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Guest Anonymous Poster

How experienced must you be to land a game programming job?

38 posts in this topic

I think it mostly comes down to being willing to work for [censored] wages at [censored] hours...sometimes actual skill is handy but nothing beats a good "Slave Mentality" going in.

------------------
DavidRM
Samu Games

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So, you are saying that game programmers make very little and work long hours? In general how much less would one be paid in an average game job versus an average non-game job?
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Well, I was interviewed by a game company, as a developer with over 15 years of programming experience. They made me an offer of 45K a year. I was making over 60K at the time.
When I told them what I was currently making, they said "Gee, only our president is making that much".

(this was a studio which was later bought by eidos)

-- Pryankster

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Having the demos will help, but the lack of experience will hurt. The way I look at it, though, is you'll only know for sure if you give it a shot.

Last spring, I interviewed with several game developers. I knew I wasn't really ready for it, but I decided to interview in order to see how close I really was. All of them said they'd love to talk to me after I finish my degree or have some professional programming experience (which I am now getting).

The jobs I interviewed for were paying in the $40-65K range for lower-level positions. From what I have heard, the game industry does pay a little less, but talented people can make a lot. The hours are long, though.

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I'm not employed in gameing industrie, so I just don't understand why the jobs are paid like this. everybody says there are too less people who are really qualified.

Sengir

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The reason pay is probally so low compared to the hours put in, is probally due to the hundreads of teens/ect that want to get into the field will work for pennies and slave unconditionaly.
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Try to get what you have already done published independently. It will help A LOT in getting you a job with a company.

Be glad that you have your CS degree -- this will help you out very much. Often times, the decision of "who" to interview falls into the hands of somebody who doesn't know shit about game programming and thinks that a degree must be in your possesion for you to know anything.

In short ... just try to get something out there, or take a shitty game programming job ( e.g. $30,000 ) so you can get the experience they want. If you can't afford to take a low paying job, then I suggest following the independent path for a little while, until you have experience of your own to show them.

- Chris

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The problem with getting them published is that I don't feel they are good enough to get published.

I mean, the 3D space game is pretty good, but remember, it's my first attempt at 3D graphics programming and it's only my second computer game.

Don't get me wrong though, it looks okay, but it doesn't look nearly like anything made commercially today. It's about as good a commercial game made 4 or 5 years ago.

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well if you would be interested in sharing the exe we could judge weither it would be worth attempting publishing... but take solitare for instance.. a good programmer could make that in a week.. yet look how many people play it. The idea for developing games is not money but how long people will play it and how many will. you want them to have fun not 30$ worth of graphics.

------------------
Ben
ICQ# 33345422
e-mail bburge@mid-mo.net

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I've come to realize that people will buy just about anything (not a good thing). If you fix up the 3D game, make it presentable and what not, and sell it really cheap as shareware or something, then people will look at it. At least having something out there is better than having nothing at all. That's just my opinion though. At this point it's not about making money, it's about the experience and being able to say I published a game.
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I'm 25 years old. I've been programming for 12 years (i started in BASIC on the TRS-80 Color Computer 2). i dont have a degree.

i DO have professional programming experience (i wrote DB apps with MS Access for a while).

and now, i have professional GAME programming experience. (for the last week i've been working for Geoff, and i will continue to work for him until the end of the month, or until he no longer needs me, which ever comes later)

so, what kind of experience do you need to get a job?

well, a CS degree should be enough to get you an interview. pro programming experience should get you the same thing. high visibility on the net helps, too. both Rhino and I have been contacted by recruiters, because of SweetOblivion and now GameDev, our visibility is quite high. Articles, demos, and whatnot all increase visibility.

