts, and English majors.

    • by Anonvmous Coward (589068) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:49PM (#4806577)
      "If I need someone to make artwork, I'd hire a Fine Arts major "

      No you wouldn't. Then you'd hire an experienced artist who's done work that impresses you. You wouldn't punt them for lack of a degree. (If you did, you'd be making a serious mistake.)

      The only reason I'm nitpicking this particular part of your post is that art is different from the rest of the professions you mentioned. A degree in art is very helpful for an artist, but it means zilch if you have no actual artwork to show. There are artists out there that can get by just fine w/o an art degree.
    • Grrr....

      Repeat after me:

      Having a degree in a particular field does not make you an expert.

      Yes, there are people out there using their degree everyday. However, many people in IT either A) Don't have a degree, or B)Have a degree in something completely un-related to IT.

      YOU HIRE THE BEST PERSON FOR THE JOB, NOT WHO HAS THE SHINIEST RESUME.
    • by oGMo (379) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @08:31PM (#4806803)
      If I need someone to write a story, I'd hire an English major who studied playwriting.

      And you'd have a great play, novel, or short story, and a terrible story for a game. Similar to what happens when you try to do the book-to-movie or game-to-movie thing.

      If I need someone to make artwork, I'd hire a Fine Arts major

      And you'd have a wonderful painting, or drawing, or sculpture, but a terrible game setting/backdrop/sprite/model.

      If I need a (virtual) space designed, I'd hire an architecture major.

      And you'd have a wonderful house, or building, or park, but you'd have a terrible, uninteresting game map. Few architects regularly build twisty quirky mazes with lots of secrets.

      And, if I need software written, I'd hire a math/engineering/computer science major.

      And you'd have a great set of algorithms, software design, and code, but terrible gameplay.

      You see, there's a lot that goes into a game that has everything to do with game. The gameplay, the level design, the graphic design, the story: all of these must work for a game, the same way they must work for a book, or a play, or a movie.

      All of the above skills might be prerequisites for game development team members. But there's a lot more you need to make a top-notch game. In a way similar to the development of fantasy, a game world must break logic and reality in just the right ways to be entertaining. The above majors are not trained in this: they're trained to make things work in the real world. Additionally, people who are not knowledgable in the area and moreover have never even played such a game have little idea about how things need to work. They will think things are fun or interesting and they will turn out dull, infuriating, or painful.

      I'm doing work for a company that a bunch of people with a degree in "Entertainment Technology" from a leading university. While many of these people are quite good, many times I feel we'd be better served if they hired smart math, engineering, fine arts, and English majors.

      Frankly, this is the reason you're working for the company and not running it. Now, maybe the people they picked weren't the best of their bunch, but they at least made an effort to get people who have (hopefully) been trained how to make a good game.

    • You're my Nightmare (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NickFusion (456530)
      Story: Doesn't exist as a separate entity from the game design. (Worst mistake I ever made was lobbying for a writer who's main credentials were a degree and a nice writing sample.) Game dialog does not remotely resemble writing a linear story.

      Artwork: Don't even know where to start. A fine arts major might be a good choice for concepting, but for line production, you need artist who know the rigorous & limiting demands of a variety of game engines (can your fine arts major push pixels in DPaint? Paint a unwrapped UV map for a 3D mesh? Have any conception of the memory limitations for for a texture set? Ever seen Debableizer? Build a human figure in 3D, rigged for animation, in 3000 polys? 1500? 150?)

      Virtual Space: If I need my game levels to meet local building codes, I'll hire the architect. (I actually work with an architect, but he's a game fanatic first). Being an architect is a good start, but anyone with a good eye for space and a burning passion for games will do.

      Software: Sure. Bring on those spreadsheet programmers, or the guy who's senior project was writing an ecommerce back end in Java. Pass. Give me the guy you lives and breaths AI, 3D, who rewrites a function in assemply to save a few critical cycles.

