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desvox

Branching off Mid-Career - Where to begin?

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Hi all, so I posted something on these lines in my Introduce Yourself post, but I think I would rather do a separate post here with more detail. It's kind of but not very off topic, so here goes!

Before everything, here's a bit of background. I am 35, and currently working in the mid-level management of an ecommerce portal. The money is decent but the work doesn't excite me. Gaming has always been a passion, and though I was away from it for the first few years of my working life, I am getting back into it now. Making a game of my own has always been a dream. Books like The Making Of Prince of Persia (Jordan Mechner) and Spelunky (Derek Yu) have also motivated me to give it a shot. However, I do not have any formal education or training in programming (I am a Mechanical Engineer, then an MBA)!

Coming from here, I am at point where I need to decide how I want to begin on this journey of making my first game. I am being 'cautiously ambitious' - I am looking at a small game that plays out maybe in an hour, is a side-scroller and has some metroidvania vibes (exploration, power ups, abilities though on small scale). The idea is to make a sort of a demo that I can publish and send off to studios and hopefully they like it enough to hire me. I am not good at art, so it is going to be pixel art (8-bit even), and minimal background artwork (think the dark bg of Prince 1 with just torches/windows to break the monotone).

I am looking for advice on what tools/platforms I should begin with. I am considering the following, and have listed down a few pros and cons for each (according to me):

  1. A game purely targeted at the retro (8-bit) machines -- NES/C64/X16/ZXSpectrum etc using C/Assembly/BASIC
    • Pros --
      • A constrained environment, so game inherently would need to be simple. So in effect, the system would in a way define the scope and scale of the game.
      • Would force me to learn the 'close-to-the-metal' approach
    • Cons
      • Niche audience, not sure if it will be considered relevant as a pitch by game studios.
      • Will a game developed in assembly/BASIC be considered good "exposure" by a game studio?
  2. A game targeted at DOS-based systems (C/Assembly) 
    • Pros
      • More options as compared to the above, larger audience , though still niche
    • Cons
      • So many great games out there, may not be able to compete with them and the game may not get noticed
  3. Make a retro-style game using an engine like GODOT targeted at modern platforms 
    • Pros
      • Modern, can publish to multiple platforms. Easier learning curve (compared to the two above, most probably, especially in terms of low-level stuff being taken care of by the engine)
    • Cons
      • A ton of new games constantly coming out on all modern platforms, so again, difficult to get noticed.

Would love some advice from the community on this. 

 

EDIT: I got some input on this post that I was making it sound like making a game is "easy". Just want to clarify here that I understand it is a very involved and major line of work, not trying to undermine it at all. Also, want to add here that I do have some experience in programming  (I have done some VB for coursework projects, and have also been dabbling in Arduino programming). 

Edited by desvox

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Okay, what I'm going to say is neither meant as a motivation nor as a dissuasion. Just some (opinionated) insight into the games industry. I've been working for Eidos for a couple of years back in the day, and I've been a freelance developer for 20 years. I know the games industry intimately. But there's a reason I never went back, and why I usually pick jobs outside the industry. I'm close to people working predominately in the industry though. And what I'm seeing is mostly people going from one anxiety attack to the next as soon as they reached their 30s. Sounds harsh, but it's true.

First off, I completely understand and empathize with not feeling fulfilled in your day job and looking for alternatives. That's a good thing. But never lose sight of the fact that job security and a solid income are essential. The games industry, sadly, offers neither. It's a hire and fire business. No job security at all. There's some pushes for unionization, but in general, it's a highly volatile industry. Pay generally isn't great. Of course, there's always counterexamples, but I'm talking about the general situation here. Think of it as most other creative endeavors. Some people make it big, but the vast majority is scraping by. As a writer, I can tell you that practically all of us have a day job to pay the rent, because writing simply doesn't, unless you're Stephen King. Which several millions of us aren't.

Which brings me to the next important point. Some things are more fulfilling as a hobby. As a professional game developer working on a AAA title, you're just a tiny cog in a huge machine. Often times you don't actually get to see the complete project. You're just working on abstract mechanics. All you might be doing all day long is taking care of NPCs not running into a wall. You don't have any input. It's never going to feel like your game, because you're not even kept in the loop about the direction the game is taking. That is AAA game development. In smaller studios, this is can be completely different. But see above, the smaller the studio, the more volatile the job situation. Because you're absolutely right. Getting noticed has become the hardest part about making a commercial game. And smaller studios have to fight so much harder. Financial success is often compared to winning the lottery. And it's an apt comparison. Marketing advice is almost always based on survivorship bias. No one truly knows the secret to success. So with every new project, the same battle is starting all over again. Every time. It's exhausting, and burnout is the main reason why people are leaving the industry after a couple of years again. Making games as a hobby on the other hand -- that's HUGE fun.

