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Is this enough of a demo to get a game programming job

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Here I am 8 months after I sent out my demo and resumes and still no job in the game industry. I suppose part of that is my fault... as I haven't sent out any resumes since then either. But, I haven't been sitting around for 8 months either. I thought I had enough of a demo when I finished the first demo, oh so long ago. But all the companies I went to came back with the same thing... Sorry not enough experience. My theory is no one is retiring from the game industry since the whole thing is so young. So companies can get by stealing employees from other companies. And only a minimum number of newbie hopeful game developers are ever hired. (and only to accommadate the increasing number of companies in the industry) So here I am now, completing my next demo and sending out resumes. Do I have enough of a demo now? I wonder. Heres my website to my demo (screenshots and download are there) Click Here to go to Website [edited by - Xanthen on November 19, 2002 4:23:57 AM]

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First of all, there are tons of articles here and elsewhere on how to get a job in the games industry... you should take a look at those. Second, it strikes me that you are not listening to the well-intentioned advice that these companies are giving you. They say "you don''t have enough experience" and then in the next line you rationalize their non-interest with an excuse that takes all the blame off of you. This is not a proactive thing to do.

Now then... I did not see a link to your resume on your web site, but how much professional programming experience do you have? Do you have any experience with shipping products? Also, one theme that you will see time and time again in the "how to get a job in the industry" articles is that people START AT THE BOTTOM and work their way up... they go in as level designers and button monkeys (testers) and then get promoted from within. What kind of positions have you been applying for?

Finally, while the above may sound fairly harsh, the truth is that you are partly right -- the industry is definitely saturated with talent right now and getting any sort of programming job is hard, but especially in a competitive field like game development. For the companies that you applied to, where they specifically looking for 3D programmers? If not, then 99 times out of 100 they are going to reject any applicants, no matter how talented.

I took a look at your gallery and the screenshots of your demo are very impressive. My advice to you is to keep up the work, get a job where you can (if you don''t have one already) and just stick to it. Work on completing a game using your engine, even if it''s just a small Freeware or Shareware game. Completed projects are much more impressive to a company than demos. If you continue to develop your skills and stay motivated, there is no question in my mind that you will eventually get what you want.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Don''t listen to Pyabo. There are companies out there that hire programmers without experience if they have an impressive demo and impressive skills. You just have to look harder to find them and be more open to relocation. Most companies will tell you that you need more experience but eventually, you''ll find a few that want entry-level people. And I don''t think programmers are generally hired up from level design or testing positions.

I definitely think your demo is impressive and polished enough. Just curious. Have you finished any education past high-school?

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Well, it depends on where you are looking for work I guess. I have worked at two game companies here in Sweden, one of them is a major one. I had almost nothing to show when I first was looking for a job as a programmer. I do have a bachelor degree in Software Engineering, but no one has ever asked about that.

I really don''t recognize that it is hard to get a job as a game developer. With that demo of yours it would be a piece of cake to get a job here!

Good luck in the future!

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Pyabo. For one thing, my theory was why it was so hard to get hired. I''m not placing blame on any companies. I don''t feel like I was blaming anyone at all.

I have read many articles, but I disagree with you about starting from the bottom, as in Level design. That would be totally silly to only hire programmers from their current crop of Level designers. The two fields don''t overlap at all. One is an artistic position and requires no programming knowledge. The other doesn''t require so much artistic ability.

In some ways though, you and the AP are right. Part of the problem is that I am being picky. I''m hoping to skip the very bottom rung, and I don''t send out my resume and demo to everyone, but only certain companies. And where I end up relocating is definatly a concern of mine.

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I felt the same way when I was interviewing, Xanthen.

I never got into the industry, and to tell you the truth, I''m partially glad I didn''t. I don''t know how well I would have been able to stay in a position I wasn''t happy with, not knowing what else would be necessary to end up where I would want to be, wherever that is.

Some people might get lucky and hop in on a higher rung and end up where they want to be. Key word lucky.

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Be a game programmer as a hobby. Do it for fun. In this world you have to be realistic. Right now there aren''t too many jobs for programmers. You should go into something else that you like but that is in demand. Like I said be realistic.


Hey, don''t forget to visit my page... by clicking here!

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The industry sucks right now, and has been sucking along for over a year. Contracts are given out these days through nepotism and who-you-know. It''s just too risky for a publisher to drop down a mil or two on an unknown (no matter how talented you are). Most people I know have been out of work for over 6 months. Here in Maryland they are talking about extending unemployment comp past the additional 13 weeks that Bush signed into act.

