Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Professional Masters or Self teaching?

I've recently been investigating a Masters course which offers the best course content for me.  So, for me, this is not a programming related or focused course, but one which has a focus on game and level design and possibly modeling as I enjoy that too.

Another thing that I have thought about it the type of software that the institutions can offer me.  Most designer job posts state that the candidate will need a knowledge of the Unreal Editor, Hammer or similar tools. So learning these tools are of high priority to me.

Some courses I have read about state that they use the latest technology but when I looked into it further I found out that their 'latest' tool was a product exclusively available to everyone that had the internet.  Too bad as the rest of the course content seemed good, but the price tag of over £5K  for a course and tools that I can download myself put me way off.

Now that UDK and Unity Indie is freely available to everyone there is no reason why I shouldn't be able to produce games with the current technology retail games now use that are well polished and are up to a quality high enough to be good for distribution.  After all some of the iPhone games distributed nowadays are made by small teams.

So far I think I've found an online course that will allow me to work and study part time.  I'm still waiting to find out about details about the course content, tools and fees that they use but I am considering this course.

The alternative, of course, will be if I can find some decent books that will teach me the ins and outs of game design, teach myself the latest tools and develop a small polished project (or two) demonstrating my design skills I reckon I could get the same output of knowledge and portfolio content from this instead of a professional Masters programme.  Ok, so I won't walk away with a qualification, but I will have saved thousands of pounds that I can use for much more.    I've attempted to do this in the past working on short projects and some have been developed but not in the tools that I need to learn or demonstrate an ability in.  I have also been side tracked by life so I would be working each week in an unstructured way with only bits and pieces getting done when I had time or was focused enough.  This time, I believe by outlining a full long term timetable will help me develop a good work attitude and produce faster results with my work.

So if I intend to start my own 'Masters' programme will have to develop a course which will fulfill the following:

  • Keep the total cost of the course e.g. books, trips (for conferences and IDGA meetings) under the price of a professional Masters programme at the present time

  • Teach myself the current development tools

  • Produce a portfolio of work

  • Keep up to date with the current games industry news and design techniques

  • Put together a useful reading list

To do this over the next 6 months I need to do the following:

  • Wrap up/finish my current projects

  • Buy a laptop capable of running the latest development tools

  • Gather people's opinions and read book reviews to develop a reading list

  • Design a part time two year course to follow around my work schedule that includes learning  game design theory and how to use the latest development tools

  • Create a calendar to block in a fixed schedule of time to dedicate to this 'Masters' course

So, as well as waiting for more information about this course, I'm going to start preparing and researching for this course.

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