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Professionals - what was your first job in the industry?

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i.e. what can newbies expect to get as their first job in the games industry (if we are able to get past the "we want experienced ppl only" notice on the door)? "I envy you, who has seen it all" "And I, young sir, envy you, who have yet to see it for the first time..." - Daniel Glenfield 1st October 2001

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ok well what if you''re looking at programming and can already do some (you''ve done a good demo etc.), the first thing that comes to mind is a junior programming role (checking etc.) but do they stick you in other places, like testing?

"I envy you, who has seen it all"
"And I, young sir, envy you, who have yet to see it for the first time..."
- Daniel Glenfield
1st October 2001

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Hell I wouldn't have planned on going to a four year college and getting a bachelors in Comp Sci if I was gonna get stuck doing tech support or testing. But it is true it depends... I mean if you are well educated, have a degree, and do have some sort of sample of what you are capable of I'm sure you can get a solid programming job right off the bat, even if it is a junior status programming job. Of course there are always the alternative means, taking entry positions and working your way up the ladder, but in today's industry (as opposed to the good ole days) I find it harder to find companies that truely appreciate you as an employee and actually care enough about your loyalty to keep you on or promote you to positions you'd rather be doing (of course this is just cynical old Xorcist talking here, I've had a few bad experiences to say the least). My first job was actually pre-college, I built installation programs. It wasn't exactly programming, but it got me in the door. Later I pushed my way into a junior programming position (Whilst still building and maintaining installations, with no extra pay by the way). I worked on a couple smaller programs for the professional services department as well as some in house stuff, which gave me that "real world" programming experience. But I ended up quiting the job to focus more on school so I could get to where I really wanted to be. Strangely enough, I'm still not where I want to be... but hey I guess that's life huh? I don't know if that cleared things up for you or just made them more cloudy, but hopefully it helped one way or another.

P.S. None of my progamming jobs have yet to be game related in any way, shape, or form. (I'm still working on that)

Edited by - Xorcist on October 21, 2001 2:10:45 PM

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Interesting...
perhaps we should start up another topic - why do people never have any positive stories about the game industy? Why do we only hear about doom and gloom - are all programmers bitter and twisted and moan all the time?
OR
is there a sinister purpose behind this...the law of supply and demand dictates wages, so if no new games programmers came onto the scene because they''d been scared off, a company would naturally have to shell out a lot more to keep/hire current programmers in the industry...

AH, now THAT makes sense don''t you think?

"I envy you, who has seen it all"
"And I, young sir, envy you, who have yet to see it for the first time..."
- Daniel Glenfield
1st October 2001

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Well truthfully, like I said, none of my programming jobs have been in the game industry. So I can only really speak for the business application side of things, and even then only for the crappy companies I''ve had the misfortune of working for. I''m sure there are a lot of good companies out there, but for some reason I just can''t seem to find one. Once I do get myself a position in the realm of game programming I''ll let you know how it turns out. But, and I can''t speak for everyone, it would seem to me most game programmers started out working non-game programming positions (to pay the bills) and got into games later through hobbist work etc. (Which is what I hope to achieve at some point in the future). But I think my experiences should still hold some water. Just keep in mind you may have to work some really crap jobs before you get to do what you really want to be doing...

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No, the games industry isn''t easy to work in and it can be all doom and gloom. There are many ''fly by nights'' many companies still willing to rip you off. Believe me, there are some damn unscrupulous people in this industry. Let''s not even go near mentioning the unrewarded long hours.

As for loyalty...don''t bother trying to get any. I don''t want to suggest that every company is willing to lay you off at an instant, but games development is a difficult business to run profitably and this does force layoffs and other strategic business decisions. The increasing volume of development companies is making it more difficult for developers to line up new work when projects come to an end. Even well established companies can end of with no projects and layoffs, or at best are found to be scraping the bottom of the barrel for projects and taking bad projects, for less money. These projects don''t generate good royalties or help develop a company profile. Thus it gets more difficult each year.

The sad fact is though that these projects are less risky than doing original projects. It''s so hard for a game developer to sell an original idea, the market just can''t support the volume of them. There are too many games, not a large enough market for them all and too many developers wanting to develop them.

