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Bearhugger

Between game programmer and content designer...

7 posts in this topic

Hi folks.

 

I'm going to ask for some advice here. I'm currently working as a software engineer for a robotics company, but I'd like to eventually break into the game industry, and as I'm nearing my 30s I think it's now or never.

 

For a little background, a couple years ago, I have solo-programmed the engine of a 2D RPG very similar to Final Fantasy VI in C++, complete with a RPG Maker-like editor and all that jazz, and I really enjoyed it, but I realized that my favorite part of building that game was not programming the core engine with the graphics code and all that stuff, instead it was when the engine was done and I was creating the actual content, the skills, the items, the enemies, the maps, the story and characters, programming the gameplay (battle system, etc.), balancing difficulty with rewards, balancing characters and builds, etc, etc, etc. I hold a Google Docs where I constantly write new design ideas for new game mechanics, new game systems, new skills, etc. to implement in my game, so yeah I'm really passionate about that stuff. (I probably have over 200 pages of random gameplay and skill ideas with that Google Docs and a couple of txt files.)

 

However, I often read some game programmer AMA (like this one http://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/11mz4k/i_am_a_programmer_for_guild_wars_2_amaa/) and from what I understand, it seems that all programmers do in big companies is building the game engine and the core systems for the content designers and artists to use, and that's not exactly what I have in mind. I have a programmer background but I'm far more interested in the designer kind of jobs. (Level, content, enemy, AI, gameplay, etc.)

 

So I guess my question is how much are game programmers usually involved in the content creation process? Do I have better chance just postulating on level designer jobs? Or to postulate on programmer and software engineer jobs and then try to work my way "from inside?"

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1. So I guess my question is how much are game programmers usually involved in the content creation process?

2. Do I have better chance just postulating on level designer jobs?

3. Or to postulate on programmer and software engineer jobs and then try to work my way "from inside?"

 

1. A fair amount. A game designer rarely details a feature in so much detail that there's no room for interpretation. And then of course there are meetings, brainstorming, and just plain old conversation in which ideas are exchanged.

 

2. "Postulate":

  1. 1.to ask, demand, or claim.
  2. 2.to claim or assume the existence or truth of, especially as a basis for reasoning or arguing.
  3. 3.to assume without proof, or as self-evident; take for granted.

If you want to go for level design, start building a level design portfolio.

 

3. If you want to go for programmer, start building a programming portfolio. Do the job you say you want. That's a sure way to prove that you can do it.

Edited by Tom Sloper
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It is a question that is very hard to answer, as it mostly depends on your personality and level of skills - you are the only one that can assess those here.

 

If your skills are far better fit for the programming job and if you are determined enough not to be discouraged by the job that isn't 100% what you want, then getting the programming job and working your way from the inside seems like a legit idea - the hardest part in gamedev is getting inside. Then you have a lot of possibilities to learn more about the industry, the jobs there and whether you would really like to do what you imagine you'd like to do. I know lots of guys who went from testers to level designers or from level designers to game designers. It's completely possible to go from programmer to designer.

 

If, however, you feel that when you get into the industry, you would like to do exactly what you want right away, if you know there is actually a position that requires you to do what you dream of doing, and that you would be able to prove you are fit for this job, then go for it!

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I work with several small teams at my current studio. While most of them follow the strict programmers-do-code rule, I've had the pleasure of working in at least 2 teams where there were what I like to call 'gameplay programmers', aka people that do not necessarily shine by their technical abilities, but have serious grasp of design elements, so that they can actually focus on implementing 'fun' into the game.

This generally ends up costing more (because their technical background is not as good, you need others to sometimes refactor, etc) but this leads to amazing results.

My suggestion would be to board a small studio. The smaller the studio, the more 'hats' you can wear simultaneously.

Obviously, this is something you should discuss during the interview so as to build up false expectations and gauge theirs.

 

Also, I'm pretty curious about that FFVI-like engine you've made.

Any luck I could get to hear/see more about it through PM?

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Thanks for all the answers, it's enlightening and I really appreciate it.

 

3. If you want to go for programmer, start building a programming portfolio. Do the job you say you want. That's a sure way to prove that you can do it.

 

 

 

From the answers in this topic, I think I should just apply on a programmer job and then see from inside what I prefer doing.

 

If you don't mind a question, for a programmer portfolio, in your opinion, would you say that it is a must to have 3D demos or just about any game as long as they can see that you can build a workable game in C++?

 

My suggestion would be to board a small studio. The smaller the studio, the more 'hats' you can wear simultaneously.

Obviously, this is something you should discuss during the interview so as to build up false expectations and gauge theirs.

 

Also, I'm pretty curious about that FFVI-like engine you've made.

Any luck I could get to hear/see more about it through PM?

 

Yeah I think I'd be better fit for a small/medium studio as well. Since I'm mostly experienced with 2D graphics I probably wouldn't be that useful on a next-gen 3D or physics engine anyway, and besides my B plan would be to found my own indie studio and port my RPG to iOS/Android/Steam and see if it works.

 

And sure I'll be happy to PM you some screens and infos about my RPG. Probably tomorrow. My first post ever on GameDev was actually asking for help on it.

 

 

Simple as that. I have no idea where you got the idea that everyone in major companies just works on the engine. If that were the case, who would tell the enemies in GoldenEye 007 how to get shot, take damage, and fall down dead if no more health remains?

 

Well, I guess I'm easily mislead but I got that idea because I have two friends who are building an indie iOS game with the Unity engine and their monster behaviors are basically done with a graph node editor where the game designer just plugs the different state nodes together to define the enemies' states, and the states are basic JavaScript that he wrote himself. So yeah, I thought enemy states and behavior was achieved with a mix of UI and simple scripting language. But whether it's done via UI or via programming, that's the kind of thing I'd like to work on. Game programmer is definitely where it would be for me.

 

Thanks again, everyone. =)

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Just for the record, people in the game animation domain are often very interested in robotics and its applications in game animation. Your robotics experience is somewhat applicable to certain domains in games. Don't discount it.

Your 2D engine and toolset are good things to put on your portfolio (if they are high enough quality), as well as any 3D demos. The main goal is to have complete and impressive items in your portfolio.
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