Becoming a professional game progammer (homework lulz)

This is a discussion on Becoming a professional game progammer (homework lulz) within the A Brief History of Cprogramming.com forums, part of the Community Boards category; My task is to write a report on how I will achieve my dream job, from point A to B. ...

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    Mad OnionKnight's Avatar
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    Post Becoming a professional game progammer (homework lulz)

    My task is to write a report on how I will achieve my dream job, from point A to B. I've got all the way up to university covered (or should I even bother that?) but I have no idea what's next. I really have no clue how the industry works and have pretty much no experience of a job. All my life I've just polished my skills without thinking about how to get my job. Now it seems I'm forced to do it. :|
    I am aware that this is probably asked a lot so I've looked at sites like gamedev.net for help but I can't really find a good article about it. Maybe I should ask in their forum?
    A quick background: The languages I know are mainly C, Perl, Ruby, SQL, PHP and Javascript. I am learning/experienced with Windows API, OpenGL, SDL, MySQL and libraries for common things like reading images (libpng, libjpeg), regexps and XML.
    As a game programmer there are different areas like 3D, AI, network and so on but the way there are similar for each of these, right? In any case, my teacher said it would be okay to be a little open-ended and document all of these, whichever it will be I'm gonna be focused on.

    So, assume I have lots of skills by the end of my studies. Where do I get a job? Who needs a game programmer? Who needs a programmer? I suspect I might even have to go to another country for job as a game programmer. I believe there's also a hefty amount of requirements regarding experience from working for getting into the gaming industry. Where do I get that? Start out small building applications for companies or work with web development?

    Thinking about all this is giving me a headache.
    Anyone who has worked as a programmer and can share their experience on how they got where the are today?

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    well, what you learn in college isn't really what you'll use for your job. Your college degree is more to show your employers that you have a strong capacity and willingness to learn the subject matter. 90% of what you'll use you'll learn on site.

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    Devil's Advocate SlyMaelstrom's Avatar
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    The key to getting into the gaming industry (and I should know, as I have no experience, what so ever) is to get your skills nice and polished and make a good portfolio. I believe if you're looking to go straight into the game industry, you'll have to make a few simple games yourself that show your skills in all areas of gaming program. That includes, of course, graphics, physics, algorithm efficiency, good code construction, etc... it's a very visual field and I think if you're not looking on spending several years in a programming field like say... banking software... then you're going to have to build a portfolio worth showing. Just my two cents (which by the way are not usable in any known nation on this planet)
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    Mad OnionKnight's Avatar
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    Hmm... portfolio, didn't think about that. That might work too. Those ads that want you to have 70+ years of C++ experience doesn't seem to care about that though. I guess my biggest problem is finding what kind of place I should look for work at. I only know of major gaming companies and I guess they aren't accepting, or at least not accepting newbies like me.

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    Devil's Advocate SlyMaelstrom's Avatar
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    Those ads always over compensate. Almost every job requires less than half of what is specified in the job description, they just want to attract highly qualified employees. As a guy right out of college, you should feel free to apply for anything that asks for around 4 years experience or less.
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    Its hard... But im here swgh's Avatar
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    The bottom line is this: If you want to program games proffesionally you must know C++ inside out and back to front. But like Sly suggested, looking into applying for a position within a games company cant hurt your credibility.
    Like you, I want to program games for a living one day too. Although I know C++ quite well now, I still do not know the language deeply and complexly enough to make it into the big time.
    Pick up yout favoiuite game, start playing it and think about what happens under the hood. All the proffestionals that made the game you are playing were in your exact position a few years back. They prob had to work, graft, beg and perhaps make tea for the pros before they got to the level they are at now.
    If it really is your dream to strive to be the best game programmer around, who game company directors would have to que up to see you, then keep learning, keep coding, keep making mistkes and learning from them. Nobody gets into the industry overnight. One day, you will know you are ready. And that magical sombody will say "yes, welcome abaord!"

    Good luck
    I'm just trying to be a better person - My Name Is Earl

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    Having a portfolio of software you've done yourself is a big, big part of landing a job with a studio. But this is one truth I can tell you...a lot of the major game development studios hire people they know...in essence, a "buddy-buddy" type of setup. Not too different from politics. The only real way into a large studio if you're not chums with the people there is to get involved with a smaller studio, one willing to take a chance on a "nobody" that shows great potential. Get into a smaller studio and blow everyone's socks off with your amazing programming prowess and it'll be hard for larger studios to ignore you. One or two might present some offers.

    But don't be fooled. Today's games are NOT necessarily coded by the best programmers. Developers now have many years of previous blood, sweat, and tears to draw upon at their leisure, none of which they coded themselves. Furthermore, even if you were to land a gig with a major studio, they might just stick you in utility programming, which is VERY boring, especially when you're not doing it as a hobby. You may find yourself much happier with a smaller studio, even if the pay is less (which it likely will be).

    One last detail you should know is that when what you consider to be "fun" becomes your job, it will lose a lot of that fun factor, especially if you're a lone wolf. Professional game programmers are some of the most boring people you'll ever know.

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    One last detail you should know is that when what you consider to be "fun" becomes your job, it will lose a lot of that fun factor
    That's one of the things I was always afraid of in gaming programming. I mean, I was always afraid that once I knew how to make a game and was making my own, every game I'd play would become ones and zeros and for loops and such...and I'd never have fun playing them anymore.

    Maybe I'm just paranoid.
    Teacher: "You connect with Internet Explorer, but what is your browser? You know, Yahoo, Webcrawler...?" It's great to see the educational system moving in the right direction

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    Devil's Advocate SlyMaelstrom's Avatar
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    You're just paranoid is right... great artists appreciate great art, great scientists appreciate great science, great programmers appreciate great programs.

    ... and you don't mess around with Jim. Ba-dap-be-de-dap-de-de-dede-de
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    Fear the Reaper...
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    Fair enough. But it's not that I wouldn't appreciate them, just that they'd also become synonymous with a crapload of work. If there's one thing I wouldn't want to do while I'm playing something, it's to think about how much work I have to do tommorow...
    Teacher: "You connect with Internet Explorer, but what is your browser? You know, Yahoo, Webcrawler...?" It's great to see the educational system moving in the right direction

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    Insane Game Developer Nodtveidt's Avatar
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    I've been a game programmer for 22 years now, including a couple of stints in the professional world. I do it as a hobby nowadays when I'm not doing my "real" job. But I'm also a pretty avid gamer. I can say that games are no less fun after doing it professionally, in fact they became a bit MORE fun for me, because now not only do I enjoy the game but I also enjoy trying to figure out how certain things were done. Of course, there's always the part where you end up saying "ya know, I could have done that part better"...

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    Devil's Advocate SlyMaelstrom's Avatar
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    You've been a Game Programmer since you were 9, Nod?
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    Mad OnionKnight's Avatar
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    I've heard before that you need to know a lot of people to get into the business, I guess that's only half true then. I should be able to complete my report now as I probably don't have to be so concrete about what kind of job I should get so thanks for the answers.

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    Insane Game Developer Nodtveidt's Avatar
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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by SlyMaelstrom
    You've been a Game Programmer since you were 9, Nod?
    Yes. I started in 4th grade on a Commodore 64, I picked up BASIC V2 almost immediately (took me about 2 months to know it well enough to code complex games) and then learned 6502 assembly. Games are pretty much the only thing I know how to code, I have little interest in coding anything else aside from the utilities I need to help make games.

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    touche.

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