CS or Game specific

Discussion in 'I wanna be a Game Programmer' started by TyPR124, Feb 15, 2010.

  1. TyPR124

    TyPR124 Lurker Not From Round Here

    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?

    BTW, using the preview button seems to erase returns from the text box... someone should really fix that...
  2. haydxn

    haydxn your mum One Of Us

    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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  3. Brother Dog

    Brother Dog Professional Asshole One Of Us

    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.
  4. Aticus Finch

    Aticus Finch Gaming God One Of Us

    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

  5. Recurse

    Recurse Rabidly intolerant One Of Us


    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.

    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.
  6. Recurse

    Recurse Rabidly intolerant One Of Us

    For example here is Nottingham universities 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.

    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.
  7. Supergrass

    Supergrass I can change my title?! One Of Us

    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.
  8. The Ashg

    The Ashg Knight of Badassdom One Of Us

    Definitely CS!
  9. zorro

    zorro Hardcore Gamer One Of Us

    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.
  10. Sairon

    Sairon Ossom One Of Us

    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.
  11. TyPR124

    TyPR124 Lurker Not From Round Here

    Thanks for all the replies. Seems the majority definitely agrees on CS.

    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 :(

    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.
  12. perplexed

    perplexed Sctizophrenic One Of Us

    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.
  13. w80395

    w80395 Lurker One Of Us

    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.
  14. TyPR124

    TyPR124 Lurker Not From Round Here

    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.
  15. Brian Beuken

    Brian Beuken Boring Old Fart One Of Us

    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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  16. Unsurprised Jack

    Unsurprised Jack Industry God One Of Us

  17. EvaUnit02

    EvaUnit02 ¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯ One Of Us

    CS. You're there to learn the academics of the field, not to learn a trade. Besides, gaining an understanding of concepts will make you more malleable and therefore, more valuable. Games are great and all but you should be an "engineer", not a "games engineer."

    Most CS courses that I'm aware of require a heavy dose of math and even some physics. I was required to take two years of physics for my CS undergrad degree. I was required to take so many math courses that I decided to double up in math for only a few credits more.
  18. Xajin

    Xajin Manic Miner One Of Us

    Don't do CS.

    Do Software Engineering.

    Much more relevant if you want to be programmer.

    Most Games courses suck.
  19. Pig Cop

    Pig Cop Hardcore Gamer One Of Us

    I think some posts here have been a little misleading (particularly regarding avoiding certain courses based on their title).

    You need to find out more about each specific course, the title seldom tells you enough about what you're going to learn. Software Engineering and Computer Science seem to be used almost interchangeably nowadays, so choosing one or the other from those titles definitely isn't wise either!

    The best advice I can give, if it's games you want to get into, is to find a very good traditional computer science course that uses C++ in a significant chunk of their modules. Stay away from pure Java/C# courses as you will miss out on vital knowledge most likely (particularly if you want to do graphics programming). There are a few courses that are pretty much traditional Computer Science ones, but have some games stuff tagged on the end... I think these tend to be more suitable than the pure games courses that waste time teaching you how to model in Maya for no real reason (I'm not even exaggerating :( ).

    One final point, it's okay to pick a course that starts off teaching you in a language other than C++, as long as they migrate to it eventually in the majority of their later programming modules. It's often easier to pick up the early principles in slightly more forgiving languages like Java.

    Hope this helps, good luck in finding a course!
  20. Lord Cuze

    Lord Cuze Sleepless One Of Us

    That's a good point. I kinda regret not getting some form of degree in Math. In fact, if I could do over, I'd major in Math and minor in Computer Science. Or major in both if I enjoyed pain the way Eva apparently does.