1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Studying Studying physics, but want to be a game physics programmer

  1. Oct 10, 2007 #1
    Hello all physicists/engineers!
    I am currently in my last year of college and will be leaving to go to university next year (in the U.K). I am having real trouble deciding whcih course I want to take, so just to be on the safe side I have decided to take physics, just plain physics (maybe physics with computers). I was thinking engineering, but I have no passion for that field.
    What I do have a passion for is video games, I was thinking of taking a computer science course, but that course is overly flooded, so I was thinking of taking a physics course and learning programming on the side.

    By doing the physics degree, I also have a backup as its such a diverse degree, I could go into many fields.
    So what I am asking is, is this a good idea for me to do?
    Is it possible to do a physics degree and work in the games programming field?
    Would Game development companies recruit a physics graduate?
    Also, I have no clue about physics programming, could someone point out some books or programs to use to get me started, as I have heard many stories about students who make games in their spare time, but I have no idea how to go about this.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 10, 2007 #2
    I'm a programmer who studied physics on the side.

    Personally, if your passion is really game programming, I'd focus on comp-sci. While I'm not a game programmer, I'd suspect that the physics involved in game programming would frequently just be fairly elementary mechanics. So all the advanced mechanics, EM, QM, and relativity etc. that you'd learn would be less relevant to game programming than focussing on solid coding skills, data structures, algorithms, algorithm efficiency, etc.
  4. Oct 10, 2007 #3


    User Avatar

    Yeah -- there'd be a lot of physics which isn't really useful to game programming.

    If you wanted a more general degree, I'd go for maths and focus on some aspects like the classic vector algebra type courses and discrete maths -- the latter for AI type aspects to future gaming...
  5. Oct 10, 2007 #4
    My friend went to MIT for CompSci and is working for a game company, interned with EA games as well.

    You don't need a physics degree, its assumed if you are a comp sci, you can pick up the physics you need to do the physics engine as others have said, its not super super advanced stuff for games.

    They are going to be more impressed with someone who has demos of games they made in their comp sci course or on their own. A portfolio is what you need.

    If you haven't done any game programming in direct x or open gl and your not a comp sci major I don't see how a gaming company would pick you up just to do the physics behind the game.
  6. Oct 10, 2007 #5
    My post isn't directly related to the thread, but it's marginally related. I always thought it would be cool if someone made a game that taught physics intuition by integrating modern physics concepts into the gameplay. I don't mean something cheesy, like every educational game ever made. No: think of something like Zelda, only where the puzzles and weapons behave relativistically or quantum mechanically. Of course, I think that it would be ridiculously hard to implement well.
  7. Oct 10, 2007 #6
    I did forget they do offer physics cards now, even though there arn't alot of games that actually take advantage in the future I'm sure they will.

    But I still recommend going hardcore comp sci if you want to go into the gaming industry, its very very competitive.
  8. Oct 10, 2007 #7
    Yeah, they are making video cards with dedicated physics processing units in them. But that's more so just to calculate the exact motion for a whole slew of particles (i.e. chunks of debris) more than anything. Knowing some classical mechanics (not 1st year stuff, but the separate class) and being comfortable working with energies and Diff EQ's instead of trying to think of everything in forces might be useful, but even then, it's one class vs. a whole degree.
  9. Oct 12, 2007 #8
    A little advice for you about the gaming industry. The video/PC gaming overlooks on what and where you got your degree. I got hired into the industry because of my freelancing programming and mod design. I was very into the counter-strike and World of Warcraft community. I knew that stuff more than my academics.

    I have a BS in physics and my career has nothing to do with my degree and academics. I didn't "waste" my years in college. College gave me that 5 years to find that career path and an opportunity to play video games without the harassment of my parents.

    For an example, my company does not care about your degree. They look for experience in the industry. They would rather hire someone with just a high school degree and 5 years of experience over someone with a computer science Masters degree from MIT and no experience. Some of our physics engine designers and programmers don't even have a degree. They didn't need one because they were so passionate about video games, they taught themselves linear algebra, programming, mechanics, etc.

    Do as much freelance projects as you can. Play PC games as much as you can. It's all about the community and how passionate you are to gaming. Don't expect to get into the industry if you just play video/PC games occasionally with a good degree.
  10. Oct 14, 2007 #9
    Thanks for all the advice guys, it has been nice reading some of your comments, especially yours fizziks, seen as you are actually in that industry!
    As stated, I really don't want to do a compter science course as I don't want to end up working in some industry that I don;t want to!
    I also had the thought of taking up an articifical intelligence and physics degree or mayeb a amaths degree. What are your thoughts on that?
    What I really need to find out is what exactly it takes to beceome a game physics programmer or an artifical intelligence prgrammer?
  11. Oct 14, 2007 #10

    I think your missing the big picture here....

    You can't just be a game physics programmer or a artifical intelligence programmer, you have to be skilled in all aspects of programming.

    You have to eat sleep and dream about game programming to actually make it in the market. Have you ever seen a game programmer? No offense but seriously, you can't keep a normal conversion with one of them without them mentioning something about World of Warcraft, twinkies, or startreck. Their day consist of going to work to develop a game, go home to play video games, then go back to work and do it all over again. Then maybe once a week they'll have a LAN party at the office to play whatever popular game is out.