That was the general "beware of the industry" disclaimer. Now to your actual question.

What job exactly do you want to do? It sounds like programming. If you want to get a job as a programmer, learn C++ and the big engines out there, Unreal and Unity. Godot is sadly still an outlier, and probably is not going to help you get noticed at most places. C++ is still the industry standard, and it's what recruiters are going to want to see in a new hire. C# is the other favorite, if the studio is using Unity. Undoubtedly, there are niche studio selling 8-bit games, but in general, high proficiency in 6502 assembler is of absolutely no interest to the regular games industry. Same with DOS. You need to be proficient in modern development environments. You're competing with millions of young people who got actual game development degrees, which basically every college in the world is offering now. And those degrees are focused on skills the industry wants to see. You'd have to give them really good reasons for picking you.

THAT SAID. A really good 8-bit game might get you noticed after all. Maybe programming isn't your thing, but game design is. In that case, it's a huge bonus to know about the technical structure of a game, even if it's an "outdated" environment. Some game designers aren't technically oriented at all and are at constant odds with their programmers, who then need to explain why some things work or don't. A great game designer should be knowledgeable about that. So, if you want to go with making an 8-bit game, don't expect to get hired as a programmer over that. But maybe as a game designer. But again, you're competing with people who have studied that for years and have actual degrees with specialized skills.

All of that said, if you want to make an 8-bit game, go ahead and enjoy the ride. But be realistic about where this is going to take you professionally. If you want a job in the games industry, go learn Unreal or Unity.

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My answer would be "yes". They say a lot of the best papers are written when you write it once, delete it, and write it again.

Don't consider using your first game for your portfolio or resume, consider it as learning enough about what you don't know in order to get a better handle on what you need to know.

So with that in mind, my suggestion would be first [1], and then if you think there's something to it, evaluate what you have learned along the way in terms of aiming at [3]. But the first one, just share it with anyone who is interested and get private feedback, leave it off your CV.

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I can second an lot of Matt's comments - although more on the general topics, as I haven't worked in the game industry.

I can see you are looking for a change, right? Let me make another suggestion, something I did when I was around 35 (I'm 51 now).

Back then I looked into different trainings/courses, study MBA whatever. I found something which required to only work 4 days a week, attend courses Friday and Saturday. Then it occured to me: wait - that's a good idea! I reduce my day job and live with less money - but the other day (and maybe in spare time) I do something I have really fun with.

So I did that: I was able to reduce to 80% work time (for 80% salary of course) and first did these courses for a year (about mobile application management). After that I started some test projects to find out what to do. Over the last 15 years I've changed topics a few times - but one of my projects actually gained a lot of traction and I made very good money with it when I sold it.

I kept it that way and I still only work 4 days a week. Yes - I earn less, or let's say: only 80% of my income is fixed, the rest I have to find elsewhere, and I did after a while. Right now I don't have any other side-income, but I don't mind. I enjoy a healthy 50% increase of spare time (3 instead of 2 days 😉) for 20% less money. A really good deal!

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Yeah, you'll probably want to try the indie game scene first. Keep your job security, it's gonna be used to finance your games. And at this point you could probably just do whatever you want, sell that on Steam or Itch, until you got something to be somewhat popular, and then you have a nice portfolio to show to the big AAA companies if you want.

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6 hours ago, MattGrandis said:

...

All of that said, if you want to make an 8-bit game, go ahead and enjoy the ride. But be realistic about where this is going to take you professionally. If you want a job in the games industry, go learn Unreal or Unity.

Thank you, everything you've said makes perfect sense, and this line drives the point home. I was not imagining AAA studio at any point, maybe a large-ish indie (Supergiant games maybe?) . But I see the caveats in that now, and i simply cannot overlook the "younger,fresher" talent pool out there, as you've pointed out. 

4 hours ago, BruceMcF said:

My answer would be "yes". They say a lot of the best papers are written when you write it once, delete it, and write it again.

Don't consider using your first game for your portfolio or resume, consider it as learning enough about what you don't know in order to get a better handle on what you need to know.

So with that in mind, my suggestion would be first [1], and then if you think there's something to it, evaluate what you have learned along the way in terms of aiming at [3]. But the first one, just share it with anyone who is interested and get private feedback, leave it off your CV.

Thank you, this makes me happy, as I do want to learn to make *anything* that is worthwhile on the retro machines. It just feels more exciting. 

2 hours ago, AndyMt said:

I can second an lot of Matt's comments - although more on the general topics, as I haven't worked in the game industry.

I can see you are looking for a change, right? Let me make another suggestion, something I did when I was around 35 (I'm 51 now).

Back then I looked into different trainings/courses, study MBA whatever. I found something which required to only work 4 days a week, attend courses Friday and Saturday. Then it occured to me: wait - that's a good idea! I reduce my day job and live with less money - but the other day (and maybe in spare time) I do something I have really fun with.

So I did that: I was able to reduce to 80% work time (for 80% salary of course) and first did these courses for a year (about mobile application management). After that I started some test projects to find out what to do. Over the last 15 years I've changed topics a few times - but one of my projects actually gained a lot of traction and I made very good money with it when I sold it.

I kept it that way and I still only work 4 days a week. Yes - I earn less, or let's say: only 80% of my income is fixed, the rest I have to find elsewhere, and I did after a while. Right now I don't have any other side-income, but I don't mind. I enjoy a healthy 50% increase of spare time (3 instead of 2 days 😉) for 20% less money. A really good deal!

Thank you, this speaks to me, I could technically freelance with some other sellable skills. What I am looking for, and I think you've pointed it out better than I did, is the fact that I need a change that would help me earn as a freelancer. I have been looking at game-dev as one of the avenues, but it obviously is way too cut-off from my current skillset or work experience for anyone to take me seriously unless I completely blow their minds. Which is a long shot from where I am starting. 

1 hour ago, Juju said:

Yeah, you'll probably want to try the indie game scene first. Keep your job security, it's gonna be used to finance your games. And at this point you could probably just do whatever you want, sell that on Steam or Itch, until you got something to be somewhat popular, and then you have a nice portfolio to show to the big AAA companies if you want.

Thank you, you are right. I will definitely have more fun with this if I keep it as a hobby for now, do some stuff that can be showcased later, and then think of branching off. I may just need to push out my first complete game to realise that I would want to do something else now (this has happened to me when I created and released a boardgame. I am sure i had thought at some point during the process that I could do this forever... *sigh*)

 

This is such great advice and insight! I am very happy I posted here, and I feel humbled by the time put in into the responses. Truly thankful! 

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1 hour ago, desvox said:

This is such great advice and insight! I am very happy I posted here, and I feel humbled by the time put in into the responses. Truly thankful! 

You're welcome 🙂. The different backgrounds of people in this forum are indeed very refreshing and inspirational. And glad to help.

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4 hours ago, Juju said:

Yeah, you'll probably want to try the indie game scene first. Keep your job security, it's gonna be used to finance your games. And at this point you could probably just do whatever you want, sell that on Steam or Itch, until you got something to be somewhat popular, and then you have a nice portfolio to show to the big AAA companies if you want.

^ This.  And, this:

Quote

Some things are more fulfilling as a hobby.

 

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Neat, I hadn't realized MattGrandis was from the industry. Myself, I've been working at Deep Silver Volition, a modestly-sized studio in Champaign, IL, since 2006. So, close to 15 years in the industry. I have coworkers who have experienced every corner of the industry, from tiny indies who came looking for job security, to publishers like Activision and Ubisoft who have more artists working on flotsam like cola cans and dining props than Volition directly employs across the entire studio.

About the industry in general

Everything Matt said about the industry is absolutely true.

I think the AAA side really hits its low point around the time of the infamous "ea_spouse" letter, which accused AAA mega-giant Electronic Arts of abusing their workforce with 70 hour work-weeks, as their modus operandi before talking about "crunch". EA was rumored to have 50% year-over-year turnover in their employees around that time, as in 50% of their workforce was leaving and needed to be replaced, each year.

Crunch is still an infamous issue in the industry, whether we're talking about CD Projekt Red crunching to release Cyberpunk 2077, Ubisoft crunching to release Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands, or Activision crunching to release the next Call of Duty, it's a practice that is endemic to the industry. To some extent, my understanding is that it's endemic to software development, but it's especially acute in gamedev. It's a complex problem to solve, and unionization would probably force the issue, but unions have their own problems and many gamedevs are understandably worried that if they attempted to unionize then they'd just get fired and replaced by younger, more naive kids.

