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Old 11-11-2007, 07:25 PM   #1
jslade8581
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Question Thinking about a career change...

Hello all!

I'm really interested in a game career. I have been for some time - in fact, it's gotten to the point that I'm putting down concrete plans now to shift out of my current career, but I need some help in deciding how to prepare myself to actually be competitive in "breaking into" the Interactive Entertainment industry. I'm really interested in Game Production.

Currently, I'm in the US Navy, as an officer. I've been in the Service for ~5 years, and I have two more years to go before my contract is up. I've passed the Navy's Nuclear Power Program (I'm on an aircraft carrier now) - it's heavy in math, science and physics. My bachelor's degree was Business Administration from the University of Florida. While I was at UF, I did a lot of database programming (PHP, MySQL, JS, etc) and I have a background in C++. I've also completed several distance learning classes in a Master's of Engineering Management from ODU.

I'd like a little help to ensure that my next two years are productive in getting me ready for getting a job in the industry, so here's my plan:

1. Games - I know that if I'm to work in games, I need to have at least a few designs under my belt. I'm planning on completing at least two "proof of concept" / portfolio type games, but I'll be using a GAME ENGINE (Torque for the 3D game) - is this a good idea? Should I work with Game Engines (I know some purists on other forums always say to write your own engine, but I'm not really trying to work directly in the programming side of things) at all?

2. Books - Self study! I'm planning on picking up a few books to help out - mostly, I'm looking at Game Design and Game Writing (I already have the book on Breaking into the Game Industry, but it seemed to be more for people in high school / college). Are there any other books I really need to have? What do you recommend?

3. School - This is a big question... First of all, do I need it? (I assume YES!, if only for the chance to really work with insiders, network, and get a feel for how programming teams differ from the teams I work with right now). Second, which programs are the best? I'm thinking of DeVry (I read several glowing reviews on this site already), but I want to ensure that the industry respects courses taken from them first!

Please... what do you think? Am I on the right track?

(Whew. That was a long post, and thank you for taking the time to read it. Any help you all can pass on would be greatly appreciated!)
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Old 11-11-2007, 09:09 PM   #2
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Hello,
I finished my tour in the U.S. Air Force and have been a civilian since last December.

Quote:
I'm really interested in Game Production
There are many occupations during a game development cycle, and from the looks of it you're really emphasizing on becoming a programmer. If this is true, the demand for programmers/software engineers is high. The facts are here, http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/jobs_display.php

Quote:
it's heavy in math, science and physics. My bachelor's degree was Business Administration from the University of Florida. While I was at UF, I did a lot of database programming (PHP, MySQL, JS, etc) and I have a background in C++. I've also completed several distance learning classes in a Master's of Engineering Management from ODU.
Your background in programming is a plus. MySQL is a big plus as many games produced are based not only in single player anymore but also mutliplayer. Network programmers like yourself may be the next highest in demand in the following years to come.

Quote:
I know that if I'm to work in games, I need to have at least a few designs under my belt. I'm planning on completing at least two "proof of concept" / portfolio type games, but I'll be using a GAME ENGINE (Torque for the 3D game) - is this a good idea? Should I work with Game Engines (I know some purists on other forums always say to write your own engine, but I'm not really trying to work directly in the programming side of things) at all?
That's the way to go! There are advantages and disadvantages of starting with a game engine and take this advice with a grain of salt. The advantages are 3 fold for using game engines:
1. Being that the engine is written already, all you'd have to do is implement the easy stuff. You wouldn't need to write the engine classes like math algorithms for use with physics, collision detection, shader classes, and so forth.
2. It's so much faster. Having to write a simple 3d game can take one person less than how long a studio develops games in a matter of a year. And the studio can be composed of 6+ people.
3. You can work on your own! As stated above, a single person can work a project on their own and finish it in a matter of months.
The disadvantages are also 3 fold.
1. Sure you were able to show a finished game, but can you show me how to optimize the engine, or even add more features such that those features can be reusable in other games like ragdoll physics? (code reusability)...Employers look toward how innovative you can be.

2. Are you able to work with a group of people...say 40+? Many 'big' developer studios look for people who can work with others successfully. If you are looking towards working with a 'big' developer studio, I would have to say that you might want to just try and make a project with a group of people. Right now there's another discussion going under the programming discussion called 'programming portfolio' where we are (trying) to write a game good enough to show during an interview. Though, there are downsides due to internet groups, some people tend to be less committed. However, when the project does finish you will be able to show that you've committed yourself to a group of unknown people willing to write a game through the internet. That goes to show that you and that group of people sacrificed time to get the project completed, without a doubt that line alone will have employers see you as a very committed and passionate person. However, that's not enough...check out http://www.gamecareerguide.com/featu...as_a_game_.php
programmers from the looks of it (through the interview process) is a difficult in getting into.

3. You really won't be able to know how the game engine interacts with the game. You will only know theories and implementing more of 'game' specific tasks. If you do write your own engine then bravo! That's just another reason for employers to hire you because you're an engine writer/programmer.