    My friend who I mentioned before did AI programming for God Father 2, did he study just to do that? No, he studied Computer Science, were yes, if he wanted to do that he could but if they wanted him to do another job like write and encoder, he could also perform that job. (they made him do this job before he could do any AI).

    Meaning, the job market is so competitive, you need to be able to do all, not just 1 special part.

    As fizziks said,
    If you want to impress game industry people, you better start coding. Meaning, create game demos, create a physics engine, show them what you can do. If you want to take courses that will help you make that game demo if you don't have the self drive, computer science is the answer.

    The biggest question I'm seeing here is you don't like Computer Science, what part don't you like about it? If the answer is you don't like to code, then there is going to be huge issues. You can't just design the physics engine and expect to get the job, you need to implement that physics engine, in code.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2007
  12. Oct 14, 2007 #11
    Thanks for the reply Mr_Coffee, I do understand what you're saying, and it's not that I do not like computer science, I wouldn't mind doing it. But its just that I'd like to hold a degree in either physics or maths related, and learn programming aswel, just so that I am more versatile. Or is that not correct?
    I really enjoy Physics and Maths, and I also love computer games. So i I was hoping ot put them together by taking an academic science degree such as physics, learning programming on the side and computer game miodding as a hobby.
    Is this an absolutely absurd way of getting into the gaming industry and computer science is the only way? Or do I have a chance?

    Also could someone tell me wether programmng video games involves more maths or physics? And would be better off with a maths degree?
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2007
  13. Oct 14, 2007 #12
    No thats fine, I wasn't saying you have to have a Computer Science degree to get into the game industry, as fizziks said, you don't even need a degree in anything if your really good.

    If you can self teach yourself all the programming, and apply your physics/math skills through code to create your physics engine then your in a good shape.

    Graphics programming involves a ton of Math, I can't recall it having any physics. But it doesn't require a Math degree to do it. Meaning, you'll be using a lot of linear algebra and calc 3 would also help alittle but any engineering/physics/computer science/math degree would take those courses.
  14. Oct 14, 2007 #13
    First off, apologies for my poor spelling before the edit, my wireless keyboard is playing up! Again, thanks alot Mr_coffee for the insight, so is it safe to say that a Computer science degree would teach me alot that would help me into the gaming industry with all the programming skills I would gain and the demos that I would produce.
    But also, taking a maths or physics related degree and teaching myself the programming and coding is just as good?
    I was originally thinking of taking a mechanical, electrical or aeronautical engineering degree, seen as they were the only engineering disciplines that I was more inclined to. Would this be conisdered a "related degree" to the games industry, obviously not directly?
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2007
  15. Oct 15, 2007 #14
    Well since your in the UK if your serious about getting into the games industry Abertay University in Dundee has a very good course, Computer Games Technology, it gives you the skills to get into the games industry.

    Im currently in 2nd year of the course :D. The course, covers a lot more than just maths, and programming. In the first year you start off with learning C++, applied maths (maths and physics), Games Technology (flash and GameBoy programming), Audio Production for Games and media production (3d modeling and animation).

    If you have a passion for maths/physics and gaming and are willing to learn the programming languages then this could be a good course for you. It is (according to a friend of a friend at Rockstar Games, currently working on the new Grand Theft Auto) a very well respected course by the games industry.

    Hope this info helps with your course selection :D
  16. Nov 14, 2007 #15
    I was just looking up Star Craft 2 info from blizzard's website and I found this:
    Game Physics/Collision Programmer – Next-Gen MMO

    Blizzard Entertainment is currently seeking a highly talented game physics/collision programmer to help breathe life and realism into our next-generation MMO technologies. This is an exciting opportunity to envision and author innovative and cutting-edge physics and collision systems for today’s most advanced technology. Interested applicants should possess superlative math skills and a discerning eye for detail.

    Blizzard offers a fun, creative, and technically challenging environment with excellent compensation and a full range of benefits.


    * Physics/mathematics degree
    * 5+ years physics programming experience
    * Prior experience authoring a comprehensive physics system from scratch for a shipped game title
    * Familiarity with Havok, Ageia, and O.D.E. physics packages
    * Outstanding math skills (linear algebra, trigonometry, matrix/quaternion math)
    * Fluency in C/C++, Assembly, and SIMD programming
    * Strong multi-threaded programming skills
    * Self-motivation
    * Passion for playing and making games


    * Computer science degree
    * Prior experience coding on a commercially released game title
    * Experience implementing animation systems
    * Prior experience integrating an off-the-shelf physics package

    So if you doubled majored in PHysics/Computer Science or you took a ton of comp sci courses to get very good at programming you may have a chance!

    It actually looks like if you majored in Math you would have an easier transition if you would want to double major in math/computer science.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2007
  17. Nov 18, 2007 #16
    Personally I see game programming as being more towards the forefront of research in computational physics. Runge-Kuttas will only go so far, and they probably won't go anywhere when it comes to game physics.

    You would probably get better answers if this question was posted on a computer science forum.
  18. Nov 22, 2007 #17
    If you like physics, and want fluency in programming, then there are JH courses out there. For example, my uni offers http://www.dur.ac.uk/natural.sciences/prospective/msci-esci-phys/ [Broken] which sounds like it would be absolutely perfect for what you want (JH physics and compsci, but with quite a heavy pure maths element too)... but then I may be biased :biggrin:
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook