Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Random Tidbits from GDC for Students

As I mentioned earlier, some of the best conversations at GDC happen between sessions. Here are my notes for students, and student mentors among the faculty (or in industry):
  • Consider making a “job/idea board” at your school. Students with game ideas can post their projects, others can pitch in to help if they find a project that sounds good. Forces students to convince others that their idea is worth anything – good practice for industry.
  • Apparently, something called “XSI Base” is already a de facto standard for this. I haven't investigated the matter yet.
  • You can never remind students enough that they should keep their project scope small and achievable. Attention student game developers: Geometry Wars is fun. So is Tetris. Neither one needs an advanced degree in Computer Science. If you're having trouble coming up with ideas that are small in scope, study retro games!
  • Many universities have some kind of “Capstone” experience – students working together in groups to make a complete game. A good rule of thumb: 8 to 18 students per team; one semester pre-production (with final deliverable being a functional prototype), one semester production (final deliverable is a 5 to 10 minute mini-game).
  • Amusing suggestion to teachers: “Make all students cancel their WoW accounts at the start of the school year. If they don’t, call their parents.”
  • There are lots of game engines out there now, with varying degrees of power versus ease-of-use. Game Maker is great for those with very little technical experience, although it’s mostly limited to 2D retro-games and its framerate and collision detection are only so-so. Torque 2D and GameBrix both seemed popular, and they offer academic discounts. Game Studio A6 interfaces with C++ and supports graphics pretty easily, but has some bugs. With any game engine or authoring tool, having good documentation is key. Others that I heard mentioned later at the conference: ConsoleClassics, Click N Play, The Games Factory. I'll likely spend a good chunk of summer evaluating any demos I can find.

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