Goldsmiths Course Survival Guide Part Un

This blog is for anyone thinking about joining MSc Computer Games and Entertainment and wants some insight into what they’re jumping into, some helpful resources, some of the mistakes I made and how you can avoid them and finally (if like me) you’re new to programming: how you can catch up and code like the best of them.
But first, introductions: Hello everyone, my name is Max Bye and I’m an alcoholic.
Eyes below for a picture.

Here I am asleep in your Computer Labs

Before I start, I suppose I should write some quick disclaimers:

  • Congrats for picking computing at Goldsmiths. Nobody is paying me to say this: if you want to get into the video game industry this course is without a doubt the best thing you can do. The Masters will not only give you an incredible head start in the industry but provide you with an incredible portfolio and the lecturers will actively encourage you to pursue areas of personal interest.
  • Because of the flexibility of the course, some of my advice might not be applicable – yet I’ve tried to keep it non-specific.
  • I’ve only attended the MSc, but I’m sure my experiences are common to the Bachelor equivalent – so don’t feel left out.

Before starting the course: Love Macs? So do I! We should do drinks at the Hobgoblin and talk about how intuitive and superior they are. Starting the course? Get rid of your Mac. Spend one last tearful emotional night together and then store it in a cupboard for it to gather cobwebs. Seriously, you’re Mac is useless for the first semester (lifesaver for the second). Don’t even try emulating Windows on it. Get a cheap laptop*, it will save you and your lecturer headaches. *Not too cheap, it needs to be able to run Open GL ES 2.0.
Feeling really fancy? Get C++ Visual Studio Express (<- download free) and get “Hello World” printf’d before the beginning of the course. That way, you can hit the course laughing. If you’re new to code don’t use another IDE, I used Bloodshed and felt like a doofus.

Ready? Set, Begin!
The first assignment for Programming Intro and Tools Middleware, is to essentially develop two video games. My submissions were:

  •  Japanese Pong – a modified pong game that taught players the Hirigana alphabet
    Watch the play-through by clicking here
  • Realistic Physics Donkey Kong – this game didn’t make it past basic block physics stage, it was so basic I couldn’t make a play-through video

I learnt a tough lesson that I held close to my heart for the rest of the year: keep it simple, stupid. See, I got cocky after pong and forgot that I didn’t know what a switch statement was. While the lecturers totally accommodate students new to code, it is very common to see people get ahead of themselves. My advice: do one C++ project (because you need to learn C++) and do one Unity project. Why? Because Unity is easier, hence you’ll get more done. Unity is mostly drag and drop, has tons of tutorial documentation (that I still use today), you can run programs from the webplayer and you will also use it a lot on the course too.

If you’re new to code – don’t borrow from the internet. Those super long nights of accomplishing nothing are necessary in order for you to develop code skills. You will thank yourself for the insane hours later in the year.

Finally, there will be some super amazing coders on your course (some with some seriously elaborate backgrounds). I got envious and stuck with my mate from undergrad. In order to learn better code, hang out with smarter people. Further, there are many group projects and GameHacks in the second semester so you can weasel out how’s a good ally for the team.

This is my first blog of five/six and I hope I will be able to give people insight and some helpful tips on what to expect, what’s to come and why you should choose this incredibly rewarding course. If you want to see some of the cool stuff your going to be asked to do first hand please take a gander at my website/portfolio.