# Breaking into industry without coding or art skills.

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Since my topic about concept artists got a positive feedback, I am pasting another one of my blog articles. This article is actually a kind of public reply to all the people claiming that you can't do shit in gamedev if you can't "code or at least draw". There's quite a lot of them actually.

I can't code and I can't draw...

...yet I wanna be a game developer! This kinds of posts pop up on game development forums pretty frequently and a common reply to these is "What can you do in gamedev without being able to code or at least draw some art?" These people (mostly programmers themselves) would be absolutely right around 30 years ago.

Let's start with a quick gaming industry evolution recap, shall we? In the "old days" games were made entirely by one person. This person had to code. With the evolution of gamedev came new roles. Games started to be made by larger teams, and the coders easily gave up things like visuals or sound. This is where acknowledging the art part comes from. The programmers and artists soon needed armies of people who could do things they themselves couldn't. Their little game making efforts evolved into game making companies. Of course, with the whole Angry Bird Flu, the vast part of the industry is now in the early development stage, recreating the pattern from the 80's. Small teams, where single person
performs multiple roles.

What better to paste when talking about the industry evolution than evolution of the most famous pair of game boobs? Image stolen from
http://pedro-croft.deviantart.com

Since we really don't want to limit ourselves with indie companies, let's focus on AAA. This is a list called "all the jobs in gamedev that come to my mind": producer, designer, writer, sound engineer, animator, programmer, concept artist, 3D artist, QA, and less development-connected: legal, finance, HR, sales, marketing, PR, IT. Some of them truely need programming skills. Some of them need artistic skills. Some don't need any. It is more or less like this:

Note: Artistic skills refer to visual arts, as they are the topic of this article.

I've introduced a new term here - scripting. Every game engine I heard of has a scripting language embedded. It is a simple language with a basic set of commands that do preprogrammed things. Compared to programming languages, these scripting things are very user-friendly, but have limited capabilities. They only let the user choose out of a predefined list of tasks, but it means you can actually do something in the game engine. There are some valid arguments, that scripting is a kind of programming - that there are algorithms, that there's debugging, that
you need to actually know the commands and use them in a correct syntax.

Still, in reality, calling scripting programming is like calling chihuahua a real dog. Scripting languages used in the gaming engines are usually even less complicated than IRC scripts. Think of it in terms of advanced usage of MS DOS rather than actual coding. What's more important, most of the companies are either using their own engines with their own scripting languages, or are using purchased engines, but modify the scripting language to match their needs. This means that if you apply for an entry level job that needs scripting, most of the time you won't be actually expected to know the scripting language the company uses. They will expect you to know what scripting is, to be willing to learn how to script in their engine and to have some basic understanding of logic.

Therefore, while programming and artistic skills are actually required for the jobs they are associated with, scripting is an additional skill that will help you do your job with the core skills that are required, like animating or writing. This means, that when you are applying for an entry level job, the breakdown of required skills looks like this:

Let me rephrase that, because I am immensely enjoying this conclusion. One (1) job needs programming skills in AAA gamedev. Two (2) jobs need artistic skills in AAA gamedev. Thirteen (13) jobs, among these six (6) jobs in actual development need neither programming nor artistic skills in AAA gamedev.

"What can you do in gamedev without being able to code or at least draw some art?" - now you can easily answer!

More of games making noob articles on my blog, naturally

Edited by Woland

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I'd argue that sound designer (and music producer, which is missing from the list) qualify for requiring "artistic skills" :D

Anyway, interesting post and conclusion.

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I'd really wish that my sound engineer, animator, writer, and probably designer too has some kind of "artistic skill", even though it might not specifically be to draw stuff.

All of those are in any case specific skills, and is usually included when mentioning you need "something" to expect to be hired to make games, or be able to drum up a team.
Those posts are usually directed to "idea guys", that think they are designers.
And in most cases, those posts are usually not about working in an AAA studio, but about people who want to start indie projects (where they absolutely must have skills of their own to be able to do it within reasonable cost) or people who want to take a shortcut from "nobody" to "star designer/producer"

For the other roles, sure, they are needed to in an AAA studio (as in any medium to large company), but as someone else said, those roles are more "working near people who make games", then it is "making games". You could also be a janitor.

