Game Design School and the Path to Game-Making

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akizakura
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Game Design School and the Path to Game-Making

#1 Post by akizakura » Fri Feb 01, 2013 9:54 pm

I could really use some insight right now, plus I figured it would be interesting to see other folks' experiences and thoughts.

I'm taking a Game Design major at a local university right now. I have a BA and so I was able to start in as a sophomore, but I'm a bit disappointed in the experience. I'm wondering if I had the wrong expectations. I'm not in the program for the degree as much as the skill acquisition and the opportunity to network/socialize with others with a shared interest. But it hasn't gone the way I expected. It is a new major, which I suspect is part of the problem. Most of the classes don't have textbooks, but also don't have a lot of flat out instruction either. There are no programming courses, only Unity and Stencyl interface "tutorials". It doesn't feel like there's a lot of rhyme or reason to it all, but maybe I'm just too used to the straight-up academic style? I just feel frustrated because I feel like to succeed, you have to go look everything up online and teach yourself and then - well, why pay all this money? The writing/story planning aspect of game design (which is my favorite part, since RPGs and VNs are my favorite type of games) is actively discouraged, but I suppose that's a time issue more than anything else. The university itself is reputable (classes I've taken in other departments that have been around longer are great), I just feel like maybe because it's so new, these are growing pains. On the social/networking end, we have a gaming club that does activities for fun and for skill-building, but it's a bit disorganized and limited in what we're allowed to do (nothing that looks anything like a class, for example).

So I'm asking for your advice, LSF folks. Have you ever taken a Game Design course? What was it like? Does what I'm describing sound normal? What other ways do you think I could go about this?

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Re: Game Design School and the Path to Game-Making

#2 Post by SundownKid » Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:38 pm

I've taken a game design class at my own university before I graduated, but it wasn't very good seeing as it was the first game design class they ever taught. Most everyone's games were pretty bad.

I would personally suggest getting one of the more "normal" majors, as I thought I wanted to be a game designer at first but decided I liked writing the games more. A game design major is only useful if you really want to get into the industry. The fact that you like RPGs and VNs shows that you might be more writing focused like I was and less on the game programming side.

Of course, I might be wrong, but there are only a few schools where it's really worth it to get a game design major so it's a really risky move. If the program is new then no one in the industry might, uh, care. The people teaching it there have to really "Get it" and not just tell you to do it yourself (because then you might as well just do it as a hobby)

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Re: Game Design School and the Path to Game-Making

#3 Post by Blue Lemma » Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:56 pm

SundownKid wrote:A game design major is only useful if you really want to get into the industry. The fact that you like RPGs and VNs shows that you might be more writing focused like I was and less on the game programming side.
.........
Of course, I might be wrong, but there are only a few schools where it's really worth it to get a game design major so it's a really risky move.
From everything I've read, this sounds about right. A game design degree would be very specialized and in an extremely competitive field. You'll probably have a tough road ahead. :?

I'd be worried about this sort of thing happening: http://kotaku.com/5610985/how-a-bad-deg ... -game-love

So make sure you have a good solid plan and know what such a degree will actually be worth. (plus what kind of skills you will develop!) From what you described, I'd be concerned.
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Re: Game Design School and the Path to Game-Making

#4 Post by Sharm » Fri Feb 01, 2013 11:05 pm

This was my college experience (in a different field) and most of the stuff I learned was out of date by the time I graduated, and the only information I did end up using was one class where I could have gotten the same effect from buying the book and doing the tutorials. If I had to do it all again I'd get a degree based on the skills I wanted to learn, not one that was named after the job I was pursuing. Remember, college is for you, if you're not getting what you want out of this degree, don't pursue it! That is way too much money to spend on something you're dissatisfied with.
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Re: Game Design School and the Path to Game-Making

#5 Post by LVUER » Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:30 am

I think there is no really game design school or major. All necessary knowledges needed to make/design a game can be find in other majors. Want to program a game? Join a programming major. Want to design 3D objects (character/BG/etc)? Join a 3D design/art major. Want to hand-draw/illustrate BG or become a concept artist? Join an art major. And so on. I've once come to a video game major presentation and found out that what they teach are more or less the same as I got in my college (and my college is a normal IT one).
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Re: Game Design School and the Path to Game-Making

#6 Post by Auro-Cyanide » Sat Feb 02, 2013 2:23 am

Well, there are good game development schools, they are just far and few in between at the moment. You have places like DigiPen for instance.

