Need advice from career Game Developers



  • I have a sixteen-year-old nephew who is coming to stay with me this summer so he can learn more about programming/development. He is very intelligent and pretty passionate about wanting to be a Game Developer. My experience, however, is with Business Software Development. So, I have a few questions:

     1. Is C++ still the preferred language for Game Development? My past limited exposure has given me this impression. Is this still true?

     2. What path would you recommend for Education in the field? Should he get a standard CS degree or go to one of these "specialized" schools I see advertisements for?

     3. How would you recommend I go about helping him over the course of the month or two that he will be living with me? Should I concentrate on Gameplay? AI? Graphics? Or try to encompass all of these?

     All advice is appreciated.



  • Note I am not an actual career game developer.

    1. I would say so for most games but for a younger developer I would go with c# with xna. It would be hard to get anything out in two month with c++
    2. Go for the Standard cs degree, more options.
    3. I would recommended that you do the AI, the nasty part of graphics would be handled by xna, and he should control the gameplay.


  • Depends on what kind of game dev he wants to do, my buddy from school who does game stuff (only guy I can think of actually making a living rather than hobby stuff) does flash games.  It's still game development and you have more control, but of course you also don't have something as impressive to point to.  You may want to talk with him about what kind of game stuff he is interested in before hand as there are big differences in what you use and which skills are important depending where your aims are (indy shop, big shop, self employed, adventure games, big titles, and so on).



  • @jpaull said:

    1. Is C++ still the preferred language for Game Development? My past limited exposure has given me this impression. Is this still true?

    Yes, but I wouldn't use it for teaching game development. Otherwise, you'll spend 50% of your time talking about C++ gotchas and quirks instead of talking about game development issues.

    @jpaull said:

    2. What path would you recommend for Education in the field? Should he get a standard CS degree or go to one of these "specialized" schools I see advertisements for?

    Three possible paths:

    1) Go indie

    2) Get a normal CS degree

    3) If he has any artistic talent, get a degree in that talent then apply for game development positions anyway. I think this would be the most desirable path.

    What not to do:

    1) Take a low-paying temp job as a tester to "break in". A lot of people think that's the way to go. They're wrong.

    Make sure he understands that he's not going to be producing or designing games for a long, long time. (Unless he goes indie.) He'll be doing the gruntwork for at least 5 years, no matter how great his ideas are. Don't discourage him, just make sure his expectations are realistic.

    @jpaull said:

    3. How would you recommend I go about helping him over the course of the month or two that he will be living with me? Should I concentrate on Gameplay? AI? Graphics? Or try to encompass all of these?

    Assuming he's not a crazed anti-Microsoft person, I'd grab a copy of VS C# Express and XNA Game Studio, start from their 2D platformer example (which is pretty much a complete, if simple, game and very well-made) and go from there. I wouldn't focus on 3D at first, but if he's progressing quickly enough you might also want to open up that can of worms. Again: make sure he understands that there's very little work for 2D developers in the industry, but you're building a solid foundation.

    Alternate: if you have experience modding, get him started on that. WOW UI enhancements, Unreal/Gamebryo mods, alternate Civilization rulesets... all of those would be great experience, although not necessarily helpful in creating a game from scratch.

    Credentials: my name is in the Gears of War credits. And Flight Sim X, unless they screwed me-- I never checked back on that one. EDIT: yeah, screwed.

    Another EDIT: the suggestion to use Flash is a good one also, but keep in mind the tools are expensive and they suck. XNA is free and doesn't suck.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @blakeyrat said:

    XNA is free and doesn't suck.
    Well, it kind of sucks in that it doesn't support anything above DX9. I am, however, confident that on the Microsoft platforms at least, C++ is dying because it's an expensive language to code in (tons of gotchas equal more defects equal more money), and AAA game development costs are spiralling out of controlbecause of the inflated art assets required to make everything look dull and gray. However, Microsoft is made of dicks and has gimped all the official .net bindings to DirectX 9. SlimDX is the most promising third party binding - it's nearly 100% command-compatible with the underlying API, exposes everything for you to play with, and handles all the tedious memory management for you. The end result is that it's effectively 100% compatible with all existing DirectX-on-C++ documentation and gives you all the advantages of managed code. It isn't xbox compatible, however, which might be a downside.There are also several AAA studios using it.