Is this supply and demand related? Yes, the fact is now that there are already too many games programmers around and there are a whole lot more on the way. Each college has a group of computing majors and a large proportion of them see games as their desired career. This is driving wages down, which is unfortunate because it is a highly skilled industry. But the bottom line is that development companies can''t afford to pay an awful lot anyway.

Another worrying thought...many publishers are looking at countries like India/Eastern Europe for cheap games development nowadays. This is a trend likely to continue as these countries have some very skilled staff, and they can develop games for a fraction of the cost any western developer can. Exploitation maybe, and also a topic for a different thread, but it''s a fact of life and it''s oly going to make matters worse in the west, where the games development employment market is already overcrowded.

I''ve said it before on this site...getting into the games industry could be the worst mistake anyone ever makes. If you like low pay, long hours, sweatshops, insecurity and an uncertain future then by all means join, but I''d encourage anyone else to put that college degree to better use.

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1. Doing a sideways move from any other commercial programming should be easier than trying to get a job in the industry without any professional experience of developing software.
The multimedia industry is close to the games industry and a lot easier to get into (I did - first commercial database stuff, then drivers for hardware connected to said databases, then a brief spell at an ISP, onto a multimedia/lifestyle publisher, onto a game/software product for a major toy manufacturer and finally into purely games).

2. If you have a degree in a special subject or skills in some area, you might find yourself being dropped in at the deep end. For example someone with a physics degree and a demo showing that may find themselves responsible for all of the physics for a game.

3. For all but the largest companies, every member of staff on a game has a lot of work on their schedule - usually more than there is time for. What this means is nobody has the time to "train" someone new - that is the primary reason for wanting people who can just sit down and start working without having to be watched or have their hand held. (Honestly - there''s no conspiracy - companies just don''t have time/resources to take risks).

4. If you have a good demo, decent qualifications and came across well in the interview and the company can afford to have someone in a junior role, you could expect to end up writing tools (such as file converters, level editors, file packers etc) for a while, you could even find yourself doing more mundane things like handling builds of the game, stripping redundant assets from the game etc...

5. If you are targetting specific companies, send letters and demos to them directly rather than using an agency. Agencies tend to mailbomb all the developers they can find in quite an impersonal way (and sometimes incompetent way [e.g.4Mb portfolios attached to unsolicited e-mails to companies who aren''t after anyone!]) and if a developer hired you through an agency, the fees would be 20-25% of your salary (paid by the developer).
We''re a small company who are *not* hiring at the moment, we get on average 2 agencies contacting us a day, but about 2 direct spec letters a month - the direct ones we still look at, the stuff from agencies we don''t!

--
Simon O''''Connor
Creative Asylum Ltd
www.creative-asylum.com

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freakchild, do you work in the games industry? if yes - hey mate you''re not trying to scare us off are you? lol

Indeed the industry IS highly skilled, and employees deserve to be paid for their skills, but what is the solution?

Games cost far too much to develop in the first place - that''s a fact. There is a lot of waste for one thing - having worked on games mags for 3 1/2 years I''ve seen the huge all-expenses paid trips for the press, as the companies are desperate for good reviews to bolster sales. But of course mags can''t give high scores to bad games - it loses them readers, so it doesn''t really work out well.

Games take too long to develop - we all know as games get more complex they HAVE to have longer development times, but in that time money is eaten up and it can all be for nothing.

Too many games on the market - this is directly linked to Sony''s Playstation. Before, we had companies like Nintendo asking to check the merchandise before allowing it to be sold. However with Sony''s policy of "get them on the shelves" more and more companies popped up with more and more games (most of them bad) and money was spread even thinner.


So what IS the solution? Heck I don''t know, ask a professional!


"I envy you, who has seen it all"
"And I, young sir, envy you, who have yet to see it for the first time..."
- Daniel Glenfield
1st October 2001

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S1CA - I agree with you on agencies!!! I was roped into signing up for all who called me, and it wasn''t until #9 that I found someone who knew anything at all abou tthe games industry. Even a reputable high-profile agency here in the UK was very ''dodgy'' (no feedback whatsoever on my demo etc. you get the idea) so now I have my v.v.poor demos and cv floating around the industry, thankfully I''ve cancelled all those that I can remember were in contact, but there must be about 5 who still have me registered (who haven''t spoke to me since lol).
But of course when my name crops up with my new CV and fantastic demo, my name goes into a computer and returns a "rejected on XX/XX/01" message, and into the bin it goes without being looked at. Thankfully I plan to include a few screenshots and other ways that make my resume scream "I am good!".


