Best 3D Modeling/Video Game Designing Book/Software for beginners?

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#16 BBeck  Icon User is offline

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Re: Best 3D Modeling/Video Game Designing Book/Software for beginners?

Posted 14 September 2012 - 05:56 AM

I never really knew anyone in the industry, but I never really considered that a requirement for getting a job. I figure they're looking for someone who knows how to do the job and not a buddy. But I have seen people get a friend in once or twice. It certainly can't hurt.

Some of my early interviews were laughably bad. I remember that on pretty much all of them I was answering their questions like a game show. "Is it answer B? I'm pretty sure it might be answer B." Looking back on it, it's probably a big part of why I had trouble getting hired at first. I was reading books at the time, which was good. But they were more beginner level books. I tried reading some advanced books but I just didn't understand them at all.

Finally, I got a job. I think that's really what made a difference more than anything. I got a job that helped me get a second job and a couple years of actual job experience. Once I had the job experience, not only did the stuff in the beginner books start making sense, but after a couple years the stuff in the advanced books started making sense.

With a couple years of experience, a whole lot of reading in several advanced books, and a fair amount of experience doing job interviews, I got where I can do a job interview pretty well. I know what kinds of questions they're going to ask from having been through so many job interviews (and messing up quite a few of them in the beginning). I know the answers to their questions out of a combination of actually having done the job and having read the advanced books on the subject.

Now that I have several years of experience and a little bit of insider knowledge, I can pretty much ace an interview. Even then, I know that I haven't had to do an interview in a couple of years and I need to go read probably a thousand pages or so of reading out of the advanced books to not only review but catch up on all the latest innovations in the industry. I know without some serious reading I would be ill prepared for my next interview.

What I do now is working on big corporate servers where it's difficult to setup the same situation at home. For something like game programming, you have a huge advantage because you can practice the skill and get better at it at home. Where as, if you're working with software that runs primarily on corporate networks and $60,000 servers it's much more difficult to set that up at home and practice. So, all you can do is read, pretty much.

If I were trying to get a job as a programmer, especially a game programmer, I would not only be reading every book on the subject that I could get my hands on, I would also be writing code every week putting what I was learning to use and practicing.

And I think ultimately the key to ace-ing the interview is wowing them with how much you know about the subject. And that comes from a combination of experience (which you can get at home when we're talking about game programming - less so with a lot of business stuff) and a whole lot of reading well into the advanced level.

In the beginning, you're going to have to accept that you're young and fresh out of school. It's going to be somewhere between difficult and impossible for you to have any experience or knowledge. The good news is that's somewhat to be expected. The bad news is it's a brutal job market and people are less likely than ever to hire someone with no experience.

But again, with programming (especially game programming), you can get experience at home.

If you were interviewing for me for a business programming job, and I knew you were straight out of college, I would expect that you don't know much. That might not lower the expectation I have for the requirements of the job though. First of all, if I'm considering someone straight out of college, I'm almost certainly trying to fill a junior position. If it's mid-level to advanced, I'm probably not even going to look at a resume or do an interview with someone straight out of college. For the advanced position, I expect at least 5 years of experience or more anyway.

First, I would ask you every difficult question I could think of that allows me to get a feeling for how much you know about the things that are important in the job.

One of the questions I was asked on an early programming job interview was something along the lines of "How many bytes is a float datatype?" At the time, fresh out of my first programming class, I thought that was a stupid, off the wall, crazy question. Now with my experience it's the exact sort of question I would ask. The reason is that the size of datatypes can make the difference between the system running like a Ferrari or the systems locked up and not running at all. If you chose a datatype that's 4 bytes when you could have chosen a datatype that's 2 bytes in size you've wasted 2 bytes. To the beginner, that's a laughable amount of memory. To someone experienced, I know that when that value in that datatype is repeated 2 billion times it becomes 4 Gigabytes of memory. And when you waste 4 GB of memory, that 4 GB can make the difference between the computer taking 10 seconds to do the job and 10 hours to do the job depending on the specs of the system it's running on. It means not only 4 GB of wasted disk space (which is the way people typically think of it) but it can also mean 4 GB of wasted memory (which is much more critical) and a massive amount of extra time reading in a wasted 4 GB off disk that didn't need to happen at all and it can also mean 4 GB of wasted bandwidth on the network, etc.

