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mightymike

switched from other software development?

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Greetings, I''ve got over 10 years software development exp'' but none of it to do with games. I''ve always wanted to work on games but never had the opportunity and I''m wondering if I should seriously look into it. I don''t know what to expect. I don''t know: - If I''m too old (33). I Don''t feel to old, I love games. - If the industry is full of kids. - If I''d need to take a huge pay cut. - If I''d like it after all. - Etc. Has anyone come from a software development background in another field to do games development? How did you find it? Regards, Mike C++, Java Developer and Application/Software Architect.

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I looked into switching industries about a year ago, I figured that I could Team Lead. (I am 36 with 14 years experience).

What I found was sorely dissapointing.

For a team lead I would get paid 60-80k a year and need to work 50-60 hour weeks.

Being a programmer is just not worth the pay (40k-60k), and 60-80 hour weeks.

Also, I would be compeating for the job with younger candidates that are 1) not married, 2) have no children, 3) have relatively few social ties/obligations.

If I were single I would probably do it, I sorely want to get into the industry, but the reality of the situation is that the pay sucks, the hours are shit, the benifits are nil (I don''t call a foosball in the company game room a benifit).

Besides most of the steady jobs out there are for studios with large affiliates that pump out one nintendo clone after another, not alot of creativity.

For a thirtysomething Software Engineer and gamer all of this is terribly depresing for me, but for a college grad, its quite exciting.


D.V.

Carpe Diem

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What''s bizzare is that the developers shell out a fortune for a project and yet most haven''t learnt the basics about staffing their projects.

There should be no reason for the long hours and they should want the professionals with the experience to deliver a project. But those that have moved on with modern development practice are but a handful (or so I can tell from conversations with those in the industry etc).

Anyway, I''m (just) a bit older than both of you and it simply wouldnt make sense for me more to game development either unless it is to start my own software house. So here I am developing an OS game

Obviously I have no sense left (figures the teenages will think its old age).

Good luck whatever you choose to do.

Regards

BaelWrath

If it is not nailed down it''s mine and if I can prise it loose,
it''s not nailed down!

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I''m a young developer(almost 30) in the industry and I am completely frustrated by the lack of professionalism I have to deal with.

People seem to think that ''game development'' is supposed to be haphazardly thrown together and subject to all sorts of problems, spec changes, ''impossible'' feature assignments and such, but it doesn''t have to be that way..

I worked 60-80 hour weeks to deliver my first pro title, and it wasn''t because it HAD to be that way..it was because the people I was dealing with(my company, our client, and their client) didn''t put any more thought into developing the product then they would ordering food from McDonald''s because it was a "game" and not "normal" development.

People in the game industry seem to feel that it''s ''acceptable'' to not know what the hell you''re working on, or to let the chips fall where they may in the course of development. Unfortunately, you get a lesser quality product that way. Sure, games are "art", and all that, but for some reason alot of people don''t feel that it deserves as much attention as ''regular'' software products.

I got frustrated when I was a studio musician for the same reasons..people seem to think that because "music is art" that they don''t have learn to play their instruments well, or read music. That''s all well and good if you''re doing it for fun, but when you do it As A Job, you NEED professional skills.

The industry and it''s reputation both suffer from this "lack-of-respect-by-default" from all the non-skilled workers that are just doing it because "it''s cool". This leads people to believe that game development is all about "pulling off miracles", etc., when it''s really not much different than any other software development. The standards are so lax that just about anyone can claim to be a game developer, which really lowers the bar for the rest of us.

I didn''t have a problem moving into the game industry, but I get severely frustrated with the lack of foresight that goes into development. I''m not saying that we should be totally business-like in the way we approach game development, but this whole "I''m gonna make a COOL game with just my attitude and no skills" approach that seems to pervade the industry is killing us. We need more talented, organized game developers that come from other areas to maintain some sanity level, otherwise we''ll just get lumped into this category of dope-smoking hippy wannabe hackers(sort of what happens in the music industry, you try telling people you''re a professional guitar player and they instantly assume that (a)you picked this career because it''s some sort of ''free ride'', (b) you are lazy and unreliable(despite the discipline and years of practice required to become a professional player), and(c) you don''t actually know how to play music).