I think a lot of schools jump on the bandwagon and even in the cases where they are serious about creating course, it's all very new to them and it will take a while for them to figure out what they need to teach and to pick up the staff that can teach it well.

Extra Credits has done an episode on game schools http://www.penny-arcade.com/patv/episod ... me-schools

If game design is anything like graphic design, then they don't really care about what degrees you have. They only care about two things, your portfolio and your experience. Your portfolio is going to say everything that it needs to say about you. The better your portfolio, the better chance you have of landing a position. But even the best portfolio in the world isn't going to help you if they doubt your ability to apply that knowledge and that is where experience comes in. Getting about 3 years experience in the field is usually enough to convince people you can hack it. The good thing about game development is that there is literally no entrance boundary. You can just start making games. It's best to do that right away, just make games, as many and as varied as you can. Collaborate with different people, get stuff out there. This is likely to act as good proof that you can take knowledge and apply it, that you can be pro-active and that you are self motivated.

I must say that if you want to do well in any field, be prepared to do a lot of stuff outside of class. It just puts you a ahead. I was in the Master class for graphic design and it was just a done thing to see the brief as a bare minimum that your should do. We all aimed to do more than that and in return we generally had stronger portfolios.

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Re: Game Design School and the Path to Game-Making

#7 Post by akizakura » Sat Feb 02, 2013 2:45 am

Hey everyone, thank you so much for the feedback!

It seems like the running theme in advice is to pursue courses based on skills rather than running through a prescribed GMD program, which probably won't mean much to industry folks anyway. The art and animation classes at our school are more well-established, so I may dive into one of those classes to see what I can get into there. And begin pushing on my own to improve my portfolio as well. Also, in terms of making the more niche type of video games like RPGs and VNs, what do you guys do to network outside of these forums, if anything?

Thank you guys again and keep the awesome advice and stories coming!

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Re: Game Design School and the Path to Game-Making

#8 Post by SundownKid » Sat Feb 02, 2013 5:27 am

I would recommend going to as many meet ups and conventions as possible, and network with the people there. That's the only place you would find like-minded people in real life. But, don't expect anyone to help you with your game without a budget. Anyway, the reason that I made a VN and not an RPG is because it's something I can handle and it's within my budget. (But then I found a programmer, so hopefully my next game will be a VN/RPG hybrid).

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Re: Game Design School and the Path to Game-Making

#9 Post by akizakura » Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:53 am

Thanks SundownKid. At this point, I'm looking to meet like-minded people more than build a team, so I appreciate your suggestions.

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Re: Game Design School and the Path to Game-Making

#10 Post by dramspringfeald » Sat Feb 02, 2013 10:25 am

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Re: Game Design School and the Path to Game-Making

#11 Post by akizakura » Sun Feb 03, 2013 6:23 pm

dramspringfeald wrote:Hope these help.

Extra Credits On Game Schools
Extra Credits So You Want To Be a Game Designer
So You Want to Work in the Video Game Industry
Thank you for the videos - all three are very insightful! I had never seen the last one before, but it falls in line with what I've heard - some hard truths indeed. Also, that guy is totally correct - our market truly is saturated with games where we shoot zombie nazi Pokemons and jump on platforms. :)

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Re: Game Design School and the Path to Game-Making

#12 Post by Kitten the Cat » Tue Mar 05, 2013 12:04 am

I took a Game Design subject, not a full course. We had a textbook - Game Design Workshop by Tracy Fullerton. The subject was also done by correspondence so I didn't really have any classes or meet up with any of my classmates. But I think it was pretty useful because it taught me how to look at games from the perspective of a game designer. One of our major assignments was the Game Design Document for a prototype we had done early in the course. It gave me enough practice for games that I'm making now. I also still refer to the textbook every now and then.

