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   GAME Q&A BULLETIN BOARD

Hi. My name is Tom Sloper. Welcome to my Game Industry Q&A Bulletin Board.   It's a place to ask questions about the game industry and game design. You'll get free answers, here on this board. PLEASE READ THE FAQs BEFORE YOU ASK!!! And check out the Q&As below, before you email me. You might enjoy reading some of them.

Privacy policy / terms of service: "ALL YOUR EMAIL ARE BELONG TO ME." Questions and answers are handled in this public forum only - I give free answers, but I don't give free private answers. The "price" of the free answers is that they are given in this public forum for the education of all readers. Emailing me, or sending me a PM on any website, with a question or comment on this site's topic constitutes permission for your email to be made public. No information you provide with request for free advice shall be deemed confidential. I won't reveal your email address unless I think you're a spammer. DO NOT come back later and ask me to anonymize your email in any way. If you do not want your personal information to appear on this board, do not put any personal information in your email to me. If you do not want your question to be used in this public forum, then be prepared to hire my professional services, or do not send your question to me. This privacy policy is stated in numerous places on this website.

I'M NOT HERE TO BABY YOU. I'm here to teach you, to help you learn about game design and about the business of making games. Have you seen The Karate Kid or Kung Fu or those martial arts movies where the hero has to learn from a hardnosed sensei -- a rough-edged taskmaster with a secret heart of gold? I'm a little like that. As Randy Pausch said, "When somebody rides you, they're doing that because they care to make you better." Dumb questions and sloppy writing habits aren't exactly welcomed with open arms here. Babying isn't helping. If you want somebody to just pat your head and tell you how clever and talented you are, or to commiserate while you whine about how unfair the world is, go to your mama -- don't email me. If you want realistic game biz advice, though, I'm your guy.

I DO NOT REVIEW résumés, demos, websites, portfolios, schools' curriculums, or amateur designs. I do not follow links to read stuff for you. I do not choose schools for you. I do not make your decisions for you.

I AM NOT A PROGRAMMER, so please don't ask game programming questions here. There are other forums for that topic. This board is about game DESIGN, game producing, and game career advice.

EMAIL YOUR QUESTION to WebmasterSloperama.com, or any email address you know to be mine (it doesn't matter which Sloperama email address you use to get email to me) -- or click the picture below to submit your question or comment. In order for me to give you the best game career advice that's tailored for your individual situation, the first time you write me, I need to know these 5 tidbits about you:
How old are you?
What's your level of education?
What's your current occupation? (If student: "student")
Which game job, if any, do you aspire to or plan to study for?
And depending on your question, I may need to know what country you live in (where in the world are you?).


Feel free to ask Tom a question!

After you submit your comment or question, RETURN TO THIS BOARD SOMETIME LATER (like several hours, or the next day) to see the response (below) - and keep coming back to see followup discussions. Clicking the picture above might not work for everyone. If you do not see a reply (below) within 24 hours, then email your question directly to WebmasterSloperama.com.

On this website, all the marbles are mine -- so you have to play MY game. Here are the rules:

  • No shouting. Nobody is allowed to shout here but me. (^_^) If you type your question in all caps, I'll convert it to lower case. Then everybody will think you're a sissy poet, or beatnik, or chatroom pervert... or something.
  • Don't send me confidential information and expect me to keep it to myself. It all goes right here.
  • Don't send me your game design for my "thoughts" about it -- the only way I can comment on it is to post the whole thing right here for everybody to see.
  • I give this free advice only by email - please do not telephone me with any game career advice questions! Business or journalist queries are of course welcome. If you do phone me with a business query, please make it clear very quickly that it is a business query and not an advice call.



  • Holiday greetings, part 2

    On Saturday, December 18, 2021, 10:44:40 AM EST, Don X wrote:
    Re: Happy holidays!
    I know, I spend my Friday night at home last night haha. Glad to know that you might do something else in game dev now. Have you thought about doing streaming? I bet there is a market for people to stream older games. :)

    That's an interesting idea, but not what I am doing. Stay safe, Don.
    Tom Sloper
    Retired professor of Video Game Design and Management, Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Rochester, New York, USA

    December 18, 2021


    Holiday greetings

    On Friday, December 17, 2021, 07:48:51 PM EST, Don X wrote:
    Happy holidays!
    Hi Tom,
    The last I heard you were moving to Rochester, hope that went well. It’s still not the best time for moving but I hope you are liking your retirement haha.
    I’m pretty okay, I don’t think I like or dislike making games for doctors, but that’s not the point right now, the world needs to heal and I’m glad to have doctors as my customers now.
    Anyway, Happy Holidays and stay safe,
    Don

    Hi, Don!
    Yes, I've moved. And although I've retired from USC, I haven't retired from game development. My belongings were unloaded into my new loft apartment 6 days ago, so I've been busy settling in. After the holidays, I'll get back to work. The climate is cold here, but it's similar to the climate of Tokyo, where I spent most of 1990, and I grew up here, so I feel like I'm adapting well. Although there hasn't been a lot of snow yet, and a gust of wind blew my old beat-up fedora away, never to be seen again. I need to get my car winterized (it's been a California car its whole life)...
    Games for health is a good area. At some point you'll be glad you have that on your resume. Stay well, the omicron variant sounds pretty insidious!
    Tom Sloper
    Retired professor of Video Game Design and Management, Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Rochester, New York, USA

    December 18, 2021


    Why is a degree so important?

    On Tuesday, December 14, 2021, 10:56:24 PM EST, Yacine K wrote:
    Why is a degree so important...
    My name: Yacine
    My approximate age is: 19
    The level of education I've completed is: High School.
    My occupation (if student, enter 'student') is: Student.
    The type of game job I aspire to (if applicable) is: All of them (I want to become an indie developer, but if I had to choose it would be either Game Artist/Animator or Game Programmer or something similar)
    The country I live in is: Canada.
    My game biz question is: “why spend money on college/university in 2021, when nowadays there are so many free and/or way cheaper authentic resources available for us in the internet”.
    I’m asking this because I noticed that you insist a lot on the importance of getting an “old-school” degree in a industry ruled by experience, (forgive me if I’m wrong), but wouldn’t employers find someone with many personal projects such as: personally made games, animation pieces, game design ideas, coding skills…etc, wouldn’t they find him useful?

    In high school we were forced to study a lot of subjects that weren’t interesting to me, thus by only focusing on the subjects I liked, I didn’t do very good in my overall grade, and by consequence, when I applied for university, I got rejected in my 2 first choices, that were respectively “Computer Science” and “Software Engineering”, and because I surely thought I would get accepted in one of them, I chose randomly my 3rd choice, knowing that there was nothing else the university offered that interested me.

    And now I’m failing my 2nd semester drastically from lack of motivation, because most (if not all) of the subjects don’t interest me and some I literally hate. So now I’m left with 3 options options: either 1) I switch to another university or college with a lower acceptance rate and hope for the best, 2) Dropout and pursue my passion on my own, hoping to become a self taught game developer, or 3) Just accept my fate and study something I don’t like and be miserable, which I think both of us agree it’s not an option to begin with.

    So after all this what I want basically is advice of what you think I should do, and your thoughts on my first point, and whether you think the game biz respects self taught Game Designers/Programmers/animaters…etc.
    I’m so sorry if it was too long, I thought I should give you the full context to help you understand my situation better, so you can give the answer that suites me.
    And I want to say thank you so much for your generosity in sharing your knowledge with us, and for making it so accessible, you have all my respect.
    Dear Yacine

    Hi, Yacine.
    Your email is excellent. I totally get what you're going through.
    I'm sorry to hear that you are failing your 2nd semester. (As a retired educator, I can't help but wonder either when your 1st semester started, spring or summer, so that you are in your 2nd semester already in mid-December, but never mind, don't answer that.) I have an idea that might help, if you are removed from your current college/university and if you choose to continue pursuing advanced education. But before I get to that, let's address your overall question.

    A few years ago, I found out firsthand what it's like for hirers at game companies when they post a job opening. The floodgates are smashed open, and applications flood in by the hundreds. It's necessary for Human Resources people to find a way to take that huge stack of applications and narrow it down to a manageable smaller stack. The Education section of an applicant's resume is the first thing they look at. If there is no degree listed, the HR person scans down to the Experience section to see if the applicant has professional experience. (Note the necessary emphasis on professional, not indie or amateur, experience.) The HR person makes several stacks, based on risk level. Applicants with professional experience are low-risk; applicants without degree or experience are high-risk. Everything is about managing risk. Check out this risk table I made just now:


    HR people might object to some of this -
    Just email me if you want to discuss!

    You know what a cylindrical file is - it also goes by other names, such as "bin" or "trash" or "garbage." Depending on the company's needs, the volume of applications, the time factor, and the HR person's patience level, many if not most of the "High risk" applications may also go into the cylindrical file.
    Note also that I listed high-experience/high-education applicants as "expensive." That's another factor. How rich is the company? If you're applying to a AAA company like EA or Activision Blizzard or Riot or Ubisoft (etc.), they may have openings for students with good projects under their belts, and also can afford high-price applicants. If you're applying to a small or unknown indie studio, they may not be able to afford recent college grads who have expensive student loans to pay off and have high salary expectations.
    I hope you can see now that the portfolio (i.e. projects you've worked on) is not a one-for-one substitute for the degree. It's comparing apples with oranges… and with kumquats, cucumbers, and sofas… And I hope that you can see a need for a degree as you transition into independent adult life in the digital millennium. So now I want to address your current college situation.

    You said you have 3 choices. I have a 4th to add: change your major. You may also need to change your school in order to do that. By changing your major, you'll be able to reduce the number of "boring/unpleasant" classes you have to take. But boring/unpleasant classes are unavoidable in the education system - just as boring/unpleasant tasks are unavoidable in life. No matter what you may think about those classes, they are required for a reason. A complete education must incorporate basic classes that not all students see the justification for.
    And a 5th choice: transfer to a community college to get your boring basic courses out of the way (much cheaper than at the 4-year institution).

    You said your job aspirations are Game Artist/Animator or Game Programmer "or something similar." Those are far-flung specialties. To go for programming, CS was the right choice but you went with a 3rd unspecified major in order to be accepted. Not art, I assume. With the majors you started with, you were not going to become an artist or animator - but studying programming and art (both) could lead to interesting jobs as a technical artist or level designer. Just saying. And I think I've run out of things to say! Hope this helps.

    Tom Sloper
    Retired professor of Video Game Design and Management, Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Rochester, New York, USA

    December 15, 2021

    P.S. This exchange has been added to the Comments section of FAQ 34. - Tom


    Advice for an aspiring producer, part 2

    Re: Sales professional looking to break out into the games industry
    On Tuesday, November 9, 2021, 04:10:35 AM PST, Joshua W wrote:
    Good morning, Tom,
    Thank you for the advice! I can generally see how this would all be very helpful, though I do have a few follow-up questions and/or observations that might need correction. It seems like a few of the items you mentioned, like portfolios, joining IDGA, and creating a blog, are "soft" credentials, things that (at least from my admittedly limited understanding of the industry) don't seem to have a direct translation to the jobs I am pursuing. It sounds like they all just generally show an interest in the industry, and some knowledge base that is more concrete than "I have been an avid gamer most of my life" - but perhaps that is the point?
    As for the portfolio and blog idea, I read through the portfolio FAQ, and can see how someone with more concrete creative works could present it, but I am unsure of how someone aspiring to a PM or Producer role would present it. I've seen several positions I've applied for with spaces to add a link to a portfolio, but as the portfolio FAQ indicated, there seems to be a risk of a portfolio not being fully reviewed by potential employers. I have already created a list of projects that I was directly involved with, breaking down things like timelines, deliverables, P&L, challenges and solutions, so perhaps outlining those in a section on my project experience would be helpful?
    Again, I appreciate the advice, and already feel like I have a lot to work with.
    Thanks!

    Good morning, Josh. You wrote:

    a few of the items you mentioned, like portfolios, joining IDGA, and creating a blog, are "soft" credentials, things that (at least from my admittedly limited understanding of the industry) don't seem to have a direct translation to the jobs I am pursuing.
    The portfolio does have a direct translation. In the game industry, most roles need to have not just a resume but also a portfolio. The blog is part of the portfolio. It partly fills the gap (the one where you don't have any game industry experience).

    It sounds like they all just generally show an interest in the industry, and some knowledge base that is more concrete than "I have been an avid gamer most of my life" - but perhaps that is the point?
    Joining the IGDA builds contacts in the game industry. Not a direct translation to a job but an indirect one (you might make a contact who recommends you for a job - I guess a direct translation would be you make a contact who hires you, um, directly). It's called "networking," and networking is a crucial part of a job search.

    as the portfolio FAQ indicated, there seems to be a risk of a portfolio not being fully reviewed by potential employers.
    Doing the work on the portfolio is partly to make a good impression on others, and partly to get you focused on what it is you are trying to do. But you don't have to make a portfolio if you don't feel like it. You asked for suggestions so I threw that in there.

    I have already created a list of projects that I was directly involved with, breaking down things like timelines, deliverables, P&L, challenges and solutions, so perhaps outlining those in a section on my project experience would be helpful?
    "In a section" of what? A resume? A cover letter? A "list" is not anywhere as interesting to read as a well-written blog. And a list would have to leave out a lot of detail. Sounds like a lazy substitute for a blog. But you don't have to make a blog if you don't feel like it. And employers don't have to hire you if they don't feel like it.

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    Nov. 9, 2021


    Advice for an aspiring producer, from another industry

    Sales professional looking to break out into the games industry
    On Monday, November 8, 2021, 01:45:27 PM PST, Joshua W wrote:
    Good afternoon, Tom,
    My name is Josh W. I am 29 years old and have been working for the last 7 years in the Northeast US in business-to-business sales and project management since I completed my bachelor's degree in Philosophy. I've recently been trying to find my way into the games industry as a project manager, producer (likely on the associate level due to lack of experience), or perhaps something that would utilize my already developed business to business sales acumen, without much luck. From my experience so far, and judging from the information I learned in your FAQs, it seems that ultimately my lack of direct game development experience is holding me back.
    I have been an avid gamer all my life, have ran a TTRPG for several years and learned much about designing games (minus the obvious technical aspects), currently run my games through a virtual tabletop that I regularly tinker with, and feel I should be able to leverage my skills and experience better than I have been to date.
    What advice might you have in what I can do to improve my prospects of finding a job in the games industry?
    Thanks in advance!

