Where to start?

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Ben 101 May 29, 2011 at 14:27

Hello

This is my first post, as i’ve just registered after reading through some threads and liking the general atmosphere here.

As everyone probably knows, threads like the following have a common place on forums like this, and may even become slightly tedious for the posters that have been around for an extended amount of time; so i apologise, but still gratefully ask for your support and help on the topic.

I’ve been reading posts, playing around with different codes and programs for about 2 years now, just trying to keep up with whats going on and the developments the game design area are going through. Until now though, i have never really decided to take it anywhere or even have a major shot at it; not really having the time, or the mathematical knowledge.

I want to immerse myself into the gaming development industry when i eventually get to the point of choosing a career path and feel obliged to hopefully get some experience and knowledge under my belt as early as i can. I really have no idea what area of game design i want to be part of, as i am particually good at designing virtually but rather terrible with paper; i am not bad at maths, and pick up anything to do with coding very quickly.

More on topic, i would like to draw on past people’s experiences and their views on where they think the best place to start of in, would be; what programs did you first use? what forums/boards did you familiarise yourselfs with? what benchmarks did you set yourselfs?

The main thing i am rather intrested in, is picking up a mentor type figure or becoming part of a helpful and hands on board; as i believe the best way to improve in this area is simply from asking questions and getting the correct answers quickly. So anybody’s idea’s on where someone like that, or a good and very active board would be, would be appreicated greatly.

Again, anything means alot to me and i am so grateful for any answer given and any experience shared.

Thanks alot!

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fireside 141 May 29, 2011 at 15:26

There isn’t really one place to start. Like the old saying goes “you learn to write by writing”. Same thing with game design. If you know a language, start writing games. If you don’t know a language, learn one and then start writing games. If you want to get into the industry, you need to pick one thing and get really good at it. If it’s programming, spend almost all your time there. If it’s modeling, spend most of your time there.

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Ben 101 May 29, 2011 at 15:29

Agreed, i need an idea of what direction to go though; what language would be most suitable? what programs i need? etc

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fireside 141 May 29, 2011 at 16:02

Everyone here will recommend different languages and different programs, so it pretty much adds to confusion more than anything.
If you don’t know a language, I would recommend starting with Python. One thing about programming now days is you will probably know multiple languages and Python is a good starter and introduction. If you want to get into professional game programming, your next language should be c++ and you should probably specialize in it.
Depending on that choice you can ask what graphic libraries would work the best for the language you have chosen, and still get a large number of different replies. The important thing is to choose a language, get somewhat proficient at it, and then get writing and designing games. Personally, I think it’s better to start writing 2d games. You can write a lot of them with simple graphics and gain experience rapidly.
If you choose Python, I would recommend Pyglet as a graphics/sound library. There aren’t as many tutorials, but I think it’s nicer than Pygame.
Another not bad choice is to start out with C# and XNA. There are quite few tutorials around for it and you can publish your games on XBox live.
Lastly, you can start out with C++. Make sure you find a pretty good book and go through a fair percentage of it before starting with game development.

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Ben 101 May 29, 2011 at 16:54

Thanks for the input mate, i will have a look at Phython now.

Do you suggest getting specialised within the Phython coding, or get relavtivly good at it and then move on to C++?

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fireside 141 May 29, 2011 at 17:24

I would just get relatively good at it and then move to c++. It’s probably a good time to write quite a few small 2d games after you have gone through some basic tutorials.
When you reach c++, you’ll need to decide if you want to learn DirectX or OpenGL or choose an engine. That will kind of define where you go in gaming. If you choose OpenGL, DirectX, you will probably be more interested in developing engines, or meta-engine. If you choose an engine, you will probably be more interested in developing games. The other thing to think about at that point is if you want to be a solo developer, because then you will also need to learn a modelling program.

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Ben 101 May 29, 2011 at 17:58

Ah that sounds good, always good to have options later on; the long term goal really is too get a job on a MMO / Game Series like Call of Duty or World of Warcraft, do the big companys run their own engine sort of thing, or use C++?

