Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

My game university course experience

Ok, so today I went along to Kingston university to be their guest at a games production course. It was pretty interesting, and fantastic that they thought to invite not one, but two indie devs (I was the second one) to go talk to students. I LOVE the idea that students on games courses aren’t automatically told ‘now go get a junior tester job at EA’ at the end. It seems that being an indie developer is considered a pretty reasonable career move now, which is awesome.

The students games were a mixed bag. Some had some really cool ideas. One of them had a really marketable, really clever, really original (I thought anyway…) character as the hero. Some of teams had obviously thought quite hard about business strategy for their game. Some had not…

What I tried to get across to them, and in retrospect I was *really* easy on them, with this point, is that the competition for game development jobs, sales, and success is HUGE.  Assuming that people doing this course see themselves, eventually as being a lead programmer/artist/designer on some big budget cool game in a few years time, they massively need to up their game by a scary amount.

If you are doing a game design or production course right now, you need to not only be top of your class, you need to be sailing past that goalpost so it’s a distant memory. You need to be clearly, unambigously, demonstrably the very very best at what you are doing. Think of it like this:

  • You have no experience.
  • You have no reputation.
  • You have no contacts in the industry.

So you need to absolutely flipping blow people away with your skills and your portfolio. If you are a coder, that means having straight A’s in everything, and knock-out demos that prove you have serious mastery of your language(s). If you are an artist you need a BIG portfolio showing stuff that makes people go *wow*.  If you are a designer, you need a large number of diverse, fully designed, fully described, game designs in different styles. You need to be able to critique a game design idea read out to you, on the spot. Can you do this?

If you don’t have that, the job will go to one of the 99 other applicants who have all of those. If you think I’m kidding, I’m not. I’m a humble one-man studio and I regularly get sent CV’s from people wanting a job. I suspect Bioware and Valve get quite a few more :D

And that is to get a job at an existing studio. Running your own studio has a whole set of extra challenges and demands. This is an awesome job, and a great industry. It is, not surprisingly very difficult to get to do this.

3 thoughts on My game university course experience

  1. There was a time I wanted to be a game dev. Then the horror stories of how programmers were treated at some big name companies started me thinking. Some companies release most of their dev team for a game at some point after the game is released. Some game development is terminated suddenly with very little or no notice to the devs. Some companies expect long hours from their teams. All in all, it seemed like the potential to get screwed was very high, and as I have a family to support, I turned away from it all.

    With the Indie scene, I feel like there’s a chance I could do something like this again. Yes, the opportunities to fail are still there, but it’s not going to be because some corporate suit decided my project was expendable. It’s the game itself that matters, and I have control over that as an Indie developer.

    Here’s the rub for me, I’m kind of a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none when it comes to coding. I can learn and do just about anything with code. I certainly don’t consider myself the best. I’ve worked with far too many people who are more awesome than me to keep fooling myself. This made your article poignant to me. I wonder if I really could make it as an Indie dev. Hmmm…

  2. Wow Lance,
    nearly the same on what I thought.

    Additionally I thought about taking a year off to try my idea out but I fear that I won’t get it and it would be difficult to get back into work again…

    Also I thought about this:
    What if you outsource some parts and pay them from your money now.
    See where that stuff is taking you.
    Like Cliff with his graphics.

    I would need a big portal with DEVs, Sound Effect/Musicians, Coders, Testers Graphical Geniusses so that I could see where it leads me.
    Cliff – could you run us down some nice links for this maybe?

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