    Hi, Josh!
    Yes, not knowing game development is definitely holding you back. I have an idea for you, but first, there's something else holding you back besides no industry experience. Check out your Northeast US region on gamedevmap.com - what game companies do you find there? How large are they? The smaller companies probably don't need producers. You may need to move to an area where there are larger companies. But before you do that, I have an idea that might help.
    Volunteer for a hobby game, tell them about your project management experience. Running a tabletop game, yeah, you can mention that. Your chances of seeing a game through to the end are low in the hobby world, but it should be educational. Maybe it might get you a foot into an indie game. Doing the job will be helpful towards getting the job.
    And start a blog now. Write some articles outlining some good project management practices you've found. Make the blog part of your game dev resume/portfolio site. Update it monthly, with thoughts on game dev based on project stories you've read that month on gamesindustry.biz, gamedeveloper.com (formerly gamasutra), and kotaku.com. Or on developer blogs. Insightful commentary can make a good impression on potential employers.
    Go back to gamedevmap. Identify every game company within a 45-minute drive of your residence. Research the hell out of those companies. Study their past games, their current projects. Picture yourself working on those games - is that a good picture? If not, skip the following step. Enter their phone/email/website particulars into your contacts list.
    Join the local IGDA chapter. If there isn't one, start one. Find out how.
    No guarantees, but that's the best advice I can think of at the moment. Have you read FAQ 41, Switching Careers, and FAQ 42, Producing, and FAQ 84, Location, Location, Location?
    Wishing you success, Josh.
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    Nov. 8, 2021


    Another entry for FAQ 23

    On 8/21/21, Acosix wrote:
    https://gamedev.net/messages/
    Catch 23:
    dive in. Start practicing and you'll see if you can handle the games business.
    It won't be the end of the world, but at least you'll get started and stop sitting still
    complaining about the catch.
    You gain experience by practicing as well, not just having a job.

    Hi, Acosix.
    Okay, I'll append this to the Comments section of my article 23, all about frequently experienced quandaries of working in the game industry.
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    8/21/21


    Thank you

    On August 21, 2021, Acosix wrote:
    https://gamedev.net/messages/
    Hey.
    I'd like to thank you for the Sloperama. Got me some insights.

    Cool! Glad you found it helpful!
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    8/21/21



    Roadblocks, part 5

    On Wednesday, June 16, 2021, 12:08:48 PM PDT, Meet P wrote:
    Sorry for that bad question
    Dear Sir,
    Sorry for that bad question my parent's are saying that they can afford but I just don't want them to like not living their life at fullest but I research other degrees and they cost around same and for the game design degree they are providing co-op also so that I can manage to pay the half fees by my side for 3rd and 4th year.

    Hi, Meet.
    I applaud you for your concern for your parents' financial well-being. Your parents sound like they want this for you. You should do your best to get good grades and manage expenses well.
    Best wishes for your success,
    Tom Sloper
    June 16, 2021
    Los Angeles, California, USA


    Roadblocks, part 4

    On Wednesday, June 16, 2021, 03:36:21 AM PDT, Meet P wrote:
    College fees
    Hi Sir,
    I am Meet from INDIA hope you remember me. I asked for if the game design degree is worth or not.
    I have taken the decision to pursue Game design as per my heart content i looked up some colleges/Universities in CANADA and USA and i came up with one college which is in Oakville,Ca name's Sheridan which is offering a Honours Bachelor in game design which is costing around 20k for International students for One Year.
    My parents are ready to pay the fees but i know they can pay for 2 years i dont wanna end their
    life savings so i am again want your opinion on this if i take this degree or to do in other field.
    And also Sir your website is like a miracle for me its he;ping a lot so thanking you again
    Stay safe and Health
    Honours Bachelor
    Meet P

    Hi, Meet.
    You have not stated your question clearly enough. You wrote:

    costing around 20k for International students for One Year.
    My parents are ready to pay the fees but i know they can pay for 2 years
    $20,000/year is a lot less than the tuition at the university where I taught. I did a little Googling and found that $20,000/year is average for international students studying in Canada.

    i know they can pay for 2 years i dont wanna end their
    life savings so i am again want your opinion on this if i take this degree or to do in other field.
    No matter what you study, if you study in Canada, that's what it's going to cost.

    You are asking whether your pursuit of your passions is going to cost more than your parents can afford. All I can do is tell you what most students do when they need to save money on their education. They go to a low-cost school for their first two years, to get all their required courses done, then transfer to the degree school for their last two years. For instance, here in Los Angeles, I had students who went to Santa Monica College to get their basic courses, then transferred to the university where I taught. And students also take jobs (either on-campus jobs or off-campus jobs) to help defray costs.

    It is normal for game degrees to cost more than regular degrees. You can get a career in game design with a regular degree. But even a regular degree in Canada is going to cost $20K/year on average. You need to do some research on required basic courses and where you can get them, AND if you can transfer course credits from a low-cost school to your desired degree school. Maybe your degree should be somewhere less expensive than Canada. You don't HAVE to have a game design degree to get a career in game design. Read FAQ 3 again.
    Tom Sloper
    June 16, 2021
    Los Angeles, California, USA


    Roadblocks, part 3

    On Wednesday, June 9, 2021, 02:05:08 PM PDT, Meet P wrote:
    Subject: (No subject)
    Thanks again for your time Sir.
    I am gonna follow my heart and passion for game design.

    On Wednesday, June 9, 2021, 02:07:24 PM PDT, Meet P wrote:
    Sloperama Faq
    Thanks for the amazing website Sir it's helping alot.

    Good, I'm glad my FAQs are helping. And if you get into a game design program, you are gonna enjoy it a lot. You'll make a lot of contacts, too (the other members of your project teams will be recommending you to their employers, or at least will be helpful in your networking efforts post-graduation).
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    June 9, 2021


    Roadblocks, part 2

    On Tuesday, June 8, 2021, 09:36:13 AM PDT, Meet P wrote:
    Thanks for the reply
    Sir,Thanks for your time .
    My parent's are in full support with me doing game design and as for the degree I was thinking to do it in abroad I check some Universities who give the degree in game design but I got answers on reddit that it's not worth doing the game design degree because it's too extreme for you as if you don't get a job you don't have second option and you will be in pigeonhole.
    Thanks for your opinion for doing game development but I am not too enthusiastic in maths but i love programming I have done 2 courses in harvard that is cs50 and cs50 ai.

    Hi, Meet. You wrote:

    My parent's are in full support with me doing game design and as for the degree I was thinking to do it in abroad I check some Universities who give the degree in game design but I got answers on reddit that it's not worth doing the game design degree because it's too extreme for you as if you don't get a job you don't have second option and you will be in pigeonhole.
    I'm glad your parents are supportive of your career goal. There is some validity to the pigeonholing notion. Show up with a CS degree anywhere, and you're in, but a Game Design degree opens fewer doors. That is true, but those few doors lead to amazing careers. If you want to get one of those degrees, go for it. It's called pursuing your passions or following your heart.

    Thanks for your opinion for doing game development but I am not too enthusiastic in maths but i love programming
    I assume you have not read the articles I pointed you to before. "Game development" is an umbrella term for work including game design, game programming, game project management... everything involved in the making of games, including game design. If you thought I was pushing you somewhere other than game design, I was not - I just wanted to be sure we were talking about the same thing.

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    June 8, 2021


    Roadblocks on the road to success

    On Tuesday, June 8, 2021, 03:30:59 AM PDT, Meet wrote:
    Game Industry Q+A
    I understand that, in order for you to give me the best game career advice suited to my unique situation, the first time I write you, you need to know that..
    My approximate age is: 19_
    The level of education I've completed is: high school_
    My occupation (if student, enter 'student') is: student_
    The type of game job I aspire to (if applicable) is: Game Design_
    The country I live in is: India_
    My game biz question is: Sir, I am very confused with my life I want to pursue my game design field and I have a dream of opening my own game company I have 2 ideas for game which I want to collaborate with other game companies but some people said that the game design degree is not worth it what’s your opinion on this sir?_

    Namaste, Meet. I have more than one opinion on this:

    When "some people" tell you that a "game design degree" is "not worth it," you may be describing [a] the typical parents' stance that the only kind of degree that's "worth it" is a medical degree or a law degree or a science degree. Or you may be citing [b] advice that I myself have given - that a "game design degree" is not necessary (that ANY degree will provide suitable education for an aspiring game designer). I assume we're talking about scenario [a] here, since I have gotten that question from numerous young men from India. I wrote FAQ 89 to address scenario [a]. And I wrote FAQ 34 to address scenario [b].

    Are you sure your career aspiration is game design and not game development? "Game development" is the umbrella term for all things related to the creation of games, but "game design" is a narrow specialty in game development. In other words, game design is a subset of game development. I recommend you read FAQ 7 to understand the difference between game design and the other types of jobs in game development. FAQ 3 discusses how to prepare for a career in game design.

    If you want to run your own company, I recommend you get a business degree. Parents aren't likely to object to that. I wrote FAQ 29 for those interested in starting their own game development business.

    After you've read those FAQs, you're welcome to come back with further follow-up questions.
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    June 8, 2021


    I would like to open a line of communication

    https://www.gamedev.net/messages/177704/
    May 18, 2021 09:26 PM
    BrenFlan-GameSystemsDesigner
    To Mr. Sloper,
    My name is Brendan F. I am a Student at Full Sail University, I don't consider that the most important part. I have been charging forward in my own learning and I am making multiple games, some on my own, some on a team, one in a pair. All in all I would just like to open a line of communication with some one else in the field (while I am a student) so we can casually talk about real practices. I thank you for taking the time to read this and appreciate any communication going forward.
    - Mr. F

    Hi, Mr. F,
    I am happy to answer questions about real practices, or about anything else related to working in game development, in a public forum - either in a gamedev.net forum, or here on sloperama.com. I don't do private mentoring - I prefer sharing knowledge more widely. If you have something you want to chat about, go ahead.

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    May 19, 2021


    Thank you for your work.


    On Monday, May 3, 2021, 04:47:20 PM PDT, Andres P wrote:
    Mah-Jongg Q+A
    My mah-jongg question or comment is:
    Hi, I just want to thank you for your efforts with mahjong and tile matching games. I want to learn playing mahjong and your website will be quite useful. I love to play tile matching games since my old dead brother told me how to play them.
    I am playing shangai dynasty on the dreamcast and I got a diploma from you ;) I'm right now on stage 5 and I feel acomplished every time I beat a stage. That's how learnt about you.
    It was quite a surprise to learn that you produced games for the vectrex as I own one with 16 games, including bedlam. I'm looking to repair it because the vectors began mismatching.
    Thanks for your work.

    Hello, Andres!
    That's so cool. I don't remember if I even knew that the developer put my name on those certificates. I ought to have asked them to remove my name; maybe I didn't know. I guess in Japan it looks more "official" if it's signed by somebody with a title - would have been more impressive if it had Bobby Kotick's name instead.
    I don't remember if the Dreamcast version included mah-jongg. If so, maybe it's only Japanese riichi-dora majan. And the in-game manual (if there is one) is probably in Japanese, so if you have questions about the rules you can use the manual for Shanghai: Second Dynasty and FAQ 25. Somebody last August was asking questions about Japanese majan on the Nintendo Switch. It might be helpful for you to see his questions and screenshots in the bulletin board archive.
    As for the Vectrex, it's cool that you have one. If mine was showing the vectors off-position the only thing I would be able to try is to see if the yoke (the wire collar around the thin part of the cathode ray tube) is askew and can be adjusted. I don't know electronics - wouldn't be able to do much else (unless maybe a wire came loose and could be soldered back into place). Good luck with that.
    Anyway, you're welcome to come back with questions anytime.
    Play safely and stay healthy. And may the tiles be with you.
    Tom Sloper
    Author of "The Red Dragon & The West Wind," the definitive book on Mah-Jongg East & West.
    Author of the Sloper On Mah-Jongg column and the Mah-Jongg FAQs
    Donations appreciated
    May 3, 2021
    Los Angeles, California, USA


    About the legal kit at gamedevkit.com

    https://www.gamedev.net/messages
    April 17, 2021
    ayoung wrote:
    Hey Tom,
    I saw that you had suggested this website/legal kit www.gamedevkit.com on a post way back in 2006 and I wanted to ask your thoughts on it. Is it kept up to date and still relevant in 2021?
    The reason I ask is the website is bare-bones and outdated. I just want to make sure that it's a product that is legit and maybe get some reviews on it.
    Thanks
    Andrew

    Hi, Andrew.
    MY site is also bare-bones and outdated! I can assure you that Tom Buscaglia is legit. I've met him several times at game industry gatherings, and he genuinely cares about indie game devs. You can read his bio at gameattorney.com. You can email him at thb at gameattorney.com if you want to get assurance from the horse's mouth.
    I see that he has a couple of commercial links at the gamedevkit.com home page. I wouldn't click on those, but I would explore the site, click the links at the right, see if the kit contains stuff you need for your business. The kit costs just under $300, which is (as he says) less than many attorneys' hourly rate. Using the kit could save on attorney costs, but you may still need to consult an attorney. There are numerous attorneys experienced with games. There's a list on gamedev.net, in the Business and Law forum: https://www.gamedev.net/forums/topic/644761-game-attorneys/.
    You can contact a number of them to inquire about their rates for an introductory call to see who's the best fit for your needs.
    Good luck with your venture!

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    April 17, 2021


    Should I file a copyright for my game?

    On Sunday, March 21, 2021, 10:44:26 AM PDT, Paarth G wrote:
    Should I file a copyright for my game?
    During these tough times, I've finally decided to hire a programmer and design my own game and it's nearly done. The thing I'm worried about is the copyright and should I file for it now or wait for the game to get attention and then do so?
    Thing is that I see a lot of games that don't mention the copyright or trademark as they don't seem to have those. So I was wondering if I should release my game in a similar manner?
    I already read lesson 39 and while that is very informative, it still didn't necessarily answer the question of whether such a thing is worth doing since as you said, you already own the rights to the IP as soon as you create it(or that it's still confusing to me at least). To me, I don't want all the hard work wasted because of someone stealing it and just making it all better.
    I tried talking to my brother and mother about it but they seem very lax about it thinking its not required for the time being. I am just planning to release it on PC through one distribution site and possibly to improve my career in the game industry.

