100 things every game student should know (.pdf download)

With another round of assessments and marking finished and all the comments from well wishers, Grammar Nazis and the much better informed, I can now unleash the promised “100 Things” version of my pdf. Some notable corrections include caveats about the whole “mobs” debacle, “vertexes” being Kosher after all, a response from Notch (NOTCH!!!), as well as lots of great additions inspired by and coming directly from comments on this blog and via my twitter feed. There’s a thanks page at the end. Apologies if I’ve missed any of you in all the excitement – it’s highly probable that I have missed some excellent people off the credits due to the chaotic and piecemeal creation process during marking. I hope that can be forgiven.

As usual, I make this .pdf open an available via Creative Commons to all who want to share it, use it, print it, make something new out of it. As long as you don’t profit from it or forget to credit me as the author then go crazy. It was made to be useful. But please don’t ask me for the original Powerpoint document because I’m not willing to let it go completely.

The original “51 Things” archive is listed below, which has spawned an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live and an article for a game career guide (more details as I get them).

thanks,

Kaye

– – – –

51 things every game student should know (.pdf download, now updated and fixed. Yeah, yeah, page 31. It’s important!)

What this is: 51 fugly slides of things that every budding game developer (who is studying at university) should know.

It’s finally here. After months of faffing and getting really angry, I wrote down 51 things that all my game students should know but seemingly don’t. That list is growing all the time, so expect it to expand to 100 things over the next 4 weeks as marking commences once more. Feel free to share this PDF, show it, or do anything with it as long as you don’t make any money off it, or forget to cite me as the owner of this work, it’s yours to mess with as you like. I particularly welcome any use of this with music. Surely someone can “Sunscreen” this effectively?

Thanks to the 20-odd thousand people who viewed my pdf and for the hundreds  who commented with support, constructive criticism and added their own thoughts. I had no idea it would strike a chord with so many people in education and the industry, and am tickled pink and mortified in equal measure.

If you are here because you’re thinking of studying game art, design or code, or want to know more about university courses or what I do in my day job, why not take a peek at the University of Bradford website.

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76 Responses to “Now it’s 100 Things every game student should know”


  1. 1 Chris
    April 30, 2013 at 20:17

    Rule 52: Never write copious amounts of yellow text on a black background as it hurts the eyes after a while.

    • 2 kayezer0
      May 1, 2013 at 08:41

      I know – it was only going to be a small thing at first, and then got out of hand. it was designed to be projected into a lecture theatre, so I wanted something eye-catching. Sorry to make your eyes bleed, maybe I should have listened to my own advice about formatting 😛

    • May 1, 2013 at 10:52

      Being a professional senior designer myself this is absolutely spot on. High fucking five!

  2. April 30, 2013 at 21:49

    That is awesome Kaye, have forwarded it to all my students 🙂

    I would mention my favourite bits, but the list would be too long.

  3. 5 amazingpunk
    April 30, 2013 at 23:07

    Awesome…’nuff said.

  4. April 30, 2013 at 23:21

    Great post! But I did have one thing I was confused about – why is the term “mobs” bad? And why does Notch get credit for it? Hasn’t that terminology been in use since MUDs of yore?

    • 7 kayezer0
      May 1, 2013 at 08:44

      Yeah, this one has proved quite controversial. As far as I can make out, it’s currently massive in MOBA development. You may be right about MUDs, I have no experience of those. I started developing in 1996, and never heard the term until Minecraft. I think its use irks me because some of my students tend to use a lot of fan speak, without bothering to find out if it is industry speak too. But you’re not the only one to question that statement, so I take it on board 🙂

      • May 1, 2013 at 12:03

        Great post, Kaye! I’ve had the same problem with the term ‘despawn’ when receiving bug reports. It’s used as a euphemism for ‘disappear’. The problem is that it’s far too imprecise to be any use, as it can cover enemies spontaneously dying, turning invisible for some reason, passing through missing collision and so on. I’d guess ‘mob’ is a similarly vague term, as an NPC isn’t always an enemy, for example.

      • 9 Paul
        May 1, 2013 at 12:59

        My daughter starts at Champlain College next fall, so I am passing this along. Thanks for this! Regarding mobiles/mobs, I actually met the guy who coined the term: Richard Bartle, an Englishman who helped develop the first MUD.

      • 10 kayezer0
        May 1, 2013 at 13:25

        Fantastic, I had no idea there was a bona fide creator of the term! I should see if I can cite him properly in the next version 🙂

      • 11 chaosprime
        May 1, 2013 at 16:15

        Verify that about Bartle. cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mob_(video_gaming)

        So the trouble there is that, while the term has its greatest currency among players of grindcore MMOs and MOBAs, it originated… with developers. MUD developers, specifically.