So is the solution for us all to bugger off to application development for a few years, wait for the industry to colapse and be reborn again, then come back?
Or set up our own company, make a game, sell a handful of copies, declare ourselves bankrupt, and start all over again?

"I envy you, who has seen it all"
"And I, young sir, envy you, who have yet to see it for the first time..."
- Daniel Glenfield
1st October 2001

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So should I give up on getting into the games industry? I have 6 diplomas in C++, 3 1/2 years experience on games mags, I''ve got a good demo...how much more do I need bar experience?

"I envy you, who has seen it all"
"And I, young sir, envy you, who have yet to see it for the first time..."
- Daniel Glenfield
1st October 2001

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I think you are being a bit harsh on agencies. I admit that there are some cowboys out there but there are a lot of good ones too. Just remind them to check with you where they are sending your CV before it goes out. They have a lot of useful contacts and know where the vacancies are. Not all of them charge 20-25% either.

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weegie which uk agencies do you consider good? I''ve only come across one that was any good.

"I envy you, who has seen it all"
"And I, young sir, envy you, who have yet to see it for the first time..."
- Daniel Glenfield
1st October 2001

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Guest Anonymous Poster
It took me a little over a year to land an entry-level
programming job in the industry. I actually got lucky
and got into a place that is still fun to work at, even
after 3 years and 2 projects. Im on my third project
now with a team of 25 people.

All of my professional programming experience, before
getting hired into the games industry consisted of some
VB consulting jobs and some minor database programming
stints while I was in college. I have a BS in computer
engineering. I took some undergraduate and graduate level
graphics programming classes. I was also a member of my
colleges graphics group where I did a little plugin/research
work with Alias/Wavefronts API and heirarchical B-Splines.

Yeah, this industry is hectic and fickle. There are a lot
of babies who whine and cry. There are a lot of very
talented people who have worked in the industry for
years who still have not produced a title. Ive seen the
company I work for go from 140 employees, when I started
in march of 1998, up to 250, down to 85, back up to 130,
down to 90, and we are currently at 120.

The games industry is definitely an interesting ride
that you should never take serousily or personally. If
you do, than you probably shouldnt be in it or be trying
to get in.

So, Is it all worth the BS that goes on?

You betcha.



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quote:
Original post by tom76
freakchild, do you work in the games industry? if yes - hey mate you''re not trying to scare us off are you? lol



I''ve worked in the industry for 14 years. I''m not trying to scare anyone off, but I have been increasingly concerned over the last few years for the people trying to get into the industry and their expectations of it. I''ve interviewed many people trying to get into the industry, listened to their reasoning behind wanting to do so and I sometimes I am very worried as a result. It can seem a very appealing industry to work in, but there''s a hell of a lot of baggage comes with it and not everyone is cut out for it. I normally find people are quickly disillusioned by the many things outside of their control.

I advise anyone who wants to make games to just do that. Go ahead and make games, but think more carefully about doing it as a career.



quote:

Indeed the industry IS highly skilled, and employees deserve to be paid for their skills, but what is the solution?



I think part of the problem is that most developers are developing complete crap that doesn''t sell and spending a long time doing it, then finding difficulty in getting a return on the investment. Nobody seems to be making any effort to turn this sort of thing around and many are even stuck in a vicious circle where they can''t get away from this sort of thing. It becomes difficult to be profitable, and it''s more a case of hand to mouth survival.

I''d like to think that in the future, small enthusiastic teams would be able to develop and publish their own games over the internet. I think this would be the ultimate combination of career and hobby in this industry. People have done similar things already, and I think that those who control their own destiny like this have proven to make the best games. I think this is the sort of thing people coming into the industry aspire to be and hence why I think it''s better go down a route more likely to get them there. I''d very much like to go here myself one day.

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quote:
Original post by tom76
So should I give up on getting into the games industry? I have 6 diplomas in C++, 3 1/2 years experience on games mags, I''ve got a good demo...how much more do I need bar experience?