Only when we populate the industry with people that have legitimate skills will we get the pay scale we deserve. Until then, the reputation of ''game developer'' will continue to attract the most inappropriate people for the job while leaving the most qualified on the outside, afraid to venture into such unstable territory.

I didn''t choose to be a game developer because I like to play Quake all day long or because I want to make big bucks with a single ''briliant'' idea(like that''s actually a career option that you would count on)..I did it because (a) I like the work, (b) I Have The Skill Necessary To Perform That Work, and (c) I don''t mind busting my hump for 60-80 hrs a week to deliver the goods.

If only the REST of the game development community was more like that then we wouldn''t have this negative reputation and pay scale that we do..

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If I were you I wouldn''t bother switching careers. I''m sure you have a steady job going right now. Not to mention that it would probably be difficult for you to crack into the game industry for a few reasons: 1) your older (I didn''t say old ) than most canidates. 2) you don''t have any experience in the game field. 3) the company might think you want more pay than a younger canidate, who is trying to crack into the business. In fact, I''m sure you would probably be looking for more than the entry level pay they would offer, however, that pay is great for a newly college grad.

Then again if you''re not happy with your job, and you are very passionate about making games then I''d say go for it. An important aspect of your job that has to be looked at is whether you enjoy it or not. Plus you could always make a few simple games before you decide to make the change, that way you can see if you like the challenge or not. Well, good luck on whatever your decision turns out to be.

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quote:
Original post by mightymike
Greetings,

I''ve got over 10 years software development exp'' but none of it to do with games. I''ve always wanted to work on games but never had the opportunity and I''m wondering if I should seriously look into it. I don''t know what to expect.

I don''t know:

- If I''m too old (33). I Don''t feel to old, I love games.
- If the industry is full of kids.
- If I''d need to take a huge pay cut.
- If I''d like it after all.
- Etc.

Has anyone come from a software development background in another field to do games development? How did you find it?


Regards,

Mike
C++, Java Developer and Application/Software Architect.


I''ve worked in both...so here goes my 0.02 worth:

- If I''m too old (33). I Don''t feel to old, I love games.

No, you are not too old.

- If the industry is full of kids.

Nope, not any more than any other tech company. (generally speaking)

- If I''d need to take a huge pay cut.

Probably not. It really depends on what you are capable of.

- If I''d like it after all.

There is no way I can answer this one. Its obviously up to your personal likes/dislikes.

Bottom Line: I have seen these threads before and am kind of perplexed why some peeps think the difference between commercial/business programming and game programming is that different. From my experience the only difference lies in the names of the people you work around/for.

Of course, this is only from my experience, I have no doubt others have different ones.

LostLogic
www.lostlogic.com
Author, Multiplayer Game Programming
Author, Strategy Game Programming with Direct X 9 (Not yet released)

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Oh yes, I almost forgot. If you are going for a game job you better have a completely working game you have written.

It doesnt matter if its a PacMan clone, it just needs to be complete!


LostLogic
www.lostlogic.com
Author, Multiplayer Game Programming
Author, Strategy Game Programming with Direct X 9 (Not yet released)

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Thanks for all your replies.

I''m going to complete this game project I''m working on now and seriously consider paying to get my ass down to the next Australian game developers conference. Once I meet a few people in my local industry I''ll make a decision.

A big motivating factor me is to see the box in the store for a game that I''ve played a key role in building. I''d also like to develop the type of software that I love so much and experience the challenge of something new.

Maybe I''m better off going it alone or with a few like minded people who can take time off from a paying job for a while.

