A few months back, while I was in the process of transitioning between jobs, I decided to start learning Unity in my free time. There are a lot of options when it comes to getting started in game development these days, and I was curious to find out first-hand what it would be like to start fresh in today’s world. To be fair, as a professional game designer with well over a decade of experience at studios large and small, and with a background in computer science, I can’t truly know how well a training program would work for someone fresh out of high school or college or changing careers from something completely unrelated. Up until I started this program though, I had never developed a game in Unity before, and I hadn’t written anything in C# since college.
I decided on the GameDevHQ Online Game Development Certification Course because the content was positively reviewed, and the course was presented as fairly comprehensive, unlike a lot of self-taught programs and YouTube tutorial series that only cover the basics. I obviously didn’t have the time to sign up for an actual college course, either in person or online, and since learning Unity wasn’t a critical task for me, I also wasn’t looking to spend the kind of money a college course would cost. GameDevHQ’s program is somewhere between a fully self-taught route and enrolling in a college program. It provides a structured set of courses with access to instructors, but allows students to work at their own pace, and covers most of what you’d expect from a college course at a fraction of the cost.
In terms of content, after a brief introduction to get everything set up, including a LinkedIn profile, and Github account, the first course starts off strong with an introduction to 2D games in Unity, which guides students through building a basic arcade style game start to finish using the Unity editor and C#. The style is thankfully relatively free from ‘watch me work’ sections, with most concepts thoroughly explained, followed by a challenge where the student is expected to attempt to write the code for themself. This is a great way to teach, and I wish more tutorials would follow this format, as it works far better than writing out an entire project while the student watches or tries to copy the instructor without understanding why.
The courses continue from there on into 3D, mobile, and several other topics, including coding for enterprise apps and cinamatics in Unity using Cinemachine. This provides a very well rounded basis, and although a lot of advanced programming topics like recursion aren’t covered, pretty much all of the core C# topics such as delegates and interfaces are, which should be sufficient for someone looking for a job as an entry level programmer, or for a solo developer looking start building their own projects.
This program isn’t perfect of course. A lot of the content has been recycled from previous GameDevHQ course packages on various platforms, so some of the dependancies are out of date using modern versions of Unity. Not all of the content flows as well as the initial 2D game course either, with some jumping scenes between sections and requiring students to throw out all their previous work to skip to a new start point. Overall this isn’t too big of an impediment however, and the courses are gradually being updated, so at some point in the future I expect most of the rough spots to be cleaned up.
In addition to the course content, some of the biggest benefits of this program are the accountability system and the coaching calls. Students are expected to document their progress, and report on it every week, and instructors follow up via Discord to check on students regularly to make sure they aren’t hitting any roadblocks. Reaching out regularly like this is a great way to keep students motivated, where most online courses that grant access to instructors leave it up to students whether they feel like asking for help or not. The coaching calls are also helpful, where instructors will either hold Q&A sessions, or invite industry professionals on to talk about different aspects of game development and what it takes to get a job at their studios. I imagine for anyone with minimal exposure to professional game development these calls are extremely valuable, as they can start providing some insight into what studios are really looking for.
Although the program is ‘work at your own pace’, it is roughly meant to be finished in 120 days. Since I managed to get through it in 90 days, I feel like someone with less experience, but a whole lot of free time could reasonably finish it in the expected time. Upon completion, students are presented with a certificate which can be posted to social media. I don’t give much weight even to college degrees when evaluating resumes these days, so I’m not sure how useful a cetificate from an online course like this is, but I expect it doesn’t hurt for students to have something to show for their effort. What’s more important is the experience, and if you need a job there is a lot of ephasis on job placement and interviewing techniques to get students prepared in this program.
So, would I recommend the GameDevHQ Online Game Developer Certification Course? I think so, for some people at least. If you’re truly a self-starter, you probably can get by on YouTube and Google. Unity is very well documented and there are lots of resources out there to help you learn everything about it. If you feel like you might do better with a little bit of handholding though, I think a course like this one makes sense. College these days is very expensive, especially private gamedev college, so before you take out a loan you’ll be paying off for years to come, I would suggest giving this course a try. It isn’t free by any means, but it costs a lot less than a college program, and may teach you just about as much. If you get through the course and find it doesn’t work for you, GameDevHQ will refund your money, so you have very little to lose, and if you do still decide to go to college for game development after taking this course, you’ll likely breeze through most of it based on what you’ve already learned.
Is this a good program if you’re already an experienced game developer looking to learn Unity or improve your technical skills? That’s a bit harder to answer. Speaking for myself I can certainly say I found it an effective learning tool, but I think you’d only really get the full benefit from the course if you were looking to change jobs, or were already starting to work in Unity for the first time and found yourself struggling. There are probably better options available if you’re just looking for general resources and don’t have a particuar interest in Unity, but Unity is a great engine to learn, even if you don’t work with it in your day to day. For more senior developers the Unity editor and API are great reference points for how tools and workflows can work, which might help inform how you direct the development of your proprietary internal dev tools that often have a lot of room for improvement.