Quote:
2. Books - Self study! I'm planning on picking up a few books to help out - mostly, I'm looking at Game Design and Game Writing (I already have the book on Breaking into the Game Industry, but it seemed to be more for people in high school / college). Are there any other books I really need to have? What do you recommend?
It's also nice to know how a development process goes. A book that I read through one of my core classes through DeVry was called intro to game development (i think) by sara novak. The book can be purchased anywhere because I remember seeing it in bookstores. Game design, from what I hear is really a difficult position in getting. Most of these positions are filled with already experienced people who have worked in the industry for a while. This was taken from the salary survey
Quote:
Be prepared to hear the following words of wisdom over and over again: it is nearly impossible to become a game designer fresh out of college. Game design job are almost never appropriate for entry-level candidates. Designers typically make their way into the industry through some other discipline (for example, by spending two or three years as a programmer or producer), then become a designer later. None of this advice is meant to be discouraging-it's meant to help you formulate a clear and realistic path to your dream job.
However in your case...who knows, it wouldn't hurt try, right?

Quote:
3. School - This is a big question... First of all, do I need it? (I assume YES!, if only for the chance to really work with insiders, network, and get a feel for how programming teams differ from the teams I work with right now). Second, which programs are the best? I'm thinking of DeVry (I read several glowing reviews on this site already), but I want to ensure that the industry respects courses taken from them first!
For you, probably not. Since you have a few years of programming under your belt, all you would have to do is brush up on your programming. But, now that I look at it, you look like you're leaning more into game design. Check out the quote about game designers...
As of right now, I'm taking classes under gameinstitute.com and DeVry. If I were you, I would check to see if you're able to skip some of the classes (through DeVry) since you've already taken most of the really required ones like physics and math/algebra/calculus. You might not even need to go back to school...in fact, I would recommend you take some programming classes to brush up a little. gameinstitute offers those classes online and are so far fairly comprehensive. You could probably learn more on your own...but I used this as a tool to see how much of it I understand since they require for you to take chapter tests. Other than that, good luck!

Last edited by chrono1699 : 11-11-2007 at 09:17 PM.
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Old 11-12-2007, 12:18 AM   #3
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Another thing that you could do is go into the Simulation industry. They LOVE Ex military and it pays really well. Not only are the pay and hours better but you are using game tools/engines/tech. Game studios have been known to recruit sim industry programmers. So you could go into that for a year or so and get contacts and brush up on your programming.
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Old 11-14-2007, 07:13 PM   #4
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Thank you both for the input. I'll take a closer look at Game Institute and DeVry - everything I read points to those programs being enjoyable. If I have the time ashore, I'll look into working with Internet teams; but I'm personally a little more partial to finding some local artists/programmers to work with.

Although I want to learn more about all the aspects of designing games, Game Production is really what I want to end up doing. I love leading teams (on ship, my divisions are usually about 25 - 40 people large). When we get a major, long-term project complete, I really feel a sense of accomplishment. Most of my training as an officer is really project management on a grand scale (usually in a complex, high tempo environment), and since I've been successful in this, I feel I can bring that same motivation, energy and leadership to any interactive entertainment project (that includes projects in the simulation industry - I haven't ruled that out yet...).

I know I have a long road ahead of me, but I feel that your advice is getting me on the right path. So once again, thanks for the help and good luck!
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Old 11-14-2007, 07:49 PM   #5
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Sounds like your well trained and can only get better. Good luck.
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Old 01-11-2008, 01:01 PM   #6
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I'm in DeVry's GSP program now as well and we have a surprisingly large number of ex and even current military people in my classes. I'm prior Army myself and have been enjoying finding other military types to study with online from all across the country. And the added beauty to DeVry's course is it focuses not only on game development, but the simulation industry as well. Both of which I am anxiously anticipating to make my next career path as well.
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Old 07-05-2008, 07:59 PM   #7
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JSlade,

I'm glad you asked the question and have had some feedback. I hope things are working out well for you at this time. I'm a Canuck counterpart of yours and was hurt hiking through some hills in a certain really dry spot...which is now leading me to look to other options.

Anyhow, I'm still on active duty running several different training programs on our side of the border, but I'm seeing the day rapidly approach when it is determined that I just can't play with the big boys anymore. I definitely have the same sort of transition in mind as you're going through at this time.

Unfortunately, until I actually release, my official duties will (and obviously should) take most of my attention. As such, I can't afford to take the time required to embark on full time Distance Learning study. I am looking for some part time training, but can't seem to find anything of any value.

Have you come across anything that could fit the bill? I am definitely leaning towards the design or production side of the house for many of the same reasons you mention.

Thanks and best of luck!
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Old 07-06-2008, 01:27 PM   #8
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Ive read somewhere that they are pulling nuclear physicist form the former Soviet Union to work as game programmers.

Their ancient computers and Politburo's watchful eye made those guys some of the most efficient programmers seen on earth.
There was a whole article on a magazine about this phenomenon.

So your math and physics will surely be valued highly.
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