203: Games Dev 101

Games Dev 101

Can a bunch of teenagers really impact the world of games development? The answer, according to Dean Reilly, is a resounding "Yes!"

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Very interesting article that.

If there were the resources at my 6th Form, I would gladly do the course. The problem is, you've got the issue of having to possibly get new tutors in, or even do some training for current tutors. For example, the Design & Technology department tutors - the majority know how to use 3DS and the assorted products, along with Photoshop, and the likes, but wouldn't know how to get them into the correct format for gaming. The Art department could probably quite easily do something in regards to concept art teaching...

Overall, my point is that while it can be done, you need the training, and more importantly, funding to run these courses. If you don't, it'd be a shambles. Not to mention, theres a bit of an issue with it being a "Diploma", as a lot of uni's aren't accepting them as of yet, along with employers - they don't know their value, therefore class it as the same as an NVQ (Theres a reason why its referred to as a None Valid Qualification.)

I don't see the need to misrepresent Sutton Coldfield in the article, I mean, artistic licence is one thing but Sutton Coldfield is (quoting from the Census profile)

"A solidly middle class and Conservative seat in the North of Birmingham. Prestigious, leafly and affluent, it covers the most desirable residential areas in Birmingham. Sutton Coldfield was a separate municipal borough until 1974 and has retained its grammar schools. Contains Sutton Park, at 2,500 acres the largest urban park in Britain."

And if your lessons are at the campus, then the M6 is a good 2 or 3 miles away at least (which is some hella good hearing!), whereas it's a mere 10 minute walk into Sutton Park.

I don't doubt many of your students are claiming financial support, and may be from less than affluent backgrounds, but i'd bet equally as many come from the prestigious grammar school not 100 yards away from Sutton Coldfield College.

The place you describe just doesn't sound like where i've lived for 20 years.

I don't want to detract from the points you make, which are excellent, and your course is genuinely pioneering as it does bridge that awful 16-18 gap in which it's almost impossible (especially without good advice) to hit upon what are applicable skills for a degree course. I'm an industry man myself, and I couldn't tell you what kind of skills i'd like to see in a designer. It's like if you went to the Tate Modern and asked someone what skills you need in an Artist. Really, it's understanding the medium and the industry.

Lu-tsze, thanks for your comments. You're right, the main campus is indeed as you described, and if I was referring to that location rather than mine, it would indeed by quite extreme misrepresentation, but my course in particular runs at a satellite campus, rather than the main site. I wouldn't want anyone thinking that I'm using artistic licence for some kind of dramatic effect. Just thought I'd clarify.

Ah right, sorry I missed the part where it was Josiah Mason Campus, in which case i'll retract my previous statements. Certainly, i'll confirm you aren't trying to add some dramatic effect.

Step 1) Kidnap Peter Molyneux

Step 2) Force him to help your students make a game that has a 100% success rate in making players weep with genuine emotion

Step 3) Profit!

In all seriousness, however, what do you think about what appears to be a pretty thick saturation in games development these days? Seems there's a rising wave of game-related education, like the article says, but the number of real, viable jobs in the industry-at-large is contracting. That's one of the reasons I left gaming on the table as a hobby rather than a potential career.

One possibility for further education for your students: the business aspects of creating your own start-up company.

Thing is, video game courses never work. You cannot learn video game design. You can learn programming at a masters or PhD level, you can be good at coming up with new ideas, you can learn 2D and 3D graphics. You can't take a course in all of them and come out at the end as an employable individual.

Gazok:
Thing is, video game courses never work. You cannot learn video game design. You can learn programming at a masters or PhD level, you can be good at coming up with new ideas, you can learn 2D and 3D graphics. You can't take a course in all of them and come out at the end as an employable individual.

