This is hot off the press, or rather from the meeting of the UTS Academic Council who have just approved a new degree!
UTS: INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
BACHELOR OF SCIENCE IN GAMES DEVELOPMENT
The revised Bachelor of Science in Games Development will be available to school leavers
from 2011. New subjects have also been added to this course for 2011.
Today’s games are large sophisticated computer programs that model 3D worlds in detail,
implementing realistic physics, with believable computer controlled characters that connect
thousands of players through virtual worlds. Game designers must create and manage the
social, economic, and governance structures of these virtual worlds, addressing issues of
plot, character development and storyline, integrating these in a real-time programming
This course will provide you with a sound education in all aspects of information
technology as well as the diverse range of skills necessary for a career in computer games
How to apply
Current School Leavers
If you are completing Year 12 in 2010 you will be eligible to apply for the Bachelor of Science
in Games Development. You must apply through UAC and the course will be added onto the
UAC website as a new course for school leavers – UAC code 603225.
Non-current School Leavers
Non-current school leavers can still apply for this course. The pathway with the Diploma of
Information Technology (Games Development) (19050) at TAFE NSW is still applicable.
Students who enrol in the Bachelor of Science in Games Development and who have
completed 19050 Diploma of Information Technology (Games Development) will be eligible
for 48 credit points of recognition of prior learning (RPL).
3-year degree. Total of 24 subjects.
8 Core Subjects (IT)
Communication for IT Professionals
Introduction to Information Systems
Business Requirements Modelling
Project Management and the Professional
8 Core subjects (Games Development)
Game Design Studio 1
Game Design Studio 2
Introduction to Computer Game Design
Introduction to Computer Graphics
Select 2 subjects from the following:
3D Computer Animation
Computer Graphics Rendering Techniques
Data Structures and Algorithms
Introduction to Computer Game programming
Programming for Special Effects
I'm sure that this course is an excellent course, and I will need to see undergrads when they come out to make a full judgement, so if your are considering this course please continue considering it as I have no basis to know how well focused it will be. So take my views with a degree of skepticism as I do not know if this degree actually solves the problem I'm describing below. I'm sure universities will disagree with my comments, but the fact remains that we generally hire programming talent that has not come out of a traditional university course. Let me explain.
As a industry person who is involved in the hiring process I can probably shed some light on the topic of programmers especially when it comes to hiring, I focus on taking a look at an applicant's demo. If you are a programmer, you better have made some small games either as a team project or on your own. I am more focused on this than where you obtained your degree or diploma. I'm after what is in your head and not what is on a piece of paper.
Its not about the graphics per se but about the game itself and what you coded in it. Its not important that you have developed all the systems yourself, rather, you need to be able to explain the systems you developed and any engines you may have used such as AI, Physics etc. Clean code, with good documentation is a must. In most team environments you will most probably have to deal with other people's code, not just your own. So good code writing and documentation is a must if you want to make it into an elite code team. Specialisation comes later, especially if you are just starting off and trying to get your first programming job, although strong interest in certain areas i.e. like I have developed a demo on a PS3 or Xbox 360 usually helps if the company is looking for junior programmers for console dev. Even more exotic, if you have particular expertise in, say, in network code and they are looking for someone to handle client/server issues, then this will help. So if you are able to specialise it helps, but having a broad education is probably more important when you are starting off. Specialisation actually occurs in your project, as you will be assigned various tasks on the project probably working under a senior dev and by and large this will in the end build up your specialist area - the code work you end up working on.
So getting to the point, it probably best that you focus getting a degree in a games school and not a university. The problem with degrees from a traditional university is that while they may be games focused, they simply do not have a culture as an organisation that focuses on games. This means that they will have a limited set of teachers/tutors that are games focused, and it generally is too academic. For example, large lecture rooms and limited lab time is a big problem with these courses. This is something that I'm sure the academics will disagree, but its just a fact when it comes to hiring as under grads from universities simply have not spent enough time coding, and they have coded in too many languages, so they are not specialists in , say, C++.
Game schools are very focused on limiting lectures and focusing on learning structured programming usually on a particular language like C++ or C# and an industry relevant engine (you have no idea how many students we see who have done their uni course using a 'free' engine provided by their uni which is not used by mainstream development houses like ours), producing game demos and entering competitions, which in my opinion are very important. Working on game projects while at a game school is by far the best way to gain an education as you are emulating a team environment and learning the dynamics of organisational behaviour. So without getting into the argument which game school is better, you need to think about what experience you want to have and what you want to take away with you once you have finished your course. I would argue that you want to go to a school that is very strong on project based learning, one that may have industry people working in their courses and perhaps working on small industry projects (I've used this as a hiring platform as I get to 'try before I buy' and get to see both the programming and art talent work together - sometimes great individual talent simply does not work well in a team environment so I pass).