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@TheChubu:

I had some problem classifying the art section, as in english language "art" seems to specifically apply mostly to visual arts and I meant art in this particular context. I am not a native speaker and I could have messed it up a bit. I definetely agree that animation, writing, sound... they are all art, just have nothing to do with drawing I'll dig into that a bit more and rephrase it a bit to avoid misunderstandings. Thanks

Music producer, probably with a lot of other positions, is definetely missing form "all the jobs in gamedev that come to my mind" list. That's why it's not called "a definetely complete list"

@Olof Hedman:

My article focuses on AAA industry. Comparing roles I mentioned with a role of a janitor shows either lack of respect or lack of knowledge. If you happen to get a job as a programmer in a bigger studio, you will get to see to what extent these guys that are "working near people who make games" will be shaping what and how you will code.

And I stand by what I wrote. On entry level, in AAA industry, you don't need to code or draw for the vast majority of positions, including those that aren't directly involved in development.

Edited by Woland

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I'd say people in HR, Finance, Marketing, PR, IT and Legal have very limited influence on what game is made and how.
So that leaves the producer in the "other roles" that actually influence the what and how in any meaningful manner.

Sure, they are important in shaping the working environment etc, but those decisions isn't really that special just because the company happens to make games.

Sure, anyone in the house can use their people skill to influence somewhat, but that includes the janitor. Neither he nor the people from HR and finance etc will be invited to the meetings where stuff is discussed in depth and decided.

But I admit I used the janitor job for effect.
I also admit I havn't worked at a big game studio but I have worked at a medium sized (grew from 25 to 180 during my time) software/design studio in a creative field.

Maybe I have higher expectations on what it means to actually influence something though, since I've chosen to work at a small studio for exactly that reason, maximum influence on the what and how.

And I stand by what I wrote. On entry level, in AAA industry, you don't need to code or draw for the vast majority of positions, including those that aren't directly involved in development.

I don't argue that, but it's not really helpful to tell someone that say they want to make games that they could apply for a job at a HR department.

I can't code and I can't draw... ...yet I wanna be a game developer! This kinds of posts pop up on game development forums pretty frequently and a common reply to these is [...]

I read this as a hint towards the many threads where idea guys are shot down because they insist on being only idea guys and seem to refuse to even consider they might need to produce something tangible... Edited by Olof Hedman

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Any further argument on this topic between you and me is futile, as we come out from different stances. Your goal seems to be shooting down people without the skills that you find necessary based on their one or two posts. My goal is to show them some ways how they could utilize the skills they posess to actually get a job in gamedev (it's completely another matter whether they will make any use of it or not).

Who knows, maybe your way is better. Happy hunting!

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"Still, in reality, calling scripting programming is like calling chihuahua a real dog."

Scripting IS programming. As soon as one starts to deal with AI one will need programming skills and knowledge about algorithms and data structure to a certain extent. Oh and chihuahua IS a real dog. It is just another kind of dog.

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Any further argument on this topic between you and me is futile, as we come out from different stances. Your goal seems to be shooting down people without the skills that you find necessary based on their one or two posts. My goal is to show them some ways how they could utilize the skills they posess to actually get a job in gamedev (it's completely another matter whether they will make any use of it or not).

Who knows, maybe your way is better. Happy hunting!

Or maybe my goal is discussing, while yours seems to be lecturing ;)

I've never shot down anyone for wanting to do anything, I just found a few points in your post I didn't agree with and told you why.

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Scripting IS programming.

I never said it isn't. I even wrote why it is a kind of programming. Just like chihuahua is a kind of a dog, just compact and easier to use and keep

Or maybe my goal is discussing, while yours seems to be lecturing ;)

Maybe

I just found a few points in your post I didn't agree with and told you why.

And you have every right to disagree.

Edited by Woland

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Neither he nor the people from HR and finance etc will be invited to the meetings where stuff is discussed in depth and decided.

hmm.. I would have thought that the finance people would not only be at the meetings, but would perhaps even lead them.

@Woland

My goal is to show them some ways how they could utilize the skills they posess to actually get a job in gamedev

I'm a fan of this school of thought.. thanks for posting.

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Olof Hedman, on 27 Feb 2013 - 05:52, said:

Neither he nor the people from HR and finance etc will be invited to the meetings where stuff is discussed in depth and decided.

hmm.. I would have thought that the finance people would not only be at the meetings, but would perhaps even lead them.

