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Skizi

Work style of a programmer.

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I was wondering how life was at the office for a programmer. I'm interested in what actually goes on at a company when they're on a tight schedule. Do programmers sit for 8+ hours a day at a computer coding? Does each individual programmer have a different task they have to do, like Bob writes codes for the AI of SuperBeastManThing, and Nancys' job is to make all the GUI screens? What happens when a company doesn't have a deadline, do they all just stand around the coffee machine talking about politics? I'm interested in this because hopefully, one day, I'll be that guy that can say "So, you like God of War, yea I helped make the combat system with my leet programming skillz." But seriously, how's life around the office for a programmer? I'm a curious individual. ~Skizi

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I'm fairly certain game programming is a bit more 'programming based' than military simulations that I'm in, but my biggest surprise after being on this project for nearly two years is how little actual programming is done compared to the design, paperwork, testing, meetings, demos, etc. We definitely do a lot of coding, but it averages out more to only 4-5 hours a day for even the most 'hands-on' developers.

Yes, within most software development projects, you'll have certain people (or teams) designated to certain areas of the program. I work on the synthetic natural environment - heavily detailed in performance, accuracy, terrain correlation, etc. We have a couple working on GUIs, a few on network interoperability, a few on models/behaviors, a few on our hardware (IT guys), etc. Some people get moved from team to team as the need arises for problems to be solved, but generally everyone knows where they stand.

I tend to think it's a lot like most offices.. jokes, politics, lunch outings, sports pools, and such. Dress code and hours are probably a bit more lenient than other offices though, but I bet this varies heavily on the company..

As for crunch time when deadlines draw near (for us that's every 3 months), we're generally resolved to work as long as it takes to finish all possible goals for the block. 50+ hour weeks are not unusual in the last 2-4 weeks before the end of the 3-month block. And no, we don't get paid by the hour - we're paid a salary to get the job done.

However, my desire for making my way into the game development field has been gnawing at me for awhile now. Once our final phase of our project ends later this, I plan on applying at a few game development companies. I'm excited for that - software development is a fun field to be in.. especially when you have a project/program that's fun to play with too!

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I just stare at my desk; but it looks like I'm working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too. I'd say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work.

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Original post by tstrimp
I just stare at my desk; but it looks like I'm working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too. I'd say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work.


And do you get paid well, if you don't mind me asking?

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Yes in my experience I've found that each person is assigned a particular section to work on.

I think the game industry is a lot different then most other areas of programming. In other areas there's a lot more planning going on. Not to say in pre-production there isn't a lot of planning, but once you're in full on development, working 16-18 hour days sometimes you have to just make it fit and hack in whatever you need. You can always go back after a milestone and clean it up.

When it's slower and you're only working 8 hour days then yeah not as much stress, can spend more time planning things out. I will say though, there's a lot of msning and browsing gamedev going on, but this is usually while waiting for a compile to finish.

I should note though that while I have worked for companies of various sizes, I've always worked on small programming teams of maybe 5-6 people.

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tstrimp is quoting the film Office Space Skizi, he's not being serious. :p

For a real answer, it depends a lot on the company, team and even person. However, you can expect to spend the bulk of your day sat around coding. Generally the lower down the ranks you are, the more time you spend in front of your computer and the less time you spend in meetings.

Individual programmers usually have one or more areas they are responsibly for, in my experience the larger the team the more specific the roles will be. So while in a small team Bob might write all the AI, in a large team he's more likely to just write the SuperBeastManThing AI.

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but once you're in full on development, working 16-18 hour days sometimes you have to just make it fit and hack in whatever you need. You can always go back after a milestone and clean it up.

And this is part of what is seriously broken with the game development industry.

Which is not to say that the the "rest" of the programming world (e.g., non-games) development is necessarily any better. Just different. Having worked both in professional games development and professional not-games development, I can assure you that the grass on both sides is quite dead.

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I am currently employed as a programmer, albeit not in the games sector(I work for an oilfield company), my hours are as I please as long as I put in my 40 hours per week and don't miss any meetings(which are mostly in the afternoon). The average day is taking the requirements from the system analyst, firing up visual studio and coding until it meets the specification.

There's not often when there's no deadline or something to do, but in the rare case there is it's dedicated to "research" time. I have yet to need to work any overtime at all.

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If you're having to work 16-18 hour days you need to learn to schedule better (or hire a project manager who can). Anything more than a few days of crunch (and by crunch I mean 12 hours tops) is just wasting your time, you'll get more done by working sensible hours.

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Quote:
Original post by Jerax
If you're having to work 16-18 hour days you need to learn to schedule better (or hire a project manager who can). Anything more than a few days of crunch (and by crunch I mean 12 hours tops) is just wasting your time, you'll get more done by working sensible hours.


From what I've heard, working at EA involves 16-18 hour crunch days (7 days a week) for the final 3-4 months of every project they ever do. You remember the whole ea_spouse LiveJournal a few years back, right? :)

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