Job security is also still an issue today. Even the largest publishers are only 1 or 2 big flops away from ruin at any given time, and many studios don't functionally survive their first flop (they lose key employees, or are reorganized, or hemorrhage people until they can't operate, or simply shutter their doors forever), even if they have long histories of success. Also, it's still common for folks, artists especially, to finish a project and be immediately laid off because their studio won't have work for them to do for several months. Thankfully, Volition doesn't work like this, and never has, but my understanding is that we're an outlier. And yeah, in spite of some 27 years of being in business, we got hurt badly by the failure of Agents of Mayhem, our most recent release, which was just completely dead on arrival.

This industry, I tell you. Saying "it's not for everyone" is a level of understatement I'd almost exclusively reserve for British characters from historical fiction. If V shutters, I'll probably exit the industry entirely, myself, go back to gamedev being a hobby that can exhaust my creative urges, and eventually reclaim the ~30% pay difference I'm told I could be making by plying my trade anywhere else in town.

Oh, and that reminds me: Since nobody else has mentioned it, be aware that AAA gamedev absolutely comes with a fun tax, in that I mean you can expect to be paid less for what you're doing than if you were doing it for anyone else. Because getting in is grand, but there's no shortage of kids willing to absolutely kill themselves to get in behind you, and that drives down wages. (My story of breaking in out of college involved driving 5 hours to an in-person interview from out-of-state and booking my own room in a local motel. It really didn't bother me, in part because I didn't have any idea what to expect from the interview process; but since V tries to be better than most, our recruiter at the time was rather embarrassed by it. It helped drive my resume to the top of the pile, though.)

Game-development options

I also agree with Matt that, of those options, Godot is the closest to approach direct relevance for a game programming career, though you really want to look into Unreal if you're looking at a programming path. Failing that, at least C++. It's not that our industry has no need of low-level CPU and hardware guys, it's just that we're talking about a team of maybe 3 dedicated guys amongst a programming staff of 46, and it wouldn't even be that many except that we roll our own bespoke game engine for our franchises, instead of using a third-party engine. And besides, almost every platform is X86 these days... and have you seen that instruction set? Even in the heydays of Michael Abrash writing articles about VGA programming, optimizing that stuff was an art in trial and error, and these days really is best left to compilers.

I would also echo Bruce's advice that you should probably think of your first game as a learning experience, and to decide whether you like gamedev enough to want to get in for the long haul. (Of course, if it turns out well, I don't think there's anything wrong with using it as a portfolio piece.)

Whatever path you go, just remember these things:

  • Keep it small.
  • Keep it focused.
  • Have fun! (Otherwise, what's the point?)
Edited by StephenHorn
Added some discussion of crunch that I felt was missing.
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So, maybe a person needs a few loose screws to stay in the games industry in the long-term, but I want to try and offer some positives about the game industry, reasons that I have stayed for as long as I have:

I found a great studio that looks after its employees.

That's not to say that Volition has never crunched, and never made mistakes along the way. Actually, the first Saints Row had an infamously long and hard crunch period, worse than anything the studio had ever experienced. I started at the tail end of that, and I think it kind of traumatized everyone. For the first decade or so working there, I'd describe the attitude towards crunch as "we're never letting Saints Row happen ever again." The studio invested in more and better project management, experimented, and we're continuing to try and improve planning and cut earlier, specifically so we never crunch that hard ever, ever, ever again.

Games are fun to work on, and their teams are fun to work with.

Yes, it's a job, and it's common to have a very narrow view of what you're working on on any ordinary day-to-day work, and so that does take some of the "fun" out of it. Especially when you're dog-fooding on your own work.

But I remember the internship positions I had doing "real jobs" before going into games, and they were B-O-R-I-N-G. I found my internships to be hideously awful, soul-crushing, "why-did-I-ever-think-programming-would-be-interesting-or-fun" affairs. Writing 100 or so trivial database queries over the course of a summer and then watching the resulting application for 8 hours/day to make sure processes are running is my literal definition of purgatory. And then there was the office politics... you know your internship is at a winning employer when your direct supervisor is suddenly fired, with two weeks left in your internship, and everything you've worked on all summer is completely forgotten and discarded, and you're told to still show up for work but to sit there and twiddle your thumbs until the end.

