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What is a day like in the life of a programmer?

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Programming, and game design both interest me greatly.

I am unsure if this career is for me.. or should it remain a hobby.

 

Some questions that come to mind...

 

On average.. how much line of code does a programmer write per day?

How structured is it... Is the programmer told what classes to code etc.. or is expected to figure out what needs to be done?

 

If anyone knows any good articles, books, or videos that show a day in the life of a programmer, I'd love to see it.

Edited by Relutap

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I'm a career software engineer. There's three types of things I do at work during a given stretch: I fix/modify/update old library code (stuff that I didn't write and is from the late 90s), I design/build/modify modern code (new products that we're actively developing), and I do non-software engineering tasks (corporate overhead like expense reporting, reporting on task progress, helping with documentation for our software, and dealing with "escalations", which are customer issues with the software that tech support cannot figure out). I can't really measure my work output in "lines of code per day" because sometimes it's "Hundreds of lines" and other times it's "zero lines, but I'm still doing software engineer work".

 

That said, I do not work in games, and there's a pretty succinct reason for this: my understanding is that you *really* have to want it, because it's very grueling. I'm going to be a bit reductionist here in the hopes that somebody who works in the industry today pipes up and corrects me...but here's why I'm not in the game making industry: you are at either one of two kinds of dev houses which each have a common theme I do not like.

 

Big AAA Publisher-owned House like any house funded by EA or Sega, you will find yourself silently expected to work 80+ hours a week, at times opting to sleep under your desk, seldom seeing your family. If you're not willing to do this, they find some contrived reason to fire you as you are very easily replaceable: there are lines of programmers out the door that really, really want to make games and are willing to sleep under that desk you're suffering on. (Also, the pay is crap...for a software engineer.)

 

Small Indie Houses like inXile or Fullbright treat their employees WAY better; they're not going to be mean to you or contrive reasons to fire you if you need to get home to your kids, but you feel more invested and still have to sleep under that desk, because if you don't make deadlines you and your coworkers go hungry. The deadlines are softer for independents, but still there because that money WILL run out eventually so you NEED to sell units. (Also, the pay is crap...for a software engineer.)

 

Given one option or the other, I'd definitely push to get into a small indie shop, but there's that theme: I'm working a LOT of hours that I'm not spending with friends and family. I'll never forget Jake Solmon's (Firaxis, lead designer on XCOM: Enemy Unknown) last interview where he said that he'd missed the first year of his baby's life. I do not want that to happen to me.

 

Also, the other theme I mentioned in parentheses up there: I work 40 hours a week, 50 hours when deadlines loom, which is less hours per week than a game dev. Also, I'm paid a much higher salary than your average game dev for my level. So...less hours a week plus more money for that time is a no-brainer for me. I'd love to build games, but I don't want it so bad that I'm willing to sacrifice time with my friends and family for it. I will build small little projects at home, most of which are never finished and nobody sees them, because I really enjoy thinking through problems and solving them.

 

If you want to do game dev professionally, you have to really WANT it. But if we're just talking non-game industry software work, that I recommend. I love it. smile.png

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Heh. :) I do have that type of flexibility, and I think that's common (at least all of my engineer friends seem to have it)...but, what you say about corp bullshit sapping life...yea, that's definitely a thing, haha.

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It varies a lot. Often there are projects that characterize several weeks or months.

 

I wrote something on the topic, mostly for my cousin ...

http://izitforyou.blogspot.de/

 

It also depends on how much you are shielded from non-programming tasks.

 

Don't underestimate

1.) the research

2.) fixing environment problems / toolsmithing

That is especially true if you work for a smaller company.

Edited by DareDeveloper

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I often describe my day simply as such:

 

40% research/reading

40% conversation

20% coding

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I work at relatively small game making company. We are making the flash games for social networks right now. I work approx. 40 hours/week with flexible work hours. My day consists of:

1. First of all, the cup of the green tea xD

2. I have a small conversation with our leading programmer in highly friendly environment about things we need to do/things we want to add to our game in future.

3. I go to my seat right at the big window through which I can enjoy watching one of the biggest rivers of my country.

4. I think about things I have to do today, plan things etc. For example, I can have a task which I should accomplish within one week, so I focus on it.

5. Our company is small and new, so we don't have advanced development techniques and a lot of our work is not automated at all. So I usually test the new functional manually (not that I even know how to do decent TDD with AS3, where everything is a sprite and logic is highly coupled with views).

6. Occasionally I watch inspirational gamedev videos or read something I like. Usually it happens during my lunch break.

7. Since I'm very lazy to wake up, and I really like to do stuff at nights, my work starts at 12pm and ends about 20pm =)

 

I'm new in gamedev, but so far I like it so much.

 

Regarding your questions. Well we don't measure the productivity by the lines of code written per day, so that number is completely unrelated. Usually it is the best practice to write less, but do not hurt lucidity of the logic behind the code, obviously. In our company we are not restricted by the numbers of classes you should create to complete your task - you just do what you think you should do to accomplish your goals without breaking everything =)

Edited by GuardianX

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I'm new in gamedev, but so far I like it so much.

 

That is pretty sweet that someone new in gamedev can work in a small game making company. I'm curious how did that happen? Was AS3 the only requirement?

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It might also depend on how much of a purist you are. Where I work, sometimes instead of solving a problem correctly, there is quite an undesirable trend of "just grab a plugin and hack round it's failures". This leads to a really crummy and unportable codebase and is not very enjoyable to work with and no-one has any real sense of ownership or care. Luckily the company is also sponsoring me for my PhD so I always have that work to fall back on if I can see a project implementation going this way ;)

However, sometimes the project at work involves a team of like-minded individuals who don't mind implementing a bit more code to get things "right", then it can be a great laugh (and the output is of a much better quality).

So it really depends on the specific company, their policies and their existing employees that really makes the difference to whether it is just as fun as coding as a hobby. Edited by Karsten_

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