Looking for career advice

By on June 18, 2013 8:33:27 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Illauna

Join Date 09/2006
+48

I don't honestly know why I'm posting on this forum but people seem pretty cool here. Anyways.

Story time. I grew up always wanting to become a game programmer.  I spent most of middle/high school reading books on programming. Then one day I found out that a little program called QBASIC (I prob dated myself with this) which was bundled with every version of DOS. So I taught myself QBASIC and loved it. I'm like one of those really nerdy kids that was so excited once I found out what a function or sub routine could do and all the possibilities it unlocked. Anyways I went to college for programming and graduated Dec 21st, 2000...and was emotionally devastated because in my immature way of seeing things my dream job collapsed (big layoff around this time because the world didn't end after Y2K.)  I got myself into some financial trouble with having my checkbooks stolen and just being bad at managing finances. Anyways went to the last BlizzCon and decided I'm going to pursue my dream job again. I signed up for school got enrolled and now I'm nearly finished with my second Associate's degree in programming. I plan on going towards my Bachelor's right away but want advice what I should do. 

 

TLDR: ***Big giant woe is me story mixed with a ton of random nonsense*** any advice for getting into the gaming industry as a programmer.

 

I live, breath, and sleep video games. Everyone knows me as the person with the one track mind...video games. Every new game I see as a new spreadsheet to develop to analyze the game mechanics and formulas. So I kinda want to make sure that this attempt to break in the industry works. I'm fully aware of the industries problems such as working 80 hours per week, the internet, and testing testing testing until your eyes bleed, your fingers turn to nubs, and your brain turns into primordial soup the it evolved from. That all doesn't matter because this is my dream. 

 

Top Dream Companies:

1) Stardock, not just because I'm posting this on your forums. Strategy games are my favorite.

2) Firaxis

3) Paradox

4) Blizzard

P.S. My purpose of this is to get advice, but I will throw out that if anyone can get through all this blah blah blah and wants me to send a resume just PM me.

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June 18, 2013 8:35:46 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Oh and have fun correcting my grammer mistakes. I got so bored in English class that I always used it to work out programming problems that my written communication is horrid. 

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June 18, 2013 8:43:54 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting Illauna,
Oh and have fun correcting my grammer mistakes. I got so bored in English class that I always used it to work out programming problems that my written communication is horrid.

Well I 'could' say that the first career step would be to spend as much time on English expression/communication as you do with 'programming'.

But I won't.

Oh, too late...

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June 18, 2013 8:57:06 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

 

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December 13, 2013 8:33:07 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Just crawling through my post looking for some bugs I posted in 1.4 and I ran across this one I wrote 6 months ago. I'm going to place some advice for other people trying to break into the industry.

Make sure when blah blah blahing about gaming that you stop for a moment and blah blah blah about the companies other interests. 

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December 13, 2013 9:45:55 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

One of the best ways to get your foot in the door is through an internship. The bad part is that with  many of them, you work for free, but it's a great way to get experience and have something relevant to your career path on your resume.

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December 13, 2013 10:00:52 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Working for free for someone else is not an option for me. If I'm working for free I rather be working on my own game Projects. I make pretty decent money now in a development industry...but it's parking automation, so not that exciting haha

 

 

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December 13, 2013 11:47:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Disclaimer:  I have no connection with the games industry, but as someone who has had to evaluate and interview tech talent before here are a few general things that I think are important. 

Disclaimer 2:  I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life and I'm in my mid 30s.  I know it's not what I'm doing during my day job, but despite that these few suggestions have helped me to be successful in a career I don't love.  Hopefully they're helpful to you or others.  They are a combination of my own experiences and advice given to me by a series of outstanding bosses and mentors over the years (I've been very lucky in that regard).  

Some of this may seem obvious or rudimentary, but I've always been shocked at the people who worked for me or that I worked with or even that worked above me in organizations who never had someone give them some of these simple pieces of advice.   

Communication 

Both written and verbal communications skills are key.  

