game, game. repeat.

The Key Programming Skill: Finishing

Sun 07 November 2004

Scott Writes:

I just graduated from Cal Poly with a Computer Engineering Bachelors degree. I took a computer graphics course using java3d which I really enjoyed. I’m trying to figure out what Id need to do to be attractive to Electronic Arts as a game programmer . I’ve been entertaining getting a masters degree in computer graphics at UC Davis, but am thinking maybe there is more straight forward approach. I commend you on the amount of networking you did to get into the company. Id like to get some advice from you or someone you think could help me to figure out how to get from where I am now to designing outstanding video games. I have just started a firmware engineering job in which I’ll be doing heavy C and assembly language coding. I’m hoping I can put together a plan, perhaps a custom masters degree specified by EA? What do you think.

Steve’s Reply:

The masters degree is certainly a leg up, although Davis is not one of our regular recruiting grounds. I vaguely remember hearing something about them improving their program though. I used to be the EA Campus Recruiting Manager for Cal Poly.

C++ is definitely where youd want to focus (C use is rapidly dwindlingwere starting to use C# for tools, and rendering microcode is just about all we have left thats done in assembly).

The best thing you can do, in my experience (and keep in mind: I am a hiring manager), is make a game of your own or a demo that clearly shows that you would add value to a team making a game. This is a good way to prove a couple of things that we look for in people: the ability to finish something - which they typically do NOT teach in school–and initiative, which it seems one either has or does not. If you can get artists involved you can show another desirable trait, which is the ability to speak to someone who is not either a machine or an engineer. This is frighteningly uncommon in computer types, but its becoming more and more of a necessity the way the business works. If you can do all that, your degrees will become a bit secondary.

You (the other Scott, the one I dont know) speak of both programming and design. Keep in mind that the two are separate disciplines at EA, although engineers definitely have participation and input into design. Like that guy at the end of the first Half-Life, you have to choose. {smile} Programming is a lot more work, but its also true that unless youre an absolute superstar designer (think Will Wright) youll make more money - and arguably, the designers that do make piles of money are also programmers (Carmack, Wright, Cerny, Molyneaux, Meier).

Updated on October 11th, 2013

Removed the link to Dave’s email, I figure he doesn’t want to keep hearing from people through this page nor be exposed to more spam.