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#1 asupernova  Icon User is offline

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Game programming students, should i or should i not?

Posted 04 December 2011 - 05:04 AM

Hey! I am a 18 year old girl from Norway, wondering if i should study game programming. I have been reading about programming for a while and i find it really interesting. I haven't tried making anything yet, didn't start learning any languages neither. my questions are:
  • Is it a lot to learn? How difficult is it?
  • Where can i get a job?
  • Could you guys give me any noob-hints, so i can at least try and get started?
  • Do i need to know any basics if i am going to study this? In this case what?

Thanks, Lola.

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Replies To: Game programming students, should i or should i not?

#2 anonymous26  Icon User is offline

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Re: Game programming students, should i or should i not?

Posted 04 December 2011 - 07:32 AM

You won't know how interesting you find game programming until you have written your first game. It is a very deep topic with no easy introduction, especially if you have little or no programming experience.

Have you read the forum stickies and the blog link in my sig?
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#3 Serapth  Icon User is offline

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Re: Game programming students, should i or should i not?

Posted 04 December 2011 - 08:36 AM

I can't help but think, regardless to your scenario, going to any of these "game development universities" is a patently bad idea.

First off, to throw completely made up numbers out there, lets say there are 10,000,000 programmer jobs out there, what percentage of that number is game development positions you can be hired into? 0.1% maybe? So 10,000 possible jobs, not a very good prospect, but manageable depending on where you live. Still, not a job pool I would spend many thousands of dollars pursuing.


Now the real kicker, what are the typical requirements to get into a game position? Well, generally a entry level developer position will expect a CS degree and 1-2 years experience, or if you are lucky, you can get in via internship, or demonstrating amazing prior work, such as a published game or a mod.


Notice something interesting about the above paragraph? "A CS degree" not a game development degree. I have NEVER ever once seen a job listing that specifically wanted a game development degree, ever. Truth told, I am not actively looking for a job, so most of my exposure is incidental, but in my daily reading I am exposed to a fair number of job listings in this profession. I have however heard a great deal of derision, inside and out of the industry for many of these schools.

Of course, don't take my word for it, browse these 100+ job listings yourself. and you will notice two things very quickly. Most positions require a CS degree, and junior positions are rare as hell.


Now look at the other side of that coin, I've been in a hiring position a number of times ( aka, the one doing the hiring ) in a couple different industries, and I would almost never hire someone with a game programming degree, because you frankly know you are getting someone that isn't particularly committed as their heart is obviously elsewhere. I have had this discussion with a recruiter friend who specializes in headhunting for F100 companies and they simply won't touch someone with one of these degrees, they are just too hard to place.

So, really when it comes to education you have two options, go to a school for a generalized CS degree that qualifies you for 100% of jobs. Or take the (generally shorter, and probably more fun ) game development program that qualifies you for less then 1% of the jobs available, as well as attaching a stigma to your resume.

Your area may be different, take this advice based on the amount you paid for it.



// Note, this advise only really applies to the programming side of the equation; things are much less rigidly defined for artists, and having a say... Full Sail degree would actually work in your favour if you were doing realtime CG.


TL;DR -- if you are going into programming, take a general CS degree instead of a game development degree. And yes, a degree will make it a ton easier to get a job.

This post has been edited by Serapth: 04 December 2011 - 08:59 AM

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#4 anonymous26  Icon User is offline

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Re: Game programming students, should i or should i not?

Posted 04 December 2011 - 10:12 AM

Wow, in this instance I actually agree with you somewhat, Serapth. I am strongly in favor of a traditional CS degree as well, as most game devs have that. However, I have come across two very good game programmers who took game programming degrees, one I got into the industry with ease and another who has currently left games and is developing in the finance industry.

Success from game development degrees is rarer than traditional degrees, but it also isn't fair to completely write them off.

My other gripe with game dev degrees, if I'm honest, is the lack of teaching in fundamental computer science principles that we took for granted in our freshman year. They certainly need to tighten up on that score.

This post has been edited by ButchDean: 04 December 2011 - 10:13 AM

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#5 Serapth  Icon User is offline

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Re: Game programming students, should i or should i not?

Posted 04 December 2011 - 11:15 AM

View PostButchDean, on 04 December 2011 - 10:12 AM, said:

Wow, in this instance I actually agree with you somewhat, Serapth. I am strongly in favor of a traditional CS degree as well, as most game devs have that. However, I have come across two very good game programmers who took game programming degrees, one I got into the industry with ease and another who has currently left games and is developing in the finance industry.

