Jump to content

A Story and Some Questions


Recommended Posts

Greetings all. I'm really glad I clicked on some random thread on the NWN2 boards that sent me over here, great reads so far. This is my story, and yes it is long. If you don't want to read it, I will not be offended in the slightest. Thanks to those that do, I'll try to keep it interesting for you. Before I get on with it I should say that I am currently at school for a computer science degree, and am going to pursue a gaming career full force. I will have some questions after my story that pertain to the subject of the forum.

 

 

In 2002 I enrolled at the University of Iowa as a double major in English and Film (Michigan didn't want me? I didn't want them!). I soon dropped the Film major, realizing that English students were slightly less pretentious than film students. Two years later I dropped out, or as I like to think of it, I went on a long term 'break'. There are three reasons for my dropping out:

 

1. I didn't like the direction the English department was taking. While they used to allow some writing classes to apply towards your major, they nixed that completely. As much as I like teachers spouting at me about their interpretation of such and such a classic, I couldn't stand eight or so more classes of it. Some of you may or may not know that the University of Iowa is world renowned for their graduate writing program. I assumed it would trickle down through the undergraduate classes, but not if they don't teach them! Ironically, as a Theater MINOR, I am allowed to take three play writing courses out of the five required. Also, I would argue that the graduate writing workshop is declining from what it once was, while the play writing program is getting a lot of attention in the theater world right now.

 

2. Four semesters of foreign language is required at UofI, and I couldn't make it. The first two semesters were ok because they were inherently easier, and all my other classes were fairly basic as well. But that second year, when the teachers didn't speak any English...I cracked. I failed the first semester and all my other grades suffered.

 

3. As this was going on, I was making good money teaching music lessons. I thought I could make a career of it and closed the books on my university adventure. I am still teaching but I'm not so sure I could do it for the rest of my life.

 

Anyways, on to the good stuff. Whilst being a music teacher/bum, I received a newsletter from Bioware. At the bottom it said something about hiring writers. Writers? I never thought you could join the coveted gaming industry as a writer. Intrigued, I looked on and read what they wanted for their submission. I learned the NWN tool set that very weekend and cranked out a small module. I sent my module through the Internet, and my cover letter/resume through a fax machine (my first time using one). All night I had dreams about how the fax-monkey demons would intercept my pitiful attempt and laugh as they used it to make slingshots for their feces. Even if the little critters were sleeping on the job, I assumed Bioware would look at my resume and throw the rest in the trash. After all, I had no experience, no degree, nothing, not even more than a weekend's worth of work with their tool set. The kicker for me was that they stated "Please do not contact us for any reason, even if it is just to see if we received your materials. If you do attempt to contact us, your computer will explode and we will send far worse than fax-monkey demons to your house" (paraphrased).

 

After a few weeks, I started to forget about the whole thing and attempted to get on with my directionless life. Late one night I received an e-mail from...you guessed it! Bioware! In my excitement I nearly gave my sleeping girlfriend a heart attack, then I sat down and actually read the darn thing. They liked my module, asked if I was interested in doing part two of the application process. Umm....yes! Part two involved receiving feedback from the head writer of Bioware Austin, and then rewriting my module with his feedback in mind. I spend the next weekend doing just that and lost a lot of sleep. When I did doze off I dreamt of far worse things than you know what. Luckily, the next e-mail I received congratulated me on making it past the second round. I was of course, ecstatic. Now came time for the Bioware Writing Test. Yes, a test. I won't give any details on what it entailed, but I will say that I got feedback on my re-write module from the lead writers at all of Bioware's studios. Oh and by the way, if any professors are reading this: Do not go easy on students when critiquing their work. Give em hell. I got railed on by the Bioware leads, and it was probably the best part of the experience. Too many teachers, students, and peers are overly sensitive when it comes to giving feedback. It may hurt, you may make people cry, but it's the only way they'll get better.

 

But yes, that's right folks, I failed the test. No Texas for me. While I was crushed and defeated, it was an honor to get contacted by Bioware at all, let alone make it so far along in the process. It also convinced me of what I really wanted to be in life. The application may have been a spur of the moment thing, but I used to design Zelda-like games on computer paper when I was 5-10, and I DM'd and have written stories/plays from 11-present. It convinced me to re-enroll in school as a computer science major and not look back. I've completed my first year, and have two years left (thankfully I got rid of most of my gen eds before). I was worried about the math at first, but I haven't had any real problems with it so far. All in all, things are looking good...except for that foreign language requirement. To not let it impede my CS studies, I have opted to take it intensively over the summer at the local community college. I'm already struggling, and I need some words of encouragement to keep me going; which leads me to my questions.

