Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Orientation, Part 1

I didn't think I'd have enough to write about after only one day of orientation, but it turns out I do! Yesterday was very informative. Between talking to some of the undergraduate students and the graduate student check-in/info session, I feel very much more "in the know" than I did previously. One of the first pointers that my roommate and I got from one of the undergrads was that we don't really need to know anything (initially) about game programming specifically to succeed at DigiPen. This in and of itself was somewhat comforting. It did become clear, though, from talking to some of them that these undergrads definitely know their stuff and it will be very beneficial to talk to them about game development.

From the graduate session, I gained a good deal of insight into what the next couple years have in store for me. I was initially under the impression that next semester's game project class was just going to be planning/prototyping a game, but as it turns out, it will be a full-fledged game project. If all goes well, I will have a working game by the end of the school year! How crazy is that? That being said, I'm definitely going to be working hard this year, especially next semester.

The advisor for all full-time graduate students and a third-year graduate student talked to us a little bit about the thesis and extra coursework tracks and what they entail. I learned that almost everyone who has chosen the thesis option has not graduated after the regular two years. We were also advised that, if we don't have a solid idea for our thesis by the time the second year rolls around, we shouldn't be taking that track. This makes me feel considerably less ashamed about gravitating, at least initially, towards the extra coursework option. Granted, the comprehensive exams won't be a piece of cake by any stretch of the imagination, but it seems like a much more sure-fire way (if there can even be said to be such a thing at a place like DigiPen) to graduate and to do it in two years.

I was also surprised to learn that one of the MSCS students, Jeff, is the computer networking instructor at DigiPen. The faculty want him to teach a graduate-level course in networking but, unfortunately, he doesn't yet have a MS or PhD, so he is currently unable to do so. Thus, they've decided to let him go through the MSCS program at DigiPen. This way, he can still teach his current classes, although I have a feeling that, even though he's doing the degree part-time, it's going to be a lot of work for him. Jeff warned us that if we end up having him on our team, he is not going to do the networking portion, seeing as he wants to learn something new. However, I understand that most graduate projects don't have networking capabilities, so this is probably a non-issue.

New insights into the way the program works has made the 33% graduation rate that I was given seem less horrible than I previously thought (what with a lot of people not graduating on time, or getting jobs and then not wanting to complete the program). Also, now that all of the second-year students have signed up, and there are 14 of them, it appears that the drop-off from the first year to the second isn't quite as dramatic as I thought. Granted, 6 out of 20 is still a fair amount, but it's nowhere near 66%.

Now my worries are more related to whether I can learn enough in the coming semester to prepare myself for working on a complete game project. Another thing to consider is, how do I choose a good team? We'll supposedly be working in teams of about 4 programmers. And if we succeed in making a game, will it be good enough to get me an internship? Regardless of what happens, though, I'm now thoroughly convinced that, within the next year or so, I will be learning more than I could ever possibly retain.

Until next time!

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