Success from game development degrees is rarer than traditional degrees, but it also isn't fair to completely write them off.

My other gripe with game dev degrees, if I'm honest, is the lack of teaching in fundamental computer science principles that we took for granted in our freshman year. They certainly need to tighten up on that score.


I am not so much writing them off, as saying they are a very bad idea. :)


You can get a job in the game industry, in some rare cases they may actually help you get in the door ( frankly I doubt it, other than it will give you a demonstrated body of work and possibly connections ) more often than not, they are simply closing doors for you.

Granted I am not saying getting a game degree won't allow you to work in traditional CS, but it will make it harder, a fair bit harder. Then again, I know of a few people, both in games and outside, that are working quite successfully without any degrees at all. It *can* happen, I just simply do not recommend it.


And us agreeing isn't some sign of the impending apocalypse... at least, I don't think it is. :)
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#6 SixOfEleven  Icon User is offline

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Re: Game programming students, should i or should i not?

Posted 04 December 2011 - 12:40 PM

View Postasupernova, on 04 December 2011 - 08:04 AM, said:

Hey! I am a 18 year old girl from Norway, wondering if i should study game programming. I have been reading about programming for a while and i find it really interesting. I haven't tried making anything yet, didn't start learning any languages neither. my questions are:
  • Is it a lot to learn? How difficult is it?
  • Where can i get a job?
  • Could you guys give me any noob-hints, so i can at least try and get started?
  • Do i need to know any basics if i am going to study this? In this case what?

Thanks, Lola.


There is a lot to learn and you will be learning it continuously I'd say. If you want to do this as a profession then you will have to learn C++, plain C and Assembly would be helpful as well. would suggest for a library for making game go with DirectX rather than OpenGL. One of the reasons being is the there is a lot more to DirectX than OpenGL. OpenGL is more of a graphics library where as the DirectX SDK offers more such as input and sound.
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#7 stayscrisp  Icon User is offline

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Re: Game programming students, should i or should i not?

Posted 05 December 2011 - 07:04 AM

There are advantages and disadvantages to both paths (referring to traditional CS vs Game Programming degrees). I did a lot of research before I ended up doing my degree and here are some points I found.

Disadvantages of a CS course:

Some of the subject matter on a CS course can be extremely demanding and also not entirely relevant to games, you may end up wishing you could devote more time to the coursework you have chosen which is relevant to games.

A CS course can be a lot of theory which means less practical hands on time, some people learn well like this, some don't. Which are you?

Advantages of a CS course:

A lot more of a well rounded education, this obviously opens up greater scope for non game programming jobs.

These course are usually offered at all universities, meaning you should be able to find one within your desired location.

Disadvantages of a Game Programming degree:

Fewer schools offer these types of courses, so you might have to go further afield to find a suitable one.

Some studios prefer candidates to have a more traditional CS degree.

Can be pretty intense with a high drop out rate. This is usually due to the shorter course time requiring more work in a shorter space of time.

Advantages of a Game Programming degree:

Some courses have good relationships with local game studios, so you may end up doing a placement in a game studio. This is great to put on your CV when applying for jobs. They may even hire you straight out of university if you impress them.

The course is entirely focused on Game Programming, so you will learn practical skills straight away.

I'm sure there are many more advantages and disadvantages, but hopefully that will give you some food for thought :)
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#8 bonyjoe  Icon User is offline

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Re: Game programming students, should i or should i not?

Posted 05 December 2011 - 11:32 AM

Not all game programming courses are like you guys are saying. The course I am on is "Computer Games Programming Bsc Hons" but is essentially computer science with a focus on games, it's the same length as the computer science offered by the same uni (3 years standard/4 years with industrial placement year), it includes all the main computer science modules like Intro to OO, Further OO, Database design etc. The only difference is where a computer science student may have the chance to choose a non core module or two (they can choose the game related ones if they see fit) the course I am on will have the game related ones as core modules.

I guess it's more about doing the research into the course, obviously a 4 year CS course is going to be much more helpful than a 1/2 year fast track games programming course.
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#9 anonymous26  Icon User is offline

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Re: Game programming students, should i or should i not?

Posted 05 December 2011 - 12:19 PM

View Poststayscrisp, on 05 December 2011 - 02:04 PM, said:

There are advantages and disadvantages to both paths (referring to traditional CS vs Game Programming degrees). I did a lot of research before I ended up doing my degree and here are some points I found.

Disadvantages of a CS course:

Some of the subject matter on a CS course can be extremely demanding and also not entirely relevant to games, you may end up wishing you could devote more time to the coursework you have chosen which is relevant to games.