    Hi, Paarth!
    I remind you that I am not a lawyer, and I am not giving you lawyerly advice. I recommend you put a copyright notice in your source code and in your game. You don't really need to file a copyright for it, but you can if you want. The real issue is trademark, and you can worry about trademark after your game is online and you're making a lot of money from it (which might never happen).
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    March 21, 2021


    Advice for the guy off the street, part 2

    On Friday, March 19, 2021, 04:42:09 PM PDT, Stuart C wrote:
    Thank you. look what guy off the street did.
    Hi Tom,
    I'm wondering if you remember me? You Synopsized my situation last year ?? [June 25, 2020]

      Let's synopsize your situation: you're 39 years old, you're from either the UK or the Netherlands, you're financially secure, a former business owner in construction and real estate. And you have an interest in switching to the game industry.
      My recommendation is that you study on your own. Subscribe to Gamasutra.com. Subscribe to GamesIndustry.biz. Read. Play mobile games. Play Steam games. Study games. Study the business of games. Figure out for yourself how you can leverage the skills you mastered in construction management and real estate. Maybe you should start your own game development company, but it's going to take time to establish yourself. Write game designs. NETWORK. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic means you can't network in the old way anymore (not until the pandemic is over, anyway). You're a smart businessman. You can figure out a way to network with game dev pros.

    Well I'm emailing you now because I thought maybe you would like to hear back from someone who you gave advice to. I'd like you to know that you were not wasting your time and I appreciate you giving me a nudge in the right direction.
    8 months of hard night time study and I have gone from struggling to navigate my Gmail in box to having my first mini game out for pre-alpha testing.
    Not bad for "The guy off the street" xD So thank you very much, I really hope you are well and have missed this awful virus.
    Any ways. here it is. please have a look.
    https://youtu.be/5VwrjOlT_QM
    CBS - Skedaddle Official Trailer 2021 - UE4 - C++
    CBS - Skedaddle Official Trailer 2021The game is now open to alpha testing. free to download. Join my discord to give your feedback and bug reports. Hope you...
    youtu.be
    Very kind regards
    Stuart C
    ps. from the UK, living in the Netherlands.

    Hi, Stu!
    Good to hear from you again. I always appreciate it when folks come back with progress reports. Congratulations on your progress! Game looks very nice. I knew you could do it.

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    March 19, 2021


    Do you have any photos from CGE '99?

    From: Jason B
    Sent: Sunday, February 7, 2021 4:21 PM
    To: Tom Sloper
    Subject: CGE '99 award dinner photos
    Good evening Tom,
    My name is Jason B; I am a classic video game enthusiast and frequent a few websites devoted to the cause (KLOV, Twin Galaxies) and my Internet surfing brought me to your personal web page. I saw that you had a post about the CGE 2002 awards dinner with accompanying photos, and I was curious if you also have access to photos from CGE 99, specifically the awards dinner?
    Don Thomas posted a lot of CGE 99 photos around the time of the expo, but unfortunately the Wayback Machine wasn't able to crawl the photos:
    https://web.archive.org/web/20010204043200/http://www.icwhen.com/cge99/index.html
    If you know someone else who might have a collection of photos from the dinner and has them posted or might be willing to delve into their photo archive, that would be great.
    Many thanks,
    Jason

    Hi, Jason.
    I might have been at CGE '99, I don't recall what years I went. In 1999 I may have been using my digital camera rather than a film camera, but I don't know if I took a camera to CGE '99. If I dig through boxes of photos and file folders and old CD-roms I have no idea whether I would find something there. And that sounds like too much work.
    Have you talked to the guys at the National Video Game Museum to see what photos they have from that expo? They'd surely be your best bet. Good luck.
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    February 7, 2021


    The advice I got, part 2

    On Monday, January 18, 2021, 08:41:18 AM PST, Don X wrote:
    Re: Happy New year!
    What he meant about the "corporate life" is relative to the indie life, so in essence his advice is to be contempt with where I am now.
    On Mon, Jan 18, 2021 at 10:39 AM Don X wrote:
    Thanks for responding. :)
    On Mon, Jan 18, 2021 at 10:35 AM Don X wrote:
    lol

    "Content" is the word. Very different from contempt.
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    January 18, 2021


    The advice I got

    On Monday, January 18, 2021, 07:34:08 AM PST, Don X wrote:
    Happy New year!
    Hi Tom,
    It's only been the beginning of the year and it's all kinds of craziness, isn't it lol.
    I was just re-reading your article on fantasy land and realized how life could be so much worse if I didn't put in the time during college to aim for a good paying job. It's funny how life doesn't seem to open up more choices just because I had a bit more success. There will always be concerns about 401k, housing, and currently the government and the pandemic.
    Jason █. joined the company I work for last year. And I asked him for a quick chat on my career. And his advice comes down to if I know I'm easily worried about money, a corporate life can be a good life too. In many ways, it's good, it means I can focus on improving my skills.
    I want to ask what this is all about, but I know I'm just wasting my time. Now time to practice and be a better video game worker.
    Hope you are safe during this trying time,
    Don

    Happy new year to you too, Don.
    You seem to be asking for an explanation of the advice you got from a new person at the company where you work:

    if I know I'm easily worried about money, a corporate life can be a good life too. In many ways, it's good, it means I can focus on improving my skills.
    From what you say, it sounds like he's saying that you can find job security more easily in the corporate world than in games. That doesn't really need further explanation, does it?

    I want to ask what this is all about
    None of us knows what the future will bring. We cannot expect certainty in this world. We're not going to get solid answers from other uncertain human beings. Live in the here and now; it's all we have.

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    January 18, 2021


    Interested in board games and game design

    On Wednesday, November 25, 2020, 02:35:03 PM PST, Joseph S wrote:
    Game design
    Hi Tom,
    I used to talk to you about mahjong infrequently—I still am grateful for Shanghai and your mahjong website! I’ve been into other board games recently and realized you have a whole website on game design! I look forward to perusing the website and I hope I can share some game ideas with you in the future for some feedback!
    May the tiles be with you
    Joe

    Hi, Joe. Welcome to the other side of Sloperama!
    I'm happy to discuss ideas in this public forum. If you want to send me ideas, put them into the body of the email (it's a lot of extra steps for me if you send an attachment) and the discussion will take place here on this bulletin board, just the same way all conversations about mah-jongg wind up on the Mah-Jongg Q&A board. If you do not want your ideas to be used in this public forum, then you'd have to hire my professional services, but I don't feel good about contracting with amateur designers so I would say no if you ask. Also, please don't ask me if your game idea is "good." I'll just say yes. Ideas are easy - success hinges on implementation. Sorry for all those rules - I learned over the years that they're necessary.
    If you're interested in board game design, see FAQ 20 and FAQ 38. Standing by for more after you've had a bit of a peruse.
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    November 25, 2020


    Wide-ranging questions, part 2

    From: Nico B
    Sent: Tuesday, October 20, 2020 12:31 PM
    To: Tom Sloper @usc
    Subject: Re: Game Design Questions
    Hello Professor Sloper,
    Thank you for answering the questions I had on your website (I completely forgot you had fake bugs run across your forums). Your answers have definitely opened my eyes a bit more in game design. I'll keep you posted as you said above. It's great to get to speak (type) to you again.
    Stay safe!
    Sincerely,
    Nicolas

    You're welcome, Nico. Stay safe. Stay healthy for a very long time.
    Tom

    P.S. Don't confuse analysis with judgment. Analysis just means looking at how the parts work, not necessarily "good" vs. "bad" game design.


    Wide-ranging questions on game design and game analysis

    From: Nico B
    Sent: Monday, October 19, 2020 7:51 PM
    To: Tom Sloper @usc.edu>
    Subject: Game Design Questions
    Dear Professor Sloper,
    Hello, I'm not sure if you remember me but my name is Nicolas. I was in your USC Summer class in Introduction to Video Game Design. I'm currently doing online classes at UCSC on their version of game design: Art and Design: Games and Playable Media. I hope that you are doing well with such troubling times as these. With that said, I would like to asking you a few questions:

    I wanted to ask how would you define a good game? According to the notes I took in your presentations, your section on "Philosophies of Game Design" had an acronym called FIFA: Fair, Intuitive, Fun, Accessible. Something that has sprung up in my class was how subjective the term "fun" is and that a game doesn't necessarily have to be "fun". I wanted to know if you could clarify more of that.

    I also wanted to ask what framework did we work with in our class? So far at UCSC, we have explored the aged MDA framework and the 'new' ('better') DDE framework.

    My last question is how should a game be judged? In my experience, what I look for in a game is innovative storytelling, memorable characters (if any), great sound design, amazing music, graphics that show the extent of our technology, gameplay that is 'fun', world design that begs to be explored (includes lore), and a drive to give the player a reason to keep playing/finish the game.

    I understand that with college now in session, you are most certainly busy. However, if you do answers these questions, I would be so grateful and thankful that you took time out of your busy schedule to answer a past-student's questions.
    Thank you for your time,
    Nicolas B

    Hi, Nico! Good to hear from you again. You took my summer design class last year (2019) - that was the last time I taught that class. We couldn't do it this year due to COVID-19, and I'm retiring at the end of the spring semester.

    I'm currently doing online classes at UCSC
    Oh, Santa Cruz (I had to look it up).

    how would you define a good game?
    I don't make sweeping judgments like that. Is League of Legends a good game? Surely - so many people play it. Is Fortnite a good game? It must be - a lot of people are playing it. Is Overwatch a good game? I guess so - it's on ranker.com's list of the most popular video games.
    I don't play any of those games, so I can't say what makes them good or not good. I'm currently playing:
    - Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch)
    - Wordscapes (iOS)
    - Monument Valley (iOS)
    - Monument Valley 2 (iOS)
    - Solitaire (iOS)
    - Japanese Mahjong (Switch)
    I enjoy these games. Is that not enough? You might not agree that those games are good, but so what? What makes a "good game" is subjective. Each person makes this judgment based on his/her/their own criteria.

    your section on "Philosophies of Game Design" had an acronym called FIFA: Fair, Intuitive, Fun, Accessible.
    Yes. That one I made up myself. I said that all games have to be fair. They have to be intuitive. They have to be fun. They have to be accessible.

    Something that has sprung up in my class was how subjective the term "fun" is
    No kidding. Did I show your class "the evil triangle"? If I did, I talked about how the triangle point "good" ("quality") is not just one triangle point but rather a 4-pointed star. See https://sloperama.com/downlode/EvilTriangle.pptx.

    and that a game doesn't necessarily have to be "fun". I wanted to know if you could clarify more of that.
    Your professor(s) are the ones making this crazy claim, so your professor(s) is/are the one(s) to ask for an explanation, not me. I say that ALL games have to be fun. Note that I also say that "there's an exception to every rule, including this one." (Is that in your notes? I know I said it at least once, maybe two or three times.)
    When I taught your class that games have to be fair, I probably also showed you Really Bad Chess, which is very popular despite its not being fair. It's an exception to the rule. All rules have exceptions (including this one).
    All games have to be fun. "Fun" might mean engagement - the fact that you keep playing it, that before you know it, a bunch of time has gone by. It doesn't always mean you're giggling the whole time you're playing. It's good to analyze and ponder, but you can't expect to come up with the answer to life, the universe, and everything. (Forty-two, sayeth Douglas Adams.) Definitions of "game" and "fun" are arguable - so you can expect to keep on arguing these for the rest of your career.

    we have explored the aged MDA framework
    I had to look that up. "In game design the Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics (MDA) framework is a tool used to analyze games." - Wikipedia

    and the 'new' ('better') DDE framework
    I found this definition: "Design, Dynamics, Experience (DDE): An Advancement of the MDA Framework for Game Design." - researchgate.net
    See also https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/WolfgangWalk/20151111/259078/From_MDA_to_DDE.php. These are "tools used to analyze games." I didn't teach game analysis in my very brief 4-week summer class. Maybe Chris Swain did, on his days? He's the one who covers cerebral approaches. I covered industry roles and processes, in broad brushstrokes to fit a lot of material in the first 2 weeks before going into final project crunch in the last 2 weeks.
    The extent of game analysis I covered in class was to look at Jeopardy vs. Family Feud, and an examination of how numbers change things from Tic-Tac-Toe to Connect Four to Bingo to Loteria, from checkers to chess to Othello to Stratego, and a brief examination of the games of rummy, mah-jongg, and Set.
    I learned game design from life, and on the job. I never studied it in college like you're doing, and so I did not knowingly use any analysis frameworks with names attached.

    how should a game be judged?
    Why does a game have to be judged? Who's doing the judging? The publisher CFO judges it by how much money it makes. The reviewer judges it by how his/her/their readers are likely to see it. The artist judges it by its art. The actor judges it by its VO and its MoCap.

    what I look for in a game is innovative storytelling, memorable characters (if any), great sound design, amazing music, graphics that show the extent of our technology, gameplay that is 'fun', world design that begs to be explored (includes lore), and a drive to give the player a reason to keep playing/finish the game.
    Your criteria are your criteria. And that's fine. ("Fine" is a perfectly cromulent word - put it in front of "wine" or "dining," and you've really got something!) (See how I quoted both The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory in the same sentence?)
    - Animal Crossing keeps me coming back because there's always more you can do, even after you've built all the houses you can build, even after you've found all the fossils, even after K.K. Slider has played a dozen concerts on your island. The graphics are gorgeous. The sounds are stunningly realistic (diving in the ocean!). The sounds are incredibly impactful on the gameplay (mosquito whine - approaching balloon - NookPhone notifications...). There are always surprises (listen in on a conversation between two villagers).
    - Wordscapes keeps me coming back because there are so many words, so many ways letters can go together, and my weird brain enjoys playing around with them.
    - The Monument Valley series keeps me coming back because the puzzles can still puzzle even after you've solved them, and the story has mystery and heart.
    - Solitaire keeps me coming back because my brain enjoys exploring tricky ways to solve random problems.
    - Japanese Mahjong keeps me coming back because the game is deep. It's difficult to master, and that's a lifelong challenge.

    It's good to analyze. Does that mean you can come up with a hard and fast formula, that someone can just do X and Y and wind up with $? No. Nevertheless, keep on studying, keep on analyzing, keep on designing.

