Programmer qualifications

This is a discussion on Programmer qualifications within the A Brief History of Cprogramming.com forums, part of the Community Boards category; Just wanted to ask what most of you think companies mean by saying they want at least 2 years of ...

  1. #1
    Super Moderator VirtualAce's Avatar
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    Programmer qualifications

    Just wanted to ask what most of you think companies mean by saying they want at least 2 years of game programming experience.

    First off I've never done any professional code but have over 20 years experience as a hobbyist doing just about everything related to making games, as well as some assembly and operating system design and kernel code.

    A lot of the requirements look intimidating but hell I realize that I can pretty much do anything in C++ and learn any new technology. I wasn't at that point for some time but now I can usually implement any algo or new technique with minimal effort and usually I improvise the design and make my own. I've learned MFC on my own, DirectX, 3D graphics, shaders, etc, etc...and am currently working on an editor and an engine for a game project I volunteered for on this board.

    No I don't have any professional experience or any shipped titles but I have tons of experience with games and have been gaming since like the IBM PCjr and Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.0 by SubLogic. Now I have well over 250 games in my collection and I understand which one use which engine, etc, etc....

    So do you guys think I should finally try to apply for a position or do you think they are gonna laugh me out of the picture here?

    I know I can code with the best of them. My main lack right now is time and resources. I don't have 5000 bucks to spend on tools for making games, I suck at drawing and art as well as 3D modelling, and I'm not particularly good at synthesizing sound effects. Since a game is far more than just the engine behind it, it has taken me a long time to come by any of these resources.
    That is the main reason for the lack of a good example of my work. Resources.

    So what do these employers expect when they say all those things? I don't want to apply if I know I don't qualify. I'm not some noob that has tried game programming a couple of times and just learned C last year. But I also don't want to lie to the company because that will get me nowhere.

    I could put a demo together w/o all the razzamatazz but then I don't feel it would give me good representation. Or are they looking more for how I solved problems and how I approached them than the final outcome. Graphics are not easy to come by, but the underlying code that makes the engine tick should count for something shouldn't it?


    Suggestions?

  2. #2
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    What I found when I first started looking for jobs after college is that most companies pad their job listings with as many requirements as they can think of. Don't fret if you don't satisfy all the listed requirements, because most of the time they're not expecting you to know everything.

    The fact that you've never done any professional coding will hurt a little, but the fact that you have over 250 game projects under your belt will help you out significantly. Include this in your resume, and offer to send samples of your work in your cover letter.

    If I was to make a guess, I would say that the hardest part for you will be landing interviews. Since you don't have professional experience or a CSC degree, you might find it hard making your resume stand out. So I suggest you follow these steps:
    1) Have a professional help you out with your resume and cover letter.
    2) Make sure and make follow-up calls to the places you send your resume too. This helps the HR people put a voice to the resume.
    I think that once you're in an interview setting, you will do rather well. You will be able to talk about all the projects you've worked on, and you should also be able to pass all the coding tests they throw at you.

    Graphics are not easy to come by, but the underlying code that makes the engine tick should count for something shouldn't it?
    Of course. In professional games, the people that code the engines are not the same people that work on graphics. You just need to know how things work so the animators/modelers can do their work with your code.

    Good Luck.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator VirtualAce's Avatar
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    I have over 250 games in my collection and I've worked on about um...well probably close to over 400 projects in my own time ranging from simple BASIC games, to DOS Turbo C games like raycasters, DOS sound/graphic engines, then onto DJGPP using the LFB, and then into DirectX.

    I don't really know how many personal projects I've worked on but it is probably close to a thousand or so. Keep in mind this has been down through the years and my recent projects are my best, but also are taking the longest since I have a much better idea of what it takes to actually make a game engine.

    All of my code has not been games, but recently most of it is game-related.

    Thanks for the advice and the input.

  4. #4
    and the hat of wrongness Salem's Avatar
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    A lot of company job descriptions amount to wish lists, basically derived from one of two cases
    - the CV of the guy who just walked out
    - the CV of the guy who is most capable working there, and they want clones.

    > I know I can code with the best of them
    Play this as your strength then. As you know, a large project is a vast team effort of many different skills.

    > I could put a demo together w/o all the razzamatazz ...
    If you're pitching as a coder, they'll be looking for things like
    - how you tackled the task, how you designed and implemented it
    - what problems you had, and how you got past them
    - code structure, layout, comments
    - use of algorithms and data structures
    A short project (say a couple of weeks), with say source code, a weblog of your development experience, and some example output could be worth doing.