I once helped someone at work with a report that was taking 10 hours to run. I saw that he was using a 16 byte datatype when he should have been using an 8 byte datatype. It's an 8 byte savings. They had made this mistake all over the company on numerous systems. This was just one place where the mistake had been made and I told him he needed to change it. He did and the report immediately started running in 2 hours instead of 10. That was because the mistake was repeat over many billions of rows of data. That was a 5 fold improvment from one super simple change because it was correcting a mistake that was causing a problem. Even in his code there were likely additional places where similar mistakes had been made, and I know for a fact that the exact same mistake had been made all over the company. The beginner sees a savings of 8 bytes there. Someone with experience knows that those 8 bytes are repeated billions of times and that those 8 bytes cost 8 hours of wasted time on the server.

This is stuff they don't usually teach in school. So, you come out of school totally oblivious to how important this is most of the time. Then someone asks it in a job interview and it seems unimportant and maybe a bit ridiculous.

But it's the exact sort of question I would ask to see whether you understand the problems that can be caused by wasting memory or not. I'm really asking, "Do you understand the concequences of choosing the wrong datatype?" But I wouldn't be that forward with the question. I would bury it in a question more along the lines of "How many bytes is a float datatype?" If you know the answer, it indicates to me that you are aware there's a potential problem there and you have spent time in the past avoiding the problem, which is why you know the answer off the top of your head. If you don't know the answer, you probably are not even aware of a potentially serious problem you could be creating by constantly choosing datatypes that waste memory. (And for C++ programming the size of the datatype can have other concequences. For example it might be important for something like figuring out heap fragmentation problems.)

Anyway, I would ask a lot of probing questions like that to guage how knowledgable you are and whether you're going to make a lot of rookie mistakes that are going to cause headaches for me or whether you're going to be someone so knowledgable that I will soon be able to trust you to work unsupervised.

For a junior position, some rookie mistakes are kind of to be expected I think. You should expect a rookie to act like a rookie. But you're still going to try and get the candidate for the job that's going to perform the best.

So, if I were wanting a job as a game programmer. I would probably start by reading every book on the subject I could get my hands on, especially the ones regarding programming. And I would practice like crazy, which means writing game after game after game. That doesn't mean writing GTAV or Madden 2013 or Call of Duty 843. It means writing simple programs that are so simple that they stretch the definition of "game", but that involve a new programming concept that I didn't know about before. I would constantly look and say "Ok. What do I not know how to do?" and then I would write a program that does that. Maybe I don't know how to move a character around on the screen. So, I write a program that does that until I know how to do it. Then maybe I don't know how to play background music. So, I write a program that does that. Then maybe I don't know how to get the computer to recognize when a bullet object collides with an enemy. So, I write a program that does that. But, maybe I don't have a clue how to make objects collide like that. So, I google it. I read tutorials on the Internet. I go buy three books that cover the subject and read them. Whatever it takes, I figure out how to make the bullet collide with the enemy and trigger the appropriate reaction when it happens.

If you're constantly learning new aspects of game programming every week, you're growing and getting closer to your goal. At first that won't be all that impressive, but after you've done that week after week after week for a couple of years, you're going to know a lot about game programming. Eventually, you'll be reading the advanced books and wowing everyone with how much you know. And that's the sort of thing that's likely to land you a job.

So, bottom line is read read read and then do do do. There's no substitue for time spent writing code. But be careful that you don't spend your time writing stuff you already know how to do. If you're just writing programs that you already knew how to write, you aren't learning and you aren't growing. You're at best getting better at what you're already good at. So, every week you need to be challenging yourself and forcing yourself to learn something that you have no idea how to do. A lot of times there will be no one who can teach you what you need to know available. I mean, you can ask around on forums and whatnot, but once you get to something that starts approaching an advanced level, you will often find that your questions on the forum aren't finding answers. You have to just go out there and do what it takes to find the answers on your own.

I think I've asked about 4 or 5 questions on this forum in the half year I've been here. I think only 1 of them got an answer. But just because I posted the question on the forum didn't mean that I didn't keep pouring through books and scouring the Internet for the answer. And generally, I have the answer to my own question within about 24 hours. And if you go back and look at my threads, you'll see I'm usually the one answering my own questions because within 24 hours I know the answer and no one has responded to the question during that time. There are some very knowledgable people here, but that doesn't mean they're always around to answer every question you have. Or it just may not be a question within their area of expertise.