        I believe what you’re trying to say is “if you use this term, you will sound like an enthusiastic player of games as opposed to a developer of games”, which relates to the entirely valid message of the “I love to eat dinner, but that doesn’t make me a chef” slide. Unfortunately, to a MUD dev, you kinda wind up saying “this is how to talk like a pro and not sound like you’re from the MUD ghetto”. Obviously you care about inclusiveness, so I don’t imagine you mean that.

        Of course, I loathe the term “mob” as a cultural artifact of DikuMUDs, which I regard as terrible, being an LPMud developer myself. Which I suppose displays how eager we are to self-ghettoize.

      • 12 kayezer0
        May 1, 2013 at 16:22

        A good point. It’s odd how I’d never come across it before, but now that I have an entire community of enraged MMO/MOBA devs baying for my blood (OK, so I exaggerate. Gently pointing out the error of my ways is more accurate) I have added caveats mentioning same to the next version. Because I do want to be inclusive. 🙂

      • May 1, 2013 at 17:24

        Indeed. The term MOB – Mobile Object, has been around forever, and you’ll find that most people who spent a lot of time in MMO and MUD development use it above all others, as it’s purely descriptive. An NPC has a whole host of preconceived notions that you may not mean. I wish to kill that rat mob. I do not wish to converse with it. 🙂

        Still working through the doc. He mentions we’re all grammar nazis, which we are. Does he also mention that we all tend to be incredibly pedantic?

      • 14 kayezer0
        May 1, 2013 at 17:29

        Yes *she* does.

      • May 1, 2013 at 17:37

        Ahem! My apologies. 🙂 No offence intended, was using the term pretty generically.

    • May 1, 2013 at 19:07

      Kaye – fantastic write up. Plan on linking this to anyone the next time they ask for advice on “how to get into industry plz!”

      And sincere apologies for the thoughtless gender assignment. I’m usually better about that. I attribute it to momentary stupidity. At least, I hope it’s momentary.

  5. 17 Wallscrawler
    May 1, 2013 at 00:35

    This is fantastic. I am sharing this (with credits) to the instructional team of our animation and gaming department. it is basically everything we bitch about every year. 🙂

  6. 18 no1
    May 1, 2013 at 05:29

    Page2: “vertices not vertexes”. “Vertexes” is actually as valid as “vertices”, see http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/vertex

    • 19 kayezer0
      May 1, 2013 at 08:46

      Dammit, you are right! **shakes fist at sky**. I’ll amend the slide for the next version. 🙂

      • May 1, 2013 at 12:30

        “Vertexes” may be valid but I suspect 90%+ of people who might correct you don’t know that. I’ve been working in 3D graphics for over 25 years and only learned it was ‘as vaild’ two minutes ago. Not that i’m the sort of programmer who would make a big deal of it anyway

  7. May 1, 2013 at 09:11

    This should be required reading for all games course students! Preferably even before starting 🙂

  8. May 1, 2013 at 09:51

    Absolutely brilliant – I’ve passed it on to students at the multimedia school where I used to teach. This should be required reading for every game dev / design unit ever =]

  9. May 1, 2013 at 12:33

    I love the one about being the ideas guy. The world is full of ‘creative’ ideas men who seem to imagine dev teams are full of talented people just waiting for a genius spark. That said, the lack of originality in the vast majority of games is also a cause of this

  10. May 1, 2013 at 14:27

    I really liked the way you did it with the differnt types faces ad that.

  11. May 1, 2013 at 14:35

    This is the most keen, cool, bitchin’, radical, awesome, [insert dated youth superlative] thing I have seen in a long time. Thank you.

  12. 26 R.L.Möllenkramer
    May 1, 2013 at 15:37

    Really really awesome points! Loving this from start to finish. Might be missing one point in there: “Always know which audience you’re developing for. Preferably before the game concept is finished. Otherwise you will have a hard time marketing it and earning, you know… actual money!” Thanks for making my day!

  13. May 1, 2013 at 15:52

    Great presentation. Sharing with a couple students I know. Looking for adds? I’ve got a couple:
    51: ‘On time’ means ‘5 minutes early’.
    52: 99% of the time people use profanity, its laziness. English is a beautiful language with no shortage of adjectives. Use them. That other 1% should be used judiciously. When it’s time to pull out the BFG, it should be like that point in Doom when you earned it. It should leave a mark.

    • 28 kayezer0
      May 1, 2013 at 16:12

      ooh, good ideas! I’ll add them to version 4.0 (That’s how much fixing I’ve had to do, LOL)

  14. 29 David Bowman
    May 1, 2013 at 16:16

    This is quickly becoming the most posted piece on Facebook among my developer friends. Good work.

