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Game programmers less important in the future?

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I've been thinking a bit as I've studied recent development in the art of game making... All the big companies that are pushing the technology forward talks about making better and better tools for game designers and artists to reduce workflow bottlenecks (naturally). Designers can set up game scenes with complex physics and scripting without involvement of a programmer. Artists can create realistic shaders without writing a single line of code. And with the increasing number of graphics and physics engines (and various other code libraries) available, will studios have time and money to develop their own technology? This is getting less feasible as todays game technology rapidly advances. So, what are your thoughts on how the programmers position in the game development process will change in the future? Will technology advance to the point where programmers won't be needed to develop a high-end game? Also, how are "fresh" game programmers going to get their foot into the industry when the companies are only looking for people with 5+ years of development on all platforms etc? Sorry if my rambling doesn't make any sense, I just wrote down my thoughts, hope it got through...:)

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It all depends where the bottlenecks are, I guess. As long as the bottleneck is on the programming side, moving some of the work load from programmers to artists/level designers/etc will increase the output without decreasing the number of programmers needed.

I don't think there will be a noticeable reduction in the number of programmers required for quite a long time, and there may never be a noticeable reduction. Engines need to be written, or at least customized for particular games. Tools need to be written or customized. As more of the game logic is shifted from native code to scripting languages, the scripts become more complex, to the point where artists and designers can't write those scripts themselves, and the work has to go back to the programmer.
At some point in the system, there must be some fairly complex code to provide the game logic - that game logic may be largely native code with very high level bindings to a scripting language (in which case designers can use the scripting language, but programmers are needed for the underlying system). Or it can be a fairly low level native layer, running more complex scripts, in which case programmers are needed to write those scripts. Either way, there is complexity at some point, and that complexity can't be implemented by designers (unless those designers are programmers as well)

Sorry for the bad writing in this post, but with luck you see my basic point.

John B

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Actually, what I've seen is not a decrease in programmers, but an increase in "content creators" required for each project. The number of programmers hasn't really changed over time. What they've been doing has changed. You have to have the current skill set.

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As long as game logic needs to be implemented, game programmers will be required. You're right that middleware may allow non-programmers to do things that programmers would previously have been required to do, but who is writing the middleware?

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If you were trying to get into the game industry right now (as opposed to 15 years ago), I'd very much recommend staying away from programming. You are absolutely correct in that programming is being replaced by non-techie tools, and outsourcing of the engine and game design leaves programming to be little more than paint by numbers, fill in the blanks. Programmers used to be consider gods in the game industry, but are definitely second class citizens behind producers, designers, and in some cases, the artists. It's just that programming still has some of that mystique left over that causes many programmers to ignore all this. If I were to recommend a path to succeed in the game industry, I'd probably now recommend Q&A as a starting point above junior programmer. Not only does it get you somewhere faster, it doesn't require the 5+ years of AAA game development experience just to have your resume read.

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Except that a junior programmer (and we do hire them straight out of school) gets paid twice as much as a senior QA guy.

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Quote:
Original post by Sqorgar
If you were trying to get into the game industry right now (as opposed to 15 years ago), I'd very much recommend staying away from programming. You are absolutely correct in that programming is being replaced by non-techie tools, and outsourcing of the engine and game design leaves programming to be little more than paint by numbers, fill in the blanks. Programmers used to be consider gods in the game industry, but are definitely second class citizens behind producers, designers, and in some cases, the artists. It's just that programming still has some of that mystique left over that causes many programmers to ignore all this. If I were to recommend a path to succeed in the game industry, I'd probably now recommend Q&A as a starting point above junior programmer. Not only does it get you somewhere faster, it doesn't require the 5+ years of AAA game development experience just to have your resume read.


Well, if you have a good job resume (other game projects that you've completed) they will accept you over the fresh college students who haven't really done anything except for a low quality mid-term project.

I mean, it's the exact same thing for the software industry. If you have good examples or previous work that you have done and show your employer, he is going to choose you over the person that doesn't have anything.

It's all the matter of effort.

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I personally have neither seen nor heard of any such 'phasing out' of programmers. For every 1 studio that licenses Unreal or another fully featured engine there are probably a hundred other development places, whether game, simulation, or both that can't afford such tools and still develop in-house technology. Even those studios that are using middleware still have significant programming effort going into modifications to the middleware or integration of other components into the game. Programmers aren't going anywhere IMO.

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Programmers will have to stay. They are the people who are creating the tools to make things easier for the designers and artists to interact with what the programmer is already doing. I think that if programmers are no more, there will be no more advances with the software.

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