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Old 15-02-2010, 09:30 PM   #1
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CS or Game specific

I'm looking for advice as to weather I'm better off getting a CS degree or going for something more specific (Devry's Game and Simulation Programming, for example) and any recommendations on where to go.

I want to go somewhere that will actually challenge me (unlike high school, although I'm not done with it yet...). I expect to have to relearn C++ (even though I already know that and C#). More than anything, I'd like to get into either physics or graphics engines (I'm very good at math, will have had college credit calculus by the end of hs) so somewhere that I can learn the math needed for those types of things would be good.

From what I've heard, I'm better of going with a CS since its not specific to the game industry. Any other pros or cons I should be aware of? Any other suggestions?


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Old 15-02-2010, 09:58 PM   #2
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If you're interested in getting into the tech side of things, I'd say CS over a game course for sure; most game courses seem to be quite heavy on 'game design' stuff rather than core engine tech - you'd probably be better off studying the low level stuff and using your personal time to apply your skills to game related stuff (with the aid of some good books, of which I'm sure you can get plenty of recommendations).
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Old 15-02-2010, 10:24 PM   #3
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Just bear in mind that game programming is just a specific application of software engineering. The only thing that separates it from other areas of software engineering is the domain knowledge, and you will need all the CS fundamentals that you would need in any non-games job.

So you need to evaluate the degree you would be getting from two different angles:
1) Will this degree make me a good engineer in general?
2) What advanatages will it give me in the games industry over a traditional degree?

I can't answer the first one for you, but the second one comes down to exposure, contacts, and portfolio. We look at a lot of people coming from DigiPen. Some of them are excellent and some aren't, but they all have something to show which is important.

I went the traditional degree route, but games-focused degrees didn't really exist back then. On balance, however, I'm glad I went that way because I've never had any problems leaving and re-entering the industry, and traditional universities usually offer more variety.
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Old 16-02-2010, 12:09 AM   #4
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CS, get the fundementals sorted then worry about the specific like games. Just think of the loooooong term implications of your choice, long as in after 10 years in games you might want to settle down with a partner and rugrats and go into another industry, one possibly that is more stable and less crunch orientated. Think of what course will help you for the rest of your life, not just the next few years, hths

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Old 16-02-2010, 02:44 AM   #5
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Quote:
I expect to have to relearn C++ (even though I already know that and C#). More than anything, I'd like to get into either physics or graphics engines (I'm very good at math, will have had college credit calculus by the end of hs)
So....

Quote:
I want to go somewhere that will actually challenge me
Then why on earth are thinking about a CS course? You will be bored out of your skull for the most of the first year, half the second year and probably some bits of the last year. (Assuming a 3 year course, of course).

If you want to be challenged then you should consider taking either maths or one of the hard sciences as your main subject and pick up the more interesting modules from the CS if possible - or just crash the lecture theatre and attend them even if you're not getting credit for them.

I personally think that comp-sci + either chemistry or biology provide a better education than a pure comp-sci course as the problems you have to solve in chemistry + biology get you to think more clearly about analysing problems than the hypthetical problems used in comp-sci, but that is a personal opinion rather than fact.


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Any other pros or cons I should be aware of?
To be fair I don't have any first hand experience with games specific courses - but I fail to see how they can actually be intellectually challenging enough to qualify as worth doing at degree level.

Practically everything to do with games programming can be learnt either from tutorials on the internet, sitting down and figuring stuff out for yourself or coming onto websites like this one and asking questions.

Although you're comparing whether to do one of a few courses, really you should be comparing it to having 3 more years experience, seniority and pay rises in a chosen field. A lot of degrees are worth less than 3 years experience - except of course when you're trying to apply for a work visa for another country.
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Old 16-02-2010, 02:54 AM   #6
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Quote:
You will be bored out of your skull for the most of the first year, half the second year and probably some bits of the last year.
For example here is
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modules for Comp-sci years 1 and 2.

I've bolded the one's that would (imho) stilll be interesting to someone who knows how to program and has access to the internet to find out easy information e.g. how does MySQL work.

Quote:
Computer Systems Architecture
Mathematics for Computer Scientists
Skills for Communicating Information
Algorithmic Problem Solving
Programming
Functional Programming
Database Systems
Introduction to Software Engineering
Unix and Software Tools

Algorithms and Data Structures
Mathematics for Computer Scientists 2
Large Scale Systems Design
Machines and their Languages
Software Engineering Group Project
Compilers
Computer Communications and Networks
Concepts of Concurrency
Object-oriented Methods
For that course you can also choose a couple of optional modules but the bulk of it is just tedious and isn't worth spending two years of your life.
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Old 16-02-2010, 03:42 AM   #7
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I would personally recommend a CS degree. Even if you are bored, that will just give you time to work on other things. And, personally, pretty much all of the coursework I did has come in handy at some point during my career...so I don't consider it a waste of time at all.
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Old 16-02-2010, 08:50 AM   #8
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Definitely CS!
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Old 16-02-2010, 09:23 AM   #9
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Do a good degree. The choice of university is very important. My suggestion would be to do a good CS degree but take the time to make game demos in your spare time. If you do not do this you will probably be passed over for students from the better games degrees as these do a pretty good job of teaching some of the harder CS stuff as well. Also, do not shy away from the maths classes. I am a firm believer that on average, a better grasp of maths leads to better programmers. Yes, we all know people who are exceptions to this rule, but they are few and far between.
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Old 16-02-2010, 12:32 PM   #10
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I'll stir things up a bit. I've had a limited run on uni as well as completed a games school program before i went into the industry. The largest problem with picking a game school when I went was figuring out which ones were total trash and which ones actually were good, so if you go down the game school route be sure to do your research.