Not lead, no. The CFO could, however, be a voice at greenlight meetings (deciding whether or not to start or continue a particular game project).  HR would be unlikely to be part of project meetings, unless needed for discussions of hiring matters.

Edited by Tom Sloper

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Interesting article.

But whats more interesting is that the article exposes another side of the coin: often people think they need artistic skill to be an artist (who draws stuff), but not to be a writer, or game designer, or sound designer etc. But thuth is they all need some kind of artistic skill (or talent, whatever you call it)! You can't draw well without years of studying, and you can't write well without years of studying too. But when you are bad at drawing it is more obvious to people than when you are bad at writing.

Because of that it is hard not only for other people, but for writers (or game designers or sound designers) themselves to see if they are doing good or bad.

Anyways, long story short: you need different kinds of artistic skills for different gamedev jobs. One may lack artistic skill "drawing pictures" the same way they can lack artistic skill "design games".

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You are of course assuming that all these jobs are covered by different people.  I have worked at quite a few AAA companies and quite a few small indies.
Here is a few things to consider:
Writer  = Often not an employee.  Most of the time contract script writing companies that deal with TV, Films and Games.
Sound / Audio engineering = Often an outside recording studio.
Legal, Sales, Marketing, PR, HR, Finance = Often can be just one person doing all this (even in studios with over 100 staff).  In one company I worked at she was also the receptionist and tea lady.
IT Guy = Often just another programmer who knows more about Networking and  got the short straw.
Producer = Whilst they don't NEED to be a programmer or Artist it is very rare that they are not or have never been.
Designer = This is just arguing over semantics.  Scripting is programming and it is very rare that you will meet a designer without some art skill.  In fact I'd go as far as to say that a designer is usually a programmer and an artist.

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Yes, I am assuming these jobs can be covered by different people. I of course agree that several functions can be held by one person. Still, since I was describing roles, not combinations of roles, it wouldn't make sense to include all the mixes I think. Regarding roles that can be outsourced, well, all of them can. 3D art, writing, QA, sound, HR, finance, concept art... I wholeheartedly agree that it might be the case, but these are still gamedev roles. Whether it is in the core studio or in an outsourcing company, it is still gamedev in my opinion.

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But these are not gamedev roles.  If you work for an outsoursing company in writing or Art or music production then your company may be involved in games but, on the otherhand your next project could just as easily be a toothpaste comercial.

If you still consider these as an opportunity then maybe you could rewrite your blog post not to say that you CAN work in games development but, maybe one day if you are lucky you might have a slight involvement with a game.

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Guess I'll chime in here just for the sake of continuing the discussion.

First off, I should mention my experience.

I have a BAS focusing on Digital Entertainment and Game Design and a minor in Art History and Theory with a career focus on character/monster creating, game writing, production, as well as expertise in 2d and 3d content creation, conceptual design and illustration, and consultation in game mechanic/concept creation. I've only worked as a contractor for small to mid sized studios and recently as a founder of a small indie studio called Pixel Jargon. I've worked as an artist in various other fields fairly consistently for the last 10 years. I'm 29 now.

Personally, I've never met anyone working in the actual meat of game development that can't at least do some rapid visualization or some minimal coding to help show their ideas and have some actual chops to back their position. Maybe in the gilded towers of AAA development there are some guys that got a job there with an MBA and no experience with games aside from playing with other peoples money, but when it comes to the trenches of game development, I really haven't seen people that have their main skill as "idea guy".

I also haven't seen decision making privileges given to the guy that only makes the music, or to a tester, or to anyone who isn't a significant lead, content creator, or some one seriously invested in the project with their money, time, and skills.

So what I want to know is how exactly can someone with no experience in the actual creation of the game, like HR or Legal, be a part of the game design process? I understand they have an impact on the actual development such as HR hiring the right people for the job and Legal covering the butts of the developers in case they don't remove a naughty animation, but they have no real control at all over the design aspect of the game the same as the person who makes awkward small talk at the coffee shop when they find out you make games and want you to make their dreams for them (and give the stranger money for it!).

I guess my real problem is that in those positions, since there is, in my opinion, no real way of influencing the game production or development, why even bother being a part of a dangerously volatile work environment that sees studio closures everyday when you could be someplace else that's more stable, doing the exact same thing?