    Stay safe and stay healthy, Nico.
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    10/20/2020


    Advice for the guy off the street

    On Thursday, June 25, 2020, 03:01:47 AM PDT, GameDev. net wrote:
    Hi Tom Sloper,
    -Stu- gave you a warning
    Hi Tom,
    do you have a FAQ for the best way “the guy off the street” can get into the gaming industry?
    Iv always succeed in everything that I have put my mind too. My background is in construction, I owned my own company then used that to build a property portfolio. I then took a job in central London that had me managing projects around the world. I am now kicking back in Amsterdam looking after my first child while my wife peruses her career. In a couple of years [name deleted] will being going to school and I will be looking for a new job. I’m very fortunate that I can take any job because I’m already financially secure.
    how can someone like me get my foot in the door? If it means going back to school I can do that. Tho I’m 39 years old. I’m very creative
    -Stu-
    FAQ43 made me laugh ??
    I’m sure I’m bothering you. Iv been reading your info. I’ll read everything you have. before getting back to you again. You have been very polite. I’m sure you have better ways to spend your time. I have respect for your talent buddy.

    Goedemorgen Stu,
    I guess as you've been reading my FAQs you haven't come across my advice policy. I do not give free private advice. I give free public advice. My private consulting services are not free (and are not for this sort of thing).
    Since my advice is free and public, I'm responding in the way I respond to all emailed advice questions.

    Let's synopsize your situation: you're 39 years old, you're from either the UK or the Netherlands, you're financially secure, a former business owner in construction and real estate. And you have an interest in switching to the game industry.
    My recommendation is that you study on your own. Subscribe to Gamasutra.com. Subscribe to GamesIndustry.biz. Read. Play mobile games. Play Steam games. Study games. Study the business of games. Figure out for yourself how you can leverage the skills you mastered in construction management and real estate. Maybe you should start your own game development company, but it's going to take time to establish yourself. Write game designs. NETWORK. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic means you can't network in the old way anymore (not until the pandemic is over, anyway). You're a smart businessman. You can figure out a way to network with game dev pros.

    P.S. I don't know why GameDev refers to your DM as a "warning," but don't worry about that. Please don't send me DMs - email me. My email address is all over this website.
    Stay safe and healthy!
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of
    the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    June 25, 2020


    Budgets / business plans for game dev company, part 2

    On Monday, June 15, 2020, 11:58:31 AM PDT, Jack V wrote:
    Re: Game Development Company Questions
    This is great, thank you so much!

    You're welcome, Jack!
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    June 15, 2020


    Budgets / business plans for game dev company

    On Monday, June 15, 2020, 10:54:58 AM PDT, Jack V wrote:
    Game Development Company Questions
    Hi Mr. Sloper,
    It's Jack V again. My questions for you are specifically about the financial budgeting of a game development startup.
    "What are the most important financial factors when creating a budget for a game development company?"
    "How do you make a business plan financial budget for a game development company?"

    Hi, Jack. You asked:

    "What are the most important financial factors when creating a budget for a game development company?"
    I assume you're thinking business plans, based on your second question. The most important factor is to make sure you plan for enough money to get you through the next stage, plus another 2 or 3 months burn. I don't know what that stage is, because your question is vague. Is it to develop the company's first game, and launch it and market it? Is it to just develop a proof-of-concept you can shop around to publishers? To create a budget, first you need to know what you need to accomplish up to the point where you go to the next stage.

    "How do you make a business plan financial budget for a game development company?"
    The same way you make a plan for any kind of company. Figure out how many people you need, how much they need to be paid and for how long. Figure out how much office space you need, including all related costs like utilities, parking, maintenance. Figure out what equipment you need, with extra for repairs and replacements. Also figure in legal, accounting, web costs, supplies, travel, even food. I wrote about business plans in article 62 and article 29.

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    June 15, 2020


    Is it worthwhile to take that masters degree program?

    On Wednesday, June 3, 2020, 04:35:20 AM PDT, Daniel C wrote:
    USC
    LinkedIn
    Hi Tom,
    I hope you don't mind me dropping you a message but I'm from the UK and I'm really considering applying for a place at USC to do a masters in Interactive Media and Games.
    I was just wondering if you as a Designer and Lecturer think it's worthwhile for me to go if I'm lucky enough to get a place?
    I'd really appreciate your thoughts and advice as to whether or not it would help me in my future prospects as an environment artist for video games in the future?
    Thanks in advance for any help you can give me and I hope you're keeping well!
    All the best,
    Dan
    Reply
    Not interested
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    Hi, Dan.
    I suppose you were not aware that I have this website full of information for people just like you, and that I do not give free private advice to strangers. Your question seems simple on the face of it, but it's actually multifaceted.
    First, I have to say that as faculty at the university you are asking about, how could I possibly answer your question in the negative? I couldn't possibly say that it's not worthwhile to take any program at the university where I teach. Note that I teach in a different department, not in the same department that offers your proposed degree. I teach game courses, but not as part of the degree you're contemplating. For one thing, I teach undergrads, not grad students. But I know the people who teach in that program, and they are absolutely top-notch, and they have my highest regard.

    The IMGD Masters degree might overqualify you for an environment art job (a lot of game studios require a bachelors degree but some may balk at masters degrees for inexperienced twentysomethings) but you would definitely gain a LOT of useful knowledge by taking that IMGD program. And you WILL have a much better portfolio after you are done, too. It would certainly be worthwhile to get the degree, but it might not make it much easier to get a job.
    I don't even know what decision you are trying to make - I mean, you are trying to decide whether to take that particular masters degree... as opposed to what? Not taking any masters degree? Taking a masters degree somewhere else? You need to consider cost, time, the difficulty of traveling during the present coronavirus pandemic, and other factors into your decision. I recommend you make a decision grid. The decision grid process described in article 70 is for comparing two or more options, and I don't know what your other option is, what you are thinking to do instead, should you choose not to take that degree program.
    If your only purpose is to increase your hirability, there's no guarantee that that masters program will accomplish your goal. If your purpose is to gain knowledge, the program will definitely enhance your knowledge.

    Adult life is all about making decisions. This is a big one, and I hope I have helped you to make it yourself. If you want to ask a followup question, please email it to me rather than sending me another DM.
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    June 3, 2020


    In search of a way in

    On Monday, May 25, 2020, 04:24:12 AM PDT, leon t wrote:
    In search of a way out
    Hi Tom,
    First of all I must say, thank you for taking the time to share your wisdom and knowledge on your website, it has helped me to gain a deeper insight into the industry and I certainly believe it has helped many others around the world, it is literally the wikipedia for the game industry.

    I'm from Singapore, 21 this year, and I aspire to be a game designer. I have worked on a couple of games myself while in the military and have also collaborated with others online. I am also currently an intern at a local game studio.

    I graduated from a Pre-University college in 2017 with an A Level certificate and had to serve my military obligations till this year. My certificate expires this year, and being the foolish passionate that I am, I blew my chances the last two years by solely applying for Digipen, which resulted in rejection both times.

    Fast forward to this year, due to the increasing competition because of COVID (and my average grades), I got rejected by all of the local universities, including Digipen. I also tried to ask the studio that I am currently in if there were any way to turn my internship into a full-time opportunity but I was advised that it was still early and to not bank everything on this internship but put more thought into other future prospects.

    And now my question for you is, where do I go on from here after my internship? I feel like I have tried everything to improve my portfolio to the best of my ability and I am seriously lost as I can't seem to think of a fallback plan especially if I am denied admission by the local universities.

    Again thank you for offering this service and I hope that I have provided you with sufficient background information with regards to my situation.
    Best Regards,
    Steven

    Hi, Steven.
    Here's how I see your situation:
    - You're 21;
    - You don't have a university degree
    - You've gotten your military service out of the way
    - You're in an internship with an end date approaching
    - You have the start of a portfolio
    - The world is in the throes of a pandemic, and a lot of people are either out of a job or having difficulty getting hired, and vaccines are months in the future
    - You say you're looking for a way out, but the way I see it, you're looking for a way in.

    Looking at it in short bullet form like that, there is one glaring bullet point: you don't yet have a degree. I don't know how these A-level certificates work, but I don't think that's a blocker. You should stop trying to get into highly-selective highly-specialized American degree programs and just get a degree. You'll probably have to study online, at least until the pandemic is over.
    You don't need a degree in Game Design. You can major in anything that interests you. Schools that offer game design degrees are few and far between, not to mention highly selective. Don't beat your head against a wall. Take a path of lower resistance. Keep working on your portfolio, too. When you do get hired eventually, it won't necessarily be as a game designer. Develop your skills as a game designer, but build a portfolio and resume that will get you through the eggshell in any way you can. See FAQ 85. And as long as there's no vaccine yet, stay in until it's safe to venture out. (To further confuse the in/out metaphor.)

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    May 25, 2020


    Associates vs. Bachelors

    On Monday, May 18, 2020, 11:08:10 PM PDT, jenna wrote:
    Back With Another Question
    Hi Tom, it's Jenna. Thanks for your reply to my previous email. I've come back with another question. "Is it possible to get a job in the gaming industry with an Associate degree or do you need to have a Bachelor's degree?".

    Hi Jenna,
    You've asked a good question in a bad question's clothing. Yes, it's "possible," but ANYthing is "possible" (as I wrote in FAQ 50), so that is the bad-question part of what you asked. The good-question part is "Associate vs. Bachelor." The answer is: a 4-year degree looks much better on the resume than a 2-year degree. Your chances of getting hired are much lower if you have a 2-year Associates degree when the other applicants have 4-year Bachelor degrees. Don't you want to maximize your chances? Think probability instead of possibility.

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    May 19, 2020


    Trying to decide between three career paths

    On Saturday, May 16, 2020, 09:39:24 PM PDT, jenna wrote:
    Pursuing a Gaming Career
    Hello, nice to meet you. My name is Jenna and I'm from Seattle, WA. I'm stuck on what type of gaming career to pursue. I have three in mind but choosing one is difficult because I'm an artistic and technical person. I tried different methods to eliminate them one-by-one but none of them seemed to work out as well as I hoped. Maybe asking you this question will help me decide on what gaming career to pursue. "Is there a difference between a game developer and a game artist?".
    1) My current age is 20 (turning 21 next month)
    2) Current level of education is high school graduate
    3) Current occupation is none
    4) Gaming jobs I aspire are "Game Developer", "Game Programmer" and "Game Artist"

    Hi, Jenna.
    If you are artistic and technical both, then you can pursue a career as a technical artist or level designer. You might want to read FAQ 53 (the whole thing, including the Q&A below the article) and FAQ 69.
    You also asked:

    "Is there a difference between a game developer and a game artist?"
    An artist is a developer. All game artists are game developers. But not all game developers are artists. "Game developer" is an all-encompassing umbrella term for anyone involved in the creation of games. Some people (recruitment agencies, for instance) equate "developer" with "programmer," but while all programmers are game developers, not all game developers are programmers.

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    May 17, 2020


    How do I report a hack

    On Sunday, May 3, 2020, 02:30:17 AM PDT, lordy f wrote:
    Game bug
    Hey I've read you're article...it's awesome
    How do I report the game developers about the game hack by hackers and making money out of it by selling items on the game and the people who can't spend money are having bad experience in game...
    Thank you

    Hi Lordy,
    You say you have read my article, but I don't know which of my many articles you have read. In mah-jongg FAQ 24 I discussed how to get in contact with the makers or publishers of your game, be it a mah-jongg game or not.
    Stay home, stay safe. Don't panic! And may the tiles be with you.
    Tom Sloper
    Author of "The Red Dragon & The West Wind," the definitive book on Mah-Jongg East & West.
    Author of the Sloper On Mah-Jongg column and the Mah-Jongg FAQs -- donations appreciated.
    May 3, 2020
    Los Angeles, California, USA


    Looking for the GCE game watches object code or source code

    On Thursday, April 23, 2020, 09:30:40 AM PDT, Ralf K wrote:
    GCE game watches
    Dear Mr Sloper,
    I am apologize in advanced for bothering you with this strange question.
    As a spare time project I am working on an emulator and some game
    ports for the Vectrex. Another one of GCE and Jay Smith's game
    systems. One thing that now have came up multiple times in the Vectex
    community is the question if the games from the game watches could be
    ported to the Vectrex to enjoy them there, too. I did some research
    and found that the watches use the Sharp SM510 4 bit microprocessor. A
    popular processor that was used in many other lcd games, too. On a
    coincident I had already started to build a system to auto convert
    SM51X based games (like Top Gun from Konami) to the Vectrex. But to do
    so it needs the content of the ROM from the game. Unfortunately it
    seems that for the GCE game watches the ROMs were never extracted.

    I understand that you were the game designer for these games and not
    the programmer but maybe you know somebody who still might have the
    ROMs or the source code for these games and is willing to talk about
    this crazy project. I don't have any plans to sell it or making money
    from it in any other way. But even than I am fully aware that the
    legal situation when it comes to these old games is most times at best
    complicated. Therefore if you prefer to not get involved in any way
    with this you have my full understanding.
    Sincerely
    -Ralf K

    Ralf, while demo versions of those games were programmed by people I worked with in Santa Monica, the code in the actual devices was programmed in Japan. Also, if you want to program those games for the Vectrex, you'll have to create vector graphics. The source code wouldn't include anything like that. Please don't ask me to put you in touch with my former coworkers - that sort of thing goes against my grain. I recommend you analyze the gameplay and write your own code. I wouldn't worry about copyright or trademark - Jay Smith has put it in the public domain. Good luck, have fun!

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    April 23, 2020


    Student school assignment questions

    On Saturday, February 8, 2020, 10:01:57 AM PST, doug wrote:
    A letter to Mr.Sloper at Sloperama Productions
    Hi Mr.Sloper!
    My name is Nile and I'm a fifteen year old student in Memphis looking for some advice on creating video games. I just had a couple of questions about your program and your occupation.
    What position do/did you hold, with what company, and for how long?
    What areas of your career did you enjoy the most? Which areas did you dislike the most? Why?
    How difficult is it to enter into your career, and what are the requirements necessary to have your career?
    What surprised you once you took this career?
    What advice would you have for students seeking to pursue this career?
    I know this might seem like a very daunting list of questions but I would appreciate it if you could answer my questions. I look forward to hearing from you and I appreciate your time and consideration.
    From,
    Nile

    Hi, Nile. Let's see what we can do with your couple of questions:

    What position do/did you hold, with what company, and for how long?
    I was a game designer and a producer. I worked at Western Technologies for 3½ years, getting my start. I worked at Sega for 1 year, Atari for about a year and a half, and Activision for twelve years. I'm now teaching game design and production at USC, where I've been for over 13 years. In between Activision and USC, I freelanced and spoke and wrote.