When it comes to doing very complex code, we do look for university graduates *only*, mainly focusing on students who have gone on to to a PhD and have completed a particular project that involved strong programming and research skills. For example, if we are looking to develop a new AIE system we may look for PhD graduates who have developed a particular thesis in this area or related area. In this case we are looking for individuals who have demonstrable abilities to do some deep research and thinking. We dont hire many of these type of developers as by and large we are looking for programmers who can churn out code in particular areas and we dont have a huge budget for research types. We also look for students who may have won a university medal or graduated with honours first class. Again, we hire vey few of these students, partly because they are very hard to find (try competing with google's base hiring salary offers and you will understand) and its too competitive.
In the end, whatever decision you make, remember - its what you put in it that counts. So if you find yourself in a university course, dont despair ! Focus on developing a mini game on the side, and not just going to lectures! Develop your mini game on engines that are used by industry. If the uni is not focused on competitions, just enter your team on your own. You need the milestone razor sharp focus that a deadline competition provides to harness your teams energy towards a goal, much like we do internally, but its usually motivated in making sure our company gets paid so we get paid !
Best of luck
Let me preface this by saying I also don't know anything about this course, but my thoughts are based on education in a broader sense.
Yeah, having gone through the uni system on the art side, I can pretty much attest that uni degrees are too academic-based to be overly useful. Admittedly i did a broader multimedia degree, not a games specific one listed like it is listed on here, but I imagine it will be much the same. If you are they type who wants to do the '3D animation' class, then the programming, system, and network based subjects will only distract you.
However, its not all black and white. I have been in the industry for a number of years now armed only with my uni degree form the education system. And form what someone who i work with who used to go to one of the big (if not biggest) expensive private games related institutions (who I wont name but) has told me, they were the single only person from their entire year level who actually got a job in the industry.
For art and animation, it really, really, really is all about the folio. Perhaps a specialist school will give you the best quality education for art and animation in this industry. But thats all they will give you. I still got a job, and my uni degree will open doors for me overseas when the time comes. And it was a fraction of the cost. And even though I probably will never take advantage of it, it has given me a much broader range of career opportunities.
I suppose if I was to give advice... if you have the money (really have the money, not scrape enough debt together to come up with it) and really want to work on games, then the specialist schools will probably be your best option. So long as you realise that you will still need to excel at your chosen field. Remember, the industry is very very small, and if you think that companies only hire out to artists and animators who have a specialist education background (or even any education at all), then you are in trouble. Ultimately form my experience and understanding, your qualification is only good for a cover letter. And I would be very surprised if they disregard a uni degree.
Otherwise, I reckon a broader uni degree is the way to go... so long as you go about it the right way. Do what you can to pass your ethics classes, your academic communications bullshit classes, and your SQL based classes... anything which is academically absed (and most will be). Do no more than that because employers will probably care less about them than you. Its all about the folio, so shop around to see what classes will allow you to build up your best folio.
In the end, its your folio that will get you into the industry. It doesn't matter how you get there.
I'm doing a PhD at UTS and I'm attached to the Games Studio there. I might do a guest lecture or two for students in this degree. So I have some insight (and bias) from the academic side of things.
Its true that a university degree is not the fastest way into a job. In any design-oriented field the only thing that matters is what you can do. This is demonstrated by a portfolio or a reel, or by your last project if it's a fast moving field. Degrees and diplomas have no value as currency. They demonstrate that you can stick at a difficult task for a number of years, and they are worth something *to you*, that is all.
Colleges and TAFEs are intended as vocational training. Universities are not. Their courses are broad because they want their students to emerge with a broad outlook. They are not primarily intended to make you ready to slot into the jobs of today. Instead, they are intended to prepare you to invent the jobs of tomorrow.
