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Whats the best way to get a job in the game development industry

Posted on 2004-10-01
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Whats the best way to get a job in the game development industry. What coding skills do you require or is it very much tool and application based. Would it be useful to have some design qualifications. Does it pay well?
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Question by:Arundel_Castle
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by:evolutional
evolutional earned 100 total points
ID: 12202964
You will need to create several technical demos or perhaps even a small game to show evidence that you're an accomplished programmer. Usually a college degree is needed to demonstrate that you've covered a wide area of programming and computing areas. As for getting a job, you have to be prepared to work hard, perhaps sign up as an intern for a larger company that will take you through the various stages of game development. Remember, there's more to game dev than just coding, there's also the game/level design, graphics, sound, etc areas to consider. The most common used language in the industry is C/C++, so it's useful to be strong in that area, the ability to pick up other languages (such as scripting) would also be useful. Remember that without experience you'll probably start at the lowest possible level and work your way up, which again is more incentive to consider an internship.
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by:Arundel_Castle
ID: 12202975
I already have a degree in computer science but i'm a .Net programer I really don't use C++ that much.
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bcladd earned 400 total points
ID: 12203305
Not very many shops use .Net as their primary programming language. I know some that are considering C# scripting engines for PC/Xbox engines but the engines themselves are almost always written in C++.

I second evolutional's statement that a strong technical demo or two is very important for getting you the interview (they also give you something to talk about during lunch; being able to point to some really interesting collision detection code that you wrote (and understand...it is less important that you discovered some amazing new collision detection algorithm than it is that you were interested enough in how the thing worked to finish an actual demonstration project demonstrating your knowledge) makes the interview lunch/informal questions go much smoother; note that collision detection is an example. Find the cool game coding things that you would like to know how to do and do some of them). You probably want to grab an engine off the 'Net and write a small mod or two. If you know where you want to work, pick an engine that they use there. If you don't know, pick one that is widely used (the Unreal engine(s) and the Quake/Doom engines are good starting points). Modding a game gives you game assets that you don't have to create from scratch.

So, do some low-level technical demos that show you know a thing or two about AI or graphics or networking or all of the above. Try writing simple (as in Tetris-level) games to make your technical demos more interesting (also demonstrates that you understand something about user input and user interfaces when a potential employer can play your "game"). Also try demonstrating a higher-level understanding with a mod or two of an existing game.

Then you have enough to know what you do and don't like AND to show the new knowledge you have gained so you can shop around for an internship or an entry-level programming job. Don't be discouraged if you aren't snapped up immeadiately. Remember that everybody wants to program games. Game company interviews can be grueling (we don't feel we have asked enough technical questions until the interviewee cries...okay, it is not quite that bad but we have had one get really pissed and stomp out when he couldn't explain how to implement a binary tree inside of an array).

If you want a list of books to read and that sort of thing, search the PAQ's in this topic area and you will find a lot of standard ones. My standard admonition is that a good game programmer is a good programmer; learn to be a good programmer with good design skills. Then you just have to get someone to notice you.

Good luck,
-bcl
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by:Arundel_Castle
ID: 12203370
Thanks for the info guys, theres just a final thing that I would like to clear up for myself. I thought that games would be highly mathematical with some physics thrown in for good measure, as in graphics and moving objects. I did a graphics course a college and it was mostly coordinate gemometry. Do either of you have anthing to say about that. I'm going to split the points here and give evolution 100 and bcladd 400.
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by:bcladd
ID: 12203431
What type of game? FPS are very calculation intensive with lots of lighting calculations in addition to the physics simulation. Many game engines have a physics engine somewhere in the bowels of the code; some engine builders purchase their simulators while others build entire games around the physics simulation ***cough***Half-Life***cough***. Fighting games are similar but have much less to keep track of (non-deformable worlds, etc.).

RTS games these days use 3D engines with lots of lighting but almost no physics simulation (the movement of the units is an animation playback and the only physics is keeping their little feet (wheels, tracks) on or near the ground).

Many other game types, those that are more arcade-like, may have more or less complex physics aboard. Going back to the beginning of video games, Space War had a physics simulation running at its core (as did Lunar Lander) but PacMan doesn't seem to be much about the frictional coefficient of Blinky as he moves over a cherry.

So some more, some less.

-bcl
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by:Arundel_Castle
ID: 12203690
Thanks for the update. Very funny on the pac man with the frictional coefficent of Blinky. Thanks again.
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Expert Comment

by:evolutional
ID: 12203707
To be honest, a lot of game companies are using more and more middleware to handle things like Physics as it's staring to become a huge area in games. You probably want to look into the Game Programming Gems series for some useful articles relating to the current state of the industry. Perhaps sign up to Gamasutra and read some of the cutting edge technology articles and tech speak. It would be good if you could specialise in an area as well as being broadly-skilled enough to participate in various roles within the development team. For example, as a programmer you're likely to be building in facilities to assist the game content designers in their task, the more you know about scripting and level design, for example, will bode well. Again, it depends on the interest areas you have. There's a fair amount of mathematics involved in games, but not really as much as you think. You should at least be competant with vector and matrix maths, basic physics can't hurt either (which you have, so all's good).

It'd be useful if you coded up a few demos for yourself, perhaps using some pre-made engine such as Irrlicht to get a feel for the different programming requirements for each game genre.
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by:Arundel_Castle
ID: 12203733
Thanks for the heads up with the Irrlicht engine Evolutional. I'll give it a try. I have an interest in mathematics and physics it would be nice to combine them with my computer science background.
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Expert Comment

by:evolutional
ID: 12203748
Good luck - but most of all have fun :)
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by:Arundel_Castle
ID: 12203760
I will, the screen shots for the engine look fantasic, thanks again.
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