Thanks,

Mike

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mightymike,
I know what you mean about the age thing... back in 1997 I was 34 and had about 9 years of professional development under my belt. In my spare time I was coding games and all the while wanting to break into the industry. Not living in California, Texas or North Carolina there weren’t too many opportunities for game programmers - I''m in Indiana, just across the Ohio River from Louisville, KY. Then, I found out there was a game company in Louisville... I applied several times... even thought about going over an knocking on their door

Around 99, I was working for a startup software company and they were fortunate enough to work out a deal with a client to do some games... they got on the phone and called the gameco in Louisville. I met the CEO and he liked me. I went for an interview and they wanted to see a finished game (as LostLogic suggested)... Long story short, I would have been working with them if they had not gone out of business... one too many bad dealings had left them financially hurting and they couldn''t afford me to bring me on.

But from that, I met other professional developers that were interested in creating games... we''re now in business for ourselves (which, is how the one chap said you could get into the biz) and haven''t looked back...

I met a really nice fellow at GDC (USA) last March - he is from Australia - maybe I can give you some contact info and you could take it from there...


Dave "Dak Lozar" Loeser

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quote:
Original post by DeltaVee

If I were single I would probably do it, I sorely want to get into the industry, but the reality of the situation is that the pay sucks, the hours are shit, the benifits are nil (I don''t call a foosball in the company game room a benifit).




Sounds like you looked at some immature game companies. The more mature ones have actual benefits and pay. At least the one I work at does. (Of course, it helps to be owned by Microsoft.)

As for being single, I got married before I made the jump, and I have to say it''s been alright. As long as you make priorities, it''ll be fine.

In general, getting into the industry is pretty easy. Hell, you can write books on game programming without ever shipping a game. Getting into a good company, however, takes some effort, and luck.

MSN

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There are not that many studios to choose from in Florida. There are a couple EA and 3DO affilates in and around the West Palm Beah area.

But being in Florida the pay rate is automatically lower and there is very little incentive for the employee to provide benifits in this state.

On the flip side, my experience is against me. There is absolutely no way EA is going to match what I am being payed now unless I was going for some form of executive officer. I pay for my own benifits right now so by taking a (considerably large) pay cut I would hope the benifits provided would be somewhat comparable.

D.V.

Carpe Diem

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The only other way I can think of is to produce a game (or at least a huge part of the fundamentals) and get it well known. Then you just have to hope that a large house makes you a (at least the one game) contract for the system to take it all the way commercial.

Catch is it would have to be pretty unique, easier for you to develop the core systems without a graphic artist etc, have a market to go to and be very lucky. In other words the software house would only have to invest a token cost on chrome, packaging, marketing and capture a good return on the investment. Such as if you had developed Civilisation say.

I know some of the houses do this but like I said, the requirements would be pretty demanding.

Good luck.

Regards

BaelWrath

If it is not nailed down it''s mine and if I can prise it loose,
it''s not nailed down!

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Let me toss in a couple of things here:

#1: I''ve started seeing "reasonable" salaries in the game biz here in Silicon Valley. A couple of years back you''d be lucky to make enough to share an apartment around here (lol) but the "underpaid by design" thing is pretty much over. That said, it pays nowhere near as good as embedded software engineering, my current day gig.

#2: I''ve been in and out of the biz and I''m currently 43. Age has little to do with it, if you have the right attitude and the mad skillz (lol) you''re in.

#3: Like another poster said, if you''ve never shipped a title then you''ll need hardcore proof, and a completed game will do it. It can be simple, but it has to be DONE - 90% of the people that want to develop games have never completed a project, by doing so you put yourself in the top percentage.

If worse comes to worse, you can always try doing indie game development and shipping a shareware title - THEN use that as a calling card to get in the door at a commercial place (providing you want to do it at that stage of the game, complete control over your final product is addictive!). I use my day gig pay to finance my own dev efforts, and since I have no family and not much of a social life (lol) there''s plenty of time to do so.