Speaking as someone who's in his first year of Games Development now, I just wanna chime in that everyone on the course in my college knew at least the basics of all those things before we started (I have a degree in literature and creative writing, several others have degrees in art or programming) - the course is about bringing those skills to a more professional level and selling yourself in the industry, not to mention market research and determining target audiences. If it wasn't for the section of the course where we have to come up with game concepts and sell them to gamers, the course would actually be deadly boring.

Also, Dean, if you weren't from a different college, I'd swear you were my tutor, based purely on your writing style and enthusiasm for the course. I guess it takes a certain kind of person to become a games tutor. :)

very good read, im currently finishing my first year at a games dev course at college and im very thankful of it.

i did some research into the games industry before the course so i had a good idea about which area I wanted to work at, but the course is good for teaching you abit of everything and giving you the chance to advance on to a specific area with some knowledge. they do modelling, texturing, programming, animating, all fo th main areas and soem of the smaller areas too

Chipperz:

Speaking as someone who's in his first year of Games Development now, I just wanna chime in that everyone on the course in my college knew at least the basics of all those things before we started (I have a degree in literature and creative writing, several others have degrees in art or programming)

wow, thats good, i knew a decent bit, did a bit of modellin programming ect all self taught, but most of the people on my course didnt no what they were in for and most just dont bother doing work, good job theyre all getting kicked off next year, get down to some real work :)

It's astounding how much the games industry and the recording industry have in common. I did a diploma in audio engineering at S.A.E. (school of sound engineering) in London, they also offered a game dev course. So many places are now doing the same thing, the problem is that there are very limited amounts of jobs going in each industries. Getting any experience as a volunteer is extremely difficult, out of the 20 guys who graduated in my class last year, maybe 2 have found jobs as volunteers in a recording studio. Most won't get into the industry with qualifications alone, a certain amount of luck is required.
I'm now starting a degree in electronics engineering as maybe it will help create a path into the industry. I have to say though that getting the job i wanted is looking further away then ever. The most important thing I think you can offer on your course Dean Reilley is work based experience, that would set it distinctly apart, i have talked to many guys who have done game dev. courses who have graduated and been left unemployed and with no real prospects. What they need, i feel, is the same as audio students, which is on the job experience where they can make connections or better yet internships. This would make it a lot easier for all of us if there was some link between education and the industry.

As fun as these courses look, I honestly can't see Sony or EA hiring someone with a media A-level and a "game design" degree over someone with maths & physics A-levels and a computer science degree. Kojima/Suda-esque hirings just don't happen any more.

I think a lot of youngsters see senior figures in today's industry who got their first job by randomly walking into an office in 1988 and assume they can do the same. But times have changed. The only modern positions which are based solely on ability (as opposed to qualifications) are artistic, i.e. skills which cannot be taught.

Game designers are almost always going to be senior figures who have been in the industry for a decade or more with a traditional trade (usually programming). To convince students that they'll be designing games after finishing a college course is misleading.

Apologies in advance for the appalling amount of run-on sentences (and for the ranty-ness, but I mean only the best).

Having taught myself game art and development through working on mods and online game art communities, I joined one of these courses, a BA (Hons) in Game Art. It was so utterly useless that after 2 years of going and learning nothing I hadn't learned for free in the two years previous, I quit and went and got a proper industry job off my own back. And speaking to other folk who are in similar courses across the UK, it appears they're very much in the same boat.

I don't think asking the game industry what can be done will give any really useful or insightful answers, because they only take on those who are competent - they don't pay attention to those graduates who aren't any good and so won't know what's missing in the students' skill or knowledge bases.

So to answer your question, as someone who's been there, done that...

Things you can do to bridge the gap and improve the course;

- Group game development projects (spanning all disciplines from artists to designers to programmers). Working together in a team is really important. Students should learn to work with others and with others' assets, and to follow a pipeline from concept through to in-game end result. These are skills that will really help students understanding of the development process and are extremely useful when they leave the course (knowing how to use CVS repositories and exporters and such - the small things that confuse folk and are never taught).