  15. May 1, 2013 at 16:18

    amazing work 🙂 thanks for this, I think it helps a lot. My friend and I are making a tesis about game development for mobile phones

  16. 31 chaosprime
    May 1, 2013 at 16:23

    My quibble with “mob” aside, I love the daylights out of this deck. The “idea guy” slide in particular could use to be displayed in 72,000-point type somewhere.

  17. May 1, 2013 at 16:30

    I had to chuckle about the part of quads, triangles and polygons. To me as an (oldskool) coder, polygons are n-gons where n > 2. In the old days we actually used polygons with more than just 3 or 4 vertices. These days you’re pretty much limited to triangles because of the hardware and/or APIs. The concept of triangle fans has also been abandoned.

  18. May 1, 2013 at 16:50

    Brilliant!! Now, tell me about tentacle porn….

  19. May 1, 2013 at 17:17

    This is about to become required reading for all of my beginning programming students, especially the ones who think they want to work on games or apps.

  20. May 1, 2013 at 19:00

    52) If you spend more time playing a game then making one, you’re doing it wrong.
    53) Understand that the industry needs both specialists and jack of all trades. Understand the difference and decide what suits you
    54) There are companies other than Blizzard/Riot/Rockstar. Apply to companies beyond the ones you are madly in love with.
    55) Going “indie” isn’t easy. Don’t think its the short route if you get rejected from a larger developer.
    56) Make your own games. A lot of them. With other people.
    57) Your colleagues and faculty will most likely be your doorway into the industry. What do they think of you? Leave a professional and lasting impression.
    58) If you aren’t failing at least a portion of what you do, then you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough.
    Sorry, I got a little carried away…

    • 36 kayezer0
      May 2, 2013 at 09:11

      All diamond ideas, thanks. I particularly appreciate the one about Blizzard/Rockstar. I’ve added something similar in the update (to be rolled out when it reaches 100) because I want my students to know that they can learn as much from working on a small, simple game as they can from a massive on (often more) and that they need to be patient and work their way towards greatness.

  21. May 1, 2013 at 20:28

    Kaye, this is excellent. Thank you for writing it! I added this to our wiki for game artists, http://wiki.polycount.com/CategoryGameIndustry#Industry_Insight

  22. 38 Keegan Gibson
    May 1, 2013 at 23:58

    52: Don’t assume all game students are game art students

    • 39 kayezer0
      May 2, 2013 at 09:12

      Many of mine are, and I tend to mark the art stuff more than the design or tech stuff, because that is what I teach, but I have tried to add more general ideas in there too. The update has more design and tech slides.

  23. May 2, 2013 at 05:56

    So… perhaps the several (at least) discomforting mistakes within this list throws doubt onto the wisdom of the author in creating it and others for linking it as if it is trustworthy? If its writer had been getting angry at students for doing things that were, in fact, correct and presumably telling them with force they were wrong when they weren’t, it doesn’t say much for the veracity of the rest of the list. It’s like a grammar Nazi making spelling mistakes while lambasting someone else’s mistakes (and haven’t most of us done that).

    For the record, I’ve been a developer for 15+ years, not that that matters really, except that it made more than a few of these “things every game student should know” obviously and immediately questionable. Any games lecturer who publicly derided the use of “mob” and “vertexes” would immediately gain my suspicion, should gain yours too.

    • 41 kayezer0
      May 2, 2013 at 09:17

      Fair points, I learned a lot myself from making this list. (Not least about the use of vertexes and mobs).
      I didn’t tell my students they were wrong with force though, because that’s not what good lecturers do. I just got frequently and privately very frustrated that the occasional typo I expected (and make myself) was actually more of a lack of being able to communicate at all. Hence the list.
      I’m not saying I’m wise, just that I’ve had a lot of experience (as have you) and that this is what my experience was.

  24. May 2, 2013 at 06:50

    This was, honestly, kinda crap 😦
    So much irrelevant to game dev stuff.

  25. 44 Paul Nelson
    May 2, 2013 at 14:21

    I am not a developer or designer, just a gamer and GM in table-top RPGs. I thoroughly enjoyed this peek behind the curtain. The only thing I would like to contribute is on page 36, where you recommend History, Art and other things that can inspire your students. I have plucked many current events from the newspaper (yes I still read actual papers) and turned them into great adventures for my games. You might say the news is very recent history, but most people think history is at least 10-20 years ago, if not decades and centuries. Thanks again!

  26. May 3, 2013 at 07:02

    That was hilarious and yet, very useful, advice. 🙂

  27. 47 Al
    May 3, 2013 at 20:43

    I recruit game development staff at a console platform holder. This was excellent. I really wish everyone who applied for a job had listened to and acted on the advice here.
    No wait, I don’t. Because if they did it would take me ages to work out who to interview, and right now it’s really easy to find who to reject. Clue: I use many of the points you make here.