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fireside 141 May 29, 2011 at 23:22

I think it’s about 50-50 between writing in-house engines and purchasing one. It would probably be a good idea to learn DirectX and Opengl along with having game programming experience and, of course, a degree in computer science.

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Ben 101 May 30, 2011 at 10:57

Well the computer science option was going to be my plan, but with the rise in uni fee’s, i’ve had alot of 300k+ a year programmers i know telling me that the degree, plus fee’s versus experience you could get in the mean time, its probably not worth it.

Do you not agree then?

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moe 101 May 30, 2011 at 12:13

I can only talk from experience as a non game programmer. When you look for a job you send in your resume. The reviewer first sorts the resumes due to skills and experience. Here skill means mostly diplomas. Thus if you have none you will compete against others who have diplomas. Therefore you go to the bottom of the list by default.

The reviewer has not many options other than looking at the degrees you posses. If you want to show of your skills that you gained on your own you need a freakishly good portfolio. Even if you have such a portfolio here in swiss, that doesn’t count a lot against the diplomas. That might just be a cultural problem we have here and you might not have this in other countries but I would strongly recommand to get a degree if you can.

I am mostly self educated (started computer science, but had to stop due to missing money) and I had some problems getting a job simply because others had higher diplomas/degrees. It is certainly not impossible to get a job if you are self educated but if you have a choice then go with the diploma. Also, if you don’t have a diploma you will most likely make less money with the exact same job as someone would make who has a diploma.

I imagine that a lot of people dream of becoming a professional game programmer and that a lot of them have a degree/diploma and a good portfolio. It will be very hard to find a decent job if you are up against them without any sort of degree. Even if you posses the needed skills, that doesn’t help much if you are never invited to a job interview. And you will not be invited if they already have 50 people with high degree/diplomas and a decent portfolio to chose from.

Also, like fireside said, everyone would recommand another language to start with. Mainly stick to one until you have a decent understanding and then switch to C++ as this is pretty much the industry standard for game development. For what it’s worth here is my recommendation. Go with C#. You can get a lot of online recources and tutorials and Visual Studio Express is free. It provides a very powerful debugger which certainly is a plus. And it is powerfull enough to make your own game engine if you want to. Once you are that far along the way you can still switch to C++. But if you decide to get a programming job other than in the game industry, C# is also widely used.

My two cents.

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Ben 101 May 30, 2011 at 12:37

Thanks for the massive input mate, i appreciate it alot!

I’ve started to learn a bit of Python, and im really not liking it; it just seems very simplistic with a small wavelength with what you actually do with it, so ill go and have a look at C# now.

Another big thanks for the advice on degree’s, this will defintely help me decide when the time comes; i personally, would take experience and prooth above a degree any day, but i can understand how major companies could place it the other way round.

Again thanks for the massive input mate

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moe 101 May 30, 2011 at 12:45

You’re welcome.

I would also take experience and proof over a degree but to a company a degree actually means experience, proof and the ability to stick to something and not just quit half way through. To a company that is pretty much all that counts. Unless your experience is 10+ years working in the game industry, which I guess is not applying to you :)

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Ben 101 May 30, 2011 at 13:46

Aha, indeed true.

Thanks again.

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Ben 101 May 30, 2011 at 13:58

A quick fire question;

What programs do i need for C#?
Any resources would help really.

Thanks

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fireside 141 May 30, 2011 at 14:18

For c# you basically need visual c# and XNA. You should be able to find quite a few tutorials on the internet.

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moe 101 May 30, 2011 at 14:26

You only need XNA if you want to do some game, as it basically provides a framework. If you want to get started with C# you only need Visual Studio Express. There should be plenty of examples, samples and tutorials online. Just use google. When you start you always have some reading to do anyway. Take a weekend to find some good tutorials and start once you found the ressources you need. I would recommand to only learn C# first and when you have some decent understanding about programming in general, then start with a game. So, you can get XNA later.

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Ben 101 May 30, 2011 at 14:34

Well i’ve downloaded both, struggling to find the tutorial kind that suits me though; the ones that work of mainly demontrations and giving you stuff to try out.

