Games design education.

Hey,
I'm interested in getting into Games Design, I'm almost 21 and have no real experience asides from growing up with games. I'm not certain what courses I should be looking into, I've found a lot of varied courses but they all seem the same to me. A friend of mine keeps telling me to study a programming course and then get a certificate or something similar in Design so my major focus would be programming but I'm not interested in making a career in programming. I know I'll have to study and work with programming which is fine I don't want to focus on it though.

What I'm asking is for any links or reference material on good games design courses, personal experience or anything from people that're already in the industry, I'm having a hard time finding anyone in Games Design, I only know programmers.

Thanks for your time,
Dylan.

Denis Krako's picture

Hey Dylan,

I have just last year finished a degree through Qantm College in Brisbane. The degree was Bachelor of Interactive Entertainment Majoring in Games Design.

I am now working full time as a games and audio designer in Brisbane for Bifrost Studios. I would highly recommend Qantm for a degree. They off fast tracked course over 2 years which means you do trimesters rather than semesters. On top of that you are taught by industry professionals who have been in the industry and some that still work in the industry. Our games design lecturer working for Ubisoft on ACII, Splinter Cell and Prince of persia so the information we were taught was very relevant. Ill put a link to Qantm at the bottom of this comment. I don't know about other courses but from what i have heard other universities don't really offer the game development approach that Qantm does and other tend to direct you into film and other fields.

Speaking from experience, when it comes to finding a job it was great if you have mor than one skill to offer. Most indie companies like our cant afford to hire people for each role to undertake so we look for people who have skills in a variety of fields. I Myself have a background in music production and composition. I have no degree in it but i do have the knowledge and passion for it which compliment my degree in Games Design nicely.

If you are interested in programming at all it would be a great skill to have because as a designer you are most likey to be prototyping ideas for games and it will also allow you to understand the process of game development when explaining to another programmer what it is you want the game to do.

Hope this info helps mate. If you want more info email me at denis@bifroststudios.com.au I am more than happy to help where ever i can.

Denis

Qantm College Games Design - http://brisbane.qantm.com/en-gb/course_category/4759/Courses_offered_in_...
(Also offered in Melbourne, sydney and perth.

Joe W-A's picture

I'm an independent game designer and developer. I'm not a programmer.
In my experience, a game design course is a bad idea - they are mostly shockingly awful, including the ones you hear are good. You can learn far more, and far more quickly, by googlin'. I've known people who wanted to make games who were put off by bad uni courses, and I know a lot of people in those courses who only realise by third year that they've been completely wasting their time, but don't want to drop out with only a year to go.
I also know people who've decided at random to quit their day jobs, spent a year unemployed and exhaustively teaching themselves their chosen discipline from nothing, and then gotten jobs in the industry. Those particular people admittedly tend to be from countries where there are actually jobs available, but the point isn't that they got jobs so much as that they became skilled enough to work at AAA developers in less time than it takes to graduate a games design course with relatively few skills and a degree nobody cares about.
You're right that you don't need to be a programmer to get into game design. It still helps to know a bit, mostly so that you can communicate with programmers.
The best place to start if you're interested in design but not programming is probably level design. Figure out the Source SDK or UDK (or Unity, I guess, I've never used it) and start making some levels. Most of the professional game devs I know started out mapping or modding. Joining a mod team is a great idea.
tl;dr: You made this post, so you have a computer and the internet. That's everything you need to make a great videogame. This is the last topic in the world you need to pay somebody to teach you about. Go go go.

VagabondArmy.com's picture

Unity is the worst option to go with if you just want to level design. Honestly, it is set up so artists can import art assets from Maya, and coders, can write code in C# -- JavaScript is really a second option if you are familiar with C#, as you need to be a strong coder to use either one anyway. If you want to focus more on level design, go with UDK, as then you have the option to use Unreal Script -- visual scripting language very friendly to designers -- to make a game demo from it as well. But, UDK is more geared towards shooters, and Unity is more geared to everything else. So if you're intent is to make a demo, make sure you pick the right option for your needs.

I have no experience with Source, so, can't comment on it other than to say it is another option to UDK, but, there are benefits to going with UDK such as popularity of Unreal tech with all sorts of developers -- UDK experience may be seen in a very positive light in when applying for a job.