 

 

???'s

 

1. I am liking programming, I really am, but my true desire is to design and/or to write. Having a degree in CS can only help right? I figured that as a designer, I'd be able to better implement my own ideas, or to work more closely with a programmer, or to simply do both. Is this realistic? Or do you really have to devote yourself to one field or the other?

 

2. I have read here and elsewhere that having a degree is not enough. You have to show work done in the form of a demo and/or mods. Should I focus on writing/designing, on programming, or both? At this point I'm going to get a CS degree no matter what, but I'm curious as to where I should put all my extracurricular energy. Especially being that I don't have a lot after class/work/girlfriend/etc.

 

3. For those that read the story, I failed the test. Would having the CS degree have helped there, or are the submissions/examples that much more important? Again, trying to feel out how much effort (and/or time after graduation) I should spend on my portfolio of projects.

 

4. So far we've only learned C#, and next up is Java (basically the same as C# right?). The industry standard is C/C++. How easy is it to transition from one to the other? I think there is only one class that uses C/C++ specifically in my curriculum, should I start learning it on my own now?

 

5. I can tell that this isn't really supposed to be a technical help/support forum (although I think the last question is general enough). What site(s) do you recommend for learning/questions/ideas/etc related to both programming and game design in general?

 

6. Any other bits of advice, encouragement, what to expect, what to learn, etc, would be greatly appreciated.

 

Thanks a lot for your time, I hope my story wasn't too long or boring. Go Obsidian, you rock, I have all your games, and kudos on having a forum where you actually post!

 

Jack

 

P.S. Off topic. Although I consider myself a competent writer, some aspects of the English language have always alluded me. Anyone know of a good grammar pocketbook I can use to check myself? Not a novel, just a nitty gritty thing. The smaller the better.

Edited by JackTheRipper
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1. I am liking programming, I really am, but my true desire is to design and/or to write. Having a degree in CS can only help right? I figured that as a designer, I'd be able to better implement my own ideas, or to work more closely with a programmer, or to simply do both. Is this realistic? Or do you really have to devote yourself to one field or the other?

 

2. I have read here and elsewhere that having a degree is not enough. You have to show work done in the form of a demo and/or mods. Should I focus on writing/designing, on programming, or both? At this point I'm going to get a CS degree no matter what, but I'm curious as to where I should put all my extracurricular energy. Especially being that I don't have a lot after class/work/girlfriend/etc.

 

3. For those that read the story, I failed the test. Would having the CS degree have helped there, or are the submissions/examples that much more important? Again, trying to feel out how much effort (and/or time after graduation) I should spend on my portfolio of projects.

 

4. So far we've only learned C#, and next up is Java (basically the same as C# right?). The industry standard is C/C++. How easy is it to transition from one to the other? I think there is only one class that uses C/C++ specifically in my curriculum, should I start learning it on my own now?

 

5. I can tell that this isn't really supposed to be a technical help/support forum (although I think the last question is general enough). What site(s) do you recommend for learning/questions/ideas/etc related to both programming and game design in general?

 

6. Any other bits of advice, encouragement, what to expect, what to learn, etc, would be greatly appreciated.

 

Hey Jack,

 

Great read. I too am aspiring to be a gaming designer and have recently received feedback from people here on how to go about it - next stop, NWN Mods!!! :)

 

As to your questions,

 

1. Programming and writing complement each other. Eventually you will focus on one or the other career-wise, but being able to do both can only help.

 

2. The consensus that I got was that if you want to get into game design (story, programming, whatever) you need to show that you can do it. Having a degree is great backing support - showing that you can learn and understand things, plus have the consitution to stick it out - but the real clincher will be what you've done with mods and the like. Use the feedback you got in your BioWare process to make better and better mods. Get in touch with the online community and design a whole campaign with people if you can - it all counts in your favour.

 

3. Without knowing what the test entailed, I can't answer this. However, I doubt that simply having the degree was the problem. It simply sounds like an experience thing. You said yourself that you had only churned it out in a weekend (great effort by the way) so you were rather limited in what you had been exposed to. Use the experience to get better and then try it again once you have more skills and knowledge.

 

4. I haven't done C# before (I've been limited to Java and C++ thus far), but I've heard that it's still similar to them. If you can do C++, Java should be a cinch for you - it only gets easier to use...no garbage collectors, no header files, no pointer/reference confusion (that really threw me!!)...easy to use on the whole.

 

5. Can't answer this one sorry - just have to search around for reference material. For what you're asipiring to however, I would recommend community places - learn off other people. Play their mods/games, read feedback, and all that jazz!

