It’s hard to choose universities and degrees without knowing what courses you’ll take and what the courses are actually like. I’ll be finishing my second year in a few weeks and thought it might be good to jot down some quick reviews on all the courses I’ve taken so far. Hopefully this will help someone out there deciding whether or not they wish to earn their degree through Westwood–I’m not biased toward or against it, you have to make your own choice. This should just give you a general idea of what goes on. Later I’ll list all the books used in the courses in case you want to check them out. Also, please remember that courses and textbooks change! Nothing is set in stone; in fact, in the near future my program is being changed after an academic review. But enough talk, let’s start with…math.
- MTH 110 – Algebra I: Unless math makes you go into a coma, this class is a no-brainer. Basically a review of elementary high school math concepts and techniques. While it may seem odd to be in a college program, keep in mind that this degree is aimed toward adults (read: out of school a while ago/working).
- MTH 111 – Algebra II: Again, a no brainer. Pass Go, collect $200.
- MTH 221 – Trigonometry I: Trig gets a little more interesting. Radians, parametric equations, translations, the whole deal. While not difficult, it does require some more work. Why? Because a) the problems occasionally take longer to solve and b) trig is used for a lot of stuff in game development (directly and indirectly), so it pays to put in extra effort at memorizing and mastering the subject.
- MTH 331 – Calculus I: Ah, calculus. It scares people. But it shouldn’t, it’s really quite a lot of fun! I’m guessing not a lot of people will believe me, however. The text used for this class was very nicely written and easy to get into. I had taken several calcs previously, so nothing earth-shattering for me. We stopped before getting into integrals and dealt mainly with derivatives, limits, applications of calculus, and so on. Do yourself a favor and finish up the rest of the book on your own after you finish this class. Integrals (and the other topics dealt with in the book) are not that hard and may come in handy later. Game dev doesn’t used calculus extensively; however, certain areas do use it and it never hurts to be familiar with different kinds of math.
- MTH 333 – Discrete Mathematics: I had taken a class before which taught about half of the topics we learned in this class. However…this class is pretty hardcore. I don’t want to say it’s terribly difficult, but a lot of the course uses formal logic with symbols, proofs, etc. The book didn’t really help with the complexity (it added a lot, in fact). In any case, it’s good to go through this subject at least once. I found the sections on graphs and their associated matrices the most interesting, because to date I had never really understood how they were modeled or used (in the realm of computer science) for anything concrete before.
- MTH 401 – Linear Algebra: This is one subject I’d never taken before and I was excited to see it at last. Linear algebra deals with things like matrices, their associated operations, vectors, the theory of systems of linear equations, eigenvalues, linear transforms, vector spaces, etc. It turned out to be pretty cool. The book was great at explaining things, which is a big help. This is probably one of the most important (if not the most important) type of math for game programming. Do not slack off with learning this stuff or you might not get a job (assuming you’re looking for one). It is especially important for 3D programming, among other things. While you may not be doing the actual problems while programming, you must understand how things like matrices work in order to do much of anything.
- SCI 321 – Selected Topics in Physical Science: This should probably be renamed Concepts of Selected Topics in Physical Science. It was, unfortunately, a bit disappointing since it just went over the “how” of how things worked, but didn’t delve any deeper into the actual equations used and so on. Knowing the concepts is important, of course, but knowing how to actually do something with them is equally important, especially if you’re going to be doing anything physics-related during the production of a game. I had taken several AP Physics and undergraduate physics classes before, but I was a bit rusty; however, it was more than enough for me to coast through this class.