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Branimir

I want to be a Video Game Designer

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Video Games are a huge part of my life, I'm one of those people that tries to see every last detail in every game I play, and I'm constantly thinking of ways they could be improved and coming up with new ideas for games. I originally went to college for Electronics Engineering but dropped out to work full time (been working mostly in labor, rarely I get some programming work). I'm planning on going back to school this year and I really think video game design is what I want to do. But I've only just thought of it as a practical career choice, and have just started looking into it. Since Obsidian is one of my favorite developers I thought I'd post here for advice about what schools I should look at and what major I should take. The areas of video game development that particularly interest me; aside from design in general; in no particular order are Programming, Writing, and Testing. I'm 24 and I've lived in Southern California my whole life, currently in the San Diego area but I move around So. Cal. a lot for jobs. So I'd prefer a school in Southern California or California in general. If not that, online. I will need to look into financial aid options to attend college and I'll have more options and discounts in my home state. I was also in the top 4% of my class at SciTech.

Edited by Branimir
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It really depends on what exactly you want to do.

 

If you're looking to go into the more technical side of design (as opposed to story / writing), a background in programming is extremely helpful. While you might not program on the job (you may script? depends on the company), knowing how a program works and understanding "programmer talk" will put you two steps ahead of those that do not. If you're not looking to go into programming but just want the background, a lot of Cal State schools offer decent degrees in computer science. The plus side of Cal State vs private or UC is that it's 1/4 the price of UC and 1/10 the price of private. 

 

Then again, I'm biased since I'm a programmer. Other than my biased programmer opinion:

  • Have things to show. Make mods for games. Make levels/areas/quests for games that supply an editor. Something they can play or watch a video of. This means it should be [mostly] complete and playable. For example, New Vegas shipped with the same editor we used to make the game.
     
  • Internships! Start working on your degree. Start making mods/levels. When you get to a point where you feel good about it, try for an internship. Getting your foot in the door is 3/4 of the battle. Employers want people with experience, but interns are [relatively] cheap to bring on and take trivial work off the plate of the more experienced designers. 

Maybe someone in design will reply with more useful advice. I'm not a designer :) 

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https://twitter.com/IridiumGameDev

Ex-Obsidian Senior Programmer

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It really depends on what exactly you want to do.

 

If you're looking to go into the more technical side of design (as opposed to story / writing), a background in programming is extremely helpful. While you might not program on the job (you may script? depends on the company), knowing how a program works and understanding "programmer talk" will put you two steps ahead of those that do not. If you're not looking to go into programming but just want the background, a lot of Cal State schools offer decent degrees in computer science. The plus side of Cal State vs private or UC is that it's 1/4 the price of UC and 1/10 the price of private. 

 

Then again, I'm biased since I'm a programmer. Other than my biased programmer opinion:

  • Have things to show. Make mods for games. Make levels/areas/quests for games that supply an editor. Something they can play or watch a video of. This means it should be [mostly] complete and playable. For example, New Vegas shipped with the same editor we used to make the game.

     

  • Internships! Start working on your degree. Start making mods/levels. When you get to a point where you feel good about it, try for an internship. Getting your foot in the door is 3/4 of the battle. Employers want people with experience, but interns are [relatively] cheap to bring on and take trivial work off the plate of the more experienced designers. 

Maybe someone in design will reply with more useful advice. I'm not a designer :)

I agree with the fact that it is necessary to learn programmer speak, my background is on character modelling and I absolutely resented learning programming. Yet I now see how it is useful both in communicating ideas and in translating mechanics and designs into logical programming and further breaking it down into each function.

 

I would also recommend a bit of specialization, it is true that a lot of companies (specially lower end ones) require you to wear multiple hats but you should excel at some aspect of game development.


I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

village_idiot.gif

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Hey Branimir, this sounds like something I could've written... :)

I'm working on something, currently only a hobbyist project (and I expect it to stay that way 2-3 months before I take/finalize the necessary action to create a company and eventually attempt to sell the product on a digital market). I'm looking for like-minded folk.

 

I've got to leave for work but I'm curious:

 

What time zone do you live in?

 

(I'll be back in 10-ish hours)

Edited by Osvir
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Ah, oh, well, hm... right, I should've seen that in the first post (which I read, but I know why haha).

I just clicked this thread to correct myself (too early to post 5 AM before work... on a monday!! xD)

I'll have a broad strike implementation in 2-3 months, not final steps of a business. Well, not until I've read up and researched more on the matter. In a dream scenario (which I probably was in, a sort of dream state 5 AM this morning) I'd have a business in 2-3 months :)

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@Everyone thank you for your replies and advice, I appreciate it. I was just wondering though: I read online that the average pay for a Game Designer is $55,400 which sounds decent, but I also heard that they can start as low as $38k/year. I was just curious if anyone has personal knowledge regarding the anual income of game designers.

 

@Osvir I actually ran a small business out of my home for 3 years, building and selling custom computers, gift cards, calendars, and some basic software that wasn't very good because I don't know much about computer programming. But I did write a few mods for Diablo 2, Baldur's Gate, and some other games when I was a kid, because I knew some guys who knew programming and I pick up that stuff very quickly when I have someone to line it up for me (or I have some code to read and figure it out).

 

Most of my programming knowledge is in Web Design (to which I am certified in), and spreadsheet programming; because I had a job programming spreadsheets to interpret medical data a couple years ago and learned it on the job; and hardware programming which I learned while getting my certification in Digital Electronics. So if you are looking for someone for your game development company, there's more than a few ways I might be an asset to you even without any game design background. And I do learn very quickly, so anything you can explain thoroughly to me once I'll be able to do from then on. It would be good experience for me, for life and for my present impasse.

 

Just to be clear I'm just asking to talk with you about this topic to see if it leads to future cooperative endeavors, which can take place online and annonymously at your preference. I am not asking for any monetary compensation. I'm perfectly willing to answer some questions and give some advice for free as well. Sorry if this over clarity seems a bit strange, I've actually been banned for offering free help in game forums before because a moderator assumed I was going to charge the guy, even though I never said that, and never asked for any private information, and explained to the moderator that I was not intending to charge anything, but I still didn't get my account back so I'm extra cautious now.

 

We can talk about it in PM since it's off topic. I included this post here because I am equally interested in anyone else who would be willing to get me on board with a development project. Under the right circumstances I'd even be willing to work part time for free in exchange for the first hand look into the details of development that developers don't share in project updates (such as actual coding), and would be willing to sign a contract as an independant contractor denoting all the work I do for said developer is their property right and that I accept a payment of $0. I've never used this section of the forum before but... I think... this is what this section of the forum is about, game development stuff.

 

Not that I expect to get any offers, since I've tried that before and have always been turned down due to not having any experience or education in game development. But you can't win if you don't try to play. That said I think I'm going to try to implement the advice I got from @J.Burke and make my own campaign. Just have to find a game I can do that on (like, NWN2) and teach myself how. After I buy a new computer.

Edited by Branimir

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@Everyone thank you for your replies and advice, I appreciate it. I was just wondering though: I read online that the average pay for a Game Designer is $55,400 which sounds decent, but I also heard that they can start as low as $38k/year. I was just curious if anyone has personal knowledge regarding the anual income of game designers.

 

 

Well from my experience as a JR. Developer I started out at 40,000 at a small company in Charleston, SC after my internship. I was doing CI, QAE/Bugs at that time on a home grown product. I moved on to a bigger government contract doing Performance Testing and Optimization on a big application used by veterans. I've been with the company going on four years now and I am north of 60,000(not giving exact details for obvious reasons). I'm in a unique hybrid role where I do QAE and Development...so I write load,soak,performance tests etc but also do code or query changes, service call changes etc.

 

I have an Associates in Computer Programming from a well respected Tech School here in SC and am currently still going for my BA in CS:Programming(just taking it slow as I have full family(wife/kids))

 

I think it all depends on education, timing, experience, etc. I have some previous things that help my current situation such as a Top Secret security clearance from when I was in the military. This allowed me to easily get the clearances I'd need for my current team and I have access too and am trusted with production data and connections.

 

I started off as an intern making 10 bucks and hour and just busted my butt and had strong work ethic. Just show everyone through your actions and words how passionate you are and genuinely work hard.

If you are having trouble getting a job I'd say take what you can get from anywhere to get some experience...anything is better than nothing...and you'll make contacts and such. I've met and worked with so many people and helped this or that person that I'd have a job somewhere easily if I left my current location.

So get in there make  your friends and contacts and just do it...it really is like that...just have to do it.

 

 

FWIW if I had a BA I could have asked for more than 40,000 in my specific case, either that or more experience. Also we have people working here with literally no degree or higher education...You'll find that in this industry it's better to actually be able to do stuff than to point at pieces of paper...so being able to show off your experience or what you can do is more important overall than the piece of paper...on the other-hand that piece of paper usually allows you to be in the position to show what you know so it sucks sometimes...for me I just went the intern route.

 

So I'm not in game design or development but the job is obviously similar.

 

GL to you in our efforts.

Edited by GreyFox

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