      Good luck with your approach...you'll need it.
  • by Christopher Thomas (11717) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:44PM (#4806536)
    many universities not only fail to prepare students for the game industry, but still don't take it seriously.

    Taking preparation for a video game design career seriously is like taking preparation for a rock musician career seriously. At best you can argue that it's an art that people can pursue out of interest. Claiming that universities in any way do their students a disservice by not offering it as a career-preparation stream is very silly.

    In both industries, you have a very small number of people who can possibly make a living at it, because you just don't need that many providers in the mainstream market. This is even more true with video games than with music, as niche markets are few and local markets are nonexistant. Anyone who *isn't* one of the big players in either industry had better be doing it because they like it, and have a day job that they're trained for, because they'll have a hard time making a living.

    Video game creation also doesn't require as much specialized training as music. It requires a _lot_ of training, but most of it is the same stuff you'd get doing a CS major or 3D or 2D art major or a drama/literature major (depending on the aspect of game design you're targetting). The usefulness of a specialized stream of study is questionable.

    In short, I think the importance of "preparing people for the video game industry" is overstated.
    • Because there are a number of film schools in this country, and the market for video games is (arguably) comparable to the film Industry. There are also entire departments based on music and art. I seriously doubt that there's a market large enough for all those art students, but who cares? What if I just like art and want to get a 4 year degree? I think that's plenty reason to at least pay some attention to the video game market. Maybe not a department, but certainly a minor would be interesting.

      There's a lot to making a video game. There's writing concepts you should know, art concepts to work with, physics concepts when needed, not to mention the fact that this all needs to be coded in whatever language is chosen. Some training _would_ be useful in this industry.
      • Not to mention fundamental principles of game theory that you should know, and probably basic principles of AI that you should know, and probably other things as well.
        • All of the concepts that you and your parent poster touched on are actually touched upon in any decent Computer Science curriculum at one point or another.

          Here's what I'm afraid of - you'll get people who have their BSc. degrees in "games programming", however, it's really a "BS" degree, in that they don't know their stuff. I honestly find that people who have an interest in the field and persue the specifics of it outside of their regular curriculum are more likely to have knowledge that they can apply to more than one specific situation.

          But hey, then again, I'm not the person hiring, but I'd really hate to have to work with one of those people.

          -- Joe
    • I'd have to agree here.

      Most of the game developers that I met are actually people who took the normal Computer Science curriculum, and gained their real skills for the industry outside of school, working on their Commodore 64's for example.

      Heck, it's how I got into the industry (been out of it for almost two years though) - some of my work on the C64 was spotted by my then-to-be co-workers and it made a good impression on them, and their bosses.

      I prefer that the schools offer a balanced curriculum, and encourage those who want to focus on specific disciplines to do so on their own time. Or, alternatively, they can try to go to a school that focuses on said discipline, but I feel that narrowing your options isn't such a good thing. Not everybody can be a games developer, but if you have the "generic" skills, you can work in other areas, like applications, or embedded devices (which I work in now).

      Remember, this isn't the "olden days", where school was used as a training ground for preparing you for that job in the factory assembly line... Well, then again, seeing some people that I've had to work with, maybe it is. :)

      -- Joe
  • by McFly69 (603543) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:47PM (#4806556) Homepage
    Going to school and studing to be a game developer reminds me of the famous quote from Animal House.

    "You can major in GameBoy if you know how to Bullshit".
  • From the article: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KarateBob (556340) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:50PM (#4806586)
    Video game sales exceeded the movie industry's annual box office draw last year by $1 billion.

    I'm thinking thats probably mostly from The Sims, and Grand Theft Auto 3.

    Then I read the next line:

    The current video game hit, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, sold more than 1.4 million copies at an average $48 apiece in its first three days. That $70 million windfall easily puts it in the ranks of a blockbuster movie.