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I finished University with a reasonable honors degree in CS with AI. I immediately applied for jobs both inside and outside the games industry, seeing what was available.
My background was, compared to most programmers, pretty abysmal. I started programming at 16, had never written computer games and barely programmed outside enforced academic projects.
In the end I went for a job at a low grade computer firm for £12K, about $20K in US. strange though this sounds, the highest a graduate can expect to get in the games industry in England is £18K, most start on about £14K.
My point is that, if you're willing to work for pittance, for no gratitude, on stupid hours (often without overtime) then you should have no problem getting in.
And once you're in, with 2-3 years experience you could probably get a job anywhere in the world.
Also, if you're lucky enough to work on, or be associated with, a product that gets a decent name and decent sales then you're set up in terms of getting a new job.
That's the only reason I'm at my current company, as soon as this project's done _everyone_ is off to find new employment.
Sounds a bit harsh doesn't it?
I guess that's just my experience of the industry.
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bburge, I think it would be a good idea to show you guys my program. But, would there be any problems with me giving out my game like that?

I was also looking for a site (maybe this one), that has game demos from regular people that lists their experience level so that others can see where they rank on whats out there.

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Is it just me or is it kind of a bummer that one of the most difficult and intense programming arenas of subject to such low pay, job instability, and long hours? I work on the business dev side and caliber of talent seen on places like this board or in a game company is hard to find yet we enjoy better hours, benefits, and salary. Its very ironic. Call me lame but I'd love to make the jump to games, I certainly think its my calling but I'm old enough to have the wife and kids thing and the thought of "Yes Mr. Nagel you're engine rocks but we have to fire you anyway" lurks at the back of my mind. I'm optimistic though. Perhaps as the industry grows it won't be so flaky.
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I've been 18 a week, and have about 6 months professional software development experience, with no qualifications.

Sure, my job sucks and pays crap (and I have a boss for an idiot), but it means in a few years I can get a much better job without a degree. Hell, I've been offered $40k a year jobs before...

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MikeD's experience has been pretty similar to mine so I don't know if this is the norm but all I got to say is SUCK IT UP! It seems to be a boot camp mentality or something until you pay your "dues". In other words if you ain't got prior experience your just a slave, simple as that. I don't have a college degree but I beat out 75 other people to get the programming job I got now. I heard it was cause I checked the companies web page before my interview so I was familiar with all their products,etc. and that seemed to make an impression. Not to mention being very knowledgeable and quick thinking must've helped too. Anyways, my point is even though I'm sure I'm smarter and know more about programming than most where I work they still don't listen to me. I heard another programmer that's been working there longer than me say that's how they treat all new programmers. They won't bother listening to you for the first few months till you prove yourself to the company(For instance I told one of the lead programmers that his code was buggy and crashing one of our apps and he tried to blame the bug on my code and just ignored me till he finally got back to me a couple of days later and finally admitted I was right and that his code was buggy). And the pay is crappy too for the amount of work you gotta do. I hear that after a while and after you prove your as good as you say they'll start paying you a lot better but that remains to be seen in my case anyways I plan I getting as much paid professional experience while I can and go somewhere else if things don't start looking up.
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Oh yeah i forgot to metion this but some of the people I work with even have 2 college degrees and to tell you the truth I don't know how it helped them other than they are in debt still paying off all that money they paid to college. A college degree does show dedication though-it shows that you stuck with a project(school) for at least 4 years. My advice is that if you didn't get paid for those 2 games it ain't gonna do you much good putting them on your resume. Your best bet is to play your college card and play up your college degree as much as you can to distinguish yourself from the crowd. The bottom line is your probably gonna have to slave yourself like some/all of us till you get experience so you can move on to something better.
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Not that I've had any direct experience in the industry (yet), but my gut tells me that college degrees wouldn't matter as much as prior experience.

The tough part is getting that experience; many times the first thing a games headhunter asks is "have you ever been paid to make video games?" Say "No" to this question and you're sunk.

Mason McCuskey
Spin Studios
www.spin-studios.com

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I am 17 and I work for microsoft in the gaming division. I started out by just getting a technical support job then showed my supervisors that I was a way hard worker and reliable. Then when there was an opening in the art department for the gaming division I applied and used my supervisor as back up and got the job. I am still in High school and have 50 a year job. So don't be afraid to start way low maybe even in a different division than you want and just work your ass off get some say that you've worked with a gaming company and apply at as many places as possible. JUST KEEP AT IT. ANYTHING is possible from ANYONE!

dave geurts
v-davege@microsoft.com

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I can't say I've accually gotten into the industry so if I wrong about this correct me.

