Get your head in the game

Get your head in the game

By Develop

March 27th 2008 at 11:33AM

Our special run of articles looking at powering up your games career starts with a guide for beginners. Do you dream of a move into the games industry, but donâ??t know where to start? We take a look at what you can do right now...

If you’re looking for a job in the games industry, there’s little better way to sell yourself than having an impressive demo reel. With demands increasing on studios, and the often-mentioned ‘recruitment crisis’, recruiters don’t want to know what you think you can do – they want to see it.

It’s the sort of thing that a games degree course will steer you towards, shepherding you out of the door with a portfolio geared towards whipping up HR departments into a frenzy. But for most people, the realisation of what you want to do doesn’t come as conveniently close to university application-time as that. Maybe they’re younger, looking for things they can be doing in the meantime, or maybe they’re already in the workplace and eyeing a career change.

We’ve taken a look at the best resources for helping you get on your way to a career in games. From basic code-less game creation to engine modding, events to resources, we’ve rounded up the things we think might just help get that career kick-started.


MOD, DESIGN CODE


[img:222]Unreal Engine 2/3
Price: From £5 to £35
udn.epicgames.com

When it comes to an engine that it’s useful to know, given the current state of the middleware engine market it’s hard to recommend anything other than Epic’s Unreal Engine. And, luckily, it costs almost nothing to do so – all you’ll need is a copy of Unreal Tournament 2004 for Unreal Engine 2 modding or mega-PC owners can grab Unreal Tournament 3 for UE3 abilities. All disciplines are catered for: programmers can get to grips with UnrealScript, level designers can learn UnrealEd and artists can learn the UE pipeline and stage cutscenes with the Matinee cutscene creator. Not only will you have an impressive demo, but real skills valuable at any of the countless studios using Epic’s popular engine.


[img:223]Torque Game Builder
Price: Around £50
www.garagegames.com

GarageGames’ mission statement is to provide hobbyist and independent developers with top-class technology at a low price, and their entry-level 2D game creation suite Torque Game Builder is a perfect example. It runs on the proprietary language TorqueScript, which may be an annoyance to those who would rather put one of their already-known languages into practice, but the massive feature set – including a particle editor, physics engine and support for both Mac and Windows – and powerful editor more than make up for any inconvenience. Those wanting to make use of XNA and C# should check out the similarly-priced TorqueX engine.


[img:218]RPG Maker VX
Price: Around £50
www.rpgmaker-vx.com

Want to make a game but don’t want to worry about learning to program? RPG Maker VX is a great tool that’ll give you experience in structuring, mapping and writing games without having to write a single line of code. All aspects of RPG development, from cutscenes and conversations to commerce, can be done easily through a comprehensive editor. A standard battle system is provided, but all aspects of the game can be completely customised should users want to go the extra mile and tinker with the engine’s Ruby source code. As such, the tool appeals to both novice and power-users, and a huge community has built up around the series for resource and knowledge sharing.


[img:217]XNA Game Studio 2.0
Price: Free (£65 per year for Xbox support)
creators.xna.com

Sure, developing games on the PC is pretty cool, but there’s little to beat the wow-factor of making something that you can run on a console. Microsoft’s framework, which simplifies the game coding process by providing all the common foundation code that everyone ends up writing again and again, also gives coders the ability to code for both PC and Xbox 360, even supporting Xbox Live and Games for Windows Live. The possibilities are massive, and Microsoft ‘s hard work to foster a community around the tech has reaped the rewards of countless portals, tutorials and books available for all experience levels.


Events


[img:220]GamesGrads
London: April 24th, 2008
Manchester: April 29th, 2008

www.gamesgrads.co.uk

If you want to get your foot in the industry, many would say that the best way to do so is to get in front of developers and impress the hell out of them. Which makes something like GamesGrads, where companies such as Lionhead, Black Rock, Rebellion and Sega pitch up their stalls to talk to wannabe game developers, totally essential. Add in the seminar programme full of advice for budding game designers and it’s clear that GamesGrads is not to be missed for anyone wanting to join the industry.


Studio Open Days

If you want a look inside a real, functioning games studio then there’s no better opportunity than to visit one during an open days.

[img:219]Leamington Spa-based Blitz was the first to try this approach – by the time you read this, its March events will have already taken place, but more dates are undoubtedly set to be confirmed soon.

The studio has now run three open day sessions for students and lecturers, all of them running out of space. Hopefuls are required to fill out an application form and submit a work sample to wow the studio and secure a place.

Visitors are not only given a tour of the facility, but also practical information about the disciplines involved in making games – from 2D and 3D art to programming, production and everything in between – and a chance to talk to senior Blitz staff about work, your areas of interest and advice for breaking in to the industry.

The idea has caught on amongst other studios, too.

Cambridge-based Frontier has recently entered into the education outreach world, holding an open day split into various disciplines.

[img:221]THQ-owned Juice Games in Warrington also runs open days for final year degree students.

While 2008’s days might have already passed for some of the above, we’ll keep developmag.com readers up to date with additional dates when the news breaks. You can also check out each studio’s dedicated open day resource site:
www.blitzgames.com/opendays
www.juicegames.com/openday
www.frontier.co.uk/jobs/open_day/