    Also, There was a 2 issue article in GamePro about "Take This Job and Love It!." Working in the video game industry. Heres a link to the lo-fi version, search for the pretty oneTake This Job and Love It. [gamepro.com]

  • by Tomah4wk (553503)
    Sadly the games industry is using less and less programmers, and more and more artists (so good for the artists at least). Look at major 3d games titles at the moment, and you have a small core team of developers (often as few as 10, normally more though) and, for the larger titles at least, 100+ 3d artists. With more and more games projects being based on generic engines and toolkits, and the serious lack of optimisation going into games (PC rather than consoles on that front) pretty soon there will be only a few of us left. Programming is also being outsourced from britain/us to places with cheaper, talented programmers in Italy and the like.
  • Digipen (Score:3, Informative)

    by dknj (441802) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:51PM (#4806593) Journal
    What I like the most about digipen is that you only take courses directly related to video game programming (or computer graphics design). None of this European History nonsense that I'm 99% sure I'm never going to use again.

    Required Course List for a B.S. in Real Time Interactive Simulation [digipen.edu]

    -dk
    • Re:Digipen (Score:5, Insightful)

      by susano_otter (123650) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @08:06PM (#4806687) Homepage
      It's often useful to interpret present conditions in the context of past events. If you find that European History has no relevance to your current situation or your future plans, then I hope that works out well for you. But please don't make any important decisions that might affect me.

      Oh, and stay away from me at cocktail parties. I'm sure that a conversation that never strayed from the intricacies of video game programming would be almost instantly tiresome.
  • by andymac (82298) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:51PM (#4806595) Homepage
    While games development is a great job for some, it is not for others. I like process, I admit it. I like to follow a methodology that promotes defined repeatable outcomes, that looks for ways to continuously improve the process, and thus the ability of the team to improve the quality of the outputs. When I interviewed at EA, they didn't need no stinkin' process. And I don't blame them: the product they produce is closer to a piece of art than a piece of software at times. Requirements management? Ha! How about ad-hoc requirements change up to the last minute? But that's the nature of doing something so creative... you need to change and tweak up to release. Should they teach this in Uni? No goddamn way. Why? Most software developers already are good at being creative: they take a requirement, a sentence on a piece of paper and translate it into source code that does something. How much more creative do you need? So teaching the finer points of game development, aside from the core stuff that is already taught in most CS degrees (graphics etc.), can be done as part of learning the job. Like an apprencticeship or co-op term. You learn the basic skills for any s/w development in school, then you refine and specify those skills in the real world.
  • and how many universities not only fail to prepare students for the game industry, but still don't take it seriously.

    I haven't been there for a while, but the University of British Columbia Computing Science department head in the early '90s (Maria Klawe) was interested in using computer games in education. Last I heard she was the University's Vice-President of Research (but she was still doing her own research too).

    Just a wild guess, but I'd be inclined to bet that UBC takes computer games relatively seriously. Being in the home town of EA doesn't hurt much either.
    (actually, EA is based in Burnaby -- a siamese suburb of Vancouver, and UBC is essentially it's own town at the other end of Vancouver, but that's picking nits).

    • UBC offered a game development course taught by a bunch of guys from Radical [radical.ca]. You may remember them as the creators of Simpson's Road Rage.

      This semester the same course was offered at Simon Fraser University. I sat in on it throughout the semester. It was one of the best courses I've taken. A lot of profs know the theory. But having someone from industry teach a course is great since they get their hands dirty on a regular basis.

    • The University of Calgary has a new Computer Science concentration [ucalgary.ca] (to go with Theoretical Computing, Software Engineering, etc) called "Games Design" that's about designing video games.

      It's being billed as the first of its kind in North America: Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science with a Concentration in Computer Game Design. The (tacky) webpage for the concentration is here: http://pages.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/~becker/GamesConc/
  • by jwdeff (629221) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:53PM (#4806605) Homepage

    With the porn industry with estimated $11 billion in annual sales (besting the video game industry by $1.6 billion), where's the Porn University?

