Becoming a Game Programmer

Posted December 11, 2008

Message from 3 years in the future. This is being posted retroactively and pulled over from my old Blogger account. I thought it was still interesting, so enjoy.

So, I figured I’d start this up to get a better feeling about my experience actually working as a programmer. I was hired about 9 months ago at a game developer, and my first game just came out. It was a really fun and eye opening experience. I’ll start from the beginning.

Most companies apparently do a test to weed out the less than worthy programmers. They asked lots of difficult questions, but thankfully I could look up the stuff that I didn’t know while I wrote it. That’s the benefit of getting a digital copy. I felt a bit cheap, but really it’s not like I wouldn’t be able to look up stuff while working, and do on a regular basis. When I walked in to the head studio for my interview I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to see inside and felt like even if I didn’t get the job at least I would have actually seen what it looked like. It was really cool and stylish, everyone was casual, and the feeling was very relaxed. During the interview I was surprised at how easy the head of the programming department was to talk to. It seemed like it went well, I got the job and there was much rejoicing on my part.

I started on my first project a few weeks later. It had just started production, and all of the pre production work, as in the design, had already been done. We were given two weeks to get used to the tools we would be using. Source control, where to find company wide information, the email system, and of course the codebase. Since this was a sequel, we weren’t going to be doing any major work like writing the graphics system.

It’s alot to learn especially getting used to source control, and the code reviews that go on before you submit changes. These attempt to make sure nobody breaks whats already there, as that means headache for everyone. It took awhile before I got comfortable with being reviewed for every small change, but it did make me more conscious of how my code looked, I hope.

There were lots of parties, cool people, and the project went smoothly, for me at least. It was alot of fun, even during bug fixing time. Especially during bug fixing time. There were lots of late nights, difficult problems and pressure, all things I thrive with. Now that I’m on to the next project I’m starting to miss that aspect. Especially since this time we have pre production which for everyone but production, is the most boring time in all existence. All we did was write up documentation so the production people could come up with schedules and numbers to plan with. Once those are done you’re pretty much twiddling your thumbs til they decide what they want to do. That’s fine though since we’re starting to do some actual work it’s become fun again.

If I had any advice on how to get in to the game industry as a programmer, I would say to learn as much as you can about programming. Don’t depend on your teachers for information, go outside if you can because they might not give you what you need to know. Also be personable, because most game companies are like large families, and they look for someone who can fit into the company. If you have the personality and the knowledge you’ll get in no problem.