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neiluk

Job Applications and Game Demos

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Im planning on applying for a job as a junior programer at a games company after finishing university next summer and am currently working on a demo to send off with my applications. Can anyone who actually works for a game company give me any advice on the sort of level and complexity i should be aiming for in such a demo, and any tips on what companies will be looking for coding wise, Thanks

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I'm not working for game company, but I think it's always a good idea to have a good documentation over the demo project that will show you're able to design stuff before implementation, and able to follow it. Start with short project definition document, and then continue with complete design and technical documentation including class diagrams etc.

After having complete picture (and documentation) over the project, start with the implementation (coding, graphics, sound fx). It's obvious that you don't need to create anything revolutionary. I think it's more important to show that you managed to create the game that was completely designed before a single line of code (ok, maybe you can write something general at design state, but it's good to know everything about the game before implementing actual game objects).

This is only my unprofessional opinion, but let's hope someone more experienced can prove if I'm right or wrong... :)

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I've been in the industry for just under 10 years, my thoughts...

Demo tips:

- if you have an area of specialisation (e.g. graphics, AI, etc), ensure that's the strongest element of the demo(s).

- but at the same time, demo(s) should ideally show all the areas you at least know something about. Adaptability is important for a junior, you might find yourself initally being asked to write tools for multiple areas of the game.

- you don't need to make a whole game for your demo, a selection of small, well presented, and finished demos each showing off a key area of your knowledge looks a lot better than an unfinished game where you overstretched yourself.

- if you really want to include a complete game, make it small, simple, polished, and make sure its finished.

- IMO a perfect demo CD would have a small, simple 3D game and a few standalone demos showing things you know such as "a particle system", "physics simulation", "pathfinding", "skinned animation".

- showing at least some 3D is essential; you don't need to be a genius mathematician or expert in Direct3D/OpenGL - just demonstrate you have basic proficiency.

- every demo should have clear *on screen* instructions, people aren't going to remember all the keys/controls listed in a text documentation file.

- interactivity is good, even if its just simply being able to move the camera around.

- spend your time on the content rather than fancy coded launchers/menus, a simple HTML document with screenshots, short descriptions and links to the executables on the CD is enough, and even preferable.

- include a short description of what techniques each demo shows; don't bullsh*t either, you'll likely be asked in more detail at interview.

- if you use 3rd party libraries for any parts of your demo, make it clear which libraries and how much is the library and how much is your code.

- don't assume the person viewing your demo(s) is a programmer, or even at all technically skilled. Often a producer/project manager will be the first person to get a batch of demos/CVs before any programmers get to pass comment.

- ensure your demos work on the widest possible variety of hardware (asking the GameDev community to test your demo is a good way to do this).

- every demo should have graceful startup and exit as well as failure, and should never permanently alter any setting on the PC (e.g. screen mode, mouse acceleration etc).

- for small standalone demos, IMO its better to start in windowed mode with the option of going fullscreen. As well as being less obtrusive, its less likely to cause a problem if your demo crashes.

- get honest comments about the polish and presentation of your demo(s) before you send the CD out - what to you looks like the coolest thing in the world might look crap to everyone else. Once again, asking the GameDev community for feedback would be a good way to do that.

- put the hardware requirements, OS requirements, and other requirements in the cover letter, and on the CD (e.g. requires at least a 1GHz PC with at least Windows 2000, and DirectX 9.0c installed).

- put your full name and phone number on the CD label as well as in the cover letter, CV, demo menu page and CD case - CDs can often become separated from the cover letter/CV.

- for a medium to large sized company, your demo(s) won't be looked at unless the HR department are suitably convinced by your CV and cover letter. The best demo in the world won't help you if your CV sucks, pay it as much attention as your demo(s).

- include some of your "real" source code on the CD so that your programming style and habits can be assessed.


Coding tips:

- keep things very modular and well encapsulated. Code that hooks into other code all over the place rather than through well defined interfaces is difficult to maintain and painful to work with in a team environment.

- don't be afraid of using 3rd party libraries (from things like STL and boost to complete physics engines such as ODE). Not reinventing the wheel (unless you can proove the wheel is broken) is an important skill. Additionally most companies have their own in-house libraries that you'd be expected to use.

