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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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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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Original post by Xentropy

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? :)


Yeah, I've heard that as well, for us it was only about a week to hit a milestone. I worked at another company though with little to no project management and we were putting in 16-18 for 3-4 months, it was horrible and one of my main reason for leaving that job.

*edit for jerax* Don't worry the positives far out weight the negatives.

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I am a tester at a software company right now and I usually spend about 90% of my eight hour day testing. There's a little goofing off here and there but most of the time I am doing something work related. The company has a few software products out right now and a couple in development. So a tester might have a specific product or driver within a product to test and that's what he works on. The developers are portioned out similarly as well. Overall it's not too bad. This is only a summer co-op, but I am learning a quite a bit. For instance I never how much good documentation standards for code and testing really increases productivity. If I have a question about how something works I know exactly where to find it and can be relatively assured that it will be adequate.

It also helps to have decent test docs to drive the testing. While most of it is exploratory, it is nice to have somewhat of a road map.

I take breaks when I want or need them, can leave early or come late without much problem and I get paid relatively well for my experience and area of living.

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Original post by Dancin_Fool
*edit for jerax* Don't worry the positives far out weight the negatives.


At EA? Ha!

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Original post by Xentropy
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? :)

EA is a huge company, I doubt this is true for the majority of EA(doesn't a member here work for EA and said they enjoy it? I remember they got a 360 on/near release day). A lot of the large companies can have a mismanaged sector being all that you hear about.

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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.


Many (if not most) game companies don't agree with you for one reason or another -- though it is better now than it was 5 years ago.

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Original post by eedok
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Original post by Xentropy
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? :)

EA is a huge company, I doubt this is true for the majority of EA(doesn't a member here work for EA and said they enjoy it? I remember they got a 360 on/near release day). A lot of the large companies can have a mismanaged sector being all that you hear about.


That sounds about right. While I don't think that the member you're talking about was me, I really enjoy working for EA. There might be a lot of work but it's a fun place to work and they treat us well.

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So EA = Bad?

That's kind of a disappointment for me, I was looking forward to getting an internship there once I'm in college.

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pretty normal where I'm working, we all have our tasks to do, mostly work independently. We go movies once in a while, play games, eat lunch, go in and out whenever you want, just get the job done. Crunch time is like 12-15 hours if needed but that's for like 1 day. If crunch at a longer duration then we stay around 9-10 hours. Must get rest to produce quality results.

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Original post by JohnBolton
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.


Many (if not most) game companies don't agree with you for one reason or another -- though it is better now than it was 5 years ago.


I know, I've been there and done that. Doesn't make it a good thing though. :p

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Original post by Mobby6
pretty normal where I'm working, we all have our tasks to do, mostly work independently. We go movies once in a while, play games, eat lunch, go in and out whenever you want, just get the job done. Crunch time is like 12-15 hours if needed but that's for like 1 day. If crunch at a longer duration then we stay around 9-10 hours. Must get rest to produce quality results.

Quite similar here. Since I left professional full-time gamedev, that is [lol].
Since I'm working with embedded devices, there's also some fiddling about with "interesting" custom hardware every now and then. Also lots of paperwork, planning, design, scheduling, and some budgeting (for projects where I am project lead/manager).

Not to forget on-site support, consulting and customer meetings. Luckily it's not just sitting in front of the desk all day [smile].
The best thing is though, that I can work from home, too if there are no meetings to attend to.

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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.


I'm horrified to admit that I have seen someone pull this off in reality...

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Original post by rollo
Quote:
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.


I'm horrified to admit that I have seen someone pull this off in reality...


I admit that I have done this in the real world. And horrified that 15 minutes of real actual work are still more productive than others' 'full' week.

I try to be a little better these days in taking jobs with a work queue to chew through and keeping my manager aware if he's one of those managers with an exceptionally poor grasp on what is actually on his workers' plates. (which is most of them in my experience...)

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I kind of picture the gamedev industry as pictured in "Grandma's Boy"..


No I'm just kidding but if you haven't seen that movie, it is a must.

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