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moe 101 May 30, 2011 at 15:02

It is kind of hard to give you an ideal sample without knowing your background. Assuming you have no programming experience at all, something like this should get you started: http://www.csharp-station.com/Tutorial.aspx

Keep in mind that most of the time you need more than one place to get your information. So, really google (and some time combined with a lot of reading) is your friend. If you go down the road of a programmer you will always have to read and do some research. Don’t expect to find all you need in just a few minutes. The best advice I think is really to google for a day or two and put some ressources together on your own. What I might find ideal might not be ideal for you anyway. Or you have to be more specific about your current level. Are you looking for some tutorials about C# specific or are you looking for game development tutorials etc. Just make sure you start small rather than big. It will be more rewarding in the long run.

In any case one resource wont cover everything. Most likely you will have to find some different information about the same topic in order to understand it completely. And you could always buy a book which will probably give you a more complete understanding about a specific language. Spend a couple of hours in some bookstore and you should be able to decide if the books they provide are what you are looking for.

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Ben 101 May 30, 2011 at 16:06

Yeah that link looks like one of the better ones, i stumbled across it a few hours back; it did look a bit fast moving though.

More specificly, i have a basic knowledge of pascal and an even basic-er knowledge of html; I do although understand alot of the commonly used terms so its quite easy to pick up the standards of each language.

After speaking to quite a few programmers, i think the common conception is that it is better to get a good understanding of the code in general and then specialise into the gaming area; so i think i should learn the C# specific ones first.

I will start working through this link series, although it does miss some of the very basic ideas like what format i have to make the project in etc.

Thanks.

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moe 101 May 30, 2011 at 16:45

I haven’t looked at the codesamples in detail but most likely they start as console projects. Almost all at that level do.

I recommand to use them in order to figure out if you like C#. If you do I would go and buy a beginners book. Like I said, spend some time in a bookstore and get a book that you like.

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TheNut 179 May 30, 2011 at 18:32

When it comes to anything Microsoft, MSDN is your bread and butter.

1. Cheat Sheet

2. Starting Out (see menu on the left)

I would only search the web for tutorials and stuff after you familiarize yourself with a bit of C# / .NET background. Many people have different ways of programming. Some good, most bad :) A lot of stuff out there can be old material as well. C# is an evolving language and it takes time for the new features to be explained on the web. MSDN does an excellent job keeping you up to date and provides best practices too.

With regards to XNA, check the CHM (compiled HTML) documentation that comes with XNA. It’s pretty good for getting you started with 2D and 3D game development. And like C#, be cautious browsing the web for articles until you at least read the official MS documentation first. XNA 4.0 has API changes that have compatibility issues with XNA 3.0, and some articles out there target XNA 3.0 and not have the courtesy of telling you. There’s also platform compatibility difference (XNA Reach vs HiDef), so don’t get mixed up with that yet.

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Ben 101 May 30, 2011 at 19:46

Mm thanks for the advice, both of you.

Im going to have a wander into London tomorrow and pick up a good book; would you suggest the “ x for Dummies” series or not?

I already have the MSDN on my list of resources, it does seem very knowledge based though; just the facts stacked up, when i would rather learn through tutorials and examples.

Thanks again

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moe 101 May 30, 2011 at 20:52

Personally I didn’t like the “x for dummies”. I prefer the “learn x in 21 days” series. But that really is a matter of taste. Go to the bookstore (maybe more than one) and look at different books before you decide on one. Briefly going over a book should tell you wheter you like it or not. Go through the capters and see if it has some consistent learning experience with decent source samples. Check that they mention how to set up a project etc. In a worst case you buy some book and by reading it you see that you don’t actually like it. However, by then you know what to look for in your next book. Lather, rinse, repeat as they say.

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Ben 101 May 30, 2011 at 23:35

Never been one for reading, but i guess its the best way to go; will defintely have a look in a few bookstores tomorrow.

Just to re-cap, these books won’t really go over the material i need to produce smaller 2d games will they? Those resources will have to be drafted in from the net i guess?

