For every ramble I go on about something, I like to give a warning. It's not just a 'this is a ramble' warning, though it's usually in there somewhere (see?). One of the things I have been told, from the start, was that the more I tried to learn how to make games, the less I'll think of games as the same again.
Oh, you still here? OK, if you've not been scared off, then it's not that bad! Yes, your opinion would change but it's not really cheapened. One of the key things is that you'll find you look much more at everything, trying to decide if it could be made into a game, then if it could be a good game.
So, plunging on, I'm going to suggest some silly things for you to get. Firstly, grab yourself a wee pad of paper and a pencil-rubber combo. My mind leaks like a sieve and am glad for my pad, as I can jot down random scraps of code, scribble a picture or just random ideas that come to me.
I would also recommend something to back up everything you do. I have two USB keys, as well as an eye on an external hard drive and laptop for carting back and forward to Uni. An email address you forward a bunch of stuff as well can be a life-saver (I've recovered tons of stuff this last month I made 5 years ago!). A single USB key has a limited number of read-write cycles, so don't trust it won't collapse on you at random.
A few programming languages would obviously be useful to mention. I don't want to throw a huge list of everything I've used, but I'll give a few to you just now. The first program to use is per for the silly course: Wordpad.
Wordpad is forever underestimated as a simple and effective tool for the brilliant gateway language that is HTML. Check out this guide for the basics. With a lot of code coming, being able to program in HTML is a very good way to learn some rather basic syntax (read: rules to the language).
Next up is a bit more programming intense. I personally haven't been taught Python, which was taught to the year after I was in first year, but will look into learning it to give you a basics in it when the time comes.
Java is the next language worth mentioning. Java is very versatile in the creation of mobile and web games (which is the focus of this semester for me) and is prefered as it's not so processor-intensive.
C++, the industry standard, by-in-large. There is a lot you can do with this, especially with 3D graphics through OpenGL. With this, so much more is pre-coded that isn't as readily available through Java.
I will come back in Preparation 2 to mention specific programs you could use to get started.
In the mean time, keeping yourself up-to-date is usually rather important in games. A gaming company could be flying high on a Thursday, a bad phonecall or two later and the company is in liquidation with the padlock on the door on the Friday (perhaps this bit should have been at the top). Yet the employees can be in a new job by the Monday, so a happy ending! Except for the owners, of course. Which is a fine moral story against capitalism, comrade!
Where was I going with this? Oh, yes, I would recommend keeping track of stuff (irony!), which I would suggest getting an RSS tracker. Google do a rather fantastic one (they have plans to make a kitchen sink, I'm sure of it). I'd suggest signing up to Gamasutra, which is very good for a gentle trickle of interesting gaming news, maybe 8 to 12 sprinkled throughtout the day.
Next up is Kotaku, which gives you a ton of things from all throughtout nerddom. It gives a very interesting insight into how Japanese culture treats gaming, anime and manga and plenty of gaming news, reviews and interviews. Perhaps one thing to note is that it's rather crazy how they go about posting: with many posters comes well over 25 a day (the over day left me with 50 to go through).
I would also recommend checking out Develop magazine, which gives the inside track, as it were, on current development teams' opinions. If you're really into it, as I am, I'd also suggest Edge magazine, which is on sale in UK shops like WHSmiths or similar for Â£4.50. They also have an RSS feed, so you can even save money ... for less, obv.
So there we go, a bunch of stuff for you to run off and check. In the other half of the preparation, I'll give you some programs for coding (and a bit more doom-talk) for you to familiarise yourself with. After that, in the first lesson-- oh, no, I don't like that ... tutorial ... class ... issue! In the first issue where I tell you what to do, I'm going to go over some game design and some of the ways you can practice that in a way that can get you truely kick-started in the industry.
In the mean time, I'd definitely suggest getting a method to back stuff up on as a priority. Plenty of things you could make over this period can be shown to an employer, so keep a copy.
And now, with nothing else to do but say a weak ta-ra, I do just that!
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