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5 years of game development education - Introduction

Looking back at 5 years of a game development education, I will take you through these years and share the lessons I learned during my journey.

This is the first part where I explain how it all started.

Joey Fladderak

February 24, 2014

10 Min Read

original post can be found here.

As I am busy with my graduation, I found my mind wandering off lately thinking about the past and the choices I have made. From the moment I decided I wanted to follow a game development course until right now, where I am doing my graduation at a small company called Digital Dreams to get my bachelor degree from a game development course.

With these posts I want to give people an insight on how things went for me from start to finish and my opinion on the different aspects I encountered during this journey.

Do keep in mind that the games industry is an ever evolving industry where new strategies, technology and principles get introduced or evolved and so does this game development course. The course as it is today, is not the same in every way as it was when I started.

It all started a little more than 7 years ago...

Like most developers, I played plenty of games before and up to that point and always had a certain fascination about them: How does it work, how did they make this and so on. During that period (and before that really), I was busy getting my degree in ICT and I had to make a choice: Will I stop here and find a job or go on for  a bachelor degree? With that fascination about games still in the back of my head, I decided to search for something related to games. During my 4 years of getting that ICT degree, I had to do some programming and even though I did like it, I wasn't very good at it. So with that in mind, I didn't really think I would stand a chance in something programming related and well.. I was more of a creative person anyway!

Together with some like minded friends, we searched for a college that could teach us how to develop games and everything associated with it. We only found 2 options at that time of which one was a private school, so that was not an option considering the amount of money it involved. The other one seemed promising! We went to an open day and for me it seemed like the perfect option! For the intake, we had to answer some questions and do an assignment. Sadly, I didn't even make it through the questions part. I will not go into details here, but let's say I wasn't very sure about how they could reject people with questions like: "What games do you like?". It was probably a rough filter for the many applicants.

By pure luck, a friend of mine stumbled on this rather unknown course called: International Game Development & Design (or IGAD in short) that was taught at the NHTV Breda University of Applied Science and we decided to visit the open day. Our first impressions were simple: Wow! They provided separate courses for (at that time) programming and visual art and the courses were being taught by people from the industry! We got told that people worked on games like Micro Machines, Banjo Kazooie and many more! This seemed like a great place to learn!

With me wanting to do creative stuff and my friend go more in depth in programming it seemed like the perfect match! We also got an intake assignment here and for me it meant I had to learn Maya or Max. Now if you are new to a 3D modeling tool, it can be very frustrating to grasp it and for me it felt like I was being seated behind the wheel of a Boeing 747 and got told to fly to a far away land! It wasn't easy, but I didn't give up even though I couldn't get myself to work every time I needed to. I had a hard time grasping everything, but in the end I managed to get something out of it! It wasn't much, but I was proud of the car I had modeled! Sadly, it wasn't good enough and didn't pass the assignment. I did not have time to find something else nor did I have the confidence that I was good enough at this point. So I decided to go a safer way and enrolled at The Hague University to study Business IT and focus on a less technical point of game development.

I was not happy.

During my first year at The Hague University I wasn't being very happy with the major I chose, but I was hoping that during the second year things might change when the subjects would be more diverse. To keep things interesting for myself, I had set the aim to be a game producer and with that in mind, things became a bit more bearable when I put my assignments in a game related perspective. I also took programming minors to expand my knowledge in that area and well.. I liked it! During this first year, a friend of mine got accepted into IGAD as a programmer and shared all the awesome stories of things he had to do and I kind of wanted to do those things as well. During my programming minors, I found that I enjoyed it quite a lot and that I was better at it than I initially thought I was, perhaps due to a different perspective or a more related interest, whatever it was, it was good!

Nearing the end of my first year I read that at another location of the university, a 3D minor was given. I decided to look it up and to my surprise it wasn't all that related to 3D modeling like I thought, but to making a 3D engine! I had no real programming experience in the language they would work in (C++), but I was intrigued and I decided to enroll myself at the next opportunity, which would be somewhere in the next year.

During the summer break, I started thinking back at my first year and how I wasn't happy about it. I told myself that if things wouldn't change, I would try to get enrolled at IGAD as a programmer. Secretly, I knew this was what I wanted anyway and I started teaching myself C++ with a book that got recommended to me by this friend who already enrolled there.

A new year of college started.

And it wasn't good. There was no change in my major and I started feeling miserable again. This is not what I wanted! I still did what I had to do for the team I was in, but I wasn't enjoying it. At the start of the year, I had a meeting with the person in charge of the 3D engine course and he told me that it was actually only for people who got through their first year of programming without delay (those who got their propodeuse). I did pass everything in the first year, but not with the required major. I explained my situation, that I was preparing for enrolling myself at IGAD and that this was purely for the experience, grades would not matter. He agreed on letting me in!

I won't get in too much detail of this time, but it was safe to say that I was not prepared for this in a way to be of proper use for my team members. We managed to get it done and I surely learned a lot, but I was thrown into an ocean and I barely survived! During this course, I had enrolled myself at IGAD again, but as a programmer this time and nearing the end of the 3D engine course I got my assignment: Make a small game with the word "Craft" as the theme.

Still being a little overwhelmed with all the knowledge I got thrown at me, I found out that the second part of this course would be given directly after it. So for the sake of gaining more knowledge, I enrolled myself for that one as well, but this time I was going to be prepared!

Well I wasn't, although I had more knowledge than I had before, the knowledge needed was also a lot more, which isn't that strange. I must say I had less trouble because C++ wasn't all that scary anymore, but algorithms and design patterns were something I couldn't wrap my head around properly during that time. During this period I also worked on my assignment, which was a small game made with C++ and DirectX 9 and revolved around a little witch doing her craft (see what I did there?) upon waves of enemies. It wasn't really anything special, but the fact that it worked and that I did it with C++ and DirectX9 made me a proud little puppy!

Time flew by and I worked on the 3D engine course while also finishing up my assignment as the deadline was nearing. I handed in my intake assignment and all I had to do now was wait for an invite to an interview.

I got an interview!

And I was psyched! This was as close to my dream as I would get at that time. I rediscovered my liking in programming and I was being happy with it. The day before my interview, this friend who already enrolled at IGAD joined me at home and we got a little carried away in talking and drinking beer and mead and before we knew it, it was around 3 or 4 in the morning and I had to catch the train at around 7 for my interview! I decided to still take a little power nap so I would at least get some sleep.

Luckily, nothing went wrong on my way there and I got there in time for the interview. During the interview I was told what they thought about my assignment (which was ok, nothing too fancy, but not bad either) and I got some questions regarding my expectations from them, what they could expect from me and some general interest questions. Nearing the end, I was told he wasn't sure if I was enthusiastic enough or if I had enough motivation. I ensured him, I really wanted this! It seemed I had convinced him, because the last thing I remember were the words:

Welcome to IGAD.

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