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Typical responsibilities / deadlines per week and size of team


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#1 gamedevr   Members   -  Reputation: 107

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 10:28 AM

As a game developer, I was wondering what are some of the responsibilities you would typically be expected to complete in any given week? (like complete an inventory system, a navigation class, a dozen shaders, etc.) I ask in regard to both smaller games and larger ones, such as Left4Dead or CoD. I know the answer may be quite varied, but I'd like to hear all scenarios if you will.

Also what are the typical size of those teams?

On a personal note, I'm trying to gauge the workload of a game programmer and my own work speed relative to it...

Thanks!

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#2 Dawoodoz   Members   -  Reputation: 290

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 11:40 AM

If you don't have a very good scrum master or similar, your team will be limited to around 5 developers. It is better to use an agile method with sprints between different beta versions and a quality standard instead of hard deadlines and crunch time. If you don't want the game to be released with 1000 bugs, you need someone who only work with testing and defining code conventions based on what mistakes the programmers do.

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#3 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 8642

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 12:08 PM

1. what are some of the responsibilities [a game programmer] would typically be expected to complete in any given week?
2. I ask in regard to both smaller games and larger ones, such as Left4Dead or CoD.
Also what are the typical size of those teams?
3. On a personal note, I'm trying to gauge the workload of a game programmer and my own work speed relative to it...


1. Maybe this article will offer some insight.
2. Some of those games show credits in the manual, or let you see them via the in-game menu. A game team can vary in size from 20 to 200, depending on the scale and scope of the game.
3. You will work 40 hours a week, normally, and may sometimes be asked to work more. Read about QoL (quality of life) in the game industry in these articles:
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3656/quality_of_life_does_anyone_still_.php
http://www.igda.org/articles/codonell_global
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
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Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#4 turch   Members   -  Reputation: 590

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 03:33 PM

Many programmers naturally tend to work in cycles; I regularly go a month of nonstop 12-16 hour days where I bang out 10,000 lines, then a month of updating a little documentation, fixing a bug or two, but generally dicking around, reading, and not getting much accomplished. Obviously this isn't really feasible in a corporate environment with real world time constraints, but I think any project manager that can embrace this and work it into the project's overall advantage will have a happier team and a project that is more likely to ship on time ship less late Posted Image. I say this from personal experience on both sides of the fence.

You will work 40 hours a week, normally, and may sometimes be asked to work more.


Sometimes work more than 40 hours? During crunch-time I've regularly worked 60 hours a week with occasional all-nighters / sleeping in the office. "Over-worked, under-paid, and loving it" - A favorite quote I heard somewhere about game programmers Posted Image

#5 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 18836

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 03:52 PM

Sometimes work more than 40 hours? During crunch-time I've regularly worked 60 hours a week with occasional all-nighters / sleeping in the office. "Over-worked, under-paid, and loving it" - A favorite quote I heard somewhere about game programmers

That is not my experience.

I'm in a studio of roughly 150 people and have been here for six years. Cruch time is the exception rather than the rule. An individual project team may have a few late nights at the end of a project, that is basically it.

Which brings me back to an issue when looking for work: Pay attention to the age of the average worker, how long employees have been there, and the turnover rate. If you discover the average age is 28 and there have been few long-term workers, expect a very different work environment from where the average age is 37 and "recent hire" means someone hired a year ago. The first is more likely to have rough projects, the latter more likely to offer a stable work environment.
Check out my personal indie blog at bryanwagstaff.com.

#6 gamedevr   Members   -  Reputation: 107

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 06:06 PM

thanks for all that, its great to hear others experiences :-)

besides just hours (which are long) and lines of code (your average per week?), what aspects of the game are you tasked to accomplish per week? is it anything like finish a quarter of the game engine or implement a pathfinder?

#7 gamedevr   Members   -  Reputation: 107

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 09:05 AM

I wanted to bump this topic up again....as I hoped to learn more about the actual responsibilities one is given to accomplish per week as a developer in a game company (small, medium or large).

thanks for the insights!

#8 Telastyn   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3718

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 02:09 PM

The size of the company won't influence what tasks you're expected to complete, except maybe that very small/immature companies won't have a good enough process to even have tasks.

#9 doeme   Members   -  Reputation: 683

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Posted 29 June 2012 - 02:35 AM

besides just hours (which are long) and lines of code (your average per week?), what aspects of the game are you tasked to accomplish per week? is it anything like finish a quarter of the game engine or implement a pathfinder?


As for concrete accomplishments in a week, that just cannot be said in a general way. Estimating time for a given task is very hard and needs a lot of practice as well as a certain degree of understanding of the problem as well as knowledge on how much you can rely on previous work.
Finish "a quarter of a game engine" in a week? Sure if the game is rock-paper-scissors, probably not if it is anything more complex or if you want a general usage out of it.

