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My first gaming interview

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I recently completed a 2 year degree in programming and am finally starting to get some job interviews. The career services rep at school has a contact at XBox studios and is trying to get me an interview for a entry-level programming position. The manager he spoke with didnt seem very impressed with me or my resume, until Gabe mentioned the game project Ive been working on, which is basically a fantasy/Civ clone. Its seems the three things they are looking for in potential employees are passion for gaming and programming (which I have in spades), the ability to learn new things (Ive learned way more about programming on my own then I did in school) and problem solving skills (check). I consider myself to be pretty good with C++ but Im definately not an expert, I know VB, Java, a little C# and .net stuff. Ive read through maybe 6 or 7 different game programming books and many of the tutorials here. My weaknesses - Ive only played around with Direct3D a little bit, most of the stuff Ive done has been 2D (DirectDraw and a little SDL) and my math skills could be alot better. The more I think about it the more anxious I get. This is a really great opportunity and I want to do everything I can to make a good impression. I know confidence is very important, I have nothing but confidence in my passion for the field and my desire to get into the industry, its my programming skills im worried about. My Questions (finally) - 1. I know this may be a little vague but what sort of programming related skills should I be practicing/learning/ignoring? 2. Any tips for gaming related interviews in general? 3. What do you think are the most important skills for a game programmer.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
How much math do you know?

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I took college math 1, 2 and calculus. 3D related math makes me a little queazy but I know enough to understand Direct3D code and such.

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Watch out for obscure questions. Know C inside out and C++ very well. I was recently asked: "In C, what size is a char?" (If you're thinking "1 byte" or "it depends on the CPU" then you are wrong!)
Also, if you're asked a question that you can't answer straightaway, i.e. you need to think about it, then say "Can I think about that for a second", but don't sit there for ages staring into space (you could also take a notepad and pen to jot down ant calculations or diagrams to help answer the question).
Finally, don't try to bluff your way around areas you're not familiar with - admit your weaknesses (they'll know if you're bluffing anyway) but add that you're willing to learn new things - saying that you'd use the internet / read books / ask other programmers for help to find the answer is a plus (makes you look pro-active).

Skizz

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1)
a. mathematics - particularly if it's anything graphics or physics related. At very least: basic trigonometry (find the length of a side of a triangle, find an angle from lengths, how sine & cosine relate to a circle), basic vector maths (what dot and cross product do and what their properties are, what multiplication by a scalar does, what addition does), basic matrix maths (what the basic operations do - multiplication, inverse, transpose).

b. algorithms & data structures - know how to delete an entry in a linked list, know a few search algorithms (e.g. binary), know a few sort algorithms (e.g. bubble).

c. programming language & methodologies - if you've said you're ok at C++ and program in an OO way - make sure you definately know your stuff.


2)
a. dress - smart casual, but not too casual. Wearing a suit can actually harm your chances at some games companies.

b. do your homework - research the company, research the background of the individuals interviewing, research the backgrounds of the key staff at the company. Google for their names etc.

c. ask questions! - every interview has a "do you have any questions for us?" section, the interviewee who says "no" comes across disinterested and dull.

d. be nice to the receptionist(s) and anyone else you meet whilst waiting - the receptionist knows everyone in the company including the interviewer(s) and may pass comment to them "that guy you interviewed earlier was a bit rude".

e. tools - take a pocket calculator, a pen and some paper - they'll come in handy if you get given a technical test (which is likely).

f. watch what you say - don't bitch about any former company, former colleagues, school etc - don't use bad language either.


3)
a. Ability to work well in a team. You've got to be able to work well with people when you're all there at 2am the night before a deadline.

b. Ability to work alone without needing your hand held.

c. Will ask for help and opinions from more experienced colleagues rather than giving up with a problem.

d. Decent communication skills, oral and written.

e. Reasonable maths skills. Good to excellent maths skills if graphics or physics related.

f. A sense of humour.

g. Attention to detail, pride in your work etc


Good luck!

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When interviewing for an entry level position, nobody expects you to be an expert at anything.

You are expected to be a competent programmer with a good knowledge of C/C++ syntax.

Anything you can do to demonstrate that you have more experience than the other applicants will help tremendously.

Demonstrating that your are motivated and focused and that making games is your #1 priority will put you ahead of anyone that doesn't.

It is not necessary for you to have a extensive knowledge of 3D graphics unless that is the position you are applying for. There are plenty of things to do in a game that have nothing to do with graphics.

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Awesome advice guys, thanks alot.

My game project, although in an early feature building phase, is pretty big and has some cool features (cool to me at least). From what the rep at school has told me it seems they are looking more for raw talent than experienced programmers, so Im hoping theyll see something that grabs their attention.

One other question, anyone know of any gaming-related math tutorials or websites I can use to prepare?

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Quote:
Original post by Skizz
Watch out for obscure questions. Know C inside out and C++ very well. I was recently asked: "In C, what size is a char?" (If you're thinking "1 byte" or "it depends on the CPU" then you are wrong!)
Also, if you're asked a question that you can't answer straightaway, i.e. you need to think about it, then say "Can I think about that for a second", but don't sit there for ages staring into space (you could also take a notepad and pen to jot down ant calculations or diagrams to help answer the question).
Finally, don't try to bluff your way around areas you're not familiar with - admit your weaknesses (they'll know if you're bluffing anyway) but add that you're willing to learn new things - saying that you'd use the internet / read books / ask other programmers for help to find the answer is a plus (makes you look pro-active).

Skizz

what is the answer?
guranteed to be less than or equal to an int? or a short?
edit: good luck on your interview... if they ask about your game, make sure you can explain the game, story, and process of making it very clearly.

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Dammit! I'm more qualified then you for game programming, and I applied to some places and all rejected me right away with no interview. But I know C++ very well, experiance with OpenGL, Nvidia's CG, good at theoretical graphics/physics, learn almost at the speed of light, very good at math, very good at problem solving, etc. Maybe it's my resume lol, I'm not very good at making them. :shrug:

Well good luck, and I hope you get a job, I wish I could, sigh...

[Edited by - DudeMiester on October 8, 2004 3:53:24 AM]

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Quote:
Original post by DudeMiester
Dammit! I'm more qualified then you for game programming, and I applied to some places and all rejected me right away with no interview. But I know C++ very well, experiance with OpenGL, Nvidia's CG, good at theoretical graphics/physics, learn almost at the speed of light, very good at math, very good at problem solving, etc. Maybe it's my resume lol, I'm not very good at making them. :shrug:

http://members.rogers.com/dudemiester/Resume.htm

Well good luck, and I hope you get a job, I wish I could, sigh...

I doubt it's your resume since it's near the bottom of the list employers are looking for.
maybe you should apply at microsoft since from what I hear they only hire the brightest people and damned be everything else. The only downside is that they treat entry level programmers like slaves and don't pay much at first anyways. Everywhere else if you have read any studies/polls on hiring practices they rank personality,likeability,etc before any technical skill so you probably should put more effort into those if you really want to get hired. Yeah I rather be into the code too but if want to get your foot in the door you are going to have to focus on the more mundane tasks I mentioned.
knowledge barely even makes in into the top 10!
10 QUALITIES INTERVIEWERS LOOK FOR
unfortunately for me and my job prospects only one of the following applies to me!
NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, ranks the top qualities/skills employers look for in order of importance. The top five are as follows:


1) Communication skills


2) Honesty/integrity


3) Teamwork


4) Interpersonal skills


5) Motivation/initiative

[Edited by - daviangel on October 8, 2004 1:21:24 AM]

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