  28. May 9, 2013 at 16:46

    My daughter dreams of being a game developer, so I’ve passed this on to her. Never to early to know what is expected in your dream job

  29. May 11, 2013 at 05:23

    I agreed with all of them, except page 49. Lots of games have had great success with close to no gameplay innovation or remarkable implementation, relying solely on the narrative for the bulk of entertainment and success. Sure, a story is optional, but a book can be about making boats, wherein there is no narrative, and it is true that prose is the unifying quality amongst all books, but that doesn’t make it the most important quality in all works.

    • 50 kayezer0
      May 13, 2013 at 08:37

      I see where you’re coming from, but I think you might be misinterpreting my point. Yes games can and do have narratives, but I find that some students think that narrative = game. The game play is often just assumed and dismissed (Me: “What genre is this game?” Them: “Oh…uh…FPS of course” Me:”What kinds of weapons and pickups will the game have?” Them: “…”). This is especially true of younger students and potential applicants. I personally really value a story in games; it was the original Monkey Island that first turned me on to gaming in general, but a story is not a game just because it appears on the same platform. The recent trend for swapping out traditional point and click mechanics for easier, cheaper “hidden object” gaming proves my point. Yes, a book about making boats is still a book, but even within books there is a difference between textbook and novel, and I think the same is true of games.

      • May 19, 2013 at 09:52

        Alright, I see where you are coming from then.
        That sounds pretty ghastly, I haven’t met someone with so little sense yet, I suppose I’m fortunate.

  30. 52 HermioneBe
    May 13, 2013 at 16:19

    I just lurve your slides – made me smile so much this pm. Especially the porn elves that comes up again and the TXT spk on slide 43!! Chocolate works every time for me too!

  31. June 18, 2013 at 14:44

    Their minds are like sponges and they wish to conquer worlds and actually learn cognitive skills and quick problem solving skills as well by playing entertaining
    games. Examples include having your uploaded digital photo ‘pasted’ onto a
    character’s face during a scene that is being played or unlocking a special feature that merges content on the disc with that coming from online. Or are you opposed to this fascination of jumping on the popularity bandwagon.

  32. June 19, 2013 at 20:52

    A short note and a tiny request…
    90) I thought ORSM was a internet acronym/slang and looked it up… turns out its a porn site. Might want to reconsider the all caps or choice of letters.
    Can you have a dark text, white background version? I get terrible headaches from the white on black, and I would like it in printable version (yay for killing trees!)

    • 55 kayezer0
      June 20, 2013 at 15:33

      Thanks for the feedback. I thought ORSM was internet slang too. Apparently it isn’t wide-spread enough to warrant its own site, but I cannot claim responsibility for what porn sites do with slang terms 🙂 I am but one puny lecturer.
      As for giving a different colour version, you’re not the first person to ask for this. This is actually quite hard to do because some of the visual gags in the .ppt use coloured blocks to work, so I’d have to go through by hand and change them. This is not something I’ve got time for sadly. It was never intended for print format, hence the black background to save on projector bulb wear and tear. Save the trees and the bulbs! On a ligher note, you should be able to copy/paste the text from the non visual slides to a new document and print them that way. Hope that helps. 😀

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  39. 62 Ian Crowther
    August 1, 2013 at 11:13

    (Copies link to PDF, sticks in “New starter’s information” directory on company Wiki…)

    I’ve been developing games professionally for 26 years now* and as an amateur for 7 before that.
    I cut my teeth on the zx81 and haven’t slowed down since.

    I’m _still_ going to peek at this every so often as a reminder…

    *I had to pause and check my sums. Also, “Get off my lawn, you kids!”

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  42. June 3, 2014 at 18:37

    So…some editor saved you from embarrassment by catching typos and grammatical errors and you call that person a Grammar Nazi? Because…um…what they did is similar to imprisoning and murdering thousands of people?

  43. 67 Jordan
    June 3, 2014 at 20:40

    Im curious about slide 38, or at least I believe it was that one. The one about when an opportunity knocks, don’t ignore it with the picture of the stroller.

    What was the implication supposed to be? Reason I ask is, so many developers (which are close friends) tell me if I didn’t have a child, I would’ve had so many more opportunities. I found my child to be the opposite, he is an extreme source of inspiration and determination to develop new things day in and day out.

    • 68 kayezer0
      June 4, 2014 at 10:44

      The stroller was in reference to the regrets that were born, nothing to do about children! (heaven forbid!)

      • 69 Jordan
        June 4, 2014 at 16:15

        I figured as much, either implication would have been totally fine but I was just curious. Helpful list, keep up the good work. Your students are lucky to have a teacher who actually cares

      • 70 kayezer0
        June 4, 2014 at 16:22

        Thanks that’s very kind of you to say 🙂


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