Study, work hard, code clean, and ship it!

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Well, I slaved away in the "industry" for a few years before getting into the game industry at what I consider to be a top company. I got a small pay raise (> 80k + bonus). I''m married. I''m 30 years old, and I feel like a kid.

I have to say, the industry is somewhat chaotic from my experience. Some people work long hours, but not everyone. Requirements are ALWAYS changing.

The benefit is this: I work with people who
1. love games/gaming
2. love technology/learning/tinkering with Linux
3. are young and typically well-educated
4. like to eat pizza, tacos, and pizza
5. have as many "toys" as I do (Legos + StarWars)

Additionally, I routinely fire up video games at my desk and no one cares. The last 4 movies that I''ve seen in a theatre, the company has paid for me to see during work hours. And knowing that you contributed to a huge game that your friends play online is rewarding too (and $$ bonuses

Unfortunately, the down-turn in the economy means a LOT of engineers are looking for work. A year or two ago game companies were snatching people up left and right. Now the best bet to get in is to have some kind of experience that companies need. I would say that it is worth it to pursue a career in the game industry. If you get an offer, you can always say no if it''s too low.

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I wanted to add something to this conversation. During the creation of our business plan, we needed to plug some numbers in for salaries. Being a reader of Game Developer from day one I plopped last years salary survey down on the desk and we filled in the blanks with that data. We have updated that using the 2nd annual salary report – unfortunately this data is only for the USA. We are in the Mid-West/South area and if you look at the average salary in Texas ($54,222)–vs- the salary of one here 56,439 (I averaged the sum of 59,685 for the Midwest and 53,193 for the south and arrived at 56,439) one would expect to be better compensated in this area as opposed to Texas. I’m not sure if the cost of living is higher here than it is in Texas but I would think that the problem with the survey would be the number of studios in our area –vs- the number in Texas. That is something that needs to be factored when deciding where to take a job.

If you live in Miami, Florida and are making $70,000/yr and own your own house and you move to Louisville, KY and buy your own house, you would need to make $61,967/yr to equal your standard of living. By comparison, if you live in San Jose, CA, own your own home and make $70,000/yr moving to Louisville, KY, you would need $31,913/yr to equal your standard of living.
Same status moving from Austin, TX, owning your home and moving to Louisville, KY you would need $61,713/yr to equal your standard of living (the calculator that I used is located here: http://www.homefair.com/homefair/calc/salcalc.html). Conversely, someone in Louisville, KY moving to Austin, TX (owning home, 70K/yr) would need $79,399/yr to equal the same standard of living.

Location can affect the salary that you are going to be offered and you need to take that into consideration before you reject someone for offering you a measly 62K/yr with benes. I only say this because, we are preparing to staff up and I know that we are going to have to explain this difference in yearly salary to almost everyone we interview.


Dave "Dak Lozar" Loeser

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Hi all,

I was just wondering how many of you have tried working in the game industry as freelancers.

I know some of you have started your own businesses but I'm interested in testing the water first with some of the online merchants such as RealArcade or XTreme games.

Anyone try this type of approach to breaking into the industry?

[edit] actually, I think I'll post this question as a new thread


[edited by - carrot on July 18, 2002 12:32:16 PM]

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I''m a bit like like the original poster, only older. I''ve been in the EDA (chip-support software) industry for the last dozen years, where the pay is decent, but the projects aren''t much good for cocktail-party conversation:-)

I wanted to work on a ''real'' game like a flight-sim or RPG, but had no way (or talent) to create the artwork.

So... I ended up reverse-engineering an existing game. This gave me the chance to write a complete engine, map-editor, and script compiler, and to make lots of mistakes without hurting anyone. And by making it open-source, I''ve been fortunate to get huge contributions from other developers.

But still, I love to code and work on new things, and wish that I could get a job in the game industry...

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