    > No I don't have any professional experience or any shipped titles
    I've heard that many games get abandoned for one reason or another, so there could be plenty of 'pros' without a shipped title as well.

    > So do you guys think I should finally try to apply for a position or do you think they are gonna laugh me out of the picture here?
    Depends on the state of the market at the moment.
    If everyones cutting back, then you're already at a disadvantage as all the people with standard skills are also looking.

    It it's expanding, then yes I'd say go for it.
    Rather than applying for specific jobs (your CV won't make it past the HR drone matching standard phrases), do some research on the company before sending a tailored letter outlining your experience and what you think you can do for the company. A few company specific details show you've done your homework and you're not just sending out form letters to everyone.

    If it's boom time, you should be a shoe-in

    Do any of the companies in your area have say open days, recruitment drives or tours you could attend?
    Being interested and inquisitive at one of these, then following up with your letter would give you and advantage. It also gives you useful names to write to in person rather than just "personnel dept".

  5. #5
    Climber spoon_'s Avatar
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    Usually, those are ideal qualifications so they don't have to spend any money training you. Rather, you can just jump right in and start working immediately.

    Show your portfolio, if you've done anything they think is significant or cool, more than likely you'll move onto the next part of the interview.

    Also, during interviews, they're not necessarily concerned with you getting the correct answer. They're more concerned with the way you think.
    {RTFM, KISS}

  6. #6
    Supermassive black hole cboard_member's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spoon_
    Usually, those are ideal qualifications so they don't have to spend any money training you. Rather, you can just jump right in and start working immediately.

    Show your portfolio, if you've done anything they think is significant or cool, more than likely you'll move onto the next part of the interview.

    Also, during interviews, they're not necessarily concerned with you getting the correct answer. They're more concerned with the way you think.
    Interviewers go on what they think is cool?
    Good class architecture is not like a Swiss Army Knife; it should be more like a well balanced throwing knife.

    - Mike McShaffry

  7. #7
    Climber spoon_'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ahluka
    Interviewers go on what they think is cool?
    Boy, that little comment sure did contribute to the thread.

    Play else where, child.
    {RTFM, KISS}

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    Get your portfolio together and be prepared to elegantly communicate everything you just said to an interviewer.

    Everything I've heard points to the fact that actually having something to show means about a million times more than having a comp. sci degree or an 'academic' understanding of programmer's topics (you know exactly what I mean).

    Don't you have an accounting degree or something? Hell, with your portfolio, just the fact that you have a degree is probably fine.

    I believe you'd be able to get a game programming job.

    What position, exactly, are you looking for? The graphics programming positions might be a lot harder to get than you think.
    I'm not immature, I'm refined in the opposite direction.

  9. #9
    Supermassive black hole cboard_member's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spoon_
    Boy, that little comment sure did contribute to the thread.

    Play else where, child.
    Actually, chuckles, it was a question. Be a spoon elsewhere, child.

    Seriously though (without ruining the friendly atmosphere around here) I wouldn't have thought an interviewer would think "oh, that's cool, let's hire him". Assuming of course he just saw a screenshot and thought that - if he saw a full portfolio then I can understand.
    Good class architecture is not like a Swiss Army Knife; it should be more like a well balanced throwing knife.

    - Mike McShaffry

  10. #10
    Crazy Fool Perspective's Avatar
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    A demo submitted to a game company is almost sure to get played (as I was told by the head of R&D at EA). Even if your CV sucks people are curious about a demo, its just fun. Also, your demo doesn't have to be a complete game. It could just be an implementation of an algorithm or something similar. I know a guy who got a professional game programming position by submitting a beefed up version of a ray-tracer he wrote as a school assignmtent.

    Also, the "requirements" they list are mostely there to scare away the people who really aren't qualified. If you can prove what you're capable of, they don't care so much about the little details.

  11. #11
    Ecologist
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    Bubba,

    If you don't mind me asking, how old are you?

    Just curious.
    Staying away from General.

  12. #12
    Magically delicious LuckY's Avatar
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    I have an acquaintance in France who was hired on to a professional gaming company based largely on a single game he wrote from scratch. I don't know his previous achievements, but when I spoke with him after he was hired, he said his game was an enormous part of why he was hired. So, take that for what it's worth.

    Btw, if you're curious, you can see his version of Bomberman (called "Bombermaaan" for legal reasons, I believe) which plays exactly like the original game at http://fury94.free.fr. I don't think it would hurt you to sort of make a site dedicated to your plethora of games. It's a nice way to display your portfolio while at the same time hitting people in the face with your vast abilities.

    Good luck.

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