Some key factors (there are many more) influencing this are:
  • Complexity of the task
  • Amount and quality of code that you can reuse
  • Developer experience
  • Expected generality of the code (do you want a hack or a general solution?)

on a side note, In my opinion lines of code are not really a good metric to measure productivity of a developer. Often a quite complex features takes surprisingly little code to get it running in the end, but it may take hours on hours to design and test it.

#10 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6306

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 07:21 AM

A game team can vary in size from 20 to 200


In some offices, you'll end up with much smaller teams, but may be asked to join more than one.
I personally work on average with 2-3 teams of 5-10 people when working on smaller scale games.

#11 Hodgman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 27585

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 08:05 AM

Sometimes work more than 40 hours? During crunch-time I've regularly worked 60 hours a week with occasional all-nighters / sleeping in the office. "Over-worked, under-paid, and loving it" - A favorite quote I heard somewhere about game programmers

In 6 years, I've done overtime on only one project, voluntarily, because I put my hand up to lead it so I felt partly responsible (a few weeks of crunch at the end of a project -- mostly babysitting the build machine and assisting the QA manager).

Earlier this year, the team I was on were asked to start doing 50 hour weeks to help get a game out the door -- the "rock-star" lead programmer resigned right there on the spot (he had been telling management for the entire project that the schedule was out by approx 2 months, and unless we corrected our deadlines we'd end up in this situation, and they'd been ignoring him), and I simply refused the request and started doing exactly 40 hours to make a point, and then also resigned a few weeks later. That company is now bleeding staff, and their game is still 2 months behind schedule anyway. If they'd simply admitted they screwed up and then moved the deadline, they'd still have all their senior staff and the game would be at the same stage of completion anyway. Completely stupid short-term thinking on their part...
Fuck crunch -- it's not productive. Someone coding 60 hours a week is less productive than someone doing 40 hours, that's a science fact. I don't want to have to fix the bugs caused by your fatigue, so go the fuck to sleep!

You employer doesn't own you unless you don't stand up for yourself. It's the people like you who let employers walk all over them (assuming you're at a large company) that instil this abusive culture in the workplaces of the rest of us, and allows incompetent managers to continually promise impossible schedules and budgets to publishers... Why should you be the one to pay when your management has screwed up the scheduling?

besides just hours (which are long) and lines of code (your average per week?), what aspects of the game are you tasked to accomplish per week? is it anything like finish a quarter of the game engine or implement a pathfinder?

Everywhere I've worked, I've been given tasks and asked for estimates. My own estimates are my deadlines -- if I think that re-writing the engine's texture loader will take 3 weeks, then my supervisor will expect it done in around 3 weeks, but will check in with me every week to see how it's progressing and get updated estimates. If I get 2 days into the task and realise I'll have it done this week, I'll let my supervisor know the good news, and likewise, if I hit some road-block that means that it's gonna take 2 months, I'll also let my supervisor know the new estimate and explain why/what's gone wrong.

I'm an experienced engine programmer, so I'm often given fairly large/difficult tasks, which span several months, and have to be broken into lots of sub-tasks by myself. The less experienced programmers are usually given smaller tasks, which their lead knows will only take them a day or so to complete, like: write a new shader, or add this new HUD item, or add random texture swapping to this monster.
N.B. even though you're working a 40 hour week, you should only be expected to do maybe 30 hours of work -- meetings, scrums, coffee breaks, random conversations, being bugged by some random artist as to why their model is broken and spontaneous brainstorming will eat up a lot of time, and a good lead will know this and schedule you with an appropriate amount of slack.

Lines-of-code-per-hour is a useless number. To illustrate, I was once given a horrible bug where, after 6 weeks of investigation, I finally found the cause, which was a single line of code. That's 240 hours to write a single line of code, but without that one line, the game wouldn't have been able to pass the QA tests and be shipped.

Edited by Hodgman, 04 July 2012 - 08:35 AM.


#12 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6306

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 11:27 AM

View Postturch, on 13 June 2012 - 05:33 PM, said:
Sometimes work more than 40 hours? During crunch-time I've regularly worked 60 hours a week with occasional all-nighters / sleeping in the office. "Over-worked, under-paid, and loving it" - A favorite quote I heard somewhere about game programmers
In 6 years, I've done overtime on only one project, voluntarily, because I put my hand up to lead it so I felt partly responsible (a few weeks of crunch at the end of a project -- mostly babysitting the build machine and assisting the QA manager).

Earlier this year, the team I was on were asked to start doing 50 hour weeks to help get a game out the door -- the "rock-star" lead programmer resigned right there on the spot (he had been telling management for the entire project that the schedule was out by approx 2 months, and unless we corrected our deadlines we'd end up in this situation, and they'd been ignoring him), and I simply refused the request and started doing exactly 40 hours to make a point, and then also resigned a few weeks later. That company is now bleeding staff, and their game is still 2 months behind schedule anyway. If they'd simply admitted they screwed up and then moved the deadline, they'd still have all their senior staff and the game would be at the same stage of completion anyway. Completely stupid short-term thinking on their part...
Fuck crunch -- it's not productive. Someone coding 60 hours a week is less productive than someone doing 40 hours, that's a science fact. I don't want to have to fix the bugs caused by your fatigue, so go the fuck to sleep!

