Games that pay

PATHFINDER


Ever dreamt of the day when you’d be paid to have fun? With the games design and development industry seeing a spurt in growth, your dream could soon come true if you are spending hours in front of your PC or console, pounding away at your keyboard or controller to shoot down enemies or drive like a demon.

Key areas

The gaming industry can be divided into the following key segments: Online Games (MMORPG & Casual Games), Mobile Games, PC Games and Console Games (Regular & Handheld Devices). The Indian gaming industry was estimated at USD 50 million in 2006, USD 167 million in 2008, and is forecasted to grow at CAGR of 49 per cent to reach USD 830 million by 2012.

The overall size of the Indian gaming industry represents revenues from the consumer market, services market and revenues from non-development activities such as services rendered as technical support to international gaming companies.

Advantage India

India has huge potential and opportunity in games development for international markets. With a strong and established IT reputation, India attracts the attention of the world’s gaming companies, including those in the US and the UK.

Growth factors

Technical acumen, combined with creativity and low cost of development, creates a strong USP for India. The explosion in computer graphics and the spurt in the animation industry have been catalysts in the fast track growth of gaming industry.

In a nutshell, the games that we are talking about can be played using a computer or a special console attached to a video/TV. Some of the names that immediately come to mind are game boxes like Sony’s play stations, Microsoft Xbox and so on.

There are five main departments at the average game company: Art, Design, Programming, Sound, and Support. Game companies have plenty of ideas for games— more than they would ever have time to produce! Game development is a team effort that requires input from every developer on the project.

Art department

If you want to follow the path of  an artist you need to first pick a dimension. 2D artists make tiles, textures and skins for 3D models. Depending on the type of game, they also do painted backdrops and skyboxes (what you see when you look up in a 3D game which is set in the great outdoors). They’re also often called upon to do concept sketches for games early in the development cycle.

 3D artists make in-world models for 3D games. Models can range from humans to vehicles to inanimate objects, depending on the project. Animators bring humanoids, enemies and creatures to life in 3D games. They build models within the polygon limitations of the game engine, and then apply animation techniques. Many animators start out as 3D modelers or 2D artists and are trained on the job to animate with other programs.

Skills required: Knowledge of computers and various art programs is recommended. Having superb drawing skills is a must. Animators should have in-depth understanding of the human figure and its movement. Developers generally look for artists first and computer gurus later. You can teach an artist to use a computer but you can’t teach a computer user to be an artist.

As for training, courses in computer art, figure drawing, landscapes and general art courses are useful, and many universities offer 3D classes for computer modelling and animation. Real-world experience, with a good portfolio, is also critical.

Design department

Level and scenario designers create the game world and its architecture inside the 2D or 3D level editor. Most game engines are designed to include their own custom-level editors, so design training doesn’t necessarily transfer from one game to another. Editors vary from game to game.

Skills required: A general art background is very useful when crafting levels for 3D games, as is some knowledge of architecture and design. General programming knowledge is recommended for the scripting aspect of design. Knowledge of one or more sets of editing tools that have shipped with various PC games over the years is essential.

Since the level designer is often a jack-of-all-trades, it’s difficult to specify course or programme. General art courses, design courses, drafting courses and programming courses would be useful to a level designer, but there’s no substitute for downloading and using tools on the Internet for a good self-education.

Programming department

Programmers are the backbone of every gaming company. They work their magic in mystical lines of code (the list of instructions that the computer translates into machine language to make games work).  Right now the most common game programming language is Visual C++. Programmers write their code in C++ and check it in and out of a code database.  They have a say in every aspect of a game’s development, so they end up using a variety of software packages.

Skills required: Besides an extensive knowledge of game programming, various languages, and mathematics, the programmer needs to work in a group. The industry is long past the days of the lone wolf programmer. Working on a section to better the whole project requires the disciplines of code modularity as well as effective communication and leadership.

Sound department

Sound designers compose and implement a game’s music and sound effects. If you hear anything while playing a game, odds are that a sound designer is responsible for it (unless it’s those voices in your head!). Sound designers use tools like Sound Forge, Cakewalk, Vegas, Awave Studio, Protools and other sound library collections and software. For music composition and recording, many use a multi-track recording program called Cubase VST made by Steinberg.

For sound effect recording and editing, there are Sound Forge 4.0 and Vegas, both made by Sonic Foundry, and of course you’ll need to use basic recording equipment.
With a multi-billion dollar industry beckoning, entrepreneurs as well as techno-creative whiz kids can aim for a gold rush in this segment.

Career scope

The growing Indian games industry has opened up career avenues for professionals who are creative and passionate about gaming technologies and culture. Games development as a career is not only fun-filled and creative, it also provides attractive global employment prospects. The average salary is estimated at Rs 1.2-7 lakh a year, depending on the different profiles an individual chooses.

A NASSCOM report predicts that the gaming industry will create 10,700 jobs by 2012.  Gamers nowadays can earn up to $80,000 a year, but $25,000 is more common, and most gamers would play anyway, so they might as well make money doing what they love best.

Courses to choose from

There are specialised courses in Gaming, Art and Design wherein students can look forward to a complete course package and training from the basics to hi-end gaming techniques that are in sync with current industry trends. Some newly launched diploma programmes in Game Art and Design include four modules — Introduction to Gaming, Get Gaming, Game Production and Projects. Courses are designed to enable students meet global standards in animation, gaming and multimedia.

Whatever the format of gaming — mobile, console, PC or online, each has a projected growth rate of 30-55 per cent. Gaming is being treated as adjunct to the animation industry as people doing animation courses usually branch out to this domain.

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