Why you do a course, is for the qualifications. These can come in handy in a variety of ways. Just getting a qualification is not good enough to get a job in game dev, but might come in handy when you want to access larger job markets and need at least a degree for a work visa. You will need to create a portfolio, and as a designer, you will need a playable game demo you've worked on your own or as part of a team. There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these. On your own, you get full credit, in a team, you show you can work as part of a team as a productive team member, under pressure. Regardless, it is going to be a lot of research and dev work that doing a game design course will only give you a foundation or framework for.

And yes, a "playable game demo", to show you know how to game design. If you're applying for a level design role, then you will need a range of levels to show off your abilities -- which doesn't have to be in UDK. FYI: level design is more than just environment art.

And that's all I'm gonna say on it ;).
--
Ivan

Anna Tito's picture

I am a game designer and a programmer, I graduated from RMIT (Melbourne) with a degree in Game design majoring in Programming. While people may complain about their degrees the reality is a degree does give you more opportunities particularly if you ever want to work overseas(many visas require degrees). A degree is what you make of it there was lots of 'not as useful as I would have liked' aspects to my degree (there is in every degree) but I did allot of independent study built games got involved with the local indie dev scene, participated in game jams and IGDA events (Melbourne has an awesome dev community).

Honestly if you really love game dev no bad uni courses will turn you off, not really, if it is not really your passion then it will and honestly it is better to know upfront as it is not an easy industry. That aside at the moment most of the opportunities available are in independent development not in large companies, though I am seeing more and more jobs at the moment (YAY! for climbing back out of the slump). While being an indie sounds awesome! rent etc still needs to be paid so having other skills can be useful as a supporting tool while you independently develop, I am currently working as a programmer which is paying the rent while I develop my own work, and get solid some solid software development experience.

I loved studying games and programming at RMIT and yes there were things I would have liked to have been better courses which were a waste of time but that is the real world for you. I now have a degree, the opportunity to go overseas and work, after gaining some experience, so all and all having the degree (any degree) is a helluva lot better than not (and there are IGDA scholarships etc which are awesome!).

If you have any questions you can send me an e-mail at anna.tito@mythicalcreature.net or twitter @MythicalC.
Anna

Benn's picture

Hi Dylan,

It seems like you're going to get a lot of varied opinions in here, as I would have to disagree with some of what has been said in previous replies, but this is because we've all had different experiences. :)

I have recently finished my degree in Games Design at Qantm, Melbourne and I would say that although Google is all you need to make a game, I would strongly suggest that an education will boost your ability to be a great game designer. Design aspects aside, my time at Qantm taught me how to work productively in a team to ensure deadlines are met and quality is high. I also got to build a much better understanding of what the programmers and artists do, so when I approach them with a problem, I am able to see what steps they must go through to ensure the problem is fixed; a skill which really helps the team organise priorities as a whole. You will also learn a lot of design aspects in regards to the psychological impact of design decisions when it comes to creating levels, mechanics, audio and the game world.

I'll agree that this is all things you can learn from reading a lot of books (which I also highly recommend) and using Google, however a structured course will always try to keep you on track, moving in the right direction, and challenge your abilities.

If you want to start making games immediately, you may need to get your hands dirty with some coding and art just to get you started. Get yourself a game engine and just start making stuff; even if it's bad, the process is going to teach you so much that you'll start improving quite quickly. Existing engines like UDK and Source can be a great place for designing levels and mods, so starting there would be a great idea. I guess later, if you're feeling up to it, make the move to Unity3d or even Game Maker, so you can begin making games from scratch. They'll both require some programming knowledge (Unity a lot more than Game Maker), but both have huge communities where you can always find help when you need it!

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that studying can give you a great advantage, especially with the theory side of game design (or just design in general!) but regardless of whether you choose to study or not, I would just start making stuff right away! Make stuff and read lots! :)

- Benn

VagabondArmy.com's picture

I just wanted to add that with Unity you can also get some interesting packages from their asset store -- not the only way to get them, especially free versions. For example there is playMaker and uScript. PlayMaker is more of a complete development framework with a visual scripting environment, and uScript is more just the visual scripting -- supposedly very similar to UDK's Kismet.

playMaker: http://www.hutonggames.com/
uScript*: http://www.uscript.net/home/
*you can get a free educational version

So, you don't need as much experience in programming as you might expect; however, the more you have the better off you will be ;).
--
Ivan