I would venture to say that you would want to be at least close to the development; to feel like part of the team and help them create games but whats the fun in that? Where is the appeal in loving someone but getting told they just think of you as a friend?

I don't know man, I guess I don't see the point. I've read it hundreds of times here on gamedev.net that its not that tough to learn to program. To me, I would think it's easier to learn to program or draw than it is to give up on a dream for me, and that's what it would be like. If you dream of creating games but don't have the skills needed, the choice to not get those skills and just be near those who do is so much worse. I see this as advocating putting ones self in the friend-zone of game development.

...

Don't friend-zone yourself with game development; learn a useful skill instead of crossing your fingers and hoping that your ideas will be heard one day.

But that's just my opinion.

Edited by DaveTroyer

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You forgot one other way. With a ship load of money and become the producer :P

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But these are not gamedev roles.  If you work for an outsoursing company in writing or Art or music production then your company may be involved in games but, on the otherhand your next project could just as easily be a toothpaste comercial.

There are outsourcing companies that are dedicated to making game assets only. Lots of them actually. Localization studios, 3D studios, concept studios. They have only game assets in their portfolios. They only work with game developers. There are actually dozens of them you can meet on every bigger game conference. Of course, companies like these you described exist too, but I wasn't referring to them.

If you want to code, code.
If you want to draw, draw.

This might sound ignorant, but I don't code and don't want to code. I don't draw and don't want to draw. And I am still a counterargument for the whole DaveTroyer's post. What's more, I am not alone. There are more people, who just like me don't have an art or coding background, but are working in the industry in the core development teams, not just as "idea guys". I don't consider myself special in any way, therefore I am sure others could work in the industry without these two particular skills as well.

Still, don't get me wrong - I really appreciate all the input guys. There are a lot of statements I disagree with, mainly because I have proof of them not being true, but I also see a lot of good points here and I can certainly see where you guys are comming from and I can understand your mindset.

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but I don't code and don't want to code. I don't draw and don't want to draw. And I am still a counterargument for the whole DaveTroyer's post. What's more, I am not alone. There are more people, who just like me don't have an art or coding background, but are working in the industry in the core development teams, not just as "idea guys". I don't consider myself special in any way, therefore I am sure others could work in the industry without these two particular skills as well.

I'm just saying that I've only really worked with small to mid sized studios doing contract work, so I know I haven't met everyone there is to meet, but I guess I just have a hard time seeing how someone without some kind of artistic talent, be it creating assets, code, or story and dialog, can have a significant sway on the direction that a game is going, let alone be a member of a core team.

If you don't mind me asking, what is it that you do at your studio or what positions are you talking about? It might help to shed some light on this entire conversation if you could give us some idea of what jobs you're talking about that have some influence on the core development of a game without bringing some previous experience to the table.

Are you talking about a producer or director role? Because I haven't seen those handed over to anyone who hasn't worked their way up unless its in a tiny upstart studio with little to no experience that want their friend to be a part of the process. (And those friendships get tested pretty hardcore because the one with no skills thinks they're more important; the whole "idea guy" complex)

I hope I'm not upsetting you and I'm not trying to seem argumentative, but I honestly have no idea what kind of positions you could be talking about.

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Just adding to what I said last.

Maybe I was thinking too specific in the terms of core team as in reference to my own experience instead of the experience others have had.

That being said, I can only go off of my own experiences and the same can be said for everyone else. Woland has opened up to share some of his experiences and views with us and I think this entire conversation has turned rather ugly because our experiences or views don't really match.

I'm not innocent of being a little jaded just like everyone else, but I think we missed a prime opportunity to have a serious discussion on the different paths into the game industry.

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"A game designer doesnt need to know how to code but it helps, he or she will be well served if they can" - http://www.videojug.com/interview/getting-a-job-as-a-game-designer

"No one expects you to write a code but you need to understand the programmers need" - from Flint Dille & John Zuur Platten's book

So take it easy, breath slowly and relax. But of course, SOME companies demands it, some doesnt. We shoudnt deny that.

The same with getting an academic backround, some demands it, some doesnt.

I personally dont know how to code, i have serious problems with numbers and math. Therefore i do mods instead, and i read this lovely book by Dille/Platten

(Ultimate Guide to Videogames). I have even showed my drawings and 2D design to a former designer wich gave me good feedback. Not the best, but good.

So i believe, it can work, i believe it can go, but it depends on the boss sitting the chair. And another thing, i dont have academic backround either.