- Ensure EVERY teacher on the course has relevant and up-to-date experience within the games industry. They should have direct experience with the latest techniques and technology. This also ensures that the teachers can answer even tough questions and opinions comprehensively and knowledgeably. We had issues on our course with teachers who had never worked on a game or whose last published game was over a decade ago, their knowledge was outdated and this only hindered the students asking about how to do certain things.

- Strongly encourage that students get involved in projects outside of their coursework. Push them to join mod teams or help out on indie games. I can't stress the importance of this enough. It shows to an employer that you'll work on games purely for your love of them, that you can work in a team, you learn about the game development cycle from being in an environment that's as close to being in the industry as you can get without actually being there. And you end up with a folio of work that isn't just the same coursework every other student has.

- Strongly encourage self-learning and not to rely solely on what is taught to them by the teachers. To students, this may seem like counter-intuitive advice to come from a teacher, but there are so many ways to do things in game dev and development that often the one way that's taught isn't always the be-all-end-all solution. Ensure they know you're there to guide them in the right direction and to help them when they get stuck but encourage them to figure stuff out for themselves through trial-and-error.

Self-learning and practice are the best possible ways for game dev students to work out correct methodologies and gain the deepest understandings of the fundamentals of game dev. So they become better developers and as they walk out of your course - even if a large amount of what they learn is self-taught - they steadily improve the standing of your course in the eyes of developers who hire them.

Game degrees and qualifications are simply flat-out meaningless in this industry. Raw skill, talent and knowledge are the only things that will get you a job. So you must raise the bar for courses of the same ilk and elevate the course above and beyond a purely academic box-ticking routine to ensure that the students walk out with stunning portfolios.

Design positions ARE open even at the Junior level, and do go to graduates with a Games Design degree. Yeah, they might typically get lumbered with the horror that is UI flows, but they are also heavily involved in the design process at all levels of the game, far more so than if you are a programmer.

What I will say is that these positions very often go to people who have some past experience and a wealth of knowledge about the subject matter of the title (this is especially true of Sports games). Having another person around who knows the offside rule is always helpful.

I think the major problem is that there is a wealth of jobs that people call "games design" and broad targeting of skills doesn't work. Everything from story through to control systems has it's own subset of skills and range from the highly creative and inventive, to the incredibly practical and technical. If these college courses help people decide what kind of position in the industry they would enjoy and target that effectively with skills developed at university, then more power to them.

Chipperz:

Speaking as someone who's in his first year of Games Development now, I just wanna chime in that everyone on the course in my college knew at least the basics of all those things before we started (I have a degree in literature and creative writing, several others have degrees in art or programming) - the course is about bringing those skills to a more professional level and selling yourself in the industry, not to mention market research and determining target audiences. If it wasn't for the section of the course where we have to come up with game concepts and sell them to gamers, the course would actually be deadly boring.

Heh, maybe it's changed since I looked into it. Maybe it hasn't. I know that a few years ago, most of the people doing Games Development courses were just assumed to be unusable in the industry. I guess if you've already got degrees in other things that it would be a good thing, but if it's all you've got, then I would imagine it would still be pretty hard to sell yourself to any employers.

I'm hoping the software/technological side of the industry requires some kind of qualification, or I'm wasting my fukn time.

Gazok:

Chipperz:

Speaking as someone who's in his first year of Games Development now, I just wanna chime in that everyone on the course in my college knew at least the basics of all those things before we started (I have a degree in literature and creative writing, several others have degrees in art or programming) - the course is about bringing those skills to a more professional level and selling yourself in the industry, not to mention market research and determining target audiences. If it wasn't for the section of the course where we have to come up with game concepts and sell them to gamers, the course would actually be deadly boring.

Heh, maybe it's changed since I looked into it. Maybe it hasn't. I know that a few years ago, most of the people doing Games Development courses were just assumed to be unusable in the industry. I guess if you've already got degrees in other things that it would be a good thing, but if it's all you've got, then I would imagine it would still be pretty hard to sell yourself to any employers.