    I feel many universities not only fail to prepare students for the porn industry, but still don't take it seriously.
  • by dethl (626353)
    The University of Texas at Dallas has a new Art & Engineering program that just started up...They brought in two game designers John Romero and Tom Hall to teach a few classes on game programming. Theres a story on it in the college's own publication the UTD Mercury [utdallas.edu]
  • by Vorgo (448106) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:55PM (#4806624) Homepage
    I would argue that a University Education in Computer Science is intended to introduce the students to a broad range of topics in the field of computer science, not something as specific as game development.

    To say that Universities should offer training for video game programming is ridiculous.
    The intent of taking Computer Science at University is not to even learn how to program. A person takes courses that teach programming languages in their first year and then after that it's assumed that you can program, regardless of the language. A person is there to learn about the science of computers: stuff like algorithms and design at the early levels of a degree and more advanced topics such as graphics, AI, distributed computing, etc in later years.

    I would say that game development would be an application of various topics in to one. Software Design, Graphics, AI, etc. So in reality I think that a course on game development wouldn't be useful anyway because it couldn't get in to enough detail on enough of the involved topics.

    After leavign university a person should be able to take their knowledge and do with it what they want because they have a general knowledge of many topics. Whether they apply that knowledge to writing an operating system, word processor or the next version of Quake is up to them to decide.

    This is just my view of what a university education should give someone. For all I know other areas of the world view a university education differently...

    my two cents(cdn)
  • many universities not only fail to prepare students for the game industry, but still don't take it seriously ...and the gaming industry has prospered nonetheless. Let's not fix what isn't broken.
  • I'm not sure how all universities are, but I think some are starting to take games and other media seriously.

    The University of Calgary, where I am, has a concentration for games in the BSc comp-sci program. Probably the first university to do so, but it is refelcetive of a changing attitude in universities I think.
  • Stanford does (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Texas_Refugee (258092) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @08:05PM (#4806679)
    Please see CS248 [stanford.edu] . The final project of the class is to make a video game. I went to the showing last year, and the games kicked ass. There were people from the game industry that came to judge the final product, they recruited people pretty heavily if I recall correctly.
  • The main advantage of going away to college is being surrounded by challenging teachers and students at your level. DigiPen is a great opportunity if you know that is what you want to do. A larger place might offer more breadth in topics and people, if that is what you wan to do.
  • by kakos (610660) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @08:07PM (#4806691)
    While I don't think that video games should be ignored in universities, they shouldn't be focused on. Like most things, the application of a field shouldn't be taught. The foundations of that field should be taught and the student that learned those foundations well will be able to apply them to anything.

    Similarly, Computer Science should not be taught as a course in game development. A student that is taught nothing but game development will fail miserably if they do anything else. And, in my experience, students of so-called video game schools know how to slap down code, but don't understand the workings of that code. You probably couldn't give them a original piece of code and have them understand it immediately.

    However, a student who is taught the fundamentals of programming and the basis of computer science will be able to adapt to create games. He knows the foundation and will be able to apply it to a specific task. Furthermore, they will have the expertise to work outside of that field, should they not get a job as a game developer (a very real possibility).

    A broad understanding of the fundamentals and foundations of Computer Science is better than learning a specific application. A good programmer will be able to adapt and could probably end up programming a better game than the one taught to just make video games.

  • by spongebob (227503) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @08:14PM (#4806727)
    DigiPen is not the only accreditted school instructing Game Development. There are several others including Full Sail in Orlando that are fully accredited with thier state organizations.

    There is a list at the main page of the International Game Developers Association page listing all the schools instructing game design and development. www.igda.org
  • "However, I believe things are slightly better than the days when Trip Hawkins (EA's co-founder founder) Harvard professor told him to stop wasting time with games."

