Into the Industry
Want to get into the gaming industry? Have a game plan. We’ll talk about the major areas in gaming for the next several weeks. There are a lot of soft skills which we can talk about later, but now let’s look at some hard skills and a practical plan that would be beneficial to have. This week:
- Learn Maya or 3DS Max. West Coast loves Maya, East Coast 3DS (although not always true.) There are many other programs out there, but if you can work one of these well, you’re portfolio will be well trusted.
- Become a lighter, rigger, or texture artist. There are many great modelers out there. You may be able to sneak into the industry through these other crafts. You may end up liking them better in the end, too.
- Learn one or two things extremely well. Generally, most of the art jobs aren’t looking for a well balanced individual. Say you are a superb modeler, but stink at textures. Many companies won’t fret it. They will hire you for the fact that you are head and neck above the rest of the modelers out there.
- Adobe products, although 2D mostly, are still on many of the required skills portion of the career ads. Learn Flash, Photoshop and Illustrator, with Photoshop probably being the most desired. (3/13/11)
Level and Quest Designers
- Learn your company’s SDK! This is one of the few jobs that heavily require you to be already familiar with their tools. In the others, you can get parallel knowledge and they will respect that knowledge. In fact, in most other ways, games are trying to keep their secrets in-house. Impress your potential bosses with what you can do with their mod kits.
- Learn some scripting. You will be hard pressed to find a job where you just drag and drop.
- Make a mod. This still very much works. The good ones will get hired with out as much hardship as the rest. Although, you still have to apply. People will rarely beat the door down for you. (3/19/11)
- Play the games of the company that you are interviewing. Many stories of people in the business who hire have passed this around about people who don’t do this. You’d think that this would be a no-brainer, but it happens often.
- You’re not the greatest game maker ever, so shut up. At an interview, chances are that that the guy sitting across the table from you is a better game maker than you. So, don’t pretend or make the mistake of thinking you are the best. You’re enthusiasm will carry more weight than your know-it-all attitude. Much more. Also, don’t talk about how you can make the worlds best game for them, something that’s their company has never seen. That will come off as naïve and unimpressive.
- Network. I hate to say it, but the old cliché of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is somewhat true in these very competitive jobs. Go to conferences, IGDA meetings, forums, anywhere where game people meet. Don’t oversell yourself or monopolize the conversation, but just get to know the people. Friends try to help out friends.
- Make a mod … or better yet a game. Remember, quality over quantity. Making 10 games in a month will impress your potential employer until they play them and find out that they are buggy nightmares. If you have something that knocks it out of the park, publishers might not want to market your game, but may want you to work for them.
- Start small. You may not be able to get one of these jobs right away, so get in through testing, customer service or QA and move your way up the ladder.
- Learn the Scrum development process. This isn’t the only way to do it, but it is becoming a familiar way for people to all get on the same page and get to work in an expedient fashion. (3/26/11)
- Learn C++ or Java. If you are going web, Java is what is for you. C++ is for the hardcore console and PC games. There’s really no other way around these if you want to get hired. There are games made with other languages but the breadth of jobs just isn’t there.
- Don’t download the latest tool kit. Sure you can program in their scripting engines, but that’s not what you’ll be hired to do when you do get the job. They’ll let the level designers do that. You will have to make a graphics card work more efficiently, do multithreading, and/or work heavily with networking. These are more practical (and can still be as much fun.)
- Speaking of graphics cards, learning DirectX still is a good tool for your tool belt.
- If you are advanced, start working with consoles. Each one has their own challenges, and most companies like people who no how to walk around in each console.
- Learn a how to database with modern software. SQL is a good basis.
- Learn multiple operating systems. Learning a UNIX variant is always significant.
- Object Oriented skills are almost always must. Make sure you know OOD and OOP.
- The interview process is a little different in this area in many companies. Study the night before like you would for a test, because, guess what, you might have to take one for the interview. (4/2/11)
If we left out a profession your interested in, give us an email and we’ll add it to the list.