For the last year or so I have been working professionally at a AAA mobile game studio. This year has been a huge eye opener for me. Although this article is really short and concise, I`d really like to share these (although seemingly minor) tips for anyone who is thinking about joining, or perhaps has already joined and starting in the professional game development industry.
All my teen years I had only one dream, to become a professional game developer, and it has finally happened. I was most excited, but as it turns out, I was not ready. At the time of this post, I`m still a student, hopefully getting my bachelors degree in 2016. Juggling between school and a corporate job (because it is a corporation, after all) has been really damaging to my grades, to my social life, but hey, I knew what I signed up for. In the meantime I met lots of really cool and talented people, from whom I have learned tons. Not necessarily programming skills (although I did manage to pick up quite a few tricks there as well), but how to behave in such an environment, how to handle stress, how to speak with non-technical people about technical things. These turned out to be essential skills, in some cases way more important than the technical skills that you have to have in order to be successful at your job. Now, don't misunderstand me, the fact that I wasn't ready doesn't mean I got fired, in fact I really enjoyed and loved the environment of pro game development, but I simply couldn't spend so much time anymore, it has started to become a health issue. I got a new job, still programming, although not game development. A lot more laid back, in a totally different industry though. I plan to return to the game development area as soon as possible.
So, in summary, I'd like to present a few main points of interest for those who are new to the industry, or are maybe contemplating becoming game developers in a professional area.
1. It's not what you've been doing so far
So far you've been pretty much doing what projects you wanted, how you wanted them. It will not be the case anymore. There are deadlines, there are expectations to be met, there is profit that needs to be earned. Don't forget that after all, it is a business. You will probably do tasks which you are interested in and you love them, but you will also do tedious, even boring ones.
2. Your impact will not be as great as it has been before
Ever implemented a whole game? Perhaps whole systems? Yeah, it's different here. You will probably only get to work with parts of systems, or maybe just tweaking them, fixing bugs (especially as a beginner). These games are way bigger than what we're used to as hobbyist game developers, you have to adapt to the situation. Most of the people working on a project specialize in some area (networking, graphics, etc.). Also, I figured that lots of the people in the team - including myself, I always went with rendering engines, that's what my thing is :D - have never done a full game by themselves (and that is okay).
3. You WILL have to learn to talk properly with managers/leads, designers, artists
If you're working alone, you're a one man team and you're the god of your projects. In a professional environment talking to non-technical people about technical things may very well make the difference between you getting to the next level, or getting fired. It is an essential skill that can be easily learned through experience. In the beginning however, keep your head low.
4. You WILL have to put in extra effort
If you're working on your own hobby project, if a system gets done 2 days later than you originally wanted it to, it's not a big deal. However, in this environment, it could set back the whole team. There will be days when you will have to work overtime, for the sake of the project and your team.
Essentially, I could boil all this down to two words : COMMUNICATION and TEAMWORK.
If you really enjoy developing games, go for the professional environment, however if you're not sure about it, avoid it. All of the people manage to be successful here by loving what they do. Love it or quit it.
14 Jan 2015: Initial release