    Ok..
    -- better than what? You've given away your view as someone who thinks everyone should take gaming seriously. Everyone has the right to think games are worthwhile, or not.. oh what a dumb unenlightened harvard professor that guy must have been, huh? Just because there's a market for something doesn't make it 'worthwhile' or prove that Hawkins is the one in the right .. just the one in the dough

    -- I play Unreal with friends but I still consider it a waste of time ... is this hypocritical? NO.. to say so would be to assume that it's wrong to 'waste time'. Doing it too much is just as bad as doing any other thing to excess; doing it in moderation is healthy like many other things (but not all)
  • by taernim (557097) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @08:31PM (#4806797) Homepage
    Just because a school is "accredited" does not mean it will be recognized as a full education.

    I know people who have gone there, since I live near Redmond. The courses are extremely focused. True, it is a limited scope, but there still should be a broader approach. I.E. Why are only programmers and graphic artists being trained there? What about the directors and producers?

    Also, let's say you spend 4 years there and go to work for a company which makes games. If you wanted to leave the field, you'd likely already be pigeonholed. If you get a broader CS or Comp Engineering degree, at least you have other openings.

    Just something to think about, before jumping "willy nilly" into such a narrowly scoped environment.
  • by stevarooski (121971) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @08:45PM (#4806869) Homepage
    . . .I certainly don't think Digipen or Full Sail are magic bullets for turning out the perfect game developer.

    In addition to having several friends who go or have gone there, I also have worked (albiet briefly) in the games industry for a large studio. In general the attitude of the developers there towards Digipen was at best ambivalent. Once, while in a discussion with a few senior developers, the topic of specialized gamemaking schools did come up. I was told that they frankly couldn't tell the difference between a digipen/full sail grad (there were a few there) and grads from other schools in terms of quality of hire.

    Regardless of background, the game studio I worked at looks for a certain type of person with several specific characteristics when hiring engineers. These are:

    • Self-motivated. This means not only willing and able to dig down and get to the bottom of a problem with limited debugging tools, but also having something to prove, which they will exploit. God the hours are long!

    • Good coding background in bare-bones C. Having some assembler experience is a definite plus and was always tested in the interview process where I worked.

    • And finally. . .young. When hiring new developers, if they're young chances are they'll work a lot harder and be more willing to adapt to the studio coding standards, methods, etc. The place I worked was very big on hiring young college kids (like, erm, myself) and working them into the ground.

    If you met their criteria, you're in, regardless of where you went to college. I don't think Digipen can help you with the above any more than another school could in terms of meeting the list above.
  • .. Somebody train MBA so they relize it is an engineering project, and not magic typing.

    Most higher universities have advanced courses. Plus, you could always to your thesis on AI.
  • by donutello (88309) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @09:06PM (#4806972) Homepage
    The article is comparing the Gaming industries total revenues with the box office sales of the movie industry. They're ignoring the huge video/dvd/rental/cable-deal/fast-food-promotions revenues that the movie industry makes.

    That being said, I'm still impressed by the fact that the gaming industry exceeds box office revenues by $1 Billion.
  • by IshanCaspian (625325) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @09:36PM (#4807184) Homepage
    After reading that article on digipen, I was quite horrified to read that there are no arts, music and so on. In life there are the foundation disciplines, such as logic, reading, music appreciation; upon these one later builds the skills of interaction and communication: public speaking, writing, programming, social skills and so on. To totally immerse yourself in the pursuit of communication at such a young age (18) is foolish. I really am in favor of a strong classical education in addition to a regimen of computer skills. I've found, at least as far as I'm concerned, that I have separate capacities for learning in different areas. If I do two hours of philosophy and two hours of coding (C++) I am not nearly as toasted as if I did two hours of C++ and two of discrete math. What often passes for "focus" lends little acceleration to one discipline while the rest rot. A well-rounded, well-adjusted person is going to be happier, easier to work with, and therefore more useful to the company on the whole.
  • by lanner (107308) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @09:47PM (#4807253)
    Between May of 2001 and January of 2002, I worked for a company called Maximum Charisma Studios (MaxCha) out of Denver metro Colorado. They were a start up, made a game called Fighting Legends Online, released it, it sucked, and they went chapter 7.