Sorry, if I sound bitter. I''m having a bad day. One of my job leads just turned down my bid, so I grok what you''re going through. That, coupled with an Am-way jerk-weed wanting to recruit me, has left me with a very sour taste for the future. Where''s my Prozak!?

I say look to Dave Mathews for inspiration. The man published and sold his CDs out of his trunk until the record companies came to him. Showing a potential publisher an awesome demo won''t even get you an interview. You have to convince them that they''ll make tons-o-cash if they produce your game.

___________________________
"It’s been a very long time since I’ve ceased to be preoccupied with reality."

-Alfred Hitchcock

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Nice looking screen shots. Now, how does someone make money off that skill? There are plenty of starving artists in the world unwilling to sacrifice their principles in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Are you one of them? What shows your willingness to do whatever it takes for them to make money off you as long as they cut you in on the pie? Talent doesn''t show that and that is all your demo shows. First they take a small risk and make a small amount of money off you. If and only if you win their trust do they take a large risk and make a large amount of money off you.

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OK, time to take the gloves off... I was being nice before, but I can see that''s not going to work. I''m afraid I don''t have as much anti-flame control as you do Xanthen.

Well, I can see now why you don''t have a job after months of looking. First off, you either ignore or dismiss everything I say, despite the fact that *I* am the one with industry experience, whose advice you specifically asked for. You''ve read all the articles, but you "disagree" with them. Those articles are written by the people on the inside my friend, the ones in the positions that YOU are looking for right now. Who would know better?

Second, I asked you THREE questions in my post, none of which you answered.
1) How much professional programming experience do you have?
2) Do you have experience with shipping products?
3) What kind of positions have you been applying for?

Additionally, despite Anonymous''s obvious ignorance of the industry, he also asked a good question: How much education past high school have you completed? I for one wouldn''t even look twice at an applicant that didn''t have either a CS degree, or several years of experience programming.

As for your (and AP''s) assumption that programmers aren''t promoted from level designers and testers, you COULD NOT BE MORE WRONG. Again, do you have ANY idea what you are talking about?!? I can think of three people I know just offhand that started as level designers and are now programmers in the industry. You need to take your big grab bag of assumptions that you are making and throw them out the window. I am talking about FACT here, I am not pulling this shit out of my ass for your amusement. Now what I clearly did NOT say if you''ll read my post again, is that companies "only" promote from within. This of course is not the case, and it is you that added the "only" there. What I said was that a common theme you''ll see in the "how to get a job in the industry" articles is that people start at the bottom. You clearly want to buck this trend, so it''s no surprise that you are having trouble finding a job.

To AP: You say you don''t "think" that companies promote testers into programming positions? I *know* for a fact they do. In fact, this is common practice in every software company I have ever worked for, including game companies. Have you actually had a full-time job as a developer, or are you still in school?

/flame off


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quote:
I for one wouldn''t even look twice at an applicant that didn''t have either a CS degree, or several years of experience programming.


Not coming from the game industry, but often in the position to make hiring experiences: EXACTLY.

People without experience of a CS degree are BEST CASE good for a one year trainee position. That''s best case.


Regards

Thomas Tomiczek
THONA Consulting Ltd.
(Microsoft MVP C#/.NET)

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Ok, here is my bit of an advice for you.

Submit a screenshot of your demo to flipcode (www.flipcode.com) as an image of the day. Do not forget to state in the description that you are looking for a job, and where.

That''s what i did, and frankly i didn''t expect any answer at all. I got 15 propositions within the following week. You won''t loose anything trying..

Y.

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Hiya,

can I just say that I have no real experience in the games industry - I'm studying a computer games technology degree - over the years i've picked up some bit of info here and there though. So if you flame me for being inexperienced, you're being a moron.

anyway...

Xanthen, the screenshots on your site are of your second project "The Blueisle Winterglades". They looked lovely, so we downloaded the demo. On first impressions the game was very pretty. Then I noticed there was a guy standing on my characters head. This might be an advanced form of shadowing that no one has heard of, but I dont know these things ...

Where is the link to download your first game? or any screenshots of that?

I also notice the use of "we" on your site. Are you working in a team? if so, are you clearly making it apparent what parts you are responsible for?