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moe 101 May 31, 2011 at 06:17

There are books about game development. However, for that the net is your best ressource. But it seams that for your stage it will be better to get a book about C# in general. Some beginners book to get the hang of the language. Once you are done with that you should know on your own, what further ressources you will need for a 2D game. Programming is more of a progress and takes time. Learning proper basics is never in vain and the concepts also apply to game development.

Reading is something you will just have to do anyway. I myself am slightly dyslexic so it always takes some time to read through ressources. But if you are really interested in it, you will get used to it.

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rouncer 103 May 31, 2011 at 07:37

you can get special books tailored for video game programming, ask the guy at the bookstore if hes got any in stock.

Me personally, my portfolio is interesting, but its a little tacky looking :) i dont know if anyone would trust to hire this crazy loon kid. hehe

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Ben 101 May 31, 2011 at 17:10

Thanks again for everybodies input, i purchased the “ x in 21” days book, and will slowly start reading through it now; although it looks initally that learning this kind of code will be a long thing with alot to take it.

One thing i did wonder, is the age issue; does the game design industry take people in conflict of their age? or is it purly how good and what proof you have of your skill? I say this as i want to get thrown into it as soon as i feel i can.

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alphadog 101 May 31, 2011 at 18:28

@moe

The reviewer first sorts the resumes due to skills and experience. Here skill means mostly diplomas…. That might just be a cultural problem we have here

In the US, I’d say your most important asset is your portfolio. Even as a junior out of college, a “tier 2” degree + a notable portfolio goes much further than a “tier 1” degree.

Personally, I will first look for anything remarkable first and foremost. A great asset portfolio, an open-source project, a game I can download, etc.

Second is experience. More importantly, you have to be able to relate the experience to me, and to quantify why it is worth noting.

Distant third is grades and schooling.

Enough of the first two gets you at least a phone screening where, depending on how you do, gets you to an onsite test.

Degrees/certifications are useful to get past the occasional, poorly-setup HR filters in large corps. But, so are inside contacts… :sneaky:
@ben

does the game design industry take people in conflict of their age

As much as any other industry.

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moe 101 May 31, 2011 at 19:30

@alphadog
Interesting, in swiss it’s really all about degrees/diplomas. Further more it has to be a diploma which is recognised by the state. Anything else counts pretty much as nothing. Getting a diploma from another country is not very helpful. At least that has been my experience while searching a job. Employers, job hunter agency etc. they all pointed that out. Like I said you can find a job without a diploma but it is much harder and you get less money. Actually your only real argument to get a job without a diploma is that you do the same work for less money. That can be interesting for an employer. The only other option would be a shitload of proofen experience but you wont have that if you could never find a job in the first place because you never got the required degree. Experience gathered on your own is worthless it would have to be “on the job” experience.

Inside contacts are hard to get here. You would have to know the owner of a company. Otherwise it wont get you very far. It can help to get an interview but after that you still compete with others who do have the needed diploma. Thus you are right back to square one. The only benefit can be that you know someone who can point you to a job offer you did not know about and therefore get you one more chance to apply for a job.

I can imagine this is very different in the US. Say you are capable of proofing your skill without any degrees or diplomas whatsoever, do you still earn as much as someone who got a kickass degree?

@Ben
You might want to get a decent knowledge in at least one programming language. Then build some small games. If you still want to get in the gaming industry by then you can always ask around for an internship. If you get one then work your ass off in order to get a good reference and proceed from there.

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Ben 101 Jun 01, 2011 at 01:13

I think im going to learn C#, design a smallish 2d game and then move onto C++ and think about looking into more complex games.

I want to get semi-specialised in a program similar or even Unity; i wondered your views on this? For one, what are these kind of programs called? And are they valued in the business?