When I did my Design degree in the first half of the 1990s they spent a bit of time teaching us how to set up printing presses and how a Linotype machine worked. In the private colleges they spent a LOT more time on those skills. Meanwhile I was learning about the history of the Bauhaus movement, the physics of light, how the human eye works. I got a reasonably thorough grounding in art history, aesthetics, problem-solving and human perception. I learnt about design thinking; how to consider design as a discipline that can be applied to any problem, from the scale of a salt shaker up to a city. And by the time I finished my degree the analog machines they were still teaching in the private colleges were well on there way out, and Tim Berners-Lee had invented the Web. My first design job and the rest of my career have based on technologies that were only invented starting year I graduated.
I could have gone straight to work as a junior designer (aka Photoshop Operator) and climbed the ranks, instead of doing two degrees and now a PhD over the 20-odd years of my career. Especially if I was willing to take anything that came along. What I've gained from my academic training is the confidence and the opportunity to pick my own path. I probably don't get more money, but I get what is, to me, more interesting work.
For those of you who just want a job in games, any job, then of course that's fine! More power to you, get in there and do what you love. University doesn't have to come straight after school. If you find yourself with a thirst for deeper knowledge later on, you can enroll then. I found my second degree (an Honours in IT) to be a glorious luxury; after 10 years in industry teaching myself everything I needed, it felt like cheating to have someone else teaching me.
University courses these days do of course have to meet vocational goals as well, so assuming you have the talent you will come out the other end employable. At the very least you'll have had access to facilities, and to your peers. You are likely to learn at least as much from being in a group of like-minded fellow students as you are from your lecturers. College (assuming you don't end up at a shakedown operation disguised as a college) is a faster road to a job; universities take longer because they go *beyond* vocational. If you just want to learn animation then yes, you could consider the fact that you had to learn programming, narrative, design and HCI to have been a waste of time. But if you actually take the opportunity to learn those things, rather than treating them as unpleasant distractions from your singular goal, in my experience you'll discover that they were worth learning after all.
Yes, I would agree with most of what you have written here.
However, its not so much a question of whether Uni is good or bad, but rather a question of what uni course is worth doing and which is not. Right now, being in the industry and coming from a broad course, I can't see how anyone could recommend aspiring students to do a games-specific uni course like mentioned at the start of this thread. Lets be realistic here. When you count every student from every year in every games specific course, from both private institutions and Unis and TAFE's, then there is a good chance that there are more students in this industry than there are employees.
My fear is that right now, the overwhelming majority of these people will not find a job in this industry, and find that their specific degree offers little help in other fields, wehere a broader one will.
Sure, for many who are aspiring to 'do their own thing' and make their own companies, then courses like these are probably the bomb parties. However, I cannot help but feel that the majority of these employees are being lead down the garden path, to invest a lot of themselves in this degree, investing more again trying to gain a foothold, before ultimately starting again several years and a lot of money down the track.
Uni can offer a lot of peripheral study opportunities which you can take with you, but you must find the right balance. Too broad, and you are left with no major skill set. (I agree with you very last sentence, but in my case, I only did a total of 3 units out of 24 that were relevant to what I wanted to peruse and what I primarily do now - that’s ridiculous and counter-productive. While peripheral studies are important, and I DO use some of them nowadays, you simply cannot afford to neglect your primary driver without coming out the other end with shortcomings.)
Too specific, and you could be left with a degree that isn't worth the paper its written on. You can't just claim:
"University courses these days do of course have to meet vocational goals as well, so assuming you have the talent you will come out the other end employable"
There are many people floating around who would argue with you on this point. Not in this industry.
Both of these posts are great points. I think Universities really should be more focused on broader education and equipping students to be the pioneers, rather than the cogs in the corporate wheels. It's important. But the sad truth is, at the Bachelor level, you don't really get that - you normally have to get into the Masters or pHD level to start reaping those benefits as you begin to specialise and delve into more focused and personal research projects, instead of just regurgitating what the lecturers expect.
Part of the problem comes from the fact that a great many students are entering University now simply as a logical extension of high school, and expect an end result more like what you would get from an apprenticeship or a trade school. This is not entirely the students' fault - courses are often marketed this way. But the distinction is an important one. Perhaps the confusion comes from the fact that most people go into games wanting to make games they already like, rather than setting out with an aspiration to revolutionize user interfaces or spearhead the journey into the next frontier in AI development - the sort of thing that might require six years of study and research in a variety of related fields to get to a point where you can start making big innovative strides there. Maybe rather than criticising these games courses, we should be asking whether we need Bachlor's degrees in games, or if we're better off hiring trade school grads and self-taught wizards for the most part, with the occasional Masters or pHD who've started out in a related field and then specialised in study relevant to games.