So a potential student messages me on Facebook asking:
My name is [Removed], I was looking at you facebook networks and I saw Game Design at UaT.I am looking to be going to UAT next year. And I was just wondering if you had and advice on things to prepare myself. Mabey some of the problems that you have ran into , If any, on just making a smooth transition into UAT. I am going for a bachelors in Game Design, is there any specific programming that you learned , or are learning that goes will with the degree. Anyways bro just kinda getting the 411 on things, Thanks man.
After I wrote it I thought my response would be a good intro for any design student):
Well one of the singe most important thing is the division between fan and designer. If you think for half a second you are going into the Game Design degree for anything other than a job- drop your application now and don't waist you're money. There are no "idea guys", no one is going to pay you lots of money for your "great idea(s)". I don't wanna sound blunt- but the sooner you accept that and decide if you really wanna eat the sinew and marrow of every mechanics system, explore every game engine, and write stupid amount of design documentation the better. That's what being a designer is. While other degrees can learn one skill, we learn how to work hard. Expect 20 hours days where you just hammer our a prototype or crash through a design doc revision.
If you want to learn Game Design- learn math. Probability, statistics, and algebra. Get a SOLID understanding then pick up table top games. You'll be elaborating on these themes. Just about every game's core mechanics can be run as a pen and paper game. D&D (general D20), Savage Worlds, Shadowrun, Warhammer, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, GURPS, HERO, ect. Learn them all. Learn them WELL. Play them a thousand times with friends, eat and sleep them. If you manage to do all that- you MIGHT have a basic understanding of game design principles.
As far as programming goes- we don't do a whole lot of that. It's a VERY useful secondary skill (C++ is awesome and Action Script is handy for rapid prototyping), but we have an actual "Game Programing" degree at UAT. We work with scripting more often than not. (And that's generally proprietary to each engine). I'd try to sit down with the UnReal engine at some point, CryEngine mabye, Torque/Torque 3D, or even the Hammer engine Valve uses.
Good luck- I hope to see you when you get here!
PS: I know that sounded harsh but we loose about 1/3rd of the designers by the third semesters because they are "fans" or "idea guys". UAT is the most amazing experience I've had in my life, hands down but you gotta work for it!
PS: I almost added F.A.T.A.L to that list but I wouldn't subject him to that :D