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The Quest

Today’s post is a bit significantly less about game development and the game community, and a bit significantly more about me.  If you’ve taken the time to read the About section, you may have seen that I aspire to be a game developer.   I’ve undertaken a personal quest to eventually break into the game industry and I’ve decided to chronicle that journey.  Periodically, I will make posts like today’s categorized under “The Quest,” which will highlight my progress and hopefully celebrate milestones on the journey, though they may be few and far between since I have a sneaking suspicion that that this is going to be slightly more difficult than killing 10 boars for a little bit of gold and experience.

My educational background is – shall we say – less than ideal for making a transition into the gaming industry.  I have yet to see a single job listing for someone with a bachelor’s in history (if anyone reading this finds one – let me know).   I’m not without hope, however.  While most job listings call for an educational background in computer science, graphic design, web design, networking, public affairs, or marketing, every now and again a very successful developer sneaks into the mix with a much more colorful background.  For instance, Greg Street, a lead systems designer for Blizzard Entertainment, has undergraduate degrees in biology and philosophy and a PhD in marine science.

While I don’t have a PhD, my master’s degree in intelligence studies at least has the potential to be as useful as marine science.  Being able to do analysis and understand complex problems definitely would be an asset to a game designer.  But these are soft skills that can only augment existing knowledge.  They don’t stand up well on their own. To that end, I’ve recently enrolled in a local information technology retraining program.  I’ve been focusing my time and attention on software development and programming languages.  While the course has me working on some programs with more business and commercial applications, I am also working on some simple games.

The current short term goal is that in a few weeks/months you may see some of my early attempts at game development  hosted here on the site, and maybe eventually on your own mobile device.  We’re still a long way off from that, but there you go – quest accepted.

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  1. Matt Ratcliffe
    February 21, 2012 at 2:09 am

    I tried my hand at programming my senior year of high school (C++) and realized that it was not for me. There was something about writing complex algorithms in computer code that I couldn’t get around. However, I’ve always wanted to put my creativity to use in a game environment, because, as an avid gamer, I feel like I know how some aspects of a game should be developed/executed. Often I find myself playing a game and shouting in frustration “Who designed this? Really?” whenever something so ineptly bad or ludicrous made itself known. Which makes me wonder if some game designers are detached from reality or they think gamers are just looking for one selling point in a game and don’t care what else comes with the overall package. Maybe they stopped playing games when their jobs as designers took up too much of their time, and as a result forgot how to design enjoyable features?

    I’ve been playing Skyrim lately, and while it’s a great game, I’m starting to pick up on how shallow it is, despite an initial impression of enormous complexity. There are over one hundred unique locations/dungeons to explore, with just as many quest/sidequests, but so many of them are “Find X item in Y dungeon”. Plus, many dungeons are not quest related, and they don’t have any unique loot in them, thus exploring them is pointless after your character already has good equipment and more than enough money to get by. Additionally, the game absolutely inundates you with quests, and my quest log has done nothing but grow the entire game. I’ve had quests sitting in my log for over 30 hours. It’s almost as if they want you to play through the game again just to see all the stuff you are probably to burnt out to do on your first playthrough. I’d much rather have a smaller sampling of quests/dungeons but with more lore/story/unique rewards than to have kill some piss-easy cult leader and receiver 500 gold as a reward when I already have 35K in my wallet. Plus, it doesn’t help that I made my own armor/weapons and they are vastly better than just about every piece of loot I find, which takes away the excitement of exploring, since I end up selling just about everything I find. Still, I’m enjoying the game, but I can feel a burnout coming.

    Back during my freshman year in college, I worked on making a game in RPG Maker 2000. While the program has its limitations, it didn’t require any programming knowledge and it allowed me to translate my ideas into an actual game, something I’d never dreamed of. I never finished my RPG, but it did end up with about 2 to 2.5 hours of gameplay, and I still think about what I would have done if I’d kept working on it. I still have the files sitting around on a portable drive. It also gave me better insight into just how games (at least 16 bit ones) are made. Sadly, it’s probably the closest I’ll come to game design. Good luck in your quest – you’re incredibly bright and creative and if you could somehow land yourself a job in the industry, it would be of great benefit to the gamer community.

    *Jon Jon has died.*

  2. The Grand Inquisitor
    February 21, 2012 at 2:43 am

    Matt – I think Skyrim’s problem was in how it was marketed. I wince even saying that it had a problem at all, since I really loved it, but I know Drew ran into the same issues you did. What I found though, as a pretty typical girl gamer, was that it was perfect for my style of gameplay – I played the main quest line through to the end doing very few side quests (I made sure to become the arch mage and get lady-on-lady married), and I finished by level 19. As in, I beat the final dragon at level 19. I never joined the legion or the rebels, and it turned out that entire storyline was pointless since you don’t have to do it for the main quest line anyway. I achieved each objective as quickly as I could and saw the story through to the end. The game was marketed such that a person might think you could just play forever in any number of different ways… That just isn’t the case though. The different objectives are more or less identical, as you pointed out. To play through once in one way to meet one objective, and maybe one more time (maybe as a thief instead of a Mage), to meet a different objective and see a different side of the story is worth it… To play for 6 months and see the same story 100+ times however, kind of fruitless.

    All this to say, I agree with you but I really loved Skyrim 🙂

    And on another note, why not go back to your RPG?

    Drew, you must let us beta test your apps here. We require appy sustenance.

  3. The Grand Inquisitor
    February 21, 2012 at 2:48 am

    And another thing, I’m really excited about the theme and direction of this blog. I like the idea of following on your journey to get the experience you need to break into the industry and follow your dream (cheesiness fully intended). And not just because I love you, but because it’s a super interesting and intriguing idea for a blog.

  4. February 21, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Matt, I’m going to wave off commenting specifically about Skyrim just this second because I’ve got a post already brewing about that game which I think you will enjoy. At the risk of spoiling the surprise, Abby did point out I had some of the same issues you did so you can expect some of that in it. And as here, I’m sure she’ll be just as vocal when it comes to defending the game as well.

    I actually did programming and networking all through my high school years. I only dropped it in college because I hated the repetitive nature of the work and naively thought that getting away from math and sciences would result in a more dynamic after-college experience. That held true in some ways, but I’ve really come to grips now that any job is going to be repetitive to some degree. All you can hope for is that you enjoy it. I can’t say that I wish I could do it all over, since I’m pretty happy with how my life’s turned out so far, but I probably would have done more computer courses in college if I could do it again.

  5. Matt Ratcliffe
    February 21, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    I look forward to your Skyrim write-up! What classes are you taking right now?

    Abby – I commend you for being able to focus on a few small goals and resisting any latent OCD tendencies you may have as you adventured across Skyrim. For me, I just can’t push forward along a single line while ignoring everything around me. It would drive me nuts. I would think I’d be missing out on something cool. I’m still sticking by my new rule of “not exploring random caves/mines/forts unless directed there by a quest.”

    I always thought about going back to my RPG, but it’s such an outdated program and it would be a big timesink, especially now that I’m married. I still know how I would finish it though, and think of new plot twists from time to time. I just think the final product would be underwhelming compared to what I envisioned.

  6. March 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    Just realized I never answered you about the classes. I finished my first Java course and am currently doing another, coupled with a class in Python and a class in mySQL and PHP. Those are all online and I’m doing a TCP/IP class in person right now on Saturdays.

    I’m doing a lot of self-study too. I just started teach myself Android programming as well, which piggy-backs off the Java work I’ve been doing.

  1. April 3, 2012 at 9:36 pm
  2. March 19, 2015 at 1:35 pm

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