    What areas of your career did you enjoy the most? Which areas did you dislike the most? Why?
    I enjoyed my first job the most, at Western Technologies. I was learning a ton and having lots of fun with my very creative and smart coworkers. I enjoyed Activision, and working in Japan. My least favorite job was Atari Corp., because I was overworked and not enthusiastically supported by my coworkers and the, shall we say, unique corporate culture. But I learned a ton at that job too. And freelancing was really hard too, it's hard to enjoy all the activities necessary to obtain projects. I learned a lot in all my jobs, actually.

    How difficult is it to enter into your career, and what are the requirements necessary to have your career?
    It's difficult to become a game designer, because there is so much competition. You have to have a degree, and you have to have connections, which means you need to live locally and network. You have to have a spectacular portfolio.

    What surprised you once you took this career?
    I discovered so many opportunities to use skills I had learned by just following my interests. My having drawn comics came in handy. My having learned to play music came in handy. My having designed a board game came in handy. My having played many many board and card games came in handy. Just about everything creative and fun is part of being a game designer.

    What advice would you have for students seeking to pursue this career?
    Learn to ask good questions. The hard part is knowing what your questions really are - what it is you really need to know. And follow your passions.

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    February 8, 2020


    Where do I find a straight up read on whether this idea has any currency

    On Sunday, January 26, 2020, 02:55:06 AM PST, DocBranch wrote:
    My toddlers love to play it, will anyone else?
    I understand that, in order for you to give me the best game career advice suited to my unique situation, the first time I write you, you need to know that...
    My approximate age is: I will be 70 July 30. Proud of that…but let’s not count our chickens…
    The level of education I've completed is: Ph.D., Counseling Education. I know you did not ask discipline. I think it is relevant.
    My occupation (if student, enter 'student') is: Now…..writer. “High School is Not Enough” available on Amazon. By the way your words to that parent about where his daughter attends is less important that having the chops is spot on. Hope he heard you. I was in high education for thirty five years, seven as a community college president.
    The type of game job I aspire to (if applicable) is: N/A
    The country I live in is: between the U.S. and the Philippines
    My game biz question is: Where do I find a realistic – and yes straight up - read on whether this idea has any currency outside of my toddlers, who love to play it? Like a game developers workshop similar to the credible workshops and retreats for writers. Or some other safe space for people who think they have the next best game since Monopoly to flesh out their ideas.
    Thanks for taking the time, as I hope you will, to respond. Either way, Happy New Year.
    Wayne

    Hi, Wayne.
    You have an idea for a game or toy for toddlers (age 1 to 3), and you want some kind of official validation that the idea is worth pursuing.
    There is no such process.
    You pitch your business concept to investors or publishers or an online crowd, and if one or more of them are willing to take a risk on your idea, there you go.
    Maybe you remember the 2017 TV show, The Toy Box? Unfortunately, the show was cancelled after Toys R Us imploded.
    Ben Kaufman, an inventor/entrepreneur, said, "I can't tell you if your idea is good. If you feel passionate about it, do it and don't be afraid to fail. In fact, failure should motivate you - it does that for me." Howard Aiken, a computer scientist, said "If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats." (These are from the "Words of Wisdom" FAQ, http://sloperama.com/advice/lesson47.html.)
    I don't have anything else to add, except to say that your opinion on the value of your idea matters more than anyone else's. You believe your idea will sell to other parents. The toddlers market is huge! You should pursue it. But pitching and looking for funding is a lot of work, and that's the only way to get feedback on the value of your idea. Read about Ann Moore and her inventions (starting with a new type of baby carrier), and what she went through to get her products to market. That's great that you have a moneymaking idea. The bad news is you're in for a huge struggle to get it to the moneymaking part. Good luck!

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    January 26, 2020 - 恭賀新禧! Happy Year of the Rat!


    Advice for my daughter's education

    On Friday, January 24, 2020, 06:03:21 AM PST, H L wrote:
    Advice about artist daughter and education
    Just came across this site, through Reddit, and I can't wait to point my daughter to it when she gets home from school today (she is 16, in her junior year, and an aspiring game designer on the art/animation/creative side).

    Background on me: Programmer for the last 25 years. In college I dreamed of being a video game programmer, while there, me and friends began building an MMOGRPG complete with networking, graphics, and AI. Since we were in college and only 3 people, we never finished it, but we tried and had fun. I got married and had a kid early out of college and sold out and went into the business programming world, and never had a chance to look back. My 2nd child dreams of being a video game team member, and creator, and artist, and is very passionate about it (thousands of digital drawings and hand sketches over the years). I want to give her a chance to get into this career she can be passionate about, but also help ensure she doesn't swing and miss entirely and has other life options. She's taking AP Art next year, and has taken 2 years of AP programming. She enjoys the programming, but is not a master at it, or passionate about it. But it's good to know it somewhat. She is, however, passionate about digital art, and spends her free time with a drawing tablet for hours (over years). Seems like a clear winner there.

    Question 1: She's an excellent student (think 4.3 GPA, honors and AP classes). Are we better off sending her to a college based on it's video game design programs (such as Champlain College, a "B" ranked smaller school with mediocre academics, but a very niche video game and intern program), or to a more rigorous/top college that she can get into, even if it means a smaller fish in a bigger pond or if it has more general programs like Digital Animation or Art? I worry she may need something to fall back on, and if you major is in game design and you try to go into graphic design, there may be no demand for your degree?

    Question 2: For her summer after this junior year, we're considering sending her off to a 1 or 2 week "game design" precollege program. I entirely get that these will not do much for her in terms of building a large portfolio, or getting her into any colleges or jobs. But wondering if you think it's a decent idea in terms of exposing her to the basic environment of what it's like, before she picks colleges or majors? The most exciting one is Carnegie Mellon's 6-week program where they actually build real teams with designers, artists, programmers, and build a real product. But that is 10K and we can only afford a quarter of that, sadly. I suppose it's for the video game playing children of extremely wealthy people. There are, however, other flavors like 2 week programs ($4500) at Champlain, or $3500 at Marist, or one week ($2000) programs at Uconn. I think what you might get out of it degrades significantly from 6, to 2, to 1 week, respectively.

    Question 3: I see you instruct at a fine college, and I was curious, are top colleges that would consider giving significant scholarships to a student for their art portfolio? I realize I will sound biased, but her talent levels in my opinion are very high on the charts, and I am wondering if a college with game design programs offers merit rewards for talented artists with passion for game design, or is that strictly reserved for programmers/STEM kids?

    Looking forward to continued reading of your site.
    Thanks for building this site!
    Henry

    Hi, Henry! I like how supportive you're being. It's refreshing to hear from a parent who doesn't put his foot down and insist that the offspring study more traditional subjects. To address your questions:

    Are we better off sending her to a college based on it's video game design programs
    Every person who interviews a job candidate is different, and looks for different things. Someone who got a degree from the same institution where the candidate graduated is likely to view the candidate favorably. Otherwise, "got degree? Check. Let's see the portfolio." The institution is unimportant. The degree is slightly important. The chops is where it's at.

    I worry she may need something to fall back on, and if you major is in game design and you try to go into graphic design, there may be no demand for your degree?
    There are a lot of things to worry about. A skilled graduate having fallback options shouldn't be high on the list (note the keywords "skilled" and "graduate") (you're welcome to throw "talented" in there for good measure).

    For her summer after this junior year, we're considering sending her off to a 1 or 2 week "game design" precollege program. ... wondering if you think it's a decent idea in terms of exposing her to the basic environment
    We have a 4-week game design program. I've seen those students go on to college and graduation and jobs in the industry. One is now working at Treyarch, that I know of (it's not often that my graduates get back in touch to let me know where they wound up). So yes, if your daughter wants to go to a precollege program, I think it would be great if you would let her go.

    The most exciting one is Carnegie Mellon's
    Excellent. Maybe she'll get to know Jesse Schell. He's fantastic.

    But that is 10K
    Wow, that is high. You can only do what you can do. Have a look at summer.usc.edu (wow, this feels awkward, stepping out of my "impartial information" stance) - but it's an option. Compare it with the others. Maybe it's still too expensive, I don't know (I just teach it).

    are top colleges that would consider giving significant scholarships to a student for their art portfolio?
    Sorry, not quite sure what you're asking. If I remove the words "that would consider," the answer is "I don't know." I don't even know if my institution gives scholarships. I just teach there. I don't recommend going into huge scholastic loan debt.

    Help your daughter get into a reasonably affordable institution, maybe even CC to get the basic courses done and then transferring into a university. Encourage her to take whatever degree program (and courses) that interest her. Her passions should drive her studies and career goals. There's no telling where she'll wind up, but it should be an interesting journey. Have you seen FAQ 34?

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    January 24, 2020


    Hear me out

    >On Tuesday, November 5, 2019, 11:16:18 PM PST, Yogeshwar M wrote:
    >Hi! hear me out ...
    >Hi!
    >I am Yogeshwar M. I study in Chinmaya International Residential School, Coimbatore, India. I wanted to approach you because I too want to be a game designer (I'm in 12th grade if you are wondering..). If you are willing to take some time off your busy schedule, please let me know as I would like to ask some vital questions about this career and on what to do to get to where you are.
    >Yours faithfully,
    >Yogeshwar M

    Namaste, Yogeshwar.
    I'm sorry that my website looks so old that you had to check to see if it still gets updated. I can't answer your questions until you ask them. But before you write questions, you should try to find your answers yourself. Have you read FAQ 3 yet? Have you scanned down the list of FAQs to see if any of them touch on your vital questions? I bet some of them do.
    And I know you didn't ask this, but you should rethink how you write email subject lines. Instead of generic greetings and an exhortation to read the email (both of which are hallmarks of spam), you should title your emails based on their content. "I have questions about the career of game designer" would have been the very best title for the email you sent me.

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    November 6, 2019


    I'm going to take an online course in video game writing

    >On Tuesday, October 22, 2019, 05:56:50 AM PDT, FH wrote:
    >info.request about video game writing
    >Hi there, Mr Sloper!
    >I'm about to jump into an on-line course in video game writing.
    >Have you any recommendation ?
    >First of all, could you tell me if video game writing has to see more with technical writing or UX writing (microcopy) ?... or both ?
    >Is video writing more the job of a Game Tester or a QA Game Tester ?
    >This being said, have we still to make the difference between a Tester and a QA ?
    >I would appreciate a lot your feedback.
    >Have a great day,
    >Françoise H

    Bonjour, Françoise. Vous avez écrit :

    I'm about to jump into an on-line course in video game writing.
    Marvelous!

    Have you any recommendation ?
    Ask good questions so you can get good answers. And read my FAQs.

    could you tell me if video game writing has to see more with technical writing or UX writing (microcopy) ?... or both ?
    As I wrote in FAQ 32, video game writing might entail story, dialogue, technical, marketing copy, or strategy guides writing. I would assume that your online course mainly covers story dialogue and storytelling. But you signed up for the course, right? Surely there is a description of what the course entails.

    Is video writing more the job of a Game Tester or a QA Game Tester ?
    No.

    This being said, have we still to make the difference between a Tester and a QA ?
    I thought you wanted to ask about writing. Why are you asking about QA testing? That's not going to be a topic in your writing course.

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    October 22, 2019


    College concerns

    >On Thursday, October 17, 2019, 02:06:57 PM PDT, Alicia T wrote:
    >Request for Career Advice- Game Design and Development
    >Hello Mr. Sloper! My name is Casey, and I'm currently a student attending Shelton State Community College, located in Alabama, and before I present my request, here's your required information:
    >i. I'm currently 21 years old
    >ii. I have completed high school, with some college
    >iii. I'm a student at the moment, with Uber as a supplementary income
    >iv. I hope to be a game designer soon, with a skill-set centered within Computer Science
    >v. I currently reside in Tuscaloosa, AL.
    >My current situation feels very personal, and I would never actually write to anyone regarding specific situations unless it becomes evident I need additional, outside help or guidance. As I stated before, I'm attending a community college, aiming for an Associates in Computer Science, with a focus in Programming and App Development. Before this point, I was under the Associates for General Studies, and undertook the program for about a 18 months (I graduated H.S. in 2016). Shelton never actually implemented a fully-fledged C.S. program until late 2018. While my current program is Programming focused, I can't help but realize it may not be the route I want to undertake in regards to designing and making video games.
    >My current end-goal is to be able to design games, and help during the development of these games (namely, my dream is to help albeit even a little on the Pokemon games). I don't want to enter the industry for the money (I'm confident that will come regardless); I've seen the power games have to bring whole peoples and communities together and, in general, promote positive energy among those groups. I want to be able to give people this experience, in any way possible.
    >My predicament comes to choosing that path for the destination. I've done a bit a research, and schools in Alabama don't really have anything focused on the actual creation of video games. Some notable schools I have seen actually range from Digipen, Rochester's Institute of Technology, Full Sail, and more, but the best schools are all located out-of-state. This leaves my with the realization that student debt, and debt in general, is inevitable.
    >Should I continue to obtain a foundation in computer science through school, or are the skills necessary for design and development obtainable through self-teaching and persistence? What skills are the industry looking for today as a whole? Is it worth it to have a studio in mind as a career goal or do I collect the chips as they fall? I do know there are some sites out there (edX, Coursera, etc) that can provide tools and courses for teaching yourself fine-tuned skills that can be very specific, but that's the notion; they usually are very specific.
    >If you did, thanks for taking the time to read the request in full! This is one the first times I have done advice requests, so please do excuse any FAQ lapses or likewise info in that regard. Thanks again!
    >Casey B.
    >P.S. Additional Information: I do actually feel pressured by my family to attend school; this context helps with providing more depth towards why this is such an immense issue for me.

    Hi, Casey! Let's see if I can help with those questions:

    I hope to be a game designer soon, with a skill-set centered within Computer Science ... aiming for an Associates in Computer Science, with a focus in Programming and App Development.
    That's a perfectly fine beginning.

    While my current program is Programming focused, I can't help but realize it may not be the route I want to undertake in regards to designing and making video games.
    It doesn't hurt! A designer doesn't need to have a programming degree, but the more you learn about working with computers, the better start you have on life in the future.

    Should I continue to obtain a foundation in computer science through school, or are the skills necessary for design and development obtainable through self-teaching and persistence?
    I've written numerous articles about becoming a designer. Take a look at my game career FAQs. They're old but they still tell it like it is. As to this question, see FAQ 3 and FAQ 34. It doesn't matter what degree you get, as long as you study something you enjoy. You just need a degree. A Bachelors is much preferred over an Associates.

    What skills are the industry looking for today as a whole?
    Flawed question. Take a look at FAQ 7. "It depends."

