Advice for young developers
Recently we received a tweet that needed a little more than 140 characters to answer, so we brought the question into the studio and asked around. Some of the folks have been here 17 years, while others are only months into the game dev journey. These responses came from Dave, Dave, Josh & Chris (thanks guys!)
Keep creating. Whether it's mods, mobile games, demos, anything. Just keep doing it. At worst you learn from any mistakes you made, which in turn helps you do better next time. Also networking with other developers. The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) is a great place to start, you can find them on Facebook. If you're in Melbourne, you can talk to Giselle Rosman, she's always happy to help out new developers.
Download Unity and learn everything from every tute you can find. For art, practice making good art.
Get into the industry as early as you can.
1. Make contact with development studios - either through social meetups, emails, or other work (I was a tech journalist for 4 years, interviewed and got to know some of the bosses in the industry before applying for a job). As in most industries, companies prefer hiring/working with people they already know.
2. Unless absolutely necessary, don't waste your time trying to make a game demo just to impress at an interview. By virtue of inexperience, you're likely to get stuck more often than not - especially if you haven't seen how experienced studios structure their code/script/assets. I learned more in the first month of working in a dev studio compared to the 6 years I spent reading books and tinkering with code after my day job.
3. Get your foot in the door ASAP - your first job may not be the one of your dreams, and you may not be working on the sort of games that you like, but it is very important that you get into the industry as soon as you can. The contacts and experience that you'd gain will make you more employable in future.
4. Be good at C++ - This is a particular sore point as I've come across game development courses where the lecturers can't actually code in C++ and their students come out of university/college thinking it's fine to know only C#, Java, Python or (God forbid) Flash+ActionScript. If you can't code in C++, you have no business being in the industry (unless you're expecting to be using Unity for your entire career). You don't have to be a C++ God who knows every trick in the book, but a strong foundation in C++ means that you *can* understand how things work under the hood, and that - if required - you *could* either fix or code stuff from scratch. Being good at C++ also means that you're likely to be able to pick up any other programming/scripting language thrown at you.
5. Always volunteer to do stuff you've not done before - If you've landed a job, the fastest way to learn is to try new things. This is one job where you'll never stop learning, so it's good to get into the habit. And if you can't figure it out, Google is your friend.
Seek out some knowledge on the internet first, within one of the three main game industry archetypes;
Programming: Look into C++ if you want to jump straight into the deep end, or C# if you'd like to start in the shallow. Art: This can very easily be broken up into Concept art - really hard to find work, Modeler - Learning how to make 3D objects, Rigger/Animator - learning how to assign weights to vertices and animate objects, 2D artist. Lastly Production & Design: Often broken up into Project Management, Public Relations/Marketing, and actual Design of games. Once you have found a field that you feel passionate in, get that piece of paper! But the most important thing I'd say is to continuously expand your horizons within your field, learning and understanding everything there is within that skill set, and then move on and acquire new sets of skills.
Hope that helps - best of luck.