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Programming Entertainment Games IT Technology

What Are the Best First Steps For Becoming a Game Designer? 324

Posted by Soulskill
from the find-door-insert-foot dept.
todd10k writes "I've recently decided to go back to college. I have a lot of experience with games, having played them for most of my adult life, and have always toyed with the idea of making them one day. I've finally decided to give it my best. What I'd like to know is: what are the best languages to study? What are the minimum diploma or degree requirements that most games companies will accept? Finally, is C++ the way to go? ASP? LUA?"
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What Are the Best First Steps For Becoming a Game Designer?

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  • by Manip (656104) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @12:37PM (#28559281)

    Game Programming? What in particular:
      - UI / Tools
      - Graphics, Physics
      - Networking
      - AI
      - Mobile Gaming
    etc

    But in general if you want to go into Game Programming hit a CS degree and do a game development masters. All while learning C++ and trying to develop a nice portfolio of little games you've created yourself. Try and find a Masters program with hooks into the games industry because they will be your best bet to even get a foot in the door.

    If it is Game Design they do an arts degree like English Lit and then do a Masters in Game Design. Same deal with the shoe in the door thing, find the college with the best links not the best course.

  • Do it yourself!! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by filesiteguy (695431) <kai@perfectreign.com> on Thursday July 02, 2009 @12:53PM (#28559605) Homepage
    First off, forget the college degree if all you want it for is to design/develop games. You can do so on your own without the degree. *** I'd suggest laearning C/C++ and at least one .NET language as well as studying/learning UI and graphic design theories.

    Now - I see a lot of comments previous to mine that suggest getting out and not working for a game company. I agree wholeheartedly. If you want to design just games, start your own game company. You will want a niche market - DS games, PC games for Thai Children, Mainframe Games - and focus on doing just that. Then you can expand out. One designer I know who's been somewhat successful is Bill Kendrick. He writes multi-platform educational games. My kids love them: http://tux4kids.alioth.debian.org

    Good luck out there.

    *** Now, I have recently hired two developers who got the job partially because they worked on games while in college. They had collaborated on a C++ based game which was installable and playable. This put the two of them above the average applicant who had only done coursework. Keep in mind, I manage a government-based software development group so we don't "do" games here. However, their experience did help them get an edge when starting. (We do most development in C#/.NET.)
  • Re:Quick advice (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Duradin (1261418) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @01:04PM (#28559855)

    If you love doing something don't make it into a job. You'll end up despising it sooner than later.

  • Just do something (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Skraut (545247) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @01:29PM (#28560387) Journal

    I ended up getting a job as a game producer thanks to Quake. I was playing online in a clan, and was one of the worst in the group but having fun. To help my score I "cheated" by figuring out how to modify the models in the game, and then adding the rocket attribute to all the player models. This caused them to smoke when they ran (pretty funny) and more importantly glow in a way which allowed me to see them when they hid in dark areas or were just around the corner.

    This was long before Punkbuster, wallhacks, or any other cheats. The result was I played a lot better. One of the guys in the clan found out what I had done, and his father owned a game development studio. Next thing I know I was on a plane for Silicon Valley and working as a game producer for a few dreamcast and playstation games.

    Unfortunately I was only able to continue to work until my life savings ran out. Yes the jokes about eating Tap Ramen are quite true. I was making only about 70% of what I needed just to cover basic expenses. When I asked for a raise I was told in no uncertain terms that there were plenty of other kids living with their parents who would gladly work for what I was getting.

    I'm now a sysadmin living in the midwest making about 3x what I was making in the games industry, and my mortgage payment is less than the rent on my studio in Silicon Valley. I love what I do, but am really glad I took the opportunity to work in the video games industry. Have I thought about writing something on my own, sure I have. I even have a couple notebooks with fully fleshed out game designs. And I have time to do those because I'm not working 90 hours a week on somebody else's game.

    So my advice for somebody wanting to get in is simple. Do something, anything, to stand out from the other potential applicants. Find a game you enjoy and mod it. If you're into graphics, find an open source game and help them out (Open source games are notorious for needing graphical help) Write flash games, make something with the XNA. In short, just do something. You'll find out a lot about yourself, and if you have the drive and dedication necessary to make it. Set yourself timelines, make milestones and meet them. But most importantly, do SOMETHING.

  • by robthebloke (1308483) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @01:38PM (#28560575)

    I've also heard -- and I can't verify this -- that it helps to have a notebook full of sketches, stories, game mechanics, ideas you've had in relation to games. You keep this and bring it to an interview. You pass the technical aspects and then you let them know that you really want this and that you are also creative and not just technical.

    I'll verify it for you. It's mainly for 2 reasons. Firstly, in most area's of software development you have a teams of programmers, some testers, customer support etc. In game development by far the largest chunk of the development team are made up of artists and animators. Since development is a team process, it helps significantly if you can communicate (well) with the artists on the team.
    The other reason is that by and large, most of the game programmers will be in some way involved in creating a graphical output (HUD, GUI, animation, shading etc). If you have well trained visual eye, it will vastly improve the quality from 'crap coder art' into something that has a string visual aesthetic.

  • by jddj (1085169) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @01:55PM (#28560917) Journal
    Yeah, really - Designing a game doesn't require knowledge of a computing language. It requires design skills, story telling, previsualization, facilitation and salesmanship skills, among many other things. Look toward Jane MacGonigal [avantgame.com] for some leadership - she's awesome.
  • Worked for me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @02:12PM (#28561257)
    I ended up getting quite a few job offers after my Neverwinter Nights modules became successful. It was flattering, but the reality is that my current job as a developer in the healthcare industry is way too good. I've managed to keep it in a recession while the gaming industry has become far more cutthroat.

    I still love making games, but purely as a hobby.
  • Re:Quick advice (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @04:10PM (#28563485)

    Not rumors. I decided to jump and bail when "crunch time" turned into "normal hours". I'm not 22 anymore, and working 15 hours a day for weeks ain't for me anymore.

  • Re:Quick advice (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 02, 2009 @04:15PM (#28563571)

    When I worked as a game developer my longest week was 125 hours. I slept under my desk. That was usual but a 70 or 80 hour work week wasn't. The main thing wasn't the long hours, it was the stress, cause you'd be on such a tight deadline and yet changes to the design happened almost every day, and you'd sit there in a panic and wonder where the time was going to come from.

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