- comment properly i.e. enough to explain the intention of a piece of code without stating the obvious (so no "increment i" comments for "i++;").

- if you know alternative languages and SDKs, make sure the employer knows - possibly with some sample source code. For example C#, .NET, and MFC are important skills for tools developers (which is often the department a junior programmer will start in).

- use a source control system (SourceSafe, AlienBrain, Perforce, CVS etc) - you will be in a company, so familarity with one is a good thing.

- any knowledge of content creation tools such as 3DS Max, Maya, Photoshop etc is often useful, particularly if you know their SDKs

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:

- for a medium to large sized company, your demo(s) won't be looked at unless the HR department are suitably convinced by your CV and cover letter. The best demo in the world won't help you if your CV sucks, pay it as much attention as your demo(s).


This can not be overemphasized.

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Hi,

I'm currently working has game designer for MaxArtists although I started as programmer.

The demo you do has to be programmed with the most used programming language of the company among the list of programming languages they require.

The level of complexity of the demo has should depend on the type of games the company develops and hardware for which they are developed.

For example, in my case, MaxArtists develops games for cellphones. At the time the best cellphones where only capable on presenting games with a quality similar to the one of a Game boy colour, so I simply presented a shooter I had previously developed.

It shouldn't be something very complex or fancy but the program should use various types of the language's libraries usually used in games in order for you to demonstrate that you master them as well as programming.

Hope this helps.

regards,

Telmo Amaro

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Demos aren't very important. When you apply to a company, what they'll do is send you a programming test. Return the test and you may get a phone call three months later where you ask you lots of stupid questions and then tell you even stupider brain teasers. There's nothing like trying to figure out how to tell which lightbulb turned on in a different room while listening to some guy eating a sandwhich over the phone (or worse, conference call with bunchs of folks eating sandwhiches). Then they probably won't call you back. But if they do, it will be weeks later and they may fly you out to meet them, and in my case, sit you in a room alone for 14 hours programming little challenges like lighting heightmaps or plotting prime numbers on a bitmap. Even if you did send in a demo, chances aren't super high that it will make a difference one way or another. Just make your resume sound really nice, while still fitting on one page.

Good luck on what will likely be the most painful year of your life.

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Quote:
Original post by Sqorgar
Demos aren't very important. When you apply to a company, what they'll do is send you a programming test. Return the test and you may get a phone call three months later where you ask you lots of stupid questions and then tell you even stupider brain teasers. There's nothing like trying to figure out how to tell which lightbulb turned on in a different room while listening to some guy eating a sandwhich over the phone (or worse, conference call with bunchs of folks eating sandwhiches). Then they probably won't call you back. But if they do, it will be weeks later and they may fly you out to meet them, and in my case, sit you in a room alone for 14 hours programming little challenges like lighting heightmaps or plotting prime numbers on a bitmap. Even if you did send in a demo, chances aren't super high that it will make a difference one way or another. Just make your resume sound really nice, while still fitting on one page.

Good luck on what will likely be the most painful year of your life.
.
Where the hell did you apply to?

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Quote:
Original post by Sqorgar
Demos aren't very important...
That certainly isn't true of any of the developers I have worked with over the years. Neither is your interview experience standard with any of the comapnies I know.

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My experience is based on a year of my wife and I sending out resumes to about 20-something different game companies in the United States about three years ago. Some were better than others, obviously, but they were rare. The experience on my end was standard enough, though I doubt any game company would stand up and say "Yes, we file away resumes and don't look at them for months! And when we say we'll call them back tomorrow, we really mean in three weeks!"

If you are already in the game industry, you cannot possibly understand what it's like to be fresh out of college with no experience trying to just get your foot in the door. The place with the onsite tests was the one that ended up hiring me - I accepted against my better judgement just because I figured nothing could possibly be worse than the applying part. I was wrong.

I just noticed that the original poster's name is "neiluk" - so I assume he is in the UK? In that case, feel free to ignore my advice. My experience is distinctly US. However, do make sure that you know exactly what you want to get out of the game industry (I wanna make games isn't enough) and don't ever sell that short. The game industry might not be what the brochures proclaim it to be.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
thank you very much.... this has truely convinced me not to apply for a game job ever again..

thanks again..

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