    But that's enough about development platform. I am VERY concerned about the long-term viability of the AAA game companies. Like I said - the overwhelming demand from them is MOAR GRAPHICS. There's also an incredible demand that prices not go any higher. This means there there are more and more artists and fewer and fewer programmers on every project. I just checked. Civ 5 has 28 programmers listed in the credits. It had fifty-two artists just on the in-house team - and that's a game with relatively few art assets and an all-new engine. Indie gaming, on the other hand, usually runs either at parity or programmer-heavy. That's also where you want to be if you're an idea-person, because new ideas area  nearly worthless currency in AAA - their costs are so incredibly high that taking a risk on a new concept is potentially financially ruinous.

    There are several resources on the internets that I find to be very nice for game designers and to a lesser extent developers.Some of them are:

    1) The Escapist. Seriously. Yeah, on its surface it looks like yet another lame gamersite, but it actually has a number of  very intriguing resources for people in the creation business. Here are the spots to concentrate on:
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/profiles/articles/Extracredits - From designers to designers. Duh. Topics are all over the map and almost all of them are useful. It's a handy short-form video format out once a week.
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation - Outwardly, it's an angry dude named Yahtzee reviewing games and ranting about how much everything sucks. However, if you actually pay attention, he's telling you WHY it sucks. Knowing why things suck is a key to creating things that don't suck. Once again, short-form video once a week.
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/extra-punctuation - This is Yahtzee's positive outlet. Here he talks about things that don't suck and why they don't. Two-page wall-of-text out weekly.
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/experienced-points - Analysis of various trends in the industry. Two-page wall-of-text out occasionally.
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/extraconsideration - A round table of a bunch of columnists discussing issues. Two-page wall-of-text out weekly.

    2) Writing Excuses. It's a weekly podcast hosted by a fantasy author, a horror author, and a space opera web-cartoonist with frequent guest spots by numerous other authors, editors, etc. They cover how to write fiction and other topics of concern to authors. "What the hell does this have to do with games" you ask?  EVERYTHING. You'll note one of the hosts is a frakking web cartoonist - the stuff they talk about is generally applicable to all forms of storytelling. A lot of the guys above will talk about the need for compelling story, setting and characters, and these guys will tell you how to MAKE compelling story, setting and characters. 15 minute podcasts. The most recent "season" is available on iTunes - however earlier ones are TOTALLY worth the consumption. Burn a day or two and binge through it.

     

     

    My credentials? I'm working on an indie project in my Copious Free Time.



  • @Weng said:

    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation - Outwardly, it's an angry dude named Yahtzee reviewing games and ranting about how much everything sucks. However, if you actually pay attention, he's telling you WHY it sucks. Knowing why things suck is a key to creating things that don't suck. Once again, short-form video once a week.
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/extra-punctuation - This is Yahtzee's positive outlet. Here he talks about things that don't suck and why they don't. Two-page wall-of-text out weekly.

    Yahtzee's an asshole and nobody should encourage him.

    Instead, I'd recommend listening to the Spoiler Warning crew talk about Mass Effect 2, if you want to see smart people criticize a kinda bad game (although they point out the places where it doesn't suck) in smart ways.



  • Gabe Newell says the specalized schools can be pretty good: http://developer.valvesoftware.com/wiki/Gabe_Newell's_FAQ#Sep_2005

     


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @blakeyrat said:

    Yahtzee's an asshole and nobody should encourage him.
    Just because he's an asshole doesn't mean he doesn't have a point. Then again, I'm also an asshole, so I "get along" with him.



  • I think you need to have them ask themselves "what is it I actually want to do?". Games dev is a very wide subject. It's also very fluid and if you start learning something now there's a good chance in five to ten years it'll be useless. C++, for instance. Useful in the short term for making iOS/etc games, but the iron fist of UnrealEngine3 or maybe Unity will likely make using C++/etc. impractical if you want to be able to compete both in development pace and in the quality of the end product. I'm not saying C++ is useless, totally the opposite, but for games dev at least the emphasis is shifting towards higher-level languages, even on portable platforms.

    Excepting the 3DS. That thing is a joke.



  • @jpaull said:

    I have a sixteen-year-old nephew who is coming to stay with me this summer so he can learn more about programming/development. He is very intelligent and pretty passionate about wanting to be a Game Developer. My experience, however, is with Business Software Development. So, I have a few questions:

     1. Is C++ still the preferred language for Game Development? My past limited exposure has given me this impression. Is this still true?