    Is it worth it to have a studio in mind as a career goal or do I collect the chips as they fall?
    You can't predict what opportunities will come across your path. But it's good to have a planned path anyway (better than not).

    I do actually feel pressured by my family to attend school;
    That's a good thing! They'll support you in pursuing a degree! There may be arguments, they not approving your choice of "game design." That's okay. You don't really need a game design degree. Go to the school you CAN go to. Get the degree you WANT from among those they offer, and that's acceptable to your parents. Build a design portfolio like I said in FAQ 12. Pursue your interests and you'll wind up in interesting places.


    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    October 17, 2019


    Keep up the good work

    >On Friday, August 23, 2019, 02:37:29 AM PDT, Felix D wrote:
    >Keep up the good work.
    >Hey, Tom. Felix here.
    >I just wanted to drop by and give you an update on how things have been going for me. Good to see this board is still alive and well.
    >I'm not sure if you remember, but about two and a half years ago, I posted a question about how to write a concept outline here, with the purpose of applying to a game design school. Well, I never ended up getting into that school (turns out they primarily accept artists), but perhaps that was for the better. I ended up in a different school much closer to my home, and though the modules are only decent, I can say that the contacts and tools it has provided me with are well worth it. I'll be graduating in a year, on top of my class at that. I managed to produce a couple of neat games for my portfolio in the meantime, and already have a bunch of job opportunities via the people I've met.
    >Which brings me to the piece of advice I wanted to drop here: contacts.
    >I can't stress how important this is in the games business. You can be the best game designer under the sun, but that isn't going to help you if no one knows about it. So go to Game Jams! Participate in contests! Share what you have learned with others, in places like this one. Connections can get you further than anything else, given that you have the work samples to use them. Make sure you can present yourself in a good light and get to know the right people, then you're all set.
    >Thanks again for all the advice you're handing out, Tom. It's been a huge help.

    I appreciate this, Felix. And yes, contacts gained through studies and game jams are hugely important to an aspiring game developer. I mentioned contacts in FAQ 29, and FAQ 54 is all about networking to build contacts, but I just realized I neglected to mention the value of contacts in FAQ 3. Thank you for this important message for other readers! And good luck after graduation!
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    August 23, 2019


    Second Thought (Re: Thanks for Your Articles!)

    >On Saturday, June 29, 2019, 11:18:25 AM PDT, Martin wrote:
    >Sorry to send a double email but I just thought of a second tip that you've already covered quite extensively, namely having good communication skills. The reason I want to reiterate it is that if you post my emails and a wannabe artist happens to read this, I want them to stress it for them, too.
    >You've written several times that Game Designers have to have excellent communication skills both verbal and oral. I'd like to mention that I was encouraged to have very good communication skills growing up and it has been very helpful in both my job applications and as part of my work. As an artist, my ultimate job is to make graphics, but those graphics almost always begin with me pitching an idea verbally or through text. Also, in providing feedback to other artists, communication is extremely important, too. Certainly it would be a hindrance to our efficiency if my colleagues have to constantly ask for clarification on any critique I provide.
    >In short, I believe that good written and verbal communication skills are a must not just for Game Designers and Testers, but also artists.
    >Thanks again and sorry for the double email.

    >On Sat, Jun 29, 2019 at 1:45 PM Martin wrote:
    >I figured you probably ran out of ideas for the articles because you’ve pretty much covered it all, haha.
    >I’m very happy to have gotten a position where I’m rarely asked to do overtime if ever. I’ve only stayed overtime because I wanted to, and I’m compensated for it too. Glad to hear that you’re still teaching! I enjoyed being an teaching assistant and I think it’s definitely rewarding to help people learn.

    I welcome second tips! Thanks, Martin. Best of luck to you in your soon-to-be-fulltime job!
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    June 29, 2019


    Thanks for Your Articles!

    >On Saturday, June 29, 2019, 09:22:08 AM PDT, Martin wrote:
    >Thanks for Your Articles!
    >Hello!
    >My name is Martin. I'm not really asking a question, but I'll put your requested info here:
    >Age: 20
    >Education: Bachelor's in Computer Graphics Tech
    >Occupation: Animator (currently intern, soon to be AAA full-time)
    >I just want to say thanks for your very informative and entertaining articles on game development. Even though it's primarily focused on Game Design, I find them very instructive in all other aspects of game development as well (and even on life advice in general, too!). I was a Teaching Assistant back in college and would refer all my students and especially aspiring Game Designers to your website for further edification. I don't know if all of them took advantage of it but certainly it was very useful for some.
    >By the way, I particularly enjoy the more satirical ones such as "Perfect Land" and "10 Stupid Tricks". I reread your articles every now and then for entertainment as well as reeducation.
    >I would like to provide one tip for aspiring game developers if you don't mind. Very often I hear college professors tell their students that they need to work pretty much 24/7 to get a position, but I want to state that taking care of yourself both physically and mentally is extremely important if not more so than dedicated practice. It's hard to learn things while being exhausted, at least in my experience. Take breaks often to stretch, walk, or eat, get plenty of rest, and it's okay to not be productive for a couple days to recharge. I find that people who pull frequent "all-nighters" often may be productive for a couple days, but then not do anything for weeks due to burn-out.
    > Anyways, thanks again for these articles and for taking the time to read this. Are you still writing those FAQs on game dev? If so, I hope to see one soon!
    >Martin C

    Martin, emails like yours make me happy. \(^_^)/
    As for your tip for those following behind you - I agree with you. Although I am now a college professor, I am not one of those who say to work 24/7. I advise my students to look for jobs where they mostly work 40 hours a week, where Crunch is a rare thing.
    Oh - and no, I ran out of ideas for articles. If you're referring to gamedev.net, I do moderate on the forums, but haven't written articles lately.
    Anyway - thank you for writing! I appreciate your words.
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    June 29, 2019


    I'm very interested in making games, part 5

    >From: Doctor Flynn
    >Sent: Thursday, June 20, 2019 2:15 PM
    >Subject: Re: Starting a gaming business
    >Greetings Tom,
    >Thank for your last answer. I can guarantee that i am pretty serious about starting a business. However i am curious and i want to evaluate all the possibilites and so I ask what I think is important, only for better understanding.
    >Also, just for restarting from the scratch: how can I make and design my own games ? (because after all is THIS what I wnat, business or not…)
    >P.S. The Holodeck seems to be very possible today thanks to tecnology like Oculus Quest… :)
    >Best Regards

    Hi, Dr. Flynn. You wrote:

    Also, just for restarting from the scratch: how can I make and design my own games ?
    First, read FAQ 12. Then read all the others. Or at least look at all the titles, and click to read the ones that have a bearing on your question.

    P.S. The Holodeck seems to be very possible today thanks to tecnology like Oculus Quest… :)
    Actually, time travel to the past would happen before the Holodeck would happen.

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    June 20, 2019


    I'm very interested in making games, part 4

    >From: Doctor Flynn
    >Sent: Sunday, June 9, 2019 6:19 PM
    >Subject: Re: Starting a gaming business
    >Greetings Tom,
    >I think that you are succesful person, even if you don't made milions of dollars with videogames. After all you are a skilled and veteran game producer. So I trust your advices. Therefore I only want to know more in details: Which benefits can I expect from a Master in Business Administration?
    >Also is it possible to take such master even with only one or two years in game academy (for example)? Or I only must take a 3-4 years degree and then the MBA?
    >Finally, as CEO of my own company I will take care of only the financial and business part? Or I will work EVEN on the design and more technical part?
    >See You Soon
    >Best Regards...

    Hi, Giulio. You asked:

    Which benefits can I expect from a Master in Business Administration?
    You'll learn about the common mistakes that cause businesses to fail. You'll learn about negotiating. You'll learn about the financing of businesses.

    is it possible to take such master even with only one or two years in game academy
    In general: anything is possible (except 2 things: time travel to the past, and the Star Trek Holodeck).

    Or I only must take a 3-4 years degree and then the MBA?
    I suppose a Bachelors degree is a requirement, but I don't know for certain. I don't think you're serious about wanting to run a successful business, since you are questioning my advice to get a business degree.

    as CEO of my own company I will take care of only the financial and business part? Or I will work EVEN on the design and more technical part?
    If your goal is to work on design and technology, don't start a business. People who start businesses usually find that running the business hampers one's ability to get one's hands dirty in the projects. Running a business is more than a full-time job.

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    June 10, 2018


    I'm very interested in making games, part 3

    >From: Doctor Flynn
    >Sent: Monday, May 27, 2019 2:38 PM
    >Subject: Re: Starting a gaming business
    >Greetings Tom!
    >Thank for your fast response. I appreciate it. I will clarify the situation:
    >First: I'm very interested in design but my primary goal is work as a game designer an be an entrepreneur. Of course I want in the future to work even with the design part of the game developement (and so i want to learn new skills and, for example, work in the years ahead as CEO with design skills, in order to create my vision even in the art of the game. Yes, I think that is important to me have some ability with 3d modeling).
    >But the firts important step to me is the game design. (After all i read that: http://wannabe.urustar.net/ "Do I Need To Learn How To Draw?")
    >Second, redefine together: (hypotesis) I will go to game design college (1-2 years) then i will combine with master in game business. And then? (what is the best way, in term of probability,for became entrepreneur and start game company? I know that many started with some experience from the ground of the industry such as Warren Spector; however there are other cases in which people started directly with own game company (like the two founders of Riot Games).
    >After all, It is very necessary (and the only way) study in game business school to became entrepreneur? (It's not a matter of my willpower but I want to spend my time in the best way, in order to reach my goals in the long term).
    > And hey, just for example: Richard Branson became a bilion dollar CEO even without any degree in business.
    >In the end, I will wait your feedback, I will read deeper your FAQs and the material in the site.
    >Therefore, We will update us!
    >Giulio P

    Hi, Giulio! Your points:

    my primary goal is work as a game designer an be an entrepreneur. Of course I want in the future to work even with the design part of the game developement (and so i want to learn new skills and, for example, work in the years ahead as CEO with design skills, in order to create my vision even in the art of the game. Yes, I think that is important to me have some ability with 3d modeling).
    Okay. It's good to have clarity on your goal. That goal itself points very strongly at actions to get you there (see what I responded to your previous emails).

    I will go to game design college (1-2 years) then i will combine with master in game business.
    Great! There is no Master of Game Business degree anywhere; a simple MBA (Master of Business Administration) is the right way to go. While you are studying for the MBA you can, of course, work games into your assignments and projects. And you can design board games and card games and party games at the same time, too.

    After all, It is very necessary (and the only way) study in game business school to became entrepreneur? (It's not a matter of my willpower but I want to spend my time in the best way, in order to reach my goals in the long term).
    > And hey, just for example: Richard Branson became a bilion dollar CEO even without any degree in business.
    Sure. Go ahead and don't get a degree. Study up on Richard Branson, and Mark Zuckerberg, and whoever else is your model, and try to follow their paths. Those guys were exceptions. You can try to become an exception, too. You don't have to follow my advice. I just think going with the degrees increases the likelihood of success over "just doing it," but who am I? I never got rich like either of those exceptional guys. I never started my own company. Take my advice with a grain of salt, as they say. It's your life, and it's up to you to choose what actions to take, what decisions to make, what opportunities to seek.

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    May 27, 2019


    I'm very interested in making games, part 2

    From: Doctor Flynn
    Sent: Saturday, May 25, 2019 1:08 PM
    Subject: Re: Starting a gaming business
    Greetings Tom,
    thanks for your answer. I want to tell you that I'm studying many solutions in order to create my future in gaming. So, I know that there are more paths (anyone have a specific route) to accomplish the goal. I read bio of many game designer and I know that some people have different backgrounds (ex. no computer science related) but after all they became game designer. Mark Laidlaw started as writer (game designer of Half Life), Ken Levine (creator of Irrational Games) started with degree in Drama (screenwriter). Just to make some examples.
    Also I read your FAQs and so I know that: to start a game company I need to start from the scratch (in order to obtain skills, know the people in the industry, deal with many problems). And starting from the scratch need some degrees (or game design related either degree related to your interest, as you said). Therefore, I want to go more specific, let me tell You my situation and my ideas:
    Now i'm in Germany (I moved from Italy) and i'm studying german and english. In the next five years i want to make serious and concrete step to reach (game design) goal. In fact i'm becoming avid reader (i read biography from great people, psicology books, game design book, scientific books (like Homo Deus), personal growth and self help…), I opened my You Tube Chanel (to speak about my readings) and I'm looking for some web course to learn (already now) game design, gamification, business and design.
    In fact I want to start my own game company (like entrepreneur) but I want to know many things and, above all, get my hands dirty (i want to design game and work with animation and design). After all a great game designer must deal with many aspects (he/she is not a programmer but work with the code and he/she is not artist but design objects).
    I believe that I must enter in this field from the art side (i want to design) and after: go to create company.
    So, my idea is: two years of working as a nurse (i have a contract); meanwhile reading books, start game design, design web course, start to learn business as self taught.
    After i will start some university or college. But which one if I want to master game design, design and business? (I want to optimize my time, so I don't want to make a full 5 years degree while reaching not concrete goals).
    Can you give a bit more specific ideas?
    Thanks for your time Tom
    See You Soon!
    Giulio P

    Hi, Giulio.
    In general, you've started doing some good things, and you should continue with that, because it feels right and it helps. Like the reading, and working on a career plan. But I'm a bit confused, I can't advise you without a clearer understanding on what you said:

    (i want to design game and work with animation and design)
    Which is it: do you want to design games, or do you want to do animation for games? If you want to design games, make absolutely certain that you understand what design is, and what it entails, and what it is not. Then if that's what you want to go for, start designing games. Make a card game. Make a board game. Make a paper RPG or write a Choose Your Adventure or create a party game. Then find others to collaborate with and work on a computer game together. See FAQ 3 and FAQ 12 (preparing to be a game designer), FAQ 20, and FAQ 38 (board game design and card game design).

    I believe that I must enter in this field from the art side (i want to design)*
    Then ignore all the game design advice I gave you above, and create a spectacular art portfolio.

    So, my idea is: two years of working ... meanwhile reading books, start game design, design web course, start to learn business as self taught.
    All good, except for the self-taught part. The teacher who teaches himself has a fool for a student, and the tuition is going to be very high. You need business classes in order to get into the business mindset much more cheaply in the end.

    After i will start some university or college. But which one
    Read FAQ 25. Only you can decide this. And read FAQ 34.