I think if your 3D game really isn't quite selling quality, just take its code and highlight the sections you thought you did a great job on write down why and any improvements you can think of making now and send the .exe, and code with your views on what you did really well. send this around to a few places this way they'll see what you can do really well even if the finished product wasn't perfect.

If its nearly good enough to get published maybe take it and try spruceing it up some now that you have a little more experience, might turn out real nice now.

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It is interesting that long hours are seen as a requirement for game programmers.
I work on business software, and I've found over the past 6 years as a professional developer that
(more hours != more productivity)
, and in most cases that the developers who work the most hours are the least effective, and create the most buggy code.
Is this not true for Game Programming?

Also, I'm amazed to find out that game programmers are paid so low.
6-figure salaries are not uncommon for experienced business software developers, and pretty much any business developer who wants to contract can make $40+/hour. I turned down an offer of $50/hour for a job that was just too mind-numbingly boring (read: junior) to accept.
(Above figures are for the Seattle area)
Wow.

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I don't work in the gaming industry, but I do work in the professional software industry. I graduated from college with a diploma in fine arts and got a job as a software engineer. Granted I only makde $42k CAN, but its quite good for the area. I got the job by getting my foot in the door in another capacity (graphic designer), and spoke to the software manager a fair bit about what they were doing here. After I graduated he offered me the job full time. I've been here 18 months and love it. Granted, it isn't game development, but the hours are good and I can develop my own work on the side. Maybe its just me, but I like game coding because its my ideas, and I figure that most game companies require too much sacrifice of own ideas to others. But then, I'm a snob.
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Why are games programming salaries so low?
Think...supply and demand.
Every fresh faced college or uni graduate with a computing degree has udoubtedly considered going into games and with a large base of talent (if not experience) going for the same jobs games companies can pick and chose as they wish.
Most people I know who are in games tend to leave by the time they hit 30 for better paid more relaxed jobs.
Personally I'm going back to University to do a Masters in AI and when I get out I think I'll want back in the games industry but having been here for two years the thought of a well paid job outside games with sensible hours and perhaps a bonus structure (hell, any kind of structure) seems a lot more attractive now than it did when I left Uni.
I think the games industry has to get out of the bedroom mentality which a lot of companies still hold onto and turn itself into a _business_ industry.
IMHO
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Have you ever read some of these game industry job descriptions?

For example, look at http://www.vsearch.com/

They're looking for people who completed one or more game titles,
PSX programming (I didn't even know what PSX was before today),
3-5 years experience, lead/senior programmers, etc.. This is very
discouraging for entry-level seekers.

I say a chance for someone with no experience is very unlikely,
especially right out of college. You either know someone in the
field to let you in, or you don't. Or you either live right next
to Silicon Valley, or you don't. This leaves you with little
opportunities, such as starting up your own company or doing
game programming on the side while you work in other job field.

Hey, getting a job in the major you got your college degree is
better than nothing, so stick with it.

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This is what your life might be like 2-4 years right after college.
You'll live in a "catch 22" limbo state. Sure, you'll have the degree and
skills, but you don't have the experience, and everyone will dump on you
bigtime because you haven't "paid your dues". You might think about moving
to another state to get exposed to the opportunities you are looking for,
but wait a minute, you don't have the money to move in the first place,
so you are stuck in a rut. Everyone will tell you to just take any job
as if you have the power to make it happen, but they don't tell you where
and how to get this supposedly -any job-. You might even think about
going back to college or some other learning institution to get the skills
that college "was supposed to" have taught you in the first place (as if
a second time will matter), but again, you still don't have the money, and
you come to the conclusion that they simply can't provide you with the
experience that is found working in real industry.

Seems like hell, eh? You'll wish you never left college.

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