d3t’s very own Ian Moran, Principal Programmer gives us his advice on getting into the games industry as a programmer.
As a programmer, have your own projects, ideally including a simple game that you can demonstrate and explain the problems you have overcome. Developing is the sole task of being able to describe, break down and solve problems, showing that you have been motivated by a problem and broken it down into steps that you have been able to solve. At best this will be fundamental in landing you a position, but at the very least it will play its part in your personal development. It doesn’t matter how junior your position is if you haven’t invested time to do this, then you are likely not looking for a job in the right field.
“Describe, break down and solve problems.”
It’s important to have a keen interest in the tools, technologies and techniques, as someone wanting to demonstrate your passion for solving problems, you will be aware of press and sites that run articles on relevant ideas and concepts that can be the key building blocks you will be working with.
The internet has an abundance of free tools and development kits for the job. Some examples include:
- Dev Studio Express
- SIGGRAPH or GDC presentations which often filter on to Youtube or sites like Gamasutra.
You should consider using off the shelf engines to showcase your work. At the very least it gives you a framework that can embellish what you are showing and keep your focus on your specific areas of interest, such as graphics, AI or UI for example. It also shows that you can integrate your work into widely used and understood mature engines which is in its self another skill set that is useful to share.
“Anyone can run a text editor and use a web browser to produce interesting results.”
It’s a good idea to keep an eye out for demos made in certain categories and specifications on multiple platforms. PC demos cover all disciplines and have a broad range of scopes. These can be an inspiration even if you are not likely to do anything similar, some show source code and offer some insight into the production and solutions that may help with your own implementations.
They may also inspire you to write your own! It’s becoming more typical for developers to come from a related university course. This can show that you are committed to the idea of being a developer, but you shouldn’t assume that a games-related degree is a pre-requisite or a requirement for a job in games. Dedication and passion, showing initiative and innovation outside of the confines of academia can be at least as impressive as a first.
Technology and tools are generally accessible to everyone wanting to create art or program. While expensive premium options are available and these can give more leverage or address specific issues, historically we had no more than a computer and an idea. The same can be true today, anyone can run a text editor and use a web browser to produce interesting results.
– Ian Moran, Principal Programmer