I submitted The Onigami House as my assignment and actually got a Distinction for the subject! I was scared that the instructor wouldn't consider otome visual novels as a game, but I was proven wrong :D

I don't really recommend going to a pure Game Development school, but I do know someone who went to Full Sail and he's now making games full-time. As Auro-Cyanide said, I believe that it's your portfolio that matters. You make (and release) one game, then you're a game developer :)
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Re: Game Design School and the Path to Game-Making

#13 Post by Vialixia » Sat Mar 09, 2013 5:16 pm

I'll be 100% honest with you. In the game industry, you shouldn't expect anyone to teach you anything. You need to be a highly motivated individual and you need to be autonomous in your working style. It can be extremely difficult for people to go from school and beyond to a Game Design degree because unlike school, which is pretty much spoon-fed, Game Design/Animation courses are very hands-off.

Your course sounds like every game related degree ever, and it's really how it should be. What you should be doing is going online, acquiring relevant industry standard softwares from your University, and you should be testing, exploring, problem-solving, creating, designing. University should never be there to hand-hold, but instead to offer you support in your own learning and self-developing. In the game industry environment, softwares and processes change every project and you need to able to figure them out on your own.

The reason why writing/story development is probably actively discouraged is because you'll be seen as an 'ideas guy/girl' with no actual active talent. Not that writing is talentless; far from it! But, you need to have some technical skill to work in the game industry, otherwise they will just hire someone that has that, as well as the relevant writing experience. I'm mostly talking about AAA here, because indie and smaller development companies may be different; but from what I know, indie companies will want even more from you than just writing ability.

So, your course is run the correct way because it's simulating how the game industry environment will work. I have to echo what others have said here though, my degree is in Computer Animation rather than Game Design, because it teaches you a specific skillset that will enable to you work in the industry anyway. Game Design courses can end up producing a bunch of generalists which makes it 10x more difficult to get a specific job role. But, it's not a bad choice as long as you learn to specialise in either art, programming, design or production. (And, we have many people from Game Design degrees working at Ubisoft.)

I hope I don't seem too harsh in my comments here! If you have any questions about the game industry I'd be more than happy to try and answer them.

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Re: Game Design School and the Path to Game-Making

#14 Post by CaseyLoufek » Sat Mar 09, 2013 6:30 pm

The reason why writing/story development is probably actively discouraged is because you'll be seen as an 'ideas guy/girl' with no actual active talent.
From what I've heard this more applies to design than writing. Design staff tend to have come from working a technical field like art or code and being good at design. Unless the project is large and you are a famous game designer you probably won't have that as your exclusive job.

Writing is a technical skill but it's less in demand than art and code. You only need a few writers even for large projects so the role is more competitive. VNs are a bit different so it's probably a good place to build up some reputation.
but from what I know, indie companies will want even more from you than just writing ability.
Since indie teams are small and vulnerable to loosing most of their staff in an area if one person drops I'd say yes, being able to do more than one thing is even more important in indie design. In major company you'd do art, or writing, or sound, or coding and if you are lucky some design work too. In an indie team the more you can do the better.

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Re: Game Design School and the Path to Game-Making

#15 Post by Vialixia » Sat Mar 09, 2013 6:43 pm

CaseyLoufek wrote:
The reason why writing/story development is probably actively discouraged is because you'll be seen as an 'ideas guy/girl' with no actual active talent.
From what I've heard this more applies to design than writing. Design staff tend to have come from working a technical field like art or code and being good at design. Unless the project is large and you are a famous game designer you probably won't have that as your exclusive job.
It depends. We have many people at work whom have the title 'Game Designer.' From what I understand though people don't ever know what it actually means (you need to have knowledge of scripting, too.) So, I guess the same misconception could apply here.

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