And then there was the other internship, in which a senior programmer had an inexplicable grudge against me on Day 1, and wasted dozens of hours over the course of the summer trying to get me fired. The only reasons that was tolerable was my boss appreciated the schadenfreude when that senior programmer would accuse me of something new, only to be shown contradicting evidence and documentation. I thank the mighty Pastafarian noodleship that programmer was even more incompetent than they were malicious, because that paycheck was going towards my college tuition.

I guess we all choose our demons, and I prefer being paid less to work harder on something I find interesting, alongside people I can actually like. Finding a silly bug, poking my office neighbor, and having a brief laugh and seeing if we can reproduce it. Playing board or card games over slightly-longer-than-usual lunches. I've become friends with a number of my coworkers - by which I mean more than just professionals working well together, these are folks I invited to my new place for a housewarming party, and that I've turned to when I needed help with a flooding basement, and that I've helped when moving across town. Folks I've gone drinking with, not just for team-building, but because they're great people to hang out with.

Watching a project succeed is hugely satisfying

After working hard to deliver a product, seeing it appear on store shelves - and then disappear from those shelves, with plastic markers indicating where it would be if only the store still had units in stock - is a remarkably cathartic experience. And reading positive reviews of the project is energizing. And even the negative reviews can be motivating, recognizing weakness in your own contributions and planning how to do better the next go-round. I think the proudest moment of my career was relatively early on, watching Red Faction: Guerrilla briefly bump up to a 9.0 metacritic score around launch time. I worked on its multiplayer, as part of a core team of 3 programmers and 1 designer. What I wouldn't give to relive those days, with just a few tweaks of benefit from a more experienced perspective.

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On 9/2/2020 at 7:04 AM, BruceMcF said:

But the first one, just share it with anyone who is interested and get private feedback, leave it off your CV.

Lots of good advice in this thread, but I disagree with the idea above.  Life's too short to pretend that some of your accomplishments don't matter.  Maybe when you're on your 10th game, the first amateurish one won't matter so much.  But until then, if what you make is good enough to release, then it's good enough to go on your CV. 

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One more thing (sorry for the double post, this occurred to me a few minutes too late, haha).

You mentioned that you're not much of an artist so you'll design the game with simple graphics.  That makes sense, but the other route would be to find an artist and team up.  Not only will the game look nice, but doing so will have the arguably more important benefit of giving you experience working on a game with other people.  When it's all done and you begin looking to join an indie studio, your artist friend can write you a letter of recommendation vouching that you're a good person to work with, you understand how to work as part a team, etc., all of which will be attractive to smaller studios.

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21 hours ago, StephenHorn said:

Neat, I hadn't realized MattGrandis was from the industry. Myself, I've been working at Deep Silver Volition, a modestly-sized studio in Champaign, IL, since 2006. So, close to 15 years in the industry. I have coworkers who have experienced every corner of the industry, from tiny indies who came looking for job security, to publishers like Activision and Ubisoft who have more artists working on flotsam like cola cans and dining props than Volition directly employs across the entire studio.

About the industry in general

Everything Matt said about the industry is absolutely true.

I think the AAA side really hits its low point around the time of the infamous "ea_spouse" letter, which accused AAA mega-giant Electronic Arts of abusing their workforce with 70 hour work-weeks, as their modus operandi before talking about "crunch". EA was rumored to have 50% year-over-year turnover in their employees around that time, as in 50% of their workforce was leaving and needed to be replaced, each year.

Crunch is still an infamous issue in the industry, whether we're talking about CD Projekt Red crunching to release Cyberpunk 2077, Ubisoft crunching to release Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands, or Activision crunching to release the next Call of Duty, it's a practice that is endemic to the industry. To some extent, my understanding is that it's endemic to software development, but it's especially acute in gamedev. It's a complex problem to solve, and unionization would probably force the issue, but unions have their own problems and many gamedevs are understandably worried that if they attempted to unionize then they'd just get fired and replaced by younger, more naive kids.

Job security is also still an issue today. Even the largest publishers are only 1 or 2 big flops away from ruin at any given time, and many studios don't functionally survive their first flop (they lose key employees, or are reorganized, or hemorrhage people until they can't operate, or simply shutter their doors forever), even if they have long histories of success. Also, it's still common for folks, artists especially, to finish a project and be immediately laid off because their studio won't have work for them to do for several months. Thankfully, Volition doesn't work like this, and never has, but my understanding is that we're an outlier. And yeah, in spite of some 27 years of being in business, we got hurt badly by the failure of Agents of Mayhem, our most recent release, which was just completely dead on arrival.

