The questions (and answers) just keep on coming. Here’s a look at the program deliverables. What can you expect from the program and what will you leave with?
Q: What sort of portfolio will I leave DSGA with?
A: You will leave with a game for which you can describe your role clearly – what you did throughout the program as well as the times and areas where you operated in a leadership role. You will also leave with a collection of critical game planning documents – conceptual documents and concept pitch decks, mock (but realistic) budgets, mock (but realistic) project schedules in a variety of formats, go to market plans, even mock performance improvement plans (indicating an ability to work with human resources departments on personnel problems). On a less tangible level, but no less important, you will leave with solid knowledge of the jobs done by producers, directors and discipline leads. You will leave with empathy for them that might not be gained through in-the-trenches work on a development team. And you will have the ability to help them achieve their goals on a project because of that empathy and understanding, perhaps leading to more rapid advancement than could be achieved simply by working as a member of a game team.
Q: The program is set up for candidates with some gaming experience. How does this certificate help those who have most likely already had a job in the industry?
A: First, bear in mind that the “gaming experience” each candidate brings to the table may have come in a professional setting or an academic one. The program doesn’t require or favor professional experience. Those who do come from a professional position should be looking for accelerated career development. There are no guarantees in life, but the ideal professional candidate would be someone who wants to move from, say, Designer to Lead Designer… from Lead Programmer to Game Director… from Assistant Producer to Associate. These are people for whom some extra training and knowledge might justify taking nine months off from an existing career. People already in higher-level leadership positions might, to be frank, might not want to take time off from their everyday jobs.
Q: The list of Development Council members lists higher ups from Bioware, Blizzard, Portalarium, Certain Affinity and Bee Caves Games. Are partnerships with local area gaming companies really going to pan out for graduates?
A: In the game business—in any business, really—there are no guarantees. The Denius-Sams Gaming Academy can’t tell you, categorically, that you will leave the program with a certificate that lands you a job. What we can say is that the experience gained at the Academy will enhance your skillset and expose you to people working at and running the companies you mention, which can’t hurt. One of the key benefits the Gaming Academy can offer is the opportunity to be mentored by members of the Development Council. This can help jumpstart the creation of a personal network that will serve you throughout your career. Just don’t expect to leave the program and become the next triple-A game creative director or full producer. That sort of thing just doesn’t happen. The Academy is designed as the next step in an educational process and as a potential accelerator for people early in their careers.
Q: What production methodologies and related production software will the program use?
A: Students will be exposed to a variety of production methodologies and software packages as part of their coursework, including scrum, agile, waterfall and more. In the lab, different methods will be applied at different points in the project, to ensure hands-on experience, with students participating in the decision about when, if and how to move from one method or tool to another.
Q: What software do you plan to use?
A: At this time, we anticipate using Unity as our game engine and expect students to familiarize themselves with it before the start of classes on August 27th. Other software tools for version control and bug-tracking will be used as the need arises.
Q: Will the program cover monetization strategies at big companies and smaller indie studios?
A: Monetization, return on investment, budgeting and other financial issues will be dealt with both in the lab and as part of coursework. In order to lead you have to understand how funding partners think and how to execute plans that will result in success as defined by the team and those partners. This is of obvious benefit to people leading teams or departments in a “big company” setting. Less obviously, such things are critical to smaller indie studios that hope to be sustainable businesses. The DSGA will, at least in part, resemble an MBA as much as it will a game development program.
Q: Will the curriculum cover development strategies and in-detail differences between big studio and indie studio development?
A: That depends on your definition of “in-detail,” of course. We will definitely cover similarities and differences between big studios and independent developers.
Q: What will the academy offer in terms of creative design, specifically for story people and writers?
A: There will be significant focus on creativity in design and development—games can and must be more than delivery mechanisms for adrenaline rush or time-wasting. The program will reflect that belief. However, the determination of what game will be developed during the nine-month Denius-Sams Gaming Academy program will be made as part of the lab experience. That means there may be a storyline or there may be none at all! Writers, like people from all disciplines, should work to ensure their contributions will be valuable throughout the development process, regardless of what game gets made.
Q: What focus will there be for audio folks?
A: The focus for audio people will be the same as for anyone else – discipline or team leadership. However, audio engineers must have skills that can be applied during all phases of a game’s development, even when audio needs are relatively low. The same is true for all disciplines, however.