A CS course can be a lot of theory which means less practical hands on time, some people learn well like this, some don't. Which are you?

Can't say that I agree with this perception. Yes, computer science is extremely demanding. On my course there was a very high drop-out and failure rate where students were asked by the University to leave the course. By the time I graduated there were something like 20-25% of the original students remaining.

Everything on a computer science course is relevant to game development, hence the reason why studios actually do prefer computer science grads over game school grads. Point out any area of computer science that isn't relevant to games, and I'll show you where it is. It also isn't true that games demand as much practical experience as possible over the theoretical stuff. When working in game development you are solidly tested on your theoretical understanding above your actual application, since techniques need to be justified according to the theory.

View Poststayscrisp, on 05 December 2011 - 02:04 PM, said:

Advantages of a CS course:

A lot more of a well rounded education, this obviously opens up greater scope for non game programming jobs.

These course are usually offered at all universities, meaning you should be able to find one within your desired location.

In general agreement here. One more point to note is that the more established universities do not offer game-specific programmes, primarily because they are too focussed and omit a lot of very important general computer science theory that every software engineer should possess.

View Poststayscrisp, on 05 December 2011 - 02:04 PM, said:

Disadvantages of a Game Programming degree:

Fewer schools offer these types of courses, so you might have to go further afield to find a suitable one.

Some studios prefer candidates to have a more traditional CS degree.

Can be pretty intense with a high drop out rate. This is usually due to the shorter course time requiring more work in a shorter space of time.

From what I have seen of game programming/development courses is that what really makes them difficult is that they do not furnish the student with the foundations to make the course material comprehensible. Just recently, there was a placement student where I worked and I was surprised on some of the basic computer science principles that I had to explain to them from scratch as 'their tutor had not mentioned it before, and they might teach it in their final year'!

Shocking.

The students who graduate game programming courses and are successful in the industry appear to be very passionate outside of the classroom, being 'information sponges' in everything programming, so that might be a reason why they are so strong.

View Poststayscrisp, on 05 December 2011 - 02:04 PM, said:

Advantages of a Game Programming degree:

Some courses have good relationships with local game studios, so you may end up doing a placement in a game studio. This is great to put on your CV when applying for jobs. They may even hire you straight out of university if you impress them.

The course is entirely focused on Game Programming, so you will learn practical skills straight away.

I'm sure there are many more advantages and disadvantages, but hopefully that will give you some food for thought :)

Something needs to be straightened out here: Game studios try to recruit internally first, then look for experienced personnel externally second, then if they are unlucky or just feeling generous, will they take on a junior or placement. There are no guarantees. The school affiliation is only really there to offer some insight into what the world of game development is like, and to promote the school to attract students. Don't read anything more into it!

Lastly, as with all courses, you learn your practical skills on-the-job! When you are a student you are taught enough to give you a head start in getting going on any new role you start after graduating; there is a difference between directed learning (the student phase) and undirected learning (being expected to develop rapidly in employment, based on whatever is thrown at you).

That's my 2 cents. :)
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#10 stayscrisp  Icon User is offline

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Re: Game programming students, should i or should i not?

Posted 05 December 2011 - 03:32 PM

Your 2 cents are quite biased towards a CS degree. I did a game programming degree and I got a strong grounding in programming with C++ and other languages, algorithm design, OOP, software development. Along with game specific stuff that wouldn't be taught on a CS courses such as game audio programming and some game design introductions. It was extremely well rounded and I feel I got a great education out of it. One of the guys on my course got a job in the industry straight away.

There are advantages and disadvantages, like I said. Game programming degrees are becoming more and more accepted with tutors who have actually been in the industry and so know the tricks of the trade.
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#11 anonymous26  Icon User is offline

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Re: Game programming students, should i or should i not?

Posted 05 December 2011 - 04:07 PM

Well, on computer science courses you are taught using theory that allows you to work out how to program audio, for instance. I have never understood why a student needs to be explicitly taught how to code this or that in games when they can go off and work it out.

Game design is unrelated to game programming, although it is applicable to human-computer interaction which is a branch of computer science.

Becoming a game development lecturer was suggested to me, and I know others who took it up. It's not something that appeals to me.

I'm not disrespecting game dev degrees, but they certainly do not cover the variety of content covered by straight computer science. Every game dev grad I've come across has not known something or other significant to the world of computer science - it's an undeniable fact.

Regardless, as you say, game degree grads do get jobs and they can be good.
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