This industry, I tell you. Saying "it's not for everyone" is a level of understatement I'd almost exclusively reserve for British characters from historical fiction. If V shutters, I'll probably exit the industry entirely, myself, go back to gamedev being a hobby that can exhaust my creative urges, and eventually reclaim the ~30% pay difference I'm told I could be making by plying my trade anywhere else in town.

Oh, and that reminds me: Since nobody else has mentioned it, be aware that AAA gamedev absolutely comes with a fun tax, in that I mean you can expect to be paid less for what you're doing than if you were doing it for anyone else. Because getting in is grand, but there's no shortage of kids willing to absolutely kill themselves to get in behind you, and that drives down wages. (My story of breaking in out of college involved driving 5 hours to an in-person interview from out-of-state and booking my own room in a local motel. It really didn't bother me, in part because I didn't have any idea what to expect from the interview process; but since V tries to be better than most, our recruiter at the time was rather embarrassed by it. It helped drive my resume to the top of the pile, though.)

Game-development options

I also agree with Matt that, of those options, Godot is the closest to approach direct relevance for a game programming career, though you really want to look into Unreal if you're looking at a programming path. Failing that, at least C++. It's not that our industry has no need of low-level CPU and hardware guys, it's just that we're talking about a team of maybe 3 dedicated guys amongst a programming staff of 46, and it wouldn't even be that many except that we roll our own bespoke game engine for our franchises, instead of using a third-party engine. And besides, almost every platform is X86 these days... and have you seen that instruction set? Even in the heydays of Michael Abrash writing articles about VGA programming, optimizing that stuff was an art in trial and error, and these days really is best left to compilers.

I would also echo Bruce's advice that you should probably think of your first game as a learning experience, and to decide whether you like gamedev enough to want to get in for the long haul. (Of course, if it turns out well, I don't think there's anything wrong with using it as a portfolio piece.)

Whatever path you go, just remember these things:

  • Keep it small.
  • Keep it focused.
  • Have fun! (Otherwise, what's the point?)

 

15 hours ago, StephenHorn said:

So, maybe a person needs a few loose screws to stay in the games industry in the long-term, but I want to try and offer some positives about the game industry, reasons that I have stayed for as long as I have:

I found a great studio that looks after its employees.

That's not to say that Volition has never crunched, and never made mistakes along the way. Actually, the first Saints Row had an infamously long and hard crunch period, worse than anything the studio had ever experienced. I started at the tail end of that, and I think it kind of traumatized everyone. For the first decade or so working there, I'd describe the attitude towards crunch as "we're never letting Saints Row happen ever again." The studio invested in more and better project management, experimented, and we're continuing to try and improve planning and cut earlier, specifically so we never crunch that hard ever, ever, ever again.

Games are fun to work on, and their teams are fun to work with.

Yes, it's a job, and it's common to have a very narrow view of what you're working on on any ordinary day-to-day work, and so that does take some of the "fun" out of it. Especially when you're dog-fooding on your own work.

But I remember the internship positions I had doing "real jobs" before going into games, and they were B-O-R-I-N-G. I found my internships to be hideously awful, soul-crushing, "why-did-I-ever-think-programming-would-be-interesting-or-fun" affairs. Writing 100 or so trivial database queries over the course of a summer and then watching the resulting application for 8 hours/day to make sure processes are running is my literal definition of purgatory. And then there was the office politics... you know your internship is at a winning employer when your direct supervisor is suddenly fired, with two weeks left in your internship, and everything you've worked on all summer is completely forgotten and discarded, and you're told to still show up for work but to sit there and twiddle your thumbs until the end.

And then there was the other internship, in which a senior programmer had an inexplicable grudge against me on Day 1, and wasted dozens of hours over the course of the summer trying to get me fired. The only reasons that was tolerable was my boss appreciated the schadenfreude when that senior programmer would accuse me of something new, only to be shown contradicting evidence and documentation. I thank the mighty Pastafarian noodleship that programmer was even more incompetent than they were malicious, because that paycheck was going towards my college tuition.