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Since we really don't want to limit ourselves with indie companies, let's focus on AAA.

That is part of the disconnect.  You are discussing AAA, but the discussions you are critiquing are virtually all hobbyists.

Obviously with a AAA company and a 15-200+ full-time team, like WoW, LoL, Sim City etc you have not only the budget but also the need for some pure designers, ideas guys etc.   Keeping track of game balance and coordination at that level can be more than 1 full time job.

But that isn't what is being disussed at least with any of these conversations I've seen here.  They are all being posed by people who have no experience in the industry besides at most a couple years on the hobbyist/indie side (and frequently not even that).   The context is hobbyist, unpaid teams of people (frequently trying to produce something just like WoW only 10x better ).

In this context, the problem is almost always that people dream up ideas that are unrealistic compared to the amount of coders and artists involved in the team.  It is good to dream and have passion, but part of taking it to the next level is coming up with a realistic plan that has some chance of success.  To that end, the majority of these people (who don't have coding or artistic skills)'s best course for success involves: learning coding, learning art, recruiting coders, recruiting artists, or joining an existing team that already has assembled some coders and artists.

Even in AAA companies, the vast majority of people are doing coding or art.  Your chart and reasoning attempts to apply the same weight for a Finance person as for a coder as says "see, people with coding or artistic skills are in the minority!", but if you actually factor in ratios, you get to something closer 80%+ of the staff are coders, artists, and musicians.

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Once again, I would like to propose to find a difference between a "job" and a "role". In every studio, bigger or smaller, some jobs can consist of several roles. Still, the roles themselves remain unchanged. Designer is a designer, lawyer is a lawyer. The chart was about the roles, not about the jobs. The answer to the question "what can you do without coding or drawing skills?" remains the same - you can take on every role or combination of roles that doesn't require these skills. I never got into probability or percentage of vacancies that require specific skillsets.

My article isn't only about discussions on these forums. Believe it or not, there are other places out there where people are asking the same questions and receiving the same biased answers. These answers, both here and everywhere, base on an assumption that if a person has no experience whatsoever, their choice is limited to school projects and most basic indie teams. If I could get into AAA industry without any prior experience, it is a proven possibility. If you look closer at the discussions you mentioned, even in here, it's often not the questions that focus on indie development. It's the answers. And even if it were all about indies and school projects - does a broader perspective really hurt that much? Is it that annoying, incorrect, wrong, revolting or unacceptable to look around and see there's more to game development than struggling to release a game for $0.99? #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites I never got into probability or percentage of vacancies that require specific skillsets. I think that is a shortcoming of the analysis, however. The rules of supply and demand are at work, so since there are only a small number of positions in the development process that don't require coding or artistic/musical skill, and many people who are interested in those roles (designers and producers), then your realistic chances of getting that position are much less likely. Really the only position that has large numbers of non-coders/artists is QA, and even here there are far more people qualified for that position than for coding and art/music, so they are hard to get as well. In terms of roles such as lawyer and accountant, these generally aren't involved in game development and so really shouldn't be factored into this discussion. Maybe I have just missed the kinds of threads you have in mind though, or I am checking the wrong sections (I probably check Game Design the most here). The ones I've seen are almost always along the lines of "I want specifically to be a producer or designer, and here is a brief or detailed description of the game I want to build. But I have no coding or art experience, nor any coders or artists on my team." For those kinds of people, they typically seem so wedded to their own specific game design that it is hard for me to imagine them being happy in another role like QA for someone else's project. It is for these situations where the standard advice is they should learn coding or art, and I think it is good advice. And even if it were all about indies and school projects - does a broader perspective really hurt that much? Is it that annoying, incorrect, wrong, revolting or unacceptable to look around and see there's more to game development than struggling to release a game for$0.99?

The answer here is going to be different for every person.  For some people, they would be very happy in any position contributing to the game development pipeline for any sized company on just about any project.  For them, a broader perspective can be a good thing.   For other people (and I'd include myself here), a large part of the fun is being a game designer for specific games you or a small team you are involved in comes up with and build it from scratch.   I've had several opportunities to join game companies but so far haven't been interested.  I'd much rather do what I'm doing now, which is work on non-game stuff for my day job, but have tons of creative control working on my own game on the side.   Which path is better will depend on individual personalities and goals.

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