Herp Derpington's picture

Advantages of doing a course:

- You make contacts. Your fellow peers certainly won't be industry pros now, but later down the track they very will might be. THIS IS BY FAR THE MOST VALUABLE THING YOU CAN GET FROM A COURSE
- To actually get through one, you're going to need discipline. If you don't have it, you're going to end up getting it. MEGA VALUE TOO.
- You can fob around on Centrelink while you're doing it

Advantages of going on your own:

- You'll have $40K extra.
- You'll be able to learn what you want to learn and when
- You can fast track your success and get pro skills in a year (or possibly less)

Disadvantages of a course:

- $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
- You will likely be forced to learn things you hate and will never use. As part of my degree I was forced into programming. Likewise those with a more programming bent got forced into Maya. And EVERYONE got forced into Audio.
- That bit of paper at the end, you know- the 'degree', means fuck all to most of this industry.

Disadvantages of going on you're own:

- If you don't have the discipline and drive, YOU WILL FAIL
- You will find it harder to recieve feedback on your work from opinions that matter (like industry pros). Trial and error will play a greater role in teaching you.
- There are plenty of mod teams out there, and plenty of them are disorganized saloons full of fap talk. You may end up wasting your time with a bad one (really, like 80% of mod teams never make a mod).
- You will be lucky to score a real-life 'support team' that actually know and understand what you're going for and going through.
- You will need a way to support yourself, because the government sure won't.

Your call bro.

MAD ACADEMY SCAM's picture

Dylanface's picture

Thanks to everyone for replying, you all kinda gave different opinions which is confusing but for the most part everyone seems to be saying get stuck into some level design now, whether or not I do a course. I'll get started on that tomorrow.

A few more clarifications I realise I missed, I'm not sure I could motivate myself for home study, it's just to daunting and I'd have nowhere to begin and I know nobody that could give me feedback.
I can already get citizenship for England and from what I know that can extend to working in most of Europe. I'd only need to worry about Asia/American visas. So the degree isn't about getting a visa.
I do like the idea of studying though, not sure where to go if I wanted to still. A few people said Qantm but I've heard some pretty awful reviews about them.
I want to study so I know where to aim for myself, while I study I'll be doing a lot of my own study on the topics, I'll want to get some group experience, learn things about other topics that aren't just design (so I can communicate with the programmers and give myself more options for indie work etc)

I've been thinking about the same qantm course people have said in this but it's so effing expensive for a course in Australia D:

Ty Martin's picture

I agree with what Joe W-A said above. With the internet and the googles right at your finger tips there is really a wealth of information and a massive community at your finger tips. Just start. Don't even over think it. Just start and see where it gets you in a month, 6 months, a year, 2 years...

So many people are learning so many crazy things with the power of the internet. I studied music with a world renowned jazz musicians for 4 years and I never even saw him in person. We did everything over the internet and the phone. I learned more in my first week with him than I did in my university music program.

go go go go go!!

Sincerly,
Ty from htp://www.beatmakershq.com

Anonymous's picture

Best way to start designing games is to start making them; if you're serious about game development the best way to approach it is from either a programming or art angle (I know sound engineers are also in demand but it's easier to specialize through art or code). I personally would suggest programming (because that's what I do) but either way, go find a good university, study something that isn't related specifically to designing games (code, art, psychology, literature, whatever) and use a broad education as a stepping stone into making interesting games.

I'd stay the hell away from game design courses and especially ones offered in QANTM, read books, find a community and make games, that's all it takes. Anyone saying differently is trying to take your money (and did I mention QANTM is terrible!)...

Anonymous's picture

Sigh...so many looking for answers in a well of seemingly endless despair.
Those where the days...back then when you could make a level or mod in a game with an editor and get your experience.
I'm sure this road still exists, but just like everything else, they find a way to make a dollar by offering you something you can do better by your own efforts and will power. I got my experience way back then, when the dole was easier to make excuses to but I've paid back those costs many times over in the tax I've paid since learning on my own terms, and getting the skills I needed to get work in the industry for over 7 years. Then the industry kicked me in the guts, but I still had skills to get work outside of games and make twice the financial gain.
Get a real job, learn game dev at your own pace, then make your move if you still think it's good for you. It's like singing...don't give up yer day job...until you can sing.