    MaxCha had 32 employees at it's height. About half of those people were the real producers of the company and the other half were the wanna-be-game-company-employee types who were barely doing anything, and mostly were assistants for the rest. We had a lot of interns who worked for free doing slave labor -- stuff like helping the marketing department, helping customer support, doing testing (playing the game for free and logging bugs).

    MaxCha made major efforts to push it's game, giving away free shirts, stickers, mailing CDs to people all over, and even gave the game away for free with a rebate program, but nobody would buy it because it sucked. Those who did buy it took it back to the stores because it sucked. You can't get sales if your PC game sucks, no matter how hard you push it -- console publishing may be a little easier to build some hype with.

    The lessons learned for me were invaluable, and I think it will be for the others who paid attention too.

    In total, I heard that the company blew only just over 3 million across a period of about two to two and a half years, which is amazingly little for what was accomplished. I am proud to say that I was personally responsible for about one third of that because I provided all recommendations for production infrastructure for the online game -- collocation, servers, routers, switches, random equipment, $30K of RAM from memman.com (Thanks Jay), software, and services costs. Almost everything done (ALL sound development, ALL art, the box, programming, marketing, even distribution) was done in-house.

    The story of MaxCha was that of a bunch of kids who grew up, wanted more out of their jobs than just being paid, got together, said, "Hey, let's start a game company!" And they all had their own idea of how it was going to go. The game ended up not having a design board because the founders all wanted their little idea to be the basis of the game. The result was that the game had no basis, no story, and play sucked. The code rocked, the back end infrastructure was excellent, our ability to scale up and support a massive customer base in short order was good, but the game was not fun.

    No fun, no sales. Whoops.

    I moved away from the Denver Metro area after the company went under. Denver/Boulder Colorado has a decent game company market, as does San Francisco California, Seattle Washington, Portland Oregon, and a few other random places. I even found that EA Sports has a sub company that makes sports games here in Orlando Florida.

    It is really hard to get into the gaming business unless you have some contacts, start your own business, or luck out. In my case, I lucked out because I was not really into working for a game company. I was just looking for a way to get out of my old employer because they were about to tank.

    The atmosphere at MaxCha was very loose on the downstairs, and business like on the upstairs. We had a two story building that was very small, but it was perfect because the CEO, marketing department, HR, and other 'stiff' managers worked upstairs as a nice pretty front. Downstairs was the art department, testing, the programmers, and others. There were times that people slept there over night, there was beer drinking on site, pot smoking outside at the park, and parties at houses every few weeks. The fridge downstairs had beer in it, someone had a pet dog running around, there were game consoles laying about, and people came and went as they pleased so long as they worked 40 hours a week and got the projects done. I personally would come in somewhere between 9:00am and 1:00pm, and work my eight to ten hours.

    In a small company like this, individuals made all of the difference. Not firing do-nothings early was a mistake, and making up the work later was very difficult. Worse, the employee was socially entrenched and nobody wanted to be the bad person and do the duty to the company that was necessary. There were a few who fell into this category, but I was surprised that most of the people in MaxCha actually recognized that because they were a small business they themselves needed to take initiative on various things in the company and get the job done.

    The failure of MaxCha as a game company was that the game released was no fun, and sales were nothing. The nail in the coffin was the fact that the game was an online interactive game that required expensive infrastructure. If it had been a stand alone title, they might have been able to put out a second game and get it right the second time.

    Box art, packaging, manual, and physical product was great. The box looked good, felt good, and looked like it could be a good game. Code was really good. Graphics were a little heavy for what they were but that was because of the frame of the game -- players did not get to see all of the patches that added all of the stuff that was left out to make the release date.

    The release date made two years prior was met, even if little things got cut off. That is apparently an incredible feat in the gaming industry.

    IT infrastructure was good, which usually gets neglected in gaming companies. Everyone is a computer user and nobody wants to admit that they need one person to really support the internal and production network. They think they can throw up a Win2K server on the T1 and host all those gamers off of it. We got it right though.