Anyway, read read read and then get out there and write code. And make sure the code you're writing involves stuff you've never done before and don't know how to do. Then go do whatever it takes to figure out how to do it. Keep that up for a few years and you'll be a force to be reconed with. Keep it up long enough and you'll be reading the advanced books and wowing them in the interviews.

This post has been edited by BBeck: 14 September 2012 - 06:14 AM

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#17 BBeck  Icon User is offline

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Re: Best 3D Modeling/Video Game Designing Book/Software for beginners?

Posted 14 September 2012 - 06:37 AM

Oh. Almost forgot to answer your question of "How did you get an interview in the first place?"

Again, I didn't know anyone. After my first big job, I became a "contractor" which technically means I work for myself. But I've never figured out how to walk into the company and get them to hire me as a contractor directly (I'm thinking of trying to do just that for my next job.)

Now that I think about it, I got that first big job as a contractor, but after a few months they offered me a permenant position with the company (they often offer permenant positions to contractors that they like at most companies). That's pretty typical at the big companies these days. It gives the companies a chance to try you before they buy you. Then it's your choice whether you stay a contractor or accept a permenant position.

Anyway, I've always gone through recruiting companies. There are several of them in my area. Robert Half, Tek Systems, Volt, and others. They will shop you around to companies as a contractor. They probably require that you have at least a little bit of job experience though. I don't know. I had a fair amount of experience before I went to them the first time.

Anyway, those companies got me in for the interviews, although that doesn't mean that I necessarily did well in the interviews. Actually, with the big company I was telling you about that had a gameing department, I went in and basically bombed the interview. Here's the whole story.

I was actually kind of switching fields within the computer industry around that time and was less experienced in what they were looking for on that job. In the tech interview I probably would have gotten a C or maybe a C minus if you were giving me a grade on it. It wasn't a total flop, but I was certainly a long way from ace-ing it and I could tell. I went on that interview largely because the recruiter wanted me to do it. In the manager's interview he asked "Why do you think you're the best candidate for the job?" I said something like, "I don't know that I am. I know this is a leading company in the industry and you probably have a lot of very qualified people. So, I don't know. You tell me. Am I what you're looking for?" The manager was floored and just laughed and said he's never had someone say that to him before. But it shows the level of honesty I tend to go into these interviews with. Still, I definiately didn't get the job.

So you're saying, "I thought you said you aced it?" I did. The second time. I didn't get the job. So, I went to work for another company for at least a good year. I also studied my tail end off by reading those advanced books. And a year or so latter when I went in for the interview, I knew what they were going to ask. The questions were different, but it was the same type of questioning. I knew that I had better know my stuff well before going back. So, I studied and I did. I aced the tech interview and I almost always do well in the managerial interviews just by being friendly and honest. The tech interview is the hard one unless you aren't a very like-able person.

So between a year more of actual experience (in a more challenging job than the one I had had previously) and reading the advanced books, I turned a bad job interview into a winning job interview. But both times I got the interview because a recruiter sent me. That's common in the business world. I don't know if that's so common in the game industry.

This post has been edited by BBeck: 14 September 2012 - 06:37 AM

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#18 Sonic Keyblade-007  Icon User is offline

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Re: Best 3D Modeling/Video Game Designing Book/Software for beginners?

Posted 16 September 2012 - 01:27 PM

Sorry it took me so long to reply. So I know that the video game industry is made up of people with all kinds of skills. There's programmers, people who make the 3D game models, people who design levels, people who write the stories for the games, and people who work on the business side or the game industry. So I was wondering, do you by any chance know if game companies value programmers more than people who work on other parts of the game? For example, is a programmer for a game less likely to be laid off than a writer for a game because programmers require more skills and are harder to come by than writers? Also, my university offers a little 3 week summer video game academy that I was planning on taking next year. (I wanted to take it this year but I couldn't because I decided to do summer school instead) I know that at the end of the program you are awarded a little video game certificate, but would a video game company really care about a video game certificate that I received from a 3 week summer program?
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#19 anonymous26  Icon User is offline

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Re: Best 3D Modeling/Video Game Designing Book/Software for beginners?

Posted 17 September 2012 - 09:59 AM

View PostSonic Keyblade-007, on 16 September 2012 - 09:27 PM, said:

Sorry it took me so long to reply. So I know that the video game industry is made up of people with all kinds of skills. There's programmers, people who make the 3D game models, people who design levels, people who write the stories for the games, and people who work on the business side or the game industry.