More importantly - your resume, was it laid out properly, with all the right information in the right places? how was your demo presented in your applications? If you get the presentation wrong some companies chuck your application in the bin straight away.

You have to remember that some jobs attract tens if not hundreds of applicants, some good, some bad. Because of this first impressions can count between getting your resume read, and your resume used to light a fire in the company log cabin in aspen. ok, not all companies have log cabins in aspen, but it'd be cool, right?

When you say "sending out resumes" where are you sending them? Are you applying for advertised jobs? or simply sending them to the games companies that take your fancy?


everyone flame away

ciao


If we can hit that bulls-eye, the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards...Checkmate.

[edited by - Dami on November 21, 2002 8:49:42 AM]

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I''m the same Anonymous Poster who posted above. No I''m not in school. I finished a B.S. in Computer Science and now program for a game company. I had 0 shipped games and 0 experience when I was hired. I believe the reason why I got lucky enough to get hired was that I was willing to relocate anywhere in the US, I was willing to take a salary lower than the average programmer''s salary, I looked at any game company regardless of what they make, I polished up a good demo, I had a degree, and I was persistent. There is no reason why a reasonably smart person couldn''t do all of those things.

Pyabo, I''m sorry if I misspoke. I know that you have to start at the bottom in order to break into the industry. I know testers can be promoted to programmer. But from all the advice I ever heard, I rarely heard the advice to start as a tester in order to move up to programmer. Think of how much an entry-level game tester gets paid. Think of how shitty the job is. A skilled programmer who could get a $50,000 job with a non-game company has to go become a tester working 16 hour shifts doing absolute grunt work? That''s not a very appealing scenario and may just sour the person on the industry, especially if he has better opportunities elsewhere.

If that programmer truly does have the skills, he should find a company that needs a programmer. I understand if you are limited to a geographical area or a certain group of companies, or if you just haven''t had any breaks, then as a last resort, if you truly need to make games, go to testing.

Also, I''ve found that it''s not so easy being hired as a level designer. Not all programmers are cut out to be level designers. And it will probably take quite a bit of time to shift your focus and gain enough experience in order to get good enough to appeal to hiring companies. Maybe as a last resort.

Pyabo, I believe it''s flamey people like you that give cynical advice that keeps people away from the industry. I almost didn''t consider gamedev as a career because of naysayers who said it was too tough to break in as a programmer.

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I agree that a CS degree is completely important.

You should see the utter crap some of these code-monkeys I have to interview turn out. Most of them can''t even spell algorithm much less tell me what one is or when to use one over another.

Hey man, your screenshots look pretty good. Turn your demo into a real game and release it as shareware. You''d be surprised how different you are treated when you have a "game" versus a "demo."

-M

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Sorry I was being so flamey, but what got me hot under the collar was your blanket statement "Don''t listen to Pyabo." Surely you can see how that would make me feel? Then you go and state something which I know to be patently untrue... ie, the idea that testers and level designers aren''t promoted.

I think you go a step too far calling me "cynical" also. I didn''t at all say Xanthen should give up... in fact, quite the opposite. (re-read the bottom of my post OK?)

Anyway, the constructive point of this thread is to help Xanthen get a job... and for that he needs to answer some questions.

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quote:
OK, time to take the gloves off... I was being nice before, but I can see that's not going to work. .... You've read all the articles, but you "disagree" with them.

At you had some restraint in your first post.
I never said I read all the articles and no article I have ever read said getting a job as a programmer required starting out as a level designer or tester. Just because your personal experience is that programmers you know were hired from testing positions doesn't mean such a scenario is best or even a good route for me. There is very little liklyhood that I will get a job as a level designer.
quote:
1) How much professional programming experience do you have?
2) Do you have experience with shipping products?
3) What kind of positions have you been applying for?

1) 2 Years programming in visual basic for a 3 man company. Machine automation and custom business applications.
2) No, we didn't ship products where I worked.
3) Programming position, with the hope of eventually getting into graphical programming.
quote:
How much education past high school have you completed?

I have a bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering with a minor in math.

Thanks Ysaneya, I might try that.
quote:
This might be an advanced form of shadowing that no one has heard of, but I dont know these things ...

Where is the link to download your first game? or any screenshots of that?

Yeah I seem to have forgotten about that. I've been looking past it for so long, I don't even notice it anymore. An artist on the team was going make a new model and new animations and segment him at the waist. But he never got around to doing any animations. But I programmed the segmentation before hand. Now I'm stuck with it, without taking out a bunch of code and making the game less playable anyway.