    Design at MaxCha was a mistake -- no real design staff. Furthermore, design is like a book. A team does not write a story, one person does. Giving away that authority was a problem that the founders did not want to do, and so they all tossed in their little features, but it turned out crappy. They did not trust one person enough to write the story, give the concept to the artists and content producers, and come up with the game design that ultimately made the game fun. The fun got left out.

    Because design was bad, the artists did their best to come up with original good stuff, and they did. Programmers programmed well, did UI interaction testing, got the AI right, and documented code well. Marketing sold the game as being good for everybody and got the name out. But in the end, everyone did it their own way and nobody was responsible for bringing it all together.

    Giving that ability and responsibility to the right single person can make a great game company, but it is hard to do that. This is why many game companies are self started. ... and thats what I have to say.
  • As a consumer of the end product, I'm all for game programming education. But why universities? There are many skills that are useful and in demand in the world but not all are provided within the ivy towers.

    The purpose of an university education tends to be more general and less industry specific: universities are not meant to replace trade schools but rather produce people who have skills that are more widely applicable. Even people who end up getting B.S. degrees (which were initially a controversial innovation) in the sciences tend to have an education that makes them suited for a large array of technical positions in multiple industries. (e.g. a B.S. in ChemE doesn't mean you necessarily have to work in the Petroleum industry)

    I think game programming education can be better provided by a technical institute. By this, I don't necessarily mean the DeVry's and ITTs of the world. The institute can be of exceptionally high quality but focused on serving a particular industry. Think high end culinary schools, architectural & engineering programs, and even, to some extent, medical schools (many of which are not universtiy affiliated per se ... and even those that are, are affiliated mostly just in name).

    This would benefit students: those who know for sure they want to be game programmers can focus solely on courses designed to achieve those ends (no "distributional" requirements) and those who realize later on that they want to be game programmers can get a game programming education without having to re-apply and re-enroll at an university (not an easy thing to do).

    Lastly, it should be noted that this path has worked fairly well (okay, open to debate) in the IT industry. Many of the IT professionals (especially entry-level SysAdmins) in the Silicon Valley were trained at local technical institutes and not universities like Berkeley/Stanford or even San Jose State.
  • At several of the most recent SIGGRAPHs, there was a very interesting panel debate between prominent figures in academia, and people in the game industry.

    Basically, the academics think the game developers are focusing too much on the here and now, and not really focusing on long-term research, and they are concerned that the increasing popularity of games will lead to less funding for their more long-term research programs. Whereas the developers always think that the academics are too stuck-up and fail to appreciate how they are being used in the real world, and want to see less of a disconnect between theory and applications.

    As someone from both backgrounds, having made the switch from one to the other, I personally find them hilarious. I do agree that academia and the gaming world should work more closely together. Indeed, you are starting to see more and more papers in venues like SIGGRAPH being authored by games people from EA and the like, and the Game Development conferences are in many ways being more and more like SIGGRAPH, with paper presentations, etc.

    There is no doubt that games, and related fields like movie animation, rather than stifling the state of the art, are fueling it. It's probably safe to say, that without games and gamers demanding more and more, SGI-quality graphics hardware on the PC would have nowhere been so cheap and ubiquitous as they are now. And, in many areas such as physical modelling, simulation, and interactive real-time rendering, there would have not been so many state of the art innovations as there have been now.

    Game programmers, I dare say, are often the BEST at what they do -- writing efficient code, both space and time-wise -- VERY much true for the consoles, and even so for the PCs! Despite advances in hardware, game programming is probably the most difficult and more demanding field of software, and one that will continue to insipire future generations of programmers to do their best, rather than being complacent and writing inefficient "bloatware".

    In short, the making of games has grown up from a backwater area of programming to a serious factory of intellectual progress. I look forward to innovation coming from both those in the ivory towers and those in the game studios, working hand in hand and side by side.
  • by kin_korn_karn (466864) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @10:35PM (#4807553) Homepage
    Programmers who can code games are a dime a dozen. It's game DESIGNERS that are so rare.