Thank you for realizing that we are just not programmers and artists. You forgot QA though. ;)

View PostSonic Keyblade-007, on 16 September 2012 - 09:27 PM, said:

So I was wondering, do you by any chance know if game companies value programmers more than people who work on other parts of the game? For example, is a programmer for a game less likely to be laid off than a writer for a game because programmers require more skills and are harder to come by than writers?

Yes and no, and this is true throughout the industry. Programmers are generally paid the best out of the development staff and only really suffer the consequences of redundancies when the studio is pretty much close to closure. Project-wise every single team member is as important as the other and has a vital role to play in making an excellent title. It is naive to claim that any group is more valued than the other. Focus your attention to where your best skills are, rather than who is more important because if you are a poor programmer you will lose your job anyway.

View PostSonic Keyblade-007, on 16 September 2012 - 09:27 PM, said:

Also, my university offers a little 3 week summer video game academy that I was planning on taking next year. (I wanted to take it this year but I couldn't because I decided to do summer school instead) I know that at the end of the program you are awarded a little video game certificate, but would a video game company really care about a video game certificate that I received from a 3 week summer program?

If someone came to me with that 'diploma' it would likely be an immediate rejection for the following reasons:

1. It isn't recognized by game studios as a qualification.
2. The content lacks focus according to the relevant roles in the games industry.
3. It is not affiliated by any game studios and I doubt it will be taught by anyone with games industry experience.
4. You are paying thousands for nothing.
5. The fact that you are offering this diploma as a demonstration of your skill set means you have no idea of the scope of the job you are applying for and will cost too many man hours to get up to speed without any guarantee you will actually be able to get up to speed.

Hope that helps.
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#20 BBeck  Icon User is offline

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Re: Best 3D Modeling/Video Game Designing Book/Software for beginners?

Posted 18 September 2012 - 06:34 AM

I didn't realize you're from Riverside. I lived there for about a year when I was about 6.

I just looked over the course and I have to say I'm not impressed. 100 hours is pretty intense, but the description of the course seems kind of all over the place and lacking in much substance. It sounds like the focus is on modeling. That's great if they truely focus on modeling and call it a 100 hour course on modeling. But they've got a bunch of other stuff in there that sounds kind of off in a totally different direction. And I don't see anything in there talking about coding. I mean it sounds more like an unfocused overview of the type you would get on your own if you just dig in and start doing it.

And the cost of the course is over $2,000. If this course were offered for a couple hundred dollars, I would say go for it. But for over $2,000 I think you can find better educational stuff to go through to learn.

Game Institute used to have a 3D Max/modeling course offered online that was probably at least 50 hours of material. And I think it only cost a few hundred dollars. I went through it and it's excelent. It's was by far their best course that I'm aware of. I know Game Institute totally changed their program around. So, I don't really know what they offer anymore. But I'm sure there's better ways to spend that $2,000.
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#21 BBeck  Icon User is offline

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Re: Best 3D Modeling/Video Game Designing Book/Software for beginners?

Posted 18 September 2012 - 06:42 AM

Now that I endorsed Game Institute there, I started wondering if they even offer that modeling class I mentioned any more.

I think what they are calling "Modeling and Annimation" in their $99 package is the one I went through. It says 40+ hours, and that sounds about right. There were two levels of it when I went through it. That course was worth $99 by itself. So, if you get their other courses thrown in for free along with it, I would highly recommend doing it. Their game programming course (I went through the first one) was a bit over my head at the time. But I'm kind of studying a lot of the same stuff now that I'm studying HLSL. I also wasn't particularly impressed with their math course. But for $99, just the modeling course is worth that alone. So, the others are basically just free courses to try out.

It's a fraction of the cost of that summer program and I think you're likely to get more out of it.
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#22 anonymous26  Icon User is offline

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Re: Best 3D Modeling/Video Game Designing Book/Software for beginners?

Posted 18 September 2012 - 09:51 AM

View PostBBeck, on 18 September 2012 - 02:34 PM, said:

I just looked over the course and I have to say I'm not impressed. 100 hours is pretty intense, but the description of the course seems kind of all over the place and lacking in much substance. It sounds like the focus is on modeling. That's great if they truely focus on modeling and call it a 100 hour course on modeling. But they've got a bunch of other stuff in there that sounds kind of off in a totally different direction. And I don't see anything in there talking about coding. I mean it sounds more like an unfocused overview of the type you would get on your own if you just dig in and start doing it.