The main benefits vs uni that I saw was:

The everyday environment, everybody is there because they want to get into the games industry, this is IMO more important than anything else and is often overlooked. People lecturing passionately about their latest little project and how they did it, what didn't work out quite so well etc. We had our own work stations and class room where everybody was all the time. At uni people went to lectures, then they went home and did their assignments / got wasted.

The pacing, at least on the one I went to, was very high compared to uni. Yes people dropped like flies in the beginning but this imo is a good thing for everybody involved.

In the end I think a good games course at a game school is just a way more efficient use of your time to maximize your growth. Today universities doesn't really offer much imo since all of it is available on the net, even the lectures now days. Yes you won't get that fine little paper, but I get the feeling that due to the degree inflation they're not really worth that much anymore unless you're getting a visa, in the end the only thing that matters is how much do you really know, and do you have work samples to prove it.
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Old 16-02-2010, 09:41 PM   #11
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Thanks for all the replies. Seems the majority definitely agrees on CS.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Recurse
If you want to be challenged then you should consider taking either maths or one of the hard sciences as your main subject and pick up the more interesting modules from the CS if possible
It's interesting you said that, because I was actually thinking of doing something in math, as I find it interesting and enjoy doing it in general (yes, I'm screwed up in the head, I know.)

Problem is I honestly don't think I would learn much USEFUL stuff in math besides problem solving skills. I mean I've never seen multivariable calculus in programming. And from what I know (and the little bit I've done), most physics in games are simplified a lot from real world equations.

Chem or physics would be a possibility though.

BTW, I can't see your link as I don't have 10 posts yet
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sairon
The everyday environment, everybody is there because they want to get into the games industry, this is IMO more important than anything else and is often overlooked. People lecturing passionately about their latest little project and how they did it, what didn't work out quite so well etc. We had our own work stations and class room where everybody was all the time. At uni people went to lectures, then they went home and did their assignments / got wasted.

The pacing, at least on the one I went to, was very high compared to uni. Yes people dropped like flies in the beginning but this imo is a good thing for everybody involved.

Being that your the only one so far going with game school, you make some very valid points.

On the other hand, though, I would think there is at least *SOME* other school out there where students are more worried about learning than getting drunk (I hope so anyway... I could be wrong though.) But even those schools won't have an environment pertaining directly to creating games (and the environment, IMO, is a huge factor.)

And I'm absolutely certain that I'm not going to a school that doesn't have some sort of accelerated study. I enjoy learning NEW things, not the same thing I learned a month ago. (well, hs is like that currently, but college should be better, I think)



Also, out of curiosity, how much of the artistic side will I have to know? Obviously, rendering verticies/polygons and how to do animations using bone matricies. But all that seems more of the technical side of art. What other kinds of things?

Any other input on the subject is greatly appreciated!

And thanks for all the replies already.
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Old 16-02-2010, 10:06 PM   #12
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I have a game specific degree from the University of Abertay, I was in the first year of their games degree. It was fairly maths and programming oriented and I got the impression it was harder than their mainstream CS degree. Although not as hard as the AI CS degree at Edinburgh.

But I wish I had a mainstream CS degree, as now if I want to leave games for a another programming domain I need a CS degree to be taken seriously to get interviews with regular CS companies. So I am considering going back to university part time to get CS + Math masters.

The idea of CS + Science is a good one. One of the best student programmers we ever had was a physics major who taught himself C++ the week before he started. He rapidly got proficient enough that he was hand optimising in assembler before he left to go back to university.
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Old 22-02-2010, 08:12 PM   #13
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I'd suggest Physics or Math, but take some CS courses as well, if you can (a minor maybe?). Or maybe CS with minor in math or physics, but only if the CS program is challenging you. In my experience, its harder to find a challenging undergrad CS program than physics or math. Finding a challenging CS program at the graduate level is a bit easier.

More importantly, look for programming jobs involving C++. CS is not so much about learning programming languages.

I don't have much experience with game-specific programs, so I can't comment so much on that.
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Old 23-02-2010, 11:15 PM   #14
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Well after seeing a few suggestions of doing something besides CS like physics or math, and after a bit of searching, I'm now also looking at Computational Physics (or maybe just Physics if there is a good selection of CS-type courses available) as a possibility.

That should be interesting and challenging at the same time, I hope. I don't really expect anyone on here to have gotten a degree like that, but if someone has and would like to give his/her input, it's quite welcome! Or anyone else with any more input or suggestions is welcome too.

Thanks a bunch for all the input so far.
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Old 23-02-2010, 11:34 PM   #15
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jeeeeez...it scares me that you guys know so little about the kind of game courses out there.....sure there's a lot of variety but to say that a game course is focused on design is just wrong.

We at NHTV focus on coding skills architecure, hardware, maths and physics as they relate to games, console development and so on.
We are writing games in week 2...yes we do design and ludology, but as complimentary skills.

Check us out if you want to do a real games course.....but be prepared to work you arse off.
The reward will be the ability to walk into a games company in 4 years time, sit down and know exactly what you have to do.
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