    And start networking now. (There's an FAQ for that, too - it's easy to find.) Good luck!
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    May 25, 2019

    P.S., May 26.
    * Yes, it's possible to become a game designer after starting in the industry as an artist (see FAQ 85). But the art route is extremely crowded, and I hope you are already an extremely talented artist. I just came across a quote from Katy Perry on "American Idol" - First, you gotta be talented. Then, you gotta work really hard. Then hope you catch a lucky star. She was talking about becoming a successful musical talent, but the same principles apply to game design.


    I'm very interested in making games

    >From: Doctor Flynn <giulio.p███
    >Sent: Tuesday, May 21, 2019 4:28 PM
    >Subject: Starting a gaming business
    >Greetings Tom,
    >I'm 24 old year boy and I'm very interested in making games. In this moment i'm studying Deutsch in Germany and working as a nurse. However i have other plans for the future. First I want to became entrepreneur in making games therefore i want to study game design in university/academy.
    >-Where is better to study and start the business? (help from university, more funding, more skilled people to make a team). For example: In Germany there are some opportunity in that case (What do you think?)
    >Or is better in UK (i can start with NFTS in Beaconsfield, for example)? Or USA?
    >Tell me some advices as an expert in that field.
    >Thank You Very Much!
    >See You Soon!

    Greetings, Giulio!
    If you want to run your own company, I recommend you get a Business degree. Read FAQ 29. It doesn't matter what country you get your degree in, or where you start your company. You say you're working as a nurse, so I assume you have a medical-related degree. If you want to make your own games on your own before hiring a team, you'll need to learn programming. College/university is a good place to study programming. If you are not going to program your own games, you don't need a Computer Science degree, and you also don't need a game design degree. Read FAQ 3. After you've read those two articles, read some more! And come back to me with follow-up questions after you've done at least a little bit of reading of my FAQs.

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    May 21, 2019


    Thank You

    >https://www.gamedev.net/messenger/
    >W████████ Started conversation: Sunday at 05:44 PM
    >Hey Tom,
    >Just wanted to say Thank You for your contributions. I've been reading your material for years now, & never took out the time to mention/tell you INCREDIBLY helpful you've been. Sloperama is low-key Game Design School. You advice & material is spectacular. I've been working on games for almost a decade now & though I haven't made a big break, I state you & Gamasutra as main sources for knowledge. You are a powerful teacher & your wisdom has been more than bountiful. Thank you once again, I hope someday to return the favor. Game Development has been a tough pursuit, but with guides like yours, I know never to give into the pressure.
    >Another Thank You from a Grateful Fan,
    >D W

    Thank you, D. Best wishes for your big break!
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    May 19, 2019


    A big Thank You

    >From: Eduardo L
    >Sent: Saturday, February 16, 2019 3:23 AM
    >Subject: A big Thank You
    >Hello Mr. Sloper:
    >My name is Eduardo. I am writing you just to say "thank you for your advice". I am one amongst others who found their way in the games design industry thanks to your help. I hope this email doesn't rob you much of your time, but I really thought I owed you and your website a lot.
    >Nowadays just googling "how to become a game designer" throws back hundreds of results, however back in the day there was little, if any, useful advice on how to live from this.
    >Not gonna lie; the way has been quite hard. Mostly due to how unconventional this path is in countries which do not have mature games industry. But: location, location, location. A few cities, hard lessons, international experiences and some other adventures later, I find myself going through my sixth year working as a game designer in the AAA games I've dreamed.
    >Comparatively, I think the initial disadvantage made me focus super hard into getting here, for which your advice did become really, really important. It's noteworthy how this extra effort, accumulated over time, became a competitive advantage later in job seeking.
    >I had to (still am) work in developing humility and never stop improving, while keeping a satisfactory emotional balance and learning to defend my work with confidence. I think that's a lesson I learned from reading your articles, probably the most important source of goal-oriented mentality which helped me maintaining a stoich mindset.
    >I think this could have not been possible if not for the crucial, hard-to-swallow articles I've read in your website.
    >Thank you Mr. Sloper. It really made a profound impact in the life of a smartass and quite confused teenager.
    >Wish you the best, and thanks again;
    >Eduardo L

    Eduardo: Far from robbing my time, you have brightened my morning. I'm glad my advice was helpful for you. And I appreciate hearing from you. Hope we can meet at a conference or something someday.
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    February 16, 2019


    Changed jobs, but is it for the better?

    >From: Paarth G
    >Sent: Sunday, December 30, 2018 12:28 AM
    >Subject: Working on a company that does not do gaming related techniques
    >Name: Paarth
    >Age : 26
    >Education : Graduated College
    >Occupation : Test Engineer
    >Location : India
    >So I am now working on this company called HCL(It stands for Hindustan Corporation Limited). As of now in my one month experience there, I don't like it as single bit and its simply because the techniques are not related to gaming and the people there are generally boring. There is no consoles to play there when you need a break and while the work hours are flexible, if others come late than you, you may have to work longer because the other came late(although as of now, this has not happened to me yet as of now here but whatever).
    >They have that gaming slapped on the board but then all there is to it are just casino games and nothing else which all do the same thing with almost no difference whatsoever. Nothing significant and nothing much to say about them. Meaning unlike game companies where tester's feedback can play a role in improving the game quality, here its none of that so I can't be a game designer there eventually because there are no such vacancies there to begin with.
    >But that's not all. The real problem is the testing techniques are not really professional to say the least. For example, there is no debugging meaning to test features that are tedious like getting bonus or free spins. and framerate is something of a least bother to the client. Any bug that is reported is always stating that its a design and not an actual bug and bugs that while they are there, don't affect gameplay whatsoever.
    >The other problem is that the new build does not come until after like three months meaning that I'm forced testing the same build that has existing bugs over and over again.
    >So until that happens, I don't get much of work and yet they are purposefully pushing on me to work on things that are either not beneficial to the client or just to waste my time in the long run.
    >So the thing I want to ask is, will this benefit me in the long run? Like my parents alongside the other family members think that getting this HCL stamp will give me higher chances of getting jobs.
    >To that I disagree because it all depends on the employer in the end. Hiring someone with experience means they have to pay higher price in mind while getting a fresher or lower years of experience means they work cheap at the cost of delivering average quality.
    >So will this company really get me into other higher companies like EA, Microsoft etc?

    Hi, Paarth.
    So it sounds like you changed jobs. You sounded unhappy in your previous job, and unfortunately you don't sound all that happy in your new job. Sorry to hear it. But anyway, you asked:

    will this benefit me in the long run?
    I cannot foresee the future.

    will this company really get me into other higher companies like EA, Microsoft etc?
    Again: I cannot foresee the future.

    Having a prestigious company listed on your resume would probably be good for your prospects, but there is no guarantee of that.

    Tom Sloper
    トム·スローパー
    湯姆 斯洛珀
    Creator of the Sloper On Mah-Jongg column and the Mah-Jongg FAQs -- donations appreciated.
    Author of "The Red Dragon & The West Wind," the definitive book on Mah-Jongg East & West.
    Los Angeles, California, USA
    December 30, 2018


    Do you have a newsletter?

    >From: Sherri Z
    >Sent: Thursday, November 1, 2018 10:49 PM
    >Subject: Do you have a newsletter
    >I am on your fabulous website...Do you have a newsletter I can subscribe to? I am unable to find a link.
    >Thanks!

    Hi, Sherri! No, sorry. I don't have a newsletter.


    A matter of degree

    >From: Vishal N
    >Sent: Sunday, July 15, 2018 11:35 AM
    >Subject: Helpfulness of a M.Design in Game design
    >Hi Tom!
    >My name is Vishal from India, I'm 23yo and have a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering. I recently quit my job as a web developer. I aspire to work as game designer, Ubisoft & EA are the big names that hire in my region. I have always sketched in my college, I do have the skills to develop on. I am working on a few text rpgs to demonstrate my game making potential, however, I've always been good at being a game master in many board games.
    >So my question is that I've read on many forums online that a formal degree in game design isn't really helpful. I had intentions of pursuing a master's degree in Digital Game Design from National Institute of Design(in India). What my assumption was that a formal game school would help me build my portfolio in better way than if I built it on my own. Also, a game school would help me establish some great contacts in the industry. It is a 2 year long program to complete my masters, apart from game design I will also get an overall learning of general design, UX design and art. The course also gives an introduction to related fields like animation, cinematography, photography, AR VR technologies.
    >So should I go forth with the master's program or try to find internships/jobs on my own in the game industry.
    >Thanks for your help!!
    >Best regards
    >Vishal N

    Hi Vishal! You wrote:

    I've read on many forums online that a formal degree in game design isn't really helpful.
    Assuming one's reason for obtaining the degree is "get a job in industry," then having a degree is better than not having one, and yes, this particular degree doesn't necessarily impress. If the person you're interviewing with also graduated from your school, then that would be very different. And if you want to later teach about game design after having done it as your career, the advanced degree is highly recommended if not required.

    I had intentions of pursuing a master's degree in Digital Game Design from National Institute of Design(in India). What my assumption was that a formal game school would help me build my portfolio in better way than if I built it on my own. Also, a game school would help me establish some great contacts in the industry. It is a 2 year long program to complete my masters, apart from game design I will also get an overall learning of general design, UX design and art. The course also gives an introduction to related fields like animation, cinematography, photography, AR VR technologies.
    It sounds like YOUR intent in pursuing the degree is to learn, more than to "get a job." And I think that's a wonderful reason. Also, I know that Indian culture values advanced degrees more than American culture does. I think this degree would be good for you, for those reasons and also for the excellent reasons you cited.

    I... have a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering. I recently quit my job as a web developer... I am working on a few text rpgs
    That's all okay. But drop all the text RPGs except the best one, and make it great. Then work on more stuff, build a portfolio.

    I am... good at being a game master in many board games.
    I'm trying to think how this can be shown to interviewers, and which types of game companies would see it as a desirable thing. One way to show it would be to post videos on YouTube or an Indian video sharing site. Companies who publish or support massively multiplayer games may need game masters, but they would want such a person to already be a highly dedicated player of their game in particular. If you were that type of player and you were involved in forming quest parties or assisting other players, you might be recruited, whether or not you applied for a job.

    should I ... try to find internships/jobs on my own in the game industry
    It would not hurt to try. Understand, internships are jobs, usually available in summer. So don't think "internship or job," just think "job." (If offered an internship, that would not be a bad thing.) Go ahead and apply. That might be very educational, at least. If you do get hired, then you can learn on the job. Go ahead and apply to some local companies. If you get no responses, or it goes nowhere, sign up for that degree. What I'm saying is, you think of them as two opposing directions. I say you can do both. Well, sort of.

    Good luck, whatever you decide!
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    July 15, 2018


    Contracts and indie remote teams

    >From: Seamist
    >Sent: Monday, July 9, 2018 4:52 AM
    >Subject: game development questions
    >Hi. Could you please keep my name and email address private?
    >Because I would like to keep things private, I would greatly appreciate it if you could refer to me as Seamist
    >Name: Seamist
    >Age: Over 30. Way over 30.
    >Education level: College graduate
    >Current occupation: Mom, gamer, perpetual student, and just starting out as a game developer/producer
    >Game job: I am already a game developer/producer/future publisher, but I want to increase my knowledge and skills. I am not in this for the money, but I would like to at least break even.
    >Country I live in: USA
    >I found your page about contracts to be very informative. I am assuming you are not an attorney, so I am not asking for legal advice. Rather, I am interested in your opinions, and what you have observed.
    >We are developing an MMORPG for desktop and laptop computers. We already have a registered trademark, but the game is just at the very beginning of development. We have been developing it with all volunteers, people of all ages, countries all over the world, and communicating with each other online.
    >1. Contracts are important to all parties working on game development. However, as soon as I mentioned the word to just one of the people working on the project (he is not in the USA), he seemed to hate the idea, and spread the word to others working on the game that contracts are bad. How do I reassure them that contracts are not evil? I care about each and every member of the team working on the game, including the many of them who left, and I have no desire to take unfair advantage of anyone.
    >2. How can we get a contract signed if all we know is the person's username?
    >3. Can we get a contract if the person is in another country?
    >4. If the person contributing to the game is a minor, how do we get them to ask their parents to sign a contract on their behalf?
    >5. I would like to host our own servers. How do I find out what hardware and software I need to do that?
    >Thank you for your consideration of my questions.
    >Seamist

    Hi, Seamist! You wrote:

    We are developing an MMORPG
    Oh dear lord.

    I would like to at least break even.
    I would hope you are prepared for the eventuality that the finished product makes no money at all, or that the game never gets that far.

    as soon as I mentioned the word [contracts] to just one of the people..., he ... spread the word to others working on the game that contracts are bad.
    This is what you get with amateurs. You should expect that this member will not remain with the team throughout. He may revolt, and he may take several with him, or you may have to cut him from the team (after which, with no contract, he may do damage or take assets, or code, or people). Contracts should have been mentioned from day one, not dropped in later.

    How do I reassure them that contracts are not evil?
    Many people have trust issues in general. Many people have trust issues with lawyers, or anybody who seems connected in any way with laws or governments or regulations. Most people don't understand that contracts are there for the protection of all parties involved, and that they get to negotiate the terms of contracts. And a lot of people get even more deeply negative about contracts the more they read them and find out that there are things that can go wrong that they never even thought about, and they start to distrust anybody who could even think about such things going wrong.

    IOW: I have no idea. Some people can't accept that contracts are less evil than what is going to happen in the absence of a contract. I have a link (I think it's in the Contracts FAQ, see the Collaboration Agreement section) to some articles by Mona Ibrahim, who wrote about teams whose projects went horribly awry and there was no contract in place to mitigate the damage. You should read her articles, and maybe it helps if your contract-haters to read them too.

    How can we get a contract signed if all we know is the person's username?
    He or she has to sign with his or her real legal name. I would never sign a contract or do any kind of work with someone who's not willing to share his or her real name.*

    Can we get a contract if the person is in another country?
    Yes, of course. How else could Trump and Kim ever have signed their world-changing deal, hyperbole and sarcasm aside? Sorry, just saying "yes, of course."

    If the person contributing to the game is a minor, how do we get them to ask their parents to sign a contract on their behalf?
    Ask. But personally, I would not do any kind of project with minors, especially minors in other countries. You can take my opinion for what it's worth, since I have never worked with volunteers, and I have never done a project with non-professionals. I teach minors occasionally, but I would not want the management overload of managing them as part of an international project. You being a mom, and a gamer, I can see your heart is in it. But I think you've got a herculean task ahead.