     2. What path would you recommend for Education in the field? Should he get a standard CS degree or go to one of these "specialized" schools I see advertisements for?

     3. How would you recommend I go about helping him over the course of the month or two that he will be living with me? Should I concentrate on Gameplay? AI? Graphics? Or try to encompass all of these?

     All advice is appreciated.

    My recommedation is a titties bar, it will be more productive, it will reduce the ammount of geekness in his life and give him more chance to produce offpring, he will appreciate it in the long run.

    PS: Hey did I miss a meeting or what? Since when are we giving useful advice

    Jokes aside, try to make him understand what this job is about... 99% boredom



  • @blakeyrat said:

    Yahtzee's an asshole and nobody should encourage him.

    Instead, I'd recommend listening to the Spoiler Warning crew talk about Mass Effect 2,

     

    Hey, I like the videos and imma let 'em finish, but I don't understand why you're slamming ZP in favour of random game chit-chat. There's no meat on them bones. There's no bones, either.

    I mean, I watched the first clip of the F:NV walkthrough, and during the opening scene the guy was all,

    "F:NV is better than F3 in many key ways; I can make a list of all the things that sucks about F3, and these are all fixed in F:NV".

    Pretty good, I think. What aspects of the game are these, my friend reviewer? Forsooth, I am interested as I thought F3 was a fine game.

    Instead, I get random game chit-chat. :|

    So yeah, I don't really think they're being all that smart. Certainly not smarter than ZP.

     



  • @dhromed said:

    Instead, I get random game chit-chat. :|

    So yeah, I don't really think they're being all that smart. Certainly not smarter than ZP.

    It's not the same format; they talk through the entire playtime of the game. He's not being "dumb", he's just saving that material for when they actually confront it in the game, or perhaps to fill in boring bit. The random chit-chat is what makes it entertaining, although it helps once you get to know them a bit.

    In any case, I can make no claims about their Fallout: New Vegas season, since it's just started. I listened to the entire season of Mass Effect 2, and it was very very good.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    Another EDIT: the suggestion to use Flash is a good one also, but keep in mind the tools are expensive and they suck. XNA is free and doesn't suck.

    Not true at all.

    [url="http://www.flashdevelop.org/wikidocs/index.php?title=Main_Page"]FlashDevelop[/url] is excellent for AS3 dev, and is totally free.



    It's common to think that Flash = made with Flash IDE, but it's just not true anymore. You might not get the wysiwyg editor, but that capability just makes it harder to develop in AS3 like you would another language.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @blakeyrat said:

    It's not the same format; they talk through the entire playtime of the game. He's not being "dumb", he's just saving that material for when they actually confront it in the game, or perhaps to fill in boring bit. The random chit-chat is what makes it entertaining, although it helps once you get to know them a bit.
    It's actually pretty cool. Exceptionally time-consuming (it's probably not bad if you do it at release-speed, but trying to burn the backlog is nigh-impossible), though. They get a chance to touch on every single element of the game, which is really neat. I'll be watching this with great interest.



  • @Weng said:

    They get a chance to touch on every single element of the game, which is really neat.
     

    This HD resolution reviewing is what I find interesting as well. Fuck cherrypicking. Do everything.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    He's not being "dumb"
     

    Oi. Don't be false-quoting me. You said "smart", which means above-average attentive observations, of which I'm not yet convinced.

    @blakeyrat said:

    he's just saving that material for when they actually confront it in the game, or perhaps to fill in boring bit.

    Yeah ok granted.

     



  • @delta534 said:

    Note I am not an actual career game developer. 1. I would say so for most games but for a younger developer I would go with c# with xna. It would be hard to get anything out in two month with c++ 2. Go for the Standard cs degree, more options. 3. I would recommended that you do the AI, the nasty part of graphics would be handled by xna, and he should control the gameplay.

    I've done game development and I know people currently in the industry (Harmonix, turbine, etc).  C# XNA is a great suggestion.  While c++ tends to be the language of choice for a lot of game developers, C# will be easier to learn in regards to gaming.  The XNA framework will provide him an introduction to the basic concepts in game development. It will also allow his games to work on both PC and XBOX 360.   


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