You employer doesn't own you unless you don't stand up for yourself. It's the people like you who let employers walk all over them (assuming you're at a large company) that instil this abusive culture in the workplaces of the rest of us, and allows incompetent managers to continually promise impossible schedules and budgets to publishers... Why should you be the one to pay when your management has screwed up the scheduling?


In what area are you located?
60h/week is common here and we're not Sillicon Valley. I've been in three different studios (publisher and vendor) and can attest that its more of the same in that regard.
Crunches that last for 6-12 months are not really crunches, they're signs of very bad planning, but they are common here regardless.


Everywhere I've worked, I've been given tasks and asked for estimates. My own estimates are my deadlines -- if I think that re-writing the engine's texture loader will take 3 weeks, then my supervisor will expect it done in around 3 weeks, but will check in with me every week to see how it's progressing and get updated estimates. If I get 2 days into the task and realise I'll have it done this week, I'll let my supervisor know the good news, and likewise, if I hit some road-block that means that it's gonna take 2 months, I'll also let my supervisor know the new estimate and explain why/what's gone wrong.


I found that to be true about half of the time. I've seen places where, immediately after you handed your estimate, they would shrink it by half, others where they'd add a 30-40% buffer de facto, and then others that accepted your estimate as is, but refused any setback no matter the reason. I've grown to agree that "it takes the time it takes to do the stuff you need to do" but unfortunately, not everyone believes that, especially not high ranked officials in my area.

You appear to be based in Melbourne. I have unfortunately no knowledge on how Australia game dev biz differs from north america, but I'm going to assume that could play into the difference between our experience of this industry's culture.

#13 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 8642

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 12:14 PM

In what area are you located?
60h/week is common here and we're not Sillicon Valley. I've been in three different studios (publisher and vendor) and can attest that its more of the same in that regard.
Crunches that last for 6-12 months are not really crunches, they're signs of very bad planning, but they are common here regardless.
You appear to be based in Melbourne. I have unfortunately no knowledge on how Australia game dev biz differs from north america, but I'm going to assume that could play into the difference between our experience of this industry's culture.


You must not assume that it's a national or regional difference. Not every company in North America commonly crunches for a year at a time. Not every company in Australia rejects crunch 100% of the time.

It is not a national/regional thing. Rejection of crunch is a moral and lifestyle choice. Acceptance of crunch is often out of economic necessity. And yes, crunching more than a month or so is a sign that somebody has planned badly, and somebody is managing badly, and somebody is unreasonable or not communicating fully.
-- Tom Sloper
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Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#14 stupid_programmer   Members   -  Reputation: 1002

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 12:36 PM

In what area are you located?
60h/week is common here and we're not Sillicon Valley. I've been in three different studios (publisher and vendor) and can attest that its more of the same in that regard.
Crunches that last for 6-12 months are not really crunches, they're signs of very bad planning, but they are common here regardless.


I'm not Hodgman, but I work in the Bay Area and I've never worked more then 50 hours. Its generally more in the 40-45 hour range. The one 50 hour week was from a botched launch night. There is no way I'd put up with 60 hours being "common". I like games, but having a life is much more important to me. Then again, I'm not 22 anymore and a bit jaded to the industry as a whole now. I also don't work for a AAA game studio but a smaller still independent studio. I also started in business apps where the office was pretty much cleared out by 5:15 everyday so I never got conditioned to think that more then 40 hours was business as usual.

#15 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6306

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 01:39 PM

I may be on the unlucky side. There are roughly 5 studios in my area, 3 of wish I've worked at, and this has become a reality. On the upside, one of the studios (the one I'm at right now) has made it a policy to let you recover hour for hour any overtime you do, so while I don't particularly enjoy the long crunch, I do like the summer that comes after when I get to be with my kid and gf enjoying the pool and sun. I'm nearing my 30s and overtime isn't something that I dislike, but it has practical impacts on my way of life (house & kid & gf tend to take a lot more time than when I was single and entirely dedicated to making games).

I'm not exactly sure why the culture in my area is so competitive. And by my area, I do not mean the bulk of north america, but mostly just my city. I'm pretty sure this is not the only area where studios demand as much overtime from their employees. I would've imagined that, by now, one of them would've offered better working conditions to try and lure the best resources to them, but this has yet to happen.

#16 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 8642

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 02:14 PM

This thread has deviated too far from the original topic. I'm closing it. Anyone wanting to discuss something other than "what are some of the responsibilities you would typically be expected to complete in any given week" is free to start a new thread.
-- Tom Sloper
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Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.




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