    Back in the day, which is probably where most of the guys you all idolize came from, designers and programmers used to be one in the same. Richard Garriot sat down and WROTE Akalabeth and the early Ultimas. Sid Meier (arguably the first "superstar" designer) wrote reams of code for Microprose in the 80s. Will Wright coded and designed the original SimCity. None of the above are coders now. (Garriot is out of the industry now, but his last few years of work was in design)

    I know a guy that worked on Daggerfall (ok, so that's not a great accomplishment seeing as it was so buggy, but damn it he was a game coder), and I know a guy that worked on Everquest. They're coders. They didn't have anything to do with the design of the games.

    If you can code a physics engine from scratch, great. John Carmack can. But iD hasn't released a game that was innovative in its design in years. John will sell the [insert name + Roman numeral here] engine and buy his Ferraris. But when LucasArts gets it and writes Jedi Knight II using that engine, THEY created the game, not Carmack. Carmack didn't do anything more than build a toolkit for other people to use. In another world he would have worked on libc or the C++ STL or on a tax calculation library or in Core Services for a financial institution.

    Stop worshipping the programmers, go and seek out the best designed and written games, and the industry can be saved..
  • by orthogonal (588627) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @10:47PM (#4807612) Journal
    many universities... fail to prepare students for the game industry

    1337 Warrior Freshman:
    "Hey, Prof, is this class 'How to earn Gold Pieces in EverQuest by repetitively making bricks from river-bank mud until I can accumulate enough to go on an adventure, 101?'"

    Prof:
    "Sure is, and it'll also prepare you for the mind-numbing drudgery, alienation, and disaffection of real work, too! By the time you're done, you'll know how to eagerly but passively sacrifice your life and dignity for the worthless epheremal trinkets consumer capitalism will tell you you have to have! And you'll be able to do it the the real and in virtual worrlds simultaneously!"
    "
  • by AnamanFan (314677) <anamanfan&everythingafter,net> on Wednesday December 04, 2002 @12:04AM (#4807961) Homepage
    I recently transfered in to Emerson College [emerson.edu] in Boston, doing away with a double major in Design/Technical Theatre [wmich.edu] & Cable/TV Broadcasting [wmich.edu] at Western Michigan University [wmich.edu]. Upon starting at Emerson, I found out about a BFA program where a student can partake in a feature-length project in film, tv/video, radio, and new media. Long story short, I changed majors from a BA in Film to peruse BFA in New Media.

    Personally, I think 'New Media' should be renamed 'Interactive Media.' With internet, with video games, it's a form of media that the audience interacts with. With 'New Media,' what happens in 20 or 10 years? Is it still new? And what happens when HTML goes the way of BetaMax? What does knowing HTML do for you then?

    I use the class curriculum as a springboard for my own education. The classes provide the foundation, I complete the rest of the picture with my thesis project. What I hope to create is an education where I can understand how an audience interacts with the media I create. Programing languages and media delivery systems will come and go, but what I hope to keep is how best to allow my audience to interact with my artwork. HTML, Flash, Director, et all are tools for a user to interact with content. I'm trying to keep in check that the tools will change and improve, but the fundamentals of audience interaction are still in play.
  • Not a University (Score:3, Informative)

    by jdfox (74524) on Wednesday December 04, 2002 @06:19AM (#4809066)
    It's not a University, it's a technical college. Universities are for getting an education, technical colleges are for training.

    I despair when I read posts here saying "That's my kind of education, none of that history bullshit I'll never use again." There's nothing wrong with pursuing a specialist technical career, but there's everything wrong with believing you have the right to vote in utter ignorance of history, politics and culture.
  • by noodlez84 (416138) on Wednesday December 04, 2002 @09:46AM (#4809896)
    Interestingly, my college, the Rochester Institute of Technology [rit.edu] will be the first college in the United States to offer a Video Game major.

    Perhaps even more interestingly, it will be in the field of Information Technology, not Computer Science.

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