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Howdy, I have a somewhat serious career question. Spoiler: I've had a glass of wine and finals just ended so please excuse any dumb typos. I am a graduate student at a major state university in the US that is fairly well known for graphics research (it is in the top ~50 in the world for graphics research). I am a PhD student here. I absolutely love video games, and I have always loved Obsidian games in particular. Before Obsidian, back in the early 2000s when I was growing up, I would spend hours and hours playing Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale, I've just loved these games.

It is a backup plan of mine in case grad school does not work out to work in the game industry. I am an excellent student, and not to bad of a researcher, but my wife and I are thinking about settling down and starting a family. I have VR development experience working as a computer scientist intern for the Department of Defense and some unique development experience, for example I have a patent in the digital signage industry. 

I am told that in order to get into the video game industry you have to write "mods" for games. I really enjoy GPU architecture and writing CUDA/OpenGL/OpenCL code. I am pretty good at writing shaders, but I really shine when it comes to optimizing code that you want to run on the GPU. I got my start in the industry (years ago, before I went to school) as a video game tester. I am very detail oriented. I am not a huge fan of making mods for games because I just don't have a lot of artistic talent. My brothers make mods they love it, but it isn't for me. This isn't to say I am not creative, my whole family is creative af, but I just can't draw like my siblings.

I was wondering what kinds of jobs somewhat like me should be looking for? Is it reasonable to think I could get a job in the video game industry if grad school does not work out? Is it true that only people who make mods really have any hope of getting a career started in this industry?


Thank you so much for your thoughts 🙂 To prove my skillz (and that I am real), I attached a picture of a recent project. It is called a Sphube. It is not just a cube with round edges. It is a sextic algebraic surface. The ray tracer I wrote uses bounding boxes and a really simple iterative solver (Newton-Raphson method) to find the roots where the ray intersects the surface. There are some interesting optical properties of the sphube. This is not something you will find anywhere else (to my knowledge).


Edited by Bolzano
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The connections I make at school are mostly related to my academic work, not anything else. I do not venture to far from what my advisor is looking for out of me. 

I have succeeded a little bit though, I met a recruiter from a pretty big video game company and was able to connect on LinkedIn. Obsidian recently joined itself with Microsoft, which makes it suddenly an extremely attractive employer. Potentially maybe having opportunity for someone with a unique set of skills! 🙂

It's a shame there are not more developers on the forum (but understandable...), if you know of any good blogs to read I would love to hear about them.

Edited by Bolzano
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Those are the jobs Obsidian is currently offering. https://www.obsidian.net/jobs

Just to know what they are searching for (look at "graphics programmer").

In order to get the attention of devs here on the forums you could mention their names in a post (start with an (at) like @Boeroer). That's a rel. unobstrusive way.

A programming dev who visits the forums frequently (he's helping the modding community a lot) is (at)BMac. Maybe he's willing to answer a few questions. 


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Deadfire Community Patch: Nexus Mods

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If you wish to build a portfolio, maybe work on game engines is a good idea? There's a lot of open source projects trying to replace old game engines with more modern ones. OpenMW is for Morrowind. It could use a shader system, performance optimizations and improved shadows. There are also Daggerfall Unity, GemRB for Baldur's Gate, and probably hundreds of others.

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  • 3 months later...

@BMac hi 👋 , it has been a little while since I posted this, I am a busy grad student and was making a living over the summer working on a side project for the Navy. I was wondering if you had any advice to give or suggestions for directions to go. @Boeroer suggested I reach out to you.

It is hard to find time to do modding because I am a grad student. However, I may have a break in the winter where I can work on a modding side project if there is one I would be a good fit for but it’s hard to know where to start. 

Do you have any suggestions? I know CUDA and GPU architecture, I would really love it if there were a modding task that used that knowledge. 😍


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  • 1 month later...

@Bolzano Hi! I haven't actually logged in to the forums for a while (I blame 2FA), so I missed your notification. Sorry! Your demo looks cool!

You don't necessarily have to make mods specifically to break into the industry - you just need to make something.  I think modding is often recommended, especially for designers, because it lets you demonstrate your work without needing to make an entire game yourself.  For us programmers, though, we can make our own little projects from scratch more easily to demonstrate our skills (like your raytracing demo).

I think if you can make a couple more projects like that, you'd have a shot at finding a junior graphics programmer role somewhere - particularly if you can do something in the engine the company you're applying for uses (Unreal 4, for us). Raytracing is kind of a hot up-and-coming technology in the industry, so familiarity with that is good, but I'd also do some things with more traditional rendering pipelines, since the hardware to run it is still pretty early and a lot of companies (like us) aren't quite on board with it yet.

tl;dr: It doesn't matter what you make, just make something to demonstrate that you know your stuff and, if possible, you know the tools your target company is using.

I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

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