I'm not sure what you read that made you think I had done another game. I haven't programmed any other game, other than a quick block swapping game that was a ripoff of this snes pokemon puzzle game.



[edited by - Xanthen on November 21, 2002 12:16:32 PM]

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quote:

1) 2 Years programming in visual basic for a 3 man company. Machine automation and custom business applications.



Anything else? Other languages etc? Well, 2 years in this qualify you for a nice entry position ("junior developer").

quote:

2) No, we didn''t ship products where I worked.



That is SO different. I was in "your position" until this customer now came. I have been consulting, making inhouse application etc. in the last 12 years (and I talk sometimes BIG things, like core work on the Xetra 5 stock trading system running german stock excahgne), but nether a PRODUCT (boxed etc.). Thats a whole new world - production deadlines and all this stuff are SO different :-)

quote:

3) Programming position, with the hope of eventually getting into graphical programming.



Not bad. Your demo was really interesting.


Regards

Thomas Tomiczek
THONA Consulting Ltd.
(Microsoft MVP C#/.NET)

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Sorry For Interrupting, I Just Couldn''t Resist Saying That Your Demo
Looks Sweet Man. Good Luck Finding a Job.

(*sigh) The Day I Can Create Somethin'' Like That,
It''s Gotta Feel Good To Have Made That :D.

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I know one thing for sure. I don''t know if you would see a CS degree or not, but if I was an employer, I would definitely look at the attitude of a person. From what I see with this attitude like this, it just won''t cut it.

Try changing it, and take up any job you get, just get that foot inside the door and force your way in. Do anything it takes to get you there. Even if it means to take up a testing job.

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1) JOB DEMAND:

a. The competition for jobs in the games industry is massive at the moment. Particularly due to the current financial climate and bad business sense causing many companies to go bust - which leaves lots of very games industry experienced people on the look out for new jobs.

b. I work for a small developer who isn''t exactly the most well known in the world, and we don''t have any jobs advertised or available, yet on average we recieve four CVs (resumes) a week, mostly from people with games industry experience and published titles to their name.

c. Liken it if you will to a small scale version of the film or music industries where people even work in restaurants just to get to talk to people in the business. The games industry equivilent is where people who want to be programmers end up working as testers hoping to be recognised and promoted.


2) JOB SUPPLY:

a. The number of products being released each year isn''t growing. And although team sizes and development times are growing slightly, they aren''t growing significantly enough to employ all the people who''d want to work in the business.

b. Games are team based projects - jobs working on them only usually become available at set stages:

- when a new team is being formed by an expanding company.
This is the most likely entry point for a junior programmer.
(financial climate and publisher belt tightening means this isn''t happening much at the moment).

- when someone leaves an existing team. These usually require an industry experienced programmer to be able to get right in there and take over the previous guys code without any training.

- when a project goes wrong and someone in management tries the "more programmers working on it means more chance of meeting the deadline" thing (which is VERY bad logic, but happens regularly). Sometimes these will hire juniors, but it''ll be a baptism of fire which''ll leave scars. Alternatively they hire seniors who can rewrite all the bad bits and get stuff back on track.

c. On the job training is practically non-existant in the games industry - you MUST already be able to do the job you''re applying for. If a company feels they might have to train you in some way for you to be suitable for the position you''re applying for then you''ll get the "not experienced enough" reply.


3) THE PITCH:

a. Apply for all the games programming jobs you can find. What''s the worst thing that can happen? - they''ll reject you. The definition of junior/senior/lead is very inconsistent - some companies will say "senior" when they mean "industry experienced", others will say "senior" when they mean "technical director/CTO". BTW: never claim to be more senior than you are, apply for the job, but don''t claim to be a lead/senior.

b. Ask to be considered for any other suitable posts and mention adaptability. If your resume/application letter comes across as if you just want to be a graphics/engine programmer, you''re missing a lot of chances, particularly since the graphics jobs often require more industry/specific hardware experience.

c. Send to all the companies in your area, even if they aren''t advertising jobs. Your competition will be.

d. Be prepared to travel/relocate, widen your search field. I know a few very senior programmers who commute things like 40-60 mile distances to get to work, and that''s in the UK where there are a lot of games companies.