Pretty much how that course is.
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#23 Sonic Keyblade-007  Icon User is offline

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Re: Best 3D Modeling/Video Game Designing Book/Software for beginners?

Posted 20 September 2012 - 08:24 PM

So do Video Game companies take in consideration in what school you got your degree from? I've heard that a college close to me, USC has the highest ranking video game design program in the nation. Though it's too expensive for me to attend, I was told that if a graduate at a lesser well known college has more work experience and a better portfolio then a graduate at a big name school such as USC then the candidate from the lesser known school would have a better chance of being hired by the Video Game company. Is this generally the case for getting into the Video Game industry? Does a degree from a big name school not guarantee you a spot in a video game company? I just wanted to know because I've been feeling a little bit of regret lately not wanting to take a chance and transfer to USC due to the cost of tuition when I can continue at the college that I'm already at and have a free ride. But I still want to do whatever I can to compete with students from more well-known schools.
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#24 midknight51  Icon User is offline

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Re: Best 3D Modeling/Video Game Designing Book/Software for beginners?

Posted 09 October 2012 - 05:18 AM

Im not in a programming field and have no clue how companies look at hiring programmers, but in my field (Cable & Fiber-Optic Maintenance), work experience is generally > school degree. This is NOT to say that school is not important because it is. A school degree of any kind shows that you have a certain dedication to a cause that non-degree holders may not have. (Emphasis on MAY not.)

In my field, we also create portfolios, but of our cable work instead of codes. We show cable routes, maintenance loops, the drops themselves and how our cable managment looks in the comm rooms. This portfolio only adds to our appeal and this appeal is what makes companies WANT to hire you. The way I see a degree, concerning getting hired for a job, is as fluff. I assume that everyone else can work as hard as me, as well as create quality work like me (Because most likely, they will say they can.). So this just leaves whether or not I get hired for a job based on my fluff. Do I have a degree? What big projects have I worked on before? Have I received any special recognition from some VIP? how does my portfolio look? Etc. Etc...

This is just MY experience and should be only be taken as such. These guys know a LOT more about this specific type of hiring process. I just wanted to give my 2 cents, something to think about.
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#25 anonymous26  Icon User is offline

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Re: Best 3D Modeling/Video Game Designing Book/Software for beginners?

Posted 09 October 2012 - 09:47 AM

I completely for to answer this. Sorry.

View PostSonic Keyblade-007, on 21 September 2012 - 04:24 AM, said:

So do Video Game companies take in consideration in what school you got your degree from?

More often than you think. Particularly if the studio itself is close to a prestigious institution, it will try to attract its best graduates.

View PostSonic Keyblade-007, on 21 September 2012 - 04:24 AM, said:

I've heard that a college close to me, USC has the highest ranking video game design program in the nation. Though it's too expensive for me to attend, I was told that if a graduate at a lesser well known college has more work experience and a better portfolio then a graduate at a big name school such as USC then the candidate from the lesser known school would have a better chance of being hired by the Video Game company. Is this generally the case for getting into the Video Game industry?

When studios hire they are looking for several strong qualities in the candidate:

1. Strong and very creative problem solving ability.
2. A high level of comprehension, in that does the candidate have the will and ability to carry trough the tasks asked of them accurately, often with shifting goalposts.
3. Does their portfolio show the limit of their skill or potential of what they can become. This is why it is always important to show your very best work.
4. They will work well as part of a team.

If you can tick all of these you pretty much have a job.

View PostSonic Keyblade-007, on 21 September 2012 - 04:24 AM, said:

Does a degree from a big name school not guarantee you a spot in a video game company?

No. I've come across some excellent grads who fail to even find a job in games because they failed to convince on one or more of the point I just mentioned.

View PostSonic Keyblade-007, on 21 September 2012 - 04:24 AM, said:

I just wanted to know because I've been feeling a little bit of regret lately not wanting to take a chance and transfer to USC due to the cost of tuition when I can continue at the college that I'm already at and have a free ride. But I still want to do whatever I can to compete with students from more well-known schools.

Just do your best and give it all you have. There is no set path that guarantees entry into the games industry. For me it took four years of listening, adapting and gaining more and more confidence before I got my first job. Now that I'm in the eighth year of my industry career knowing that if I gave up after one or two years of trying all that time ago I would have never made it. You will have to tolerate a lot of knock backs that you will need to learn from rather than resent, but you can do it if you have the will that almost everyone else doesn't.

Good luck.
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