    I would like to host our own servers. How do I find out what hardware and software I need to do that?
    I have no idea. I'm a producer/designer, not a tech wiz. I would hire the smartest CTO I could find, and let him worry about that.

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    July 9, 2018

    * PS: If somebody doesn't want others on the team to know his/her real name, OK - but the "company" (the project lead) needs this information.


    SNES MechWarrior

    >From: Eric S, t-bird.edu>
    >Sent: Tuesday, June 12, 2018 7:21 AM
    >Subject: Question about your developer work on the SNES MechWarrior game
    >Greetings,
    > I am a volunteer fact-checker for Catalyst Game Labs, the current licensees for the BattleTech/MechWarrior board game/fiction line. As an ongoing project (and not as an official representative of CGL), I've been doing reviews of the assorted novels, short stories, sourcebooks, comics, and video games that have helped build the universe. I'm currently working up my review of your SNES MechWarrior game, and I would be very interested to hear any insights into its development, should you care to share them.
    > 1) How much coordination did your team have with FASA Corporation (the originators of the series, and owners of the IP at the time) regarding the storyline and game aesthetic?
    > 2) Was the original intent to simply adapt Activision's MechWarrior game for the SNES, or to create a new storyline?
    > 3) There are clear tie-ins to the events in Michael Stackpole's "Warrior: En Garde" novel in the first half of the game, establishing the timeline for the game's events, but the references to official storyline events end with Melissa Steiner's rescue (at the end of En Garde). Was the sequel, "Warrior: Riposte," not available at the time of development?
    > 4) Why (aside from Galatea and Solaris) were new world names created, instead of using the ones from FASA's maps?
    > 5) What were the technical limitations you faced on the SNES vs. what Activision was able to do with their original version of MechWarrior for the PC?
    >I'd be happy for this question and your answers to be posted publicly, per your stated policy. Thank you for your time.
    >-Eric S

    Hi, Eric

    Quite a bit.

    Pretty sure it was the former - to adapt the 1989 game from Dynamix to the SNES. I wasn't present at the license signing, so I can't say for certain.

    I have no idea. I did read one novel while I was involved in the project, but I don't remember its title. And I was not embedded with the development team in Australia (I was working from the Activision office in L.A.). This was the early nineties, and communications were mostly done by fax and phone.

    I can't speak to planet names. I suppose it might be a consequence of the need to use different mechs, to satisfy the tastes of the Japanese audience. The deal was structured in a way Activision did things at the time; Activision held a license from FASA, and sublicensed the video game rights to a couple of Japanese companies. The sublicensees paid for development of the Japanese versions*, and then the work was done to localize the game in English. The Japanese market already had a popular universe of warring mechs, called Gundam. The BattleTech/MechWarrior mechs presented a problem in that marketplace - but my memory is a little hazy as to whether it was that the IP owner of Gundam might sue over the great similarity between their looks, or that the FASA mechs didn't look right for the Japanese market. A whole storyline had to be created to make the new and different-looking Japanese mechs fit within the FASA universe. But for the Western market, the game used the FASA mechs instead. Maybe the planet names were created to go along with the storyline around the Japanese mechs, and simply weren't changed when the game was localized for the West.

    I didn't work on the 1989 version with Dynamix - and I never played it. And I don't know a lot about DOS video game technology, but I know that DOS computers were not natively capable of 3D graphics**. And the SNES wasn't, either. But the SNES did have one quasi-3D trick, called Mode 7. Mode 7 allowed creation of a graphic plane that could be rotated in a way that looked sort of 3D. I believe Beam Software (the developer of the SNES game) used Mode 7 for the terrain.

    * I think there is a mistake in the table of Video games at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_BattleTech_games - I think the Sharp X68000 version may have been part of the 1993 deal, rather than one of the 1989 platforms. As I recall, MechWarrior was sublicensed (in the early nineties, after 1990) for not only the SNES but also another platform, a Japan-only platform (like the Sharp computer). In the table, either the Sharp is in the wrong place, or there's a platform missing from 1993.

    ** Wolfenstein 3-D introduced 3D to DOS computers in 1992 or thereabouts. This was after the MechWarrior game made by Dynamix, and before the MechWarrior game made by Beam for the SNES (and for the Japan-only platform).

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    June 12, 2018


    First conference, first travel

    >From: Alec W
    >Sent: Wednesday, May 2, 2018 9:00 PM
    >Subject: Attending My First Conference (Need Your Advice)
    >Greetings Tom,
    >1. I'm 22 years old
    >2. I'm studying at Saddleback College for a Bachelor's Degree in Business Marketing. I then plan to attend Irvine College for a Bachelor's in Music.
    >3. I currently hold a retail Job at Wal-Mart
    >4. I plan to become a multi-media composer, but more specifically a video-game composer.
    >5. I live in Southern California.
    >I recently got free tickets to Pocket Gamer Connects Conference in San Francisco and I'm fairly nervous about the whole event (since it will be my first time traveling alone). I was wondering if you had any wisdom, tricks, or suggestions to share on how to best use my time at an event such as this. Also, are there more general travel tips that someone as young as me might want to know?
    >I would greatly appreciate your advice on this matter. I feel that this conference could be a major boosting point for my career as a composer.
    >Thank you,
    >Alec

    Hi, Alec.
    That's exciting, that you're going to be taking your first trip to visit your first conference. As I collect my thoughts re your 2 questions, I find that my thoughts cover several general topics: the two topics you asked for advice on, and some you didn't.

    How best to use your time at the conference:
    Meet people and collect business cards. The way to get business cards is to have your own business card (as I wrote in FAQ 54). When you meet someone, don't go on and on about yourself. Ask questions, get the other person to talk. When asked about yourself, don't go on so long that the other person's eyes start wandering. It's a casual meet-and-greet, not a job interview.
    Attend sessions, listen, and take notes. It's okay to go to a party or two but don't drink too much and don't stay up too late (you don't want your second conference day to be wasted because you're hung over or sleep-deprived or hoarse from shouting conversations over party noise). I wrote about conference attendance in FAQ 6, but looking again at that, it's, like, really old. So, grain of salt.
    I have not been to a Pocket Gamer conference. The focus is on mobile games. You should have played some mobile games, and you should be prepared to talk about the use of music in mobile games. I have found that before starting Pokemon Go it's necessary to turn off my music because Pokemon Go plays music, but if I play Jumble, I can keep my music on because that game plays sound effects but not music. What I'm saying is, be a little conversant in the topic of the conference as it intersects with your career goals.

    Travel tips:
    I don't know if you're driving or flying or taking bus or train, so I can't give advice on "getting there." If you haven't decided which way to use to get there, all I can say is airfare from SoCal is really cheap. You'll want to get to your departure airport at least one hour before your flight, maybe more because the security lines can be time-consuming. If you drive, expect it to take about 7 hours (maybe one hour just in the SF Bay area, depending on what time you get to the area). If you drive, plan to park your car once and leave it there until the conference is over.
    Find a two-night stay within walking distance of the event venue. There are a lot of reasonable price places in the vicinity. Get to SF the night before the event so you will be rested for the opening day. It's colder than you think in SF, so have a warm jacket. Downtown San Francisco is a really happening place, especially Market Street.

    Your career aspirations:
    I looked at the two colleges you named - they're both community colleges. Most CCs offer Associates degrees, not Bachelor degrees, but I didn't spend a lot of time on those colleges' websites. A Bachelor's degree usually takes four years. Two Bachelor degrees could take six to eight years, depending on how many of your first degree courses can be applied to your second. Two Associate degrees would usually be more like four years. But now I'm not telling you anything you don't know - I'm just thinking out loud about what you told me about your education plan.
    You said you think the Pocket Gamers conference could be a career-maker for you. I don't want to dash your dreams, but rather I want you to go into it with realistic expectations. Networking is great, and networking can lead to jobs, but not necessarily in the way you may be thinking. Today is Thursday. Tuesday evening I hosted an event at USC (where I teach), bringing in 7 game industry professionals to speak to students about their career paths. Each speaker told his or her story about getting into the game industry; each story was different, and each speaker found their openings in a different way. Some by networking, some by applying for one job but getting another... Afterwards, while students and speakers were mixing it up, I asked one student what he thought about the event. He said it wasn't helpful for him, because all those different stories about how the pros got their start did not give him a list of steps he could take to be sure to get a job. He totally missed the point: there is no list of surefire steps. It takes networking, it takes preparation, it takes being in the right place at the right time, it takes luck. Going to one conference could open a door, or it might just crack a door a little bit and you have to work patiently for months afterwards pushing that door (or it might close, but now you have learned something).

    A lot of aspiring composers go to conferences with a stack of resumes and a stack of demo discs (or demo USBs). It's not necessary. Your resume and your music composition portfolio need to be online, and there must be a link to your resume/portfolio site on your business card. This way you share everything by simply handing someone a card (hopefully in exchange for the other person's card). Conference attendees are unlikely to want to give a listen to your music on the spot. By the way, this all assumes that you have already been composing music. When I was your age, I had composed a couple of guitar pieces - and I was not an aspiring composer. Since that's your passion, I assume that you have already been composing for a while now.

    Hope that helps!
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    May 3, 2018


    Thank you

    From: Xavier S
    Sent: Monday, April 2, 2018 12:46 PM
    Subject: Thank you for all of your advice!
    Hi Mr. Sloper,
    I hope you're doing well! I'm a developer at a game studio in Copenhagen, Denmark. Yesterday I had a meeting with a recent graduate from my college who is interested in getting into games. While talking with her I remembered about your website, which helped me tremendously when I was thinking about getting into games about 10 years ago. I sent her to your site as well :) Thank you very much for providing such an excellent, comprehensive resource! I hope to one day meet you so I can thank you in person. Until then, all the best,
    Xavier

    Xavier, I appreciate that very much! If you are at E3 this year, we can meet and have coffee. If not, perhaps we'll run into one another at GDC. I'm sorry I didn't meet you when I was in Copenhagen (omigosh, has it been 11 years already!?) for the Open European Mahjong Championship - unless that's you in the photo of the graphic designer who was shooting architectural elements to use as game textures at that link. (Then again, that couldn't be, given what you wrote.)
    Anyway. I share your hope to meet one day. Thanks again for writing.

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    April 2, 2018


    How to market to game developers?

    >From: GameDev.net
    >Sent: Friday, March 9, 2018 1:01 PM
    >Subject: New comment on your status feed
    > GameDev.net
    >Hi Tom Sloper,
    >TylerY has posted a message on your profile.
    >TylerY said:
    >Hey Tom,
    >I really enjoyed your Sloperama Lesson 54 post on networking at game developer events. I'm gonna be checking out the rest of your site as well :)
    >One question for you is that, when marketing to game developers online, where is a place that they *want* to be reached at?
    >Go to this Status
    >Don't want TylerY to post messages on your profile? You can add them to your ignore list to prevent them.
    >— GameDev.net

    Hi, Tyler.
    Glad you found FAQ 54 helpful. As for your question, you've made 2 faulty assumptions:
    1. That I know anything about marketing;
    2. That game developers want to be marketed to.
    I did take a marketing course, and I learned a lot, but I can't really tell you how to market to anybody, much less the tiny affinity group known as "game developers." I can tell you where I (just me and myself) would and would not be available to be marketed to.
    Not:
    - In a discussion thread on gamedev.net (if I'm reading a discussion, I don't want a response to turn into an advertisement). Ads on gamedev, well, those are a necessary evil. But what I'm reading should not suddenly turn into an ad. Back in the fifties, TV personalities sometimes broke character and extolled the smooth taste and fine tobacco of some cigarette brand. They don't do that anymore.
    Acceptable:
    - Ads on game developer websites (GameDev.net, Gamasutra, GamesIndustry.biz, Kotaku).
    - Ads in ad-supported games (but then you're advertising to players, more than devs).
    - Ads in trains (but then you're advertising to commuters, more than devs).
    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    March 9, 2018


    Down about my prospects

    >From: Paarth G
    >Sent: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 10:37 PM
    >Subject: Want to start a company but besides saving cash, don't have the necessary skills to do so.
    >Name: Paarth
    >Occupation: Game Designer/Game Tester
    >Age: 25
    >Location: India, Chennai
    >I have been doing game designing and testing for about 2 and a half years now. So far, I have been saving up cash in any case of emergencies and what not. I am starting to think about forming my own game company.
    >Yes I am fully aware that I need more time and consideration for doing this and yes I am aware that me still being a tester might not help me much in the long run when trying to achieve this goal but then I come with a problem...from the advice I got, they say that I should either be very skilled in programming or art or just forget about achieving this goal.
    >So then I realized that I can't do very well in either of these which is what depresses me and makes me wonder what I am really good at that can contribute to the game industry enough that can reflect to my dream. What hobbies that I can do to achieve that....all I am wondering about this.
    >I can apply for classes but the problem is since I already have a college degree that is solely on game designing, the fact that the professors said that I can't do art or coding for that matter just proves it.
    >I thought about doing classes for writing but how can that help me in the long run? I'm struggling to think of what else I can do but have no idea how. Usually, when I'm upset, I play games that often to relief myself and if at all I encounter bugs, I report them in my personal document to improve on my testing skills. But beyond this, I have no idea what to do nor do I have any idea of how to do it.

    Hi Paarth,
    I saw the responses you got to this on gamedev.net, and I wasn't pleased with them.
    You are young. You've been in the industry only a very short time, and in that time you've been in a less than ideal job. I've worked at good places and bad places. The ones where I learned the most were the bad places. If you want to work in games, you should do the best job you can and wait for* opportunities to shift your work responsibilities into more interesting areas.

    *Or create such opportunities, if a way can be found.

    As I wrote in FAQ 29, as you do good work, you earn the esteem of your teammates. And that esteem carries over into a network of people in the area. That's one of the necessary parts of Starting Your Own Company.

    It takes years to build up the alliances and resources to launch a company. The company needs a focus, a business idea for the best monetization method. The kind of fresh business idea that gets you interviewed in the media.

    This will take patience, and will require a lot of preparation, establishing relationships with game creators, researching business aspects, and creating a pitch, a vision of a unique game universe based on an elegant combination of the monetization method and the play mechanic.

    Patience. Stick with it. The alternative is to go find something else.

    Tom Sloper
    Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.

    Los Angeles, California, USA

    January 24, 2018


      Color key


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        Purple = an unhappy email from a dissatisfied reader.
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        Red = a career interview from a student (usually but not always high school).
        Orange = a strange, weird, unusual, or off-topic email.
        Black = none of the above. Regular question or comment.

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