I guess we all choose our demons, and I prefer being paid less to work harder on something I find interesting, alongside people I can actually like. Finding a silly bug, poking my office neighbor, and having a brief laugh and seeing if we can reproduce it. Playing board or card games over slightly-longer-than-usual lunches. I've become friends with a number of my coworkers - by which I mean more than just professionals working well together, these are folks I invited to my new place for a housewarming party, and that I've turned to when I needed help with a flooding basement, and that I've helped when moving across town. Folks I've gone drinking with, not just for team-building, but because they're great people to hang out with.

Watching a project succeed is hugely satisfying

After working hard to deliver a product, seeing it appear on store shelves - and then disappear from those shelves, with plastic markers indicating where it would be if only the store still had units in stock - is a remarkably cathartic experience. And reading positive reviews of the project is energizing. And even the negative reviews can be motivating, recognizing weakness in your own contributions and planning how to do better the next go-round. I think the proudest moment of my career was relatively early on, watching Red Faction: Guerrilla briefly bump up to a 9.0 metacritic score around launch time. I worked on its multiplayer, as part of a core team of 3 programmers and 1 designer. What I wouldn't give to relive those days, with just a few tweaks of benefit from a more experienced perspective.

This is what I am looking for I guess. Not just the good part, also the bad. In my current job, we have times when we stretch over the weekends and have consecutive 14-15 hour days. Agreed, not as bad as crunch most probably, but the point on satisfaction you've raised -- After working hard to deliver a product, seeing it appear on store shelves - and then disappear from those shelves, with plastic markers indicating where it would be if only the store still had units in stock - is a remarkably cathartic experience. And reading positive reviews of the project is energizing. And even the negative reviews can be motivating, recognizing weakness in your own contributions and planning how to do better the next go-round. -- this is what I'd like. Building something that someone cares about enough to not like it.

2 hours ago, John Chow Seymour said:

One more thing (sorry for the double post, this occurred to me a few minutes too late, haha).

You mentioned that you're not much of an artist so you'll design the game with simple graphics.  That makes sense, but the other route would be to find an artist and team up.  Not only will the game look nice, but doing so will have the arguably more important benefit of giving you experience working on a game with other people.  When it's all done and you begin looking to join an indie studio, your artist friend can write you a letter of recommendation vouching that you're a good person to work with, you understand how to work as part a team, etc., all of which will be attractive to smaller studios.

this would be great -- I can post around a small single-level demo with some placeholder art, someone might be intrigued enough to want to collaborate. It worked out exactly like this with my boardgame out on boardgamegeek.com -- no reason it could not for this as well!🤞

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4 hours ago, John Chow Seymour said:

Lots of good advice in this thread, but I disagree with the idea above.  Life's too short to pretend that some of your accomplishments don't matter.  Maybe when you're on your 10th game, the first amateurish one won't matter so much.  But until then, if what you make is good enough to release, then it's good enough to go on your CV. 

I'm looking at it from the front side, not after the fact. Going into the game with the goal of putting it on the resume is not the best mindset for the exploratory learning required.

Indeed, going into it with the attitude that it's job interview material will, paradoxically, give a lower probability of it actually being effective as job interview material.

After the game is finished, the advice has expired. At that time there's a game to look at to decide whether it merits being put on the CV.

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18 minutes ago, BruceMcF said:

I'm looking at it from the front side, not after the fact. Going into the game with the goal of putting it on the resume is not the best mindset for the exploratory learning required.

Indeed, going into it with the attitude that it's job interview material will, paradoxically, give a lower probability of it actually being effective as job interview material.

After the game is finished, the advice has expired. At that time there's a game to look at to decide whether it merits being put on the CV.

Then again, I have learned multiple programming languages for the express purpose of putting them on my resume. So, that may be a good start. Maybe not putting your actual game on your resume, but certainly your experience on using the language and engine it was written with.

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So to get "started down the path" so to say, I managed to create this small demo in Godot (attached file). The sprite is a 32x32 created using Aseprite, and the floor and platform tiles are all 16x16. I stuck to the c64 palette to create all these. To get this running in Godot, I had to do the following:

  1. Define the "layers" of the game i.e "world" and "player"
  2. Create nodes for the player -- a kinematicbody2d node for the player and a simple tilemap for the world. Put these nodes on the respective layers and configure which layer interacts (collides) with which other layers.
  3. Define the sprite for the player and assign a collision shape to it 
  4. Define the world as a tilemap. The tilemap was "painted" using the tilemap tool. Collision shape defined for the tiles as well
  5. Tell the program what is the floor of the world
  6. Define key inputs (left, right, jump)
  7. Define values for gravity and speed
  8. For the "player" actor:
    1. Tell the player to "fall down" if it's not on a floor i.e. define gravity
    2. Calculate direction of movement based on key inputs
    3. Calculate velocity based on calculated direction and speed
    4. Pass this data to a pre-defined function that takes care of movement / collisions etc

For someone who knows their way around Godot, I guess this would take 15 minutes starting from scratch. For me it took a better part of 2 hours. 