"I envy you, who has seen it all"
"And I, young sir, envy you, who have yet to see it for the first time..."
- Daniel Glenfield
1st October 2001


Try scraping up the cash to go to the GDC, tom76 . It''s ridiculously overpriced but it''s the best way (IMO) to find a job in the industry. There are recruiters all over the place and a big job fair, and they want to talk games. Bring along your demo and be prepared to show it....and I''d bring some spare CDs or disks to give away just in case. Sometimes a specific company will like the demo but want to take it back to the office to show folks there before doing another interview.

The good news is that once you''re in then you''re in pretty much for as long as you want.

Good luck!



Ferretman

ferretman@gameai.com
www.gameai.com

From the High Mountains of Colorado

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Converting a vic20 basic program to run in Fortran80 on a Prime Mainframe. The program simulated water stream velocities for a water turbine. No joke, they actually used it to build that big ass hydro-electric damn in Brazil. After that I went on to more modest projects, such as load forcasting for the electrification of Malaysia. What can I say, I worked for an (large) Engineering Consultants in the early 80''s.

D.V.

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I think I need to clarify what I said about agencies (seems I panicked a few people including some agencies )...

1. Yes. There *are* some high quality agencies out there who *do* try hard to find decent jobs for people on their books and match staff with employers best suited to them. Those agencies are worth going with. If you find a good one they''ll help you get a decent job.

2. However there are plenty of others who seem to send all the CVs they have on their books to every company they can find; regardless of whether those companies are actually recruiting, whether the company is suitable for the employee or whether the employee is suitable for the company.

3. If we aren''t currently recruiting staff, when an agency phones/writes/e-mails, we tell them clearly that we aren''t.
Yet we''ve recieved unsolicited CVs (and occasionally showreels attached to e-mails) from agencies who we have explicitly told we are not recruiting for people living outside of the UK who don''t wish to relocate, who don''t even have any relevent experience.

Others in the industry I''ve spoken to have seen the same type of thing - it does put companies off taking most agencies seriously. How is a company to tell which agencies are genunie and which are fly by night cowboys or inexperienced agencies from other fields looking to expand their business.


--
Simon O''''Connor
Creative Asylum Ltd
www.creative-asylum.com

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So where is the industry going? I''m thinking about companies reporting profit losses, many more requirements to get into companies, lower wages because "there are more programmers out there (not that they''d get hired)", is it REALLY all doom and gloom?

"I envy you, who has seen it all"
"And I, young sir, envy you, who have yet to see it for the first time..."
- Daniel Glenfield
1st October 2001

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1. The industry is cyclical - it goes through waves of extreme investment, then doom and gloom. At the moment it''s at a lower point.

2. New generations of gaming hardware don''t help - there isn''t enough of a user base to make money, at the same time people are scared of investing too much time/money on any dying platforms.

3. There are also funding issues - team sizes are getting bigger therefore costlier, the risks are staying the same for the publishers, the sales levels for games are staying the same - there is talk of alternative funding methods, ways of reducing costs etc.

4. Many publishers (and some developers) pulled in money from the stock market by starting "online gaming" and "mobile gaming" divisions after people started investing heavily in the "dot com" business... After many of the dot-coms fell apart, investors got jumpy - quite a few layoffs have been related pretty directly to that.

5. If making games/entertainment software is what you want to do, then it''s still a good fun business to be in, but only if you really want to. If you''re looking for a way to get rich, look elsewhere (commercial consultancy etc). The days of programmers with Ferraris are dissapearing - you can make a comfortable living, but getting rich is less likely.

6. There are shoddy companies about who''ll mess you around just as with any business - be wary if the management of the company doesn''t seem to have any clue about the industry (or business for that matter).

7. Crunch time at the end of a project can be very testing of your personality and resolve - but the rest of the time is more fun than other parts of the IT industry I''ve worked in.

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It''s nice to hear some positive postings about careers in games, very encouraging
Ok so what should an entry-level programmer be able to DO? Is that a good enough Q or is it too vague?

"I envy you, who has seen it all"
"And I, young sir, envy you, who have yet to see it for the first time..."
- Daniel Glenfield
1st October 2001

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