 

6. Just keep at it mate! You sound like you're on the right track and looking in the right direction. You're definately an inspiration to me who's also trying to get into the industry...I'm just a little more hamstrung by the limitations of living in New Zealand (with a wife too). Good luck!! :)

 

regards

Pantherus

"Definition: 'Love' is making a shot to the knees of a target 120 kilometers away using an Aratech sniper rifle with a tri-light scope.

Statement: This definition, I am told, is subject to interpretation. Obviously, love is a matter of odds. Not many meatbags could make such a shot, and fewer would derive love from it. Yet for me, love is knowing your target, putting them in your targeting reticle, and together, achieving a singular purpose, against statistically long odds." - HK-47

 

"BEEP BEEP BOOP!" - T3-M4

 

"Rawararr!!" - Zaalbar/Hanharr/...pretty much all Wookies...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are plenty of grammar books out there ... just pick one from a publisher you trust.

 

Off the top of my head, I have the Oxford Revised Edition of Fowler's Guide ot English Usage (my copy of Fowler's Guide is either with my mother 12000 miles away, or has been donated to charity / the bin); I just bought another book Teach Yourself English Grammar (I like this series; it is the published text books of the British Open University) to complement my Oxford English Grammar.

OBSCVRVM PER OBSCVRIVS ET IGNOTVM PER IGNOTIVS

ingsoc.gif

OPVS ARTIFICEM PROBAT

Link to comment
Share on other sites

hello all (I'm new here)

 

Great story, too bad you didn't pass the test though . Anyway it's still a great inspiration to me because i really want to go into game writing to.

On the other hand i do not have a relevant degree to prove my skills so i just started out writing a world that would suit me best to work with when it comes to game design .

 

Maybe for you, this would be something interesting to look at and maybe give me some pointers on my writing .

Here is a link to my projects .

 

www.kingdomsofhayr.org .

 

I am also trying to get into the industry this way and of course by creating an NWN2 module based on this world (although the D&D hard coded rules do not help bring out the setting)

I believe the story and setting is well written but i think everyone likes his/her own work.

 

Anyway i hope you make it in the game industry.

It's hard to get in but , but when you do you really deserve it .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pantherus,

 

Thank-you for your reply! It has given me some lift to combat my spanish woes. I read your thread the other day, and it sounds like you've got the same mind set going for you. Don't let the woman get you down! Besides, while you are living in New Zealand and finishing your degree, you can work on mods/demos/examples of work too right? One of the exciting parts for me will be moving to a new place as I start my new career (if/when). Some people don't like to move of course, but I think it's a given in the industry.

 

I spent a couple of hours today messing around with the NWN2 toolset and kicked a few ideas around for some small modules. I think I'm going to focus on the writing/design aspect for now, while I let school guide me with the programming aspect. But if it comes up in any mods I attempt, I'll tackle it then and there. I think more than a lack of focus or direction, I was afraid that any mods or projects I did wouldn't be good enough (for others or myself). But, as a writer, I should know that you have to churn out tons of crap to get better and to get to the good stuff. My posting and investigations are just a part of shedding that fear I think. And as you pointed out, I need the experience. A degree and a few plays won't be enough.

 

 

Metadigital,

 

Yeah, going into a bookstore and picking up books is usually the way to go. Having a place to start or a point of reference in is a big plus though. I'll check and see if I can find what you suggested in the U.S. The less lab-manualish the better I suppose. Thanks for your suggestions.

 

 

Razoorsharp,

 

Thanks for your kind words as well! I took a quick look at your site and campaign and it looks very interesting. I'd have to investigate it some more to give you some proper feedback though. Good luck on it!

 

Jack

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd recommend a spell-checker. :thumbsup:

 

I checked this forum during working hours. and internet is not allowed hehe so had to type fast .

English is not my native language , so when i start beating those key's down like the tazmanian devil on fire i can make mistakes hehe sorry .

(same goes for the writing i did at work)

(if they see i bypassed the proxy servers to go online and reply on forums, i think i am in deep doo doo . )

 

 

@ Jack .

Thanks for taking a look . hope you will check more often, i could really use the opinion of another (more educated) writer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

When you've got a fire in your belly the best thing you can do is not book learning but get out there and give it a whirl! Book learning is essential, but it can make you disillusioned with the grand scheme. You need small doses of practical success to keep the magic alive. In this respect it is very much like serial killing.

 

I don't know what else to say except that I think if we can't help you get to where you're going then we don't damn well deserve to have a forum! Good to have you on board, sir!

"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...