I see now how the Godot engine has abstracted out a HUGE amount of the gritty stuff. However I want to take up a "learning challenge" for myself -- I want to try and recreate this  for the CX16 using Assembly. I was trying poking around to see how I can get started on this, somethings I have found -:

  1. I can use Aloevera to convert my sprites to assembly code
  2. I will then need to understand how the system puts the pixels on the screen 
  3. VERA has a set of registers that control/monitor sprite collisions - I should be able to use these to monitor collisions
  4. The I/O registers of the 6502 should be for reading keyboard input

Ok so honestly, I have no idea how to get started on this. 

  1. How do I begin the program
  2. How do I get the map and player on the screen
  3. How do I define which way is down, and how fast should something come down (gravity)
  4. How do I define what's the floor
  5. How do I figure out the player is on the floor or now it's jumping and now it's on a platform
  6. ....

Is there a guide I could follow to understand all this? I am keen to put in the effort, or at least try and see if I am able to follow or it gets overwhelming. Any suggestions would be great! 

 

 

 

DemoLevel.mov

Edited by desvox

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You're going to need to read up on the VERA documentation, and then look at some code examples that are out there on GitHub. You can look at any of my repos starting in "x16-" here: https://github.com/SlithyMatt

I created a file called x16.inc for most of them that defines constants for all the addresses and things that you need to interact with. I also generally keep all graphics assets in separate loadable files, rather than inlining them in assembly code, which takes up unnecessary RAM. You can just load files directly to VRAM using the Kernal LOAD routine, so no need to have it in two places unless you need to do quick swaps between RAM and VRAM without going to "disk". I have lots of examples in my code of loading stuff to VRAM and setting up the VERA registers to configure the layers to use what I put there.

You can also look around other programs in the "Downloads" section on this site and checkout links to that code, where available.

I find looking at working code to be the best way to learn, especially since we don't have a proper developer's guide yet that addresses how to use VERA. But that is under development and will be a physical book that ships with the X16. Whether or not @Perifractic releases a draft of that earlier on PDF or something remains to be seen...

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As of now the only VERA docs can be found in the Downloads or Support section of this site. Whilst we are finishing up the main user guide, it does not currently go into VERA specifics. These are fairly well documented already, and may remain online only to cut costs and minimize paper usage to try to be green, whilst still delivering a cool spiral bound user guide.

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My two cents isn't worth a hay penny, but I relate enough to reply. I'm nearly 38, have an MA with extensive industrial trades, I'm studying Criminal Justice (graduate level) and I just dropped too much money on machine tools (I'm a former machinist). Reliable income is simply not part of the world I live in, so I adapt.

If you're really looking to program something that makes something (as-in quit your dayjob) - either go with 4D minecraft and sell it to Google or:

Provide the answer to Fusion 360's recent totally-foreseeable-decision - that embittered a great deal of their possible customer base (but not likely their market share).

A full-suite integrated CAD-CAM with a decent interface (Repetier meets Sketchup on steroids) - that isn't riddled with the dirty tricks that huge companies play (seriously, MBA's, what is up with the $1000.00 subscription business model? Profitable until someone does something clever... that someone could be you 😉)

Ultimately, as I said, unless a person can afford a recurrent - and rather exorbitant - fee, there is simply no decent OFFLINE STAND-ALONE CAD-CAM utilities. Even Autodesk leaves much to be desired.

I could build a psychotically awesome CNC, but I can't program a program to program it - and my soldering is terrible. Machinists with an MA in History don't have many tinkering friends to involve in schemes...

Anyways, there is a real gap in CAD-CAM that is obvious, and not being well addressed - convoluted work-flow and rather jerky business models by the two companies that dominate.

 

And if that doesn't get you giggly, there's always LCARS32x - which really needs some project management, and needs to ditch the Windows Shell idea and just pull the trigger on the 24th century already - and run it all on an EEPROM 😆

Anyways, I know I'm late and off topic, but related somewhat to your post, so I posted.

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