Today our topic will be giving you the answer for the question: “How to Become a Video Game Developer?” By going through the interview with Andre LaMothe, his perspective will help you to have a clear understanding about the Gaming industry and for your future career path references.
André LaMothe is a computer scientist, author, embedded systems developer and game programmer. He was responsible for the development of hardware and software for artificial intelligence research and worked specifically on the sparse distributed memory project at NASA's Research Institute for Advanced Computer Science (RIACS).
LaMothe attended San Jose State University where he triples majored in mathematics, computer science, and electrical engineering. He is also the author of several international best-selling books, such as "The Black Art of Game Console Design" and "Tricks of the 3D Game Programming Gurus."
1. What is video game development?
Before we proceed with further details in this topic, there are few things need to be clear first…
Nowadays, there are three main aspects about “video game development”:
This part does not require much technical background, anyone who could come up with a storyline including characters, concepts, etc. can do this job just fine.
- The Artwork of the game:
Each game requires a specific and unique artwork. This including 2-D art, background, 3-D models, textures, and the generation of the world, including levels, architecture, and so on. And of course we could not ignore the important of sound & music design too.
- Multimedia& gameplay development:
Last but not the least, a modern game is a huge combination of millions of lines of computer code, 2-D and 3-D engines that mimic the laws of physics, lighting, and visualization. This is the hard work result of small groups of programmers, software engineers, and specialists in fields such as physics, rendering, artificial intelligence, and so forth.
These are groups of people who expert in their own field with certified degrees in mathematics, physics, AI, computer science and related subjects.
If we are back in 70s or 80s, most games were created by one to three people and took only from 06 to 12 months as max. In modern days, where the standard becoming very high from customers, this could up to 300 people and took 03 to 05 years to be Done.
2. Why entering the field of Game development?
According to LaMothe, he started to have an innate desire to know how everything works since he was 03 years old. When Personal Computers (PCs)came out in the '70s, he was one of the first who mesmerized by these machines and the first thing he wanted to do with PC is to make D&D games on the computer.
3. Few common misconceptions:
LaMothe agreed that there are few common misconceptions about his work. For example, some people might say it’s an easy job or somehow just “kid” stuff that anybody could do just fine.
Answering to reporters, LaMothe mentioned that he has total three degrees, already written or co-authored over 100 books, and I work at least 120 hours a week on this kind of “stuff”. This job is hard, serious, and could takes up your life.
Good thing is, it's a multibillion dollar industry, much larger than the movie industry. It's serious business with serious players, like your own life depends on it.
4. What is the most interesting about video game development?
Video game development is the most challenging and complex form of engineering on the planet. Not only do you have to know multiple fields of engineering, but more or less you have to simulate an alternate reality in a machine. Everything that happens, you as the programmer made happen, and modeled in one way or another, said to LaMothe.
Additionally, with the current level of computational power of modern computers, today photorealistic simulations are nearly here, and it’s just a matter of time Artificial Intelligence (AI) can think and process information as our brains do will happen.
5. How about the least interesting about video game development?
“Nothing”, LeMothe said, basically he loves it all. However, like anything, the management of many people, and the interfacing with people that have no real interest in it that are part of the business machine. Sometime for management level, the business aspect/ profitis more important than the rest of it. Therefore, games have become profit-driven, instead of works of art and passion that they used to be.
6. How about daily work?
Every day is just about work, work and work, he said. Trying to keep up with multiple projects, manage assets, hit deadlines, and solve problems. Each day, everything could go wrong. You have to keep your head, work the problems, and breathe, otherwise it will overwhelm you.
Of course, in this economy, the bottom line is making money, but let’s try to have a little fun, and work something cool into each project that you’re doing, so that you have some personal satisfaction with it.
7. How many subfields of video game development and programming that students should be aware of?
You will need to know, such as:
- Physics modeling, fabrics, fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, rigid and soft body physics, etc.
- Computer programming.
- Computer design.
- Networking, massively networked computer systems, maintenance of said systems, etc.
- Artificial Intelligence, Swarm Intelligence, Emergent Behavior, Digital Biology, etc.
- Mathematics, game theory, statistics, etc.
- 2-D art, 3-D art.
- Character animation.
And the list goes on and on...
8. Which career path that students should pursue with a degree in order to join the Video game industry?
Either 2-D artists, 3-D artists, programmers, or story tellers, then within each sub-discipline they specialize.
9. Is bachelor's degree a must-have if someone wants to join Video Game Development?
LaMothe informed that this is really hard stuff at the moment. This industry is not about fun and games; it's complex, serious, and competition is fierce.
You will need to work with your passion and heart. But, if you have a degree in computer science, or game development from an accredited college, sure it will be your advantage to climb up the ladder.
10. What personality traits should student have in order to be successful in a video game development program?
“Good question, and I want to be honest”, LaMothe said. To answer this questions, he broke down into few criteria as below that students need to have:
- Extremely intelligent.
- Having multiple interests, a chameleon of sorts,
- Be interested in a number of elements of gaming and a rock solid work ethic.
- Last but not the least is:Passion! You have to be a passionate person about art and science and the fusing of the two.
11. Any electives should be recommended for a student in a video game development program?
The harder is better, LaMothe suggested.
- For programmers: math, math and math only. Physics, AI, robotics, networking, all of it, the more the merrier
- For art students: the more 2-D and 3-D classes they can take the better. They also will need to have an understanding of how complex it is to code the game and the limitations of what the computer can do.
But, across the board, try to do your best in your own field. That is what the Gaming industry want - we want the best of the best in game development, not average.
We want extraordinary people that have a track record of doing more than everyone else, he emphasized.
12. Is there any regret or anything that could have done differently when looking back?
According to LaMothe, the only thing he regrets is that it's really hard to find like-minded souls. For example: Steve Jobs found Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates found Paul Allen, etc.
He stated that in order to build something great, you must have collaborators. More than anything, that's the key to success, finding soulmates that share your passion and your dreams. All it takes is two or three people and you can literally transform the world with the right idea.
13. Tips and advices for student in order to succeed in a video game development program:
Like anything, know what you want to do, and work toward it. But, keep your passion up to 24/7.
You should be working on your own projects each week, learning more, developing programs, artwork, a portfolio and games! If you are in your 20s and want to be Game Developer, then you need to show your employer some games you have made.
Start early and be honest with yourself, if you come home and can't wait to model that new alien, or code that new algorithm, instead of Facebook suffering or watching movies, then this is the job for you.
14. Will study online work? Or is a traditional class environment ideal?
These modern days, learning game development is like learning mathematics, chemistry, physics, electrical engineering; you really want to be there with a professor, a mentor, and have the interaction with other like-minded students. It’s better but it doesn’t mean that you can't take an online course here and there.
15. Any piece of advices or heads up in conclusion?
Game development is like living in MATRIX (movie) world, either you were born to do it or not. If you have a passion for it, then there is nothing like creating a game, an alternate reality that mixes art, science, and technology that can entertain and make millions of people smile and have fun.
For a moment, someone else, steps into your dreams, into your reality. That's the coolest thing on earth, and I highly recommend it.
Gaming industry is a very unique industry where Developers could bring their imagination into reality, where anything could be become possible. If you’re really into it, then you will need to have a very well prepare knowledge and passion in order to live and enjoy every moment with this job.