The team of CG Spectrum, an Online Animation, VFX, Concept Art and Game Design School, shared an insight into their Game Programming Diploma course and gave 6 tips to get into game programming.
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If the prospect of making your own games gets you pumped, and you have an interest in maths and computer science, a game programming job could be a great move.
To help you get started, here are CG Spectrum’s 6 tips to get into game programming, plus insights from Ubisoft AI Programmer Firas Hosn, who has worked on several major franchises like Assassin's Creed, Watch Dogs, and Far Cry. Firas also mentors aspiring programmers in CG Spectrum’s Game Programming Diploma course – an intensive 10-month online course that prepares students for an exciting career in games.
1. Learn to Code
“Start coding. There’s no real way around this!” says Firas. “You'll be coding throughout your career in games, so don't wait to get a job to start doing it.”
If you’re wondering which programming language to learn, consider what game studios are hiring for. C++ is used to build most major console and Windows games, so it’s a handy language to know. It’s also the one Firas teaches CG Spectrum students, who by the end of the first term are already building simple games.
While there’s a bit of a learning curve for beginners, Firas recommends starting small: “Think of a small goal that you want to achieve and go for it, the more you practice the easier things will be.” Once you get the hang of one language, it’ll be easier to learn others.
2. Understand The Pipeline
Get to know the game development pipeline to understand how your role as a programmer fits with other key players such as game designers, concept artists, sound engineers, testers, etc. There’s a lot of overlap between roles and having a basic understanding of everyone else’s job will help you become a stronger and more efficient programmer.
"A big misconception about Game Programmers is that they don't have much say in the design or direction of a game," says Firas who has been in the industry for over a decade. "But that's not true. Being the one implementing the core features, you know the limits of the engine and tech being used, and you need to be able to communicate and collaborate with other disciplines. You aren't in your own world just programming for 8 hours a day."
Being aware of the needs and limitations of other departments enables you to problem solve faster, and deliver higher quality and more usable work.
3. Build Up Soft Skills
Making a great video game usually relies on teamwork. You can be a brilliant programmer, but if you lack interpersonal skills, you will struggle in a studio environment.
So as you’re developing your math and computer skills, there are a number of soft skills to consider that will serve you well in the gaming industry.
“Communication skills are essential as there needs to be a collaboration with design and art to get the most out of tech and to be able to implement solutions that meet future needs of the game," says Firas who worked with large teams while at Ubisoft and Silicon Knights.
Read up on communication styles and personality types, and don’t overlook these critical soft skills!
4. Take a Course
It is possible to get into games without a qualification. Some self-taught programmers have spent years learning and working on games in their own time, and have a strong portfolio to show recruiters at game studios.
However, if you’re lacking a portfolio and aren’t sure where to even begin to get your skills up to studio-standard, a formal game programming course can save you a whole lot of time and keep you focused on your goals.
CG Spectrum's online Game Programming Diploma is a specialized, job-focused course with personal mentorship from an expert game programmer like Firas, who worked on best-selling titles like Assassin's Creed 3, Far Cry 3/4/5, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, and Watchdogs 2/3.
Firas adds: “The CG Spectrum course is awesome because of the live support you get. A lot of tutorials or demos are like recipes in which you follow the steps and come out with a nice finished product but you don't really have the confidence or understanding to do something you really want to do from scratch. Being taught by a senior programmer currently working in the game development industry is a huge bonus as it ensures the content will be up to date and relevant. This course will give you the confidence to create your own projects or work at existing studios. It's for anybody who is passionate about gaming and more importantly, is serious about game development.”
The course is 100% online (so you can study from anywhere in the world) and caters to game programming for beginners as well as those with a background in computer science, software engineering, math, or physics. Choose from private 1-on-1 mentorship or small group classes (capped at 5 students), and stay on target with weekly video calls with your mentor and personalized video critiques on assignments. It’s a great way to kick-start your career in games!
5. Find Your People
Building your network via online communities such as 80 Level, Reddit, Discord, Slack, Gamasutra, and regional user groups are great ways to interact with industry professionals who can offer advice or even jobs.
You get out what you put in, so be helpful, participate in conversations, and be open to collaborations! You might also enjoy reviewing games or writing opinion pieces for publishing on some of these sites.
6. Start Game Jamming
Game jams are timed challenges where you produce a video game within any timeframe from a few hours to a few days or weeks. There’s often a theme (e.g. a game based on a historical person, a book adaptation, outer space, a fruit, or a shape), and it’s a great way to practice discipline and working as part of a team to a deadline.
Share your final product online and add it to your portfolio (along with details about your role and thought process from concept to execution) to show future employers.
There are many gateways into the gaming industry, and there’s a ton of information out there to help you get started.
If you’re serious about a game programming career and want to get industry-ready sooner, check out CG Spectrum's Game Programming Diploma course. The comprehensive career-focused curriculum teaches you the job skills studios are hiring for. And with an expert programmer like Firas as your guide, you’ll progress faster with professional mentorship every step of the way. Not only will you master the technical skills, but you’ll also get direct access to industry insights from someone with years of experience working on best-selling games.
About CG Spectrum
We’re an online Game Development, Animation, VFX, and Digital Art school with a mission to inspire and prepare the next generation of production-ready artists. Whether you’re straight out of high school, changing careers, or upgrading skills, our industry-approved curriculum, and award-winning industry mentors equip you with the relevant skills and confidence to pursue your career goals.