Thanks again

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fireside 141 Jun 01, 2011 at 17:24

Unity is just considered a 3d game engine. I don’t think it’s going to help much in getting a job. If you are doing your own game, it’s helpful to have all the built-in features, easy imports, etc. It’s a good way to show a prototype idea, but the experience in using it is probably wasted when searching for a job unless they are also using Unity, which isn’t going to happen much.
If you move on to c++, you might want to look at Ogre, which is quite a bit less convenient in that you have to add a lot of other c++ libraries, something a company would probably be interested in because it requires more programming skill to do the integration and that’s something most companies will need to do with their engines.
That’s one of the unfortunate things about game development and why I keep it a hobby. You’ll probably also need to relocate if you find someone interested enough. You’ll have to specialize to the point that it just becomes a job like any other where you are grinding out a cog in the machine, so it’s not much better than any other programming job. From what I’ve heard, the hours are usually longer and the pay isn’t anything to brag about. It’s also not the most secure situation as a few bad games can ruin a company.
Your number one concern should be getting a CS degree as it opens up a large spectrum of jobs, not in just the gaming industry.

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alphadog 101 Jun 01, 2011 at 18:47

@moe

in swiss it’s really all about degrees/diplomas. Further more it has to be a diploma which is recognised by the state.

Well, depending on the field, diplomas can matter in the US. Medicine, law, engineering…. but then again, it isn’t so much the schooling itself as the board/licensing exams. However, some licensing boards do usually require some schooling to be eligible to take the exams.

Software development has, for better or for worse, no state or federal licensing exams in the US.
@moe

Say you are capable of proofing your skill without any degrees or diplomas whatsoever, do you still earn as much as someone who got a kickass degree?

In software, yes. In fact, likely you have started earlier and maxed out faster, and without having to pay large tuition loans.

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Ben 101 Jun 01, 2011 at 23:51

Thanks everyone for their input.

Ill defintely sway away from specialising in one engine just yet then, and probably concentrate on the more compuer science degree side of things.

To gain such a degree, is the only way to do it through university and its stupidly massive fee’s? Or can you do the exams at home etc

Thanks again

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alphadog 101 Jun 02, 2011 at 02:52

If you are in the US, “stupidly massive fees” are unavoidable if you want to play safe and get a degree.

Universities, esp. private schools, are basically turning into patent mills that fund corporations at the expense of hefty tuition to attendees that are brainwashed into thinking “Must go to university!”. Kids become indebted in exchange for status that may get you a head start, but won’t carry through the years.

BTW, I did go to a “good” university, and a well-designed comp. sci. program will do wonders to teach fundamentals so that you won’t unknowingly reinvent it all, but the cost of schooling (and the growth rate thereof) in the US is getting insane…

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fireside 141 Jun 02, 2011 at 11:42

“BTW, I did go to a “good” university, and a well-designed comp. sci. program will do wonders to teach fundamentals so that you won’t unknowingly reinvent it all, but the cost of schooling (and the growth rate thereof) in the US is getting insane…”

I just looked and was very surprised. An online University can save some money, but who knows how respected the degree would be, and even online Courses are expensive. An associate degree in computer programming might get a person in some doors without going too heavily into debt. Yikes.
I was just reading some prognosticator, forgot his name, but he said schooling is the latest bubble. Once prices get like that, you work into a situation of the “haves” and “have nots” of a class based society.
Technology should be reducing those costs, so there’s obviously something wrong. The same with health care. I’m not for government health care, I just think there’s something wrong with the system. The AMA is a monopoly and the drug companies are in collusion with the government.

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Ben 101 Jun 02, 2011 at 17:45

Are people questioning the price/worth aspect of things? Or am i lost?

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fireside 141 Jun 02, 2011 at 20:08

Yes, it looks questionable to me. You could check and see if a state school in your area has an associate degree in computer programming. I don’t know if that would do it or not. It would probably get you a programming job of some type. There are also some certification exams you can take from Microsoft and NCSA which would probably help along with a portfolio. C++ is used in games, but not so much in business, so you might want to know some .Net, Java or something also and get certified in one of them. It’s nice to talk about dream jobs, etc, but when push comes to shove you have to get a job of some kind and it should be in a field of your choice.

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Ben 101 Jun 03, 2011 at 11:19

Mm, thanks for the info again.

Seeming ever more apparent to me, that its quite a brutal industry, well quite hard to get into and even stay once your in.

Thanks again