That's pretty much the angle I went with. I went with the standard Computer Science degree so I can get a job at just about any decent software shop with good benefits, salary, and job security. I also took a number of high-end game design courses to actually get some experience under my belt. Right now I think I have found a happy medium in the area of game design. By day I work as a software engineer and I independently develop my own games as a hobby.

I have looked into the game design program at my university and the courses that they have are quite engaging, challenging, and they cover a wide variety of topics from game theory to programming to story development. The funny thing is, more than half of the last freshman class of game design majors dropped out of the program because it was unbelievably difficult.

It's actually kind of ironic because, so far, nothing good has come out of our game design majors, yet the games developed by our Computer Science, Software Engineering, and IT students go on to win awards. One was recently featured as one of the PAX 10 called Impulse, which can be found here http://www.impulse-game.com/

thats rather bleak then, some relatively good work seems to have gone into a college level games course but my experience so far at university level is a joke. The majority of tutors have absolutely no background in the subject and refuse to try and adapt. When the lack of skills and knowledge is pointed out they state that we don't know what we're talking about (one of the students in my class works at sega while studying so its safe to say when he says "this is not how its done" it comes with some authority). The modules are often trials of pointlesness, sent to research information that companies REALLY don't want to release, told to produce artifacts in ridiculously short time periods without relevant skills training.
I had to teach a tutor the basics of virtual interface design.
I am looking at over 20,000 of debt for this shit

Dean Reilly:
Games Dev 101

Can a bunch of teenagers really impact the world of games development? The answer, according to Dean Reilly, is a resounding "Yes!"

Read Full Article

While I was aware that there were more courses available elsewhere compared to Australia this is a bit of a surprise. I study through a training organization that was created by the industry here, to benefit the industry. Many of our teachers are from the games industry and we collaborate closely with everyone from programmers and artists to the designers and producers from local studios.

This is exactly what your article is aiming at, having the industry educate the people who are going to hopefully be in their ranks someday. Hopefully others will follow this example.

Maybe we could compare notes then, Ushario - it'd be interesting to see what similarities there are between what we do and what you do. Thanks for your comments.

Ushario:

Dean Reilly:
Games Dev 101

Can a bunch of teenagers really impact the world of games development? The answer, according to Dean Reilly, is a resounding "Yes!"

Read Full Article

While I was aware that there were more courses available elsewhere compared to Australia this is a bit of a surprise. I study through a training organization that was created by the industry here, to benefit the industry. Many of our teachers are from the games industry and we collaborate closely with everyone from programmers and artists to the designers and producers from local studios.

This is exactly what your article is aiming at, having the industry educate the people who are going to hopefully be in their ranks someday. Hopefully others will follow this example.

Dean Reilly:
Maybe we could compare notes then, Ushario - it'd be interesting to see what similarities there are between what we do and what you do. Thanks for your comments.

Feel free to PM me about anything, at the least I can put you into contact with teachers.

"What can the games industry do to help tutors produce skilled young games developers, and what can we do to build bridges with you?"

It's not surprising that this question was met with some awkwardness. Mostly because the term video game developer is such a broad term. From the courses and coursework that were brought up in the article it seems you're mostly talking about the overall design of the game. The art, script, character generation, etc.

As for the topic I'd say there's an overall dilution of the game industry as far as developers go. What was said earlier about self taught developers is actually what I would say the way to go is. While it is nice to have the structure and tutors that comes with going to a college in the end that's still a crutch to becoming a good game developer.

As courses in game development get more popularized you're going to have people who pretty much cheat their way to a degree, only doing required work and not taking time to really get to know the field they're getting into. One of these people could even be your best student. It's not unpopular to focus more on looking good than actually having a substance to their ability. And this can lead to the overall lack of quality with developers but you just have to remember that there is going to be those "coal developers" ones that are sitting back in obscurity building themselves up to really shine. In the end the best game developers will come from the best teacher, and the best teacher will always be the F1 key.

 

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