e. Don''t just apply to the big guys. You''ve heard of EA, so has everyone else - if our company gets 4 resumes a week, the large, well known companies will be getting 4000 a week. There are probably a lot more games companies out there than you know about, many of whom are even working on very major titles and ports - do some research.

f. Do more research. Tailor the application to the company - find the name of the person who''d be your boss. Bypass the HR department if at all possible and send your packages and emails to say the technical director/CTO.

g. Send a demo CD by post along with the resume and cover letter AND send an email with the resume and cover letter and a download link to the demos. The psychology of recieving a physical package and CD is important. It also saves the guy at the other end a lot of time (think 4000 a week...).

h. Presentation should be as close to commercial quality as possible. And that''s everything, the cover letter, the CD label, and the demos on the CD. Test the demos as extensively as possible.

i. Talking of the demos, I''d say put your game on there, but put some pure technology demos on too. Each one showing just one thing really well. The more eye candy the better, the more exceptional, the better. Try and show as many areas as possible (e.g. an editor with Windows UI stuff, some gorgeous graphics effects, AI pathfinding playpen etc). Include some source code, but not too much.

j. A couple of follow up emails is ok, including to find out what went wrong if they reject you. Never be rude or criticise them for not hiring you or your email and resume will end up being sent around industry internal joke lists for a year or so [it HAS happend on a number of memorable occasions].

k. Make the most of ANY teamwork on your resume. Also the same with any "products" and tight deadlines.

l. List your skillset and tool knowledge in bullet point form, if you''re industry inexperienced we don''t care about your paper round or job skinning chickens. We do care that you know your way around C/C++, VB, DirectX, Win32 API, Visual Studio, Visual Source Safe, ProDG, x86 etc etc


4) ADVICE:

a. Take on board the above (from all posters) and widen the approach and tactics as well as polishing what''s being sent.

b. Make more demos - a small perfectly formed graphics demo feels like a small product combine with others and something which shows you can handle larger codebases is good.

c. Find your local IGDA chapter (www.igda.org), get yourself to the next chapter meeting (non members are usually welcome) and get talking to as many people in the business as possible.

d. Release some shareware and other "products" - it will make you look better.

e. Immerse yourself in as much of the industry as possible (from an industry AND programming perspective) - forums, mailing lists, magazines (GameDeveloper, MCV, Develop etc depending where you are), read developer websites, search out all the developers in your country. Learn who''s who in the industry, how they do things and which companies are doing what.
The more of a feel for how things work, the more you''ll understand the advice, who''s likely to be hiring, who''s going bust etc etc.




--
Simon O''Connor
Creative Asylum Ltd
www.creative-asylum.com

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Just to be clear. I have been selective with the companies I have sent to for two reasons. First, like I said before, location is a very important factor. I sent to some local companies that I new about as a feeler, to see what kind of response I got. Those were the people saying I didn''t have enough experience. So I worked on the demo further to demonstrate other areas that I didn''t have much experience in. Improved AI, 2d graphics, particle effects, sound programming, and game play programming. The other reason is there are some games that I would prefer to work on over others. It seems reasonable to me to make an attempt at a company that is making a game that I would enjoy.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
EXCELLENT POST SIMON!!!

felt i need to comment...on one thing you said..

"- when a project goes wrong and someone in management tries the "more programmers working on it means more chance of meeting the deadline" thing (which is VERY bad logic, but happens regularly). Sometimes these will hire juniors, but it''ll be a baptism of fire which''ll leave scars. Alternatively they hire seniors who can rewrite all the bad bits and get stuff back on track."

after more than a year of applying to games companies 5 years
back, i finally got my lucky break and joined a team as the
_only_ programmer at that time. 5 months later, we hired
another entrylevel guy, senior engineers were hard to find
back then, a month later we _finally_ hired our lead programmer.
3 months later we shipped. it was an arcade port to the
consoles, so we had a lot of code to work with, but it was
by all means a baptism of fire for both of us junior guys!

and to add to "current state of the industry" part of your
post..i work at one of the major games companies, in the
past year, we have hired only 2 entry level programmers and
had 1 intern programmer during this past summer. none of these
hires were for my team, but for another that was ramping up, theyll be done in the next 6 months. the only hires we did
were from other teams from within our building and a couple
very senior engineers for our engine team.

competition is very steep right now for jobs in the industry,
just keep learning, coding, and submitting those resumes every
week. something will turn up eventually.

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