  1. Verbal:  First, no one wants to deal with the obnoxious tech geek.  I don't mean someone who is by nature a nerd (I am and proud of it).  I mean no one wants to deal with tech folks who behave with a sense of entitlement and/or are completely unable to express themselves clearly.  That's so 1990s.  I have no idea if that's you or not, but communication goes a long way to making you valuable.  Make sure you can speak comfortably and confidently about your areas of expertise.  Have confidence when talking to others about game development (and make sure you know what you're talking about!) but don't cross into arrogance.  Second, through a decade+ as a tech guy and a manager of tech teams the skill I've found most lacking is the tech person who can speak the language of other disciplines.  It sounds like you're a programmer by trade.  Learn to speak the language of game design.  Learn the language of art teams.  Be able to have an intelligent business-of-games conversation with a business analyst or any business focused person.  People who can bridge the gap between different disciplines are hugely valuable.  It is one of the rarest qualities in any business.  It is doubly valuable if your the tech guy, because to non-initiates most technology might as well be magic. If you can explain what you're doing and why in a manner that your marketing guy understands he can then use your knowledge to create better marketing.  The marketing guy doesn't care about multithreading.  He does care about end of turn wait times (to use a very simple example that comes up around here regularly).  He can advertise the lack of wait times as a feature.  He can't advertise multithreading (or whatever else) as a feature. These are two different ways to say the same thing.  If you know how to translate your discipline into something the marketing guy can use and understand, that's very valuable. 
  2. Written:  Make sure written communications are professional.  This is especially important when asking for advice related to your chosen profession, when networking and whenever communicating with someone in your industry/field of choice.  If you ask for advice, but can't be bothered to take the time to make it grammatically correct (or at least close) and you can't bother with proof reading and spell checking, then why should those you are communicating with bother taking the time to craft a response?  Your communication is the first, and most important, tool you have to convey your seriousness. Don't throw it away.  
  3. This one is old fashion, but for the love of god send thank you letters/emails.  If you ask for someone's advice, time or any sort of input at all send them a quick (well written) note to say thank you.  Two or three lines, nothing fancy.  It keeps you fresh in their mind, it's always a pleasant surprise to receive (since it is so rare nowadays) and it's just good manners.  

Networking

Network.  Network.  Network.  Find companies that do what you like.  Find associations in your area.  If you like programming and want to crack games find local groups that share you interests and become an active and valuable member of the group.  Participate in games related hackathons.  Join online modding teams.  Do anything you can to get your name out there as someone with passion and talent.  

A few words about networking.  

If you really want to be good at networking, the key is to realize that it's not all about you.  Most people miss this completely and treat networking like a volume play where you swing as many times as possible hoping to get a hit with someone willing to do you a favor. Frankly, that's a shitty and ineffective way to approach it.  Go into networking with the goal of making it a mutually beneficial interaction.  One of my old bosses always talked about networking as "enlightened self-interest".  It is in my interest to help you succeed, because if you succeed you are in position to help me succeed should I ever need it. Networking is a chance for you to create connections between yourself and others.  

Now this next part is key and is often overlooked.  If you want to be truly effective at networking the key is for you to facilitate connections between people you know even when it doesn't directly benefit you at all.  You know person A with need/interest X.  You know person B with need/interest X+1.  You realize the two could help one another.  Make the connection for them.  Help them by introducing A to B.  They'll be stronger in their area of interest and more likely to be successful. You don't benefit at all in the short term.  But over enough of these sorts of interactions over years of a career this builds a hugely powerful and loyal network.  Enlightened self-interest.  Of the four things I'm writing about here, this one is hardest for me.  I'm not an introvert, but networking always felt scummy to me until my old boss explained his theory on it.  Now I realize not only is it not scummy, but when approached right it's beneficial to all involved.  It's hard and it's a ton of work, but it's worthwhile.  

One last word on networking.  Don't be intimidated.  We're all just people, regardless of the job we hold.  Polite and confident will take you a long way. 

Do what you love to do

Nothing can beat doing what you love to do.  You say you can't afford to do an unpaid internship.  That's fine.  But you should be modding or writing some small indie game in your spare time.  If you love something and want it to be your career you should live and breathe it as much as humanly possible.  Your indie games or mods may never be popular or profitable but if you're pushing yourself those mods or small games you create will teach you new things.  They'll be expanding your skill set demonstrably (and each new project should force you to learn new skills).  You'll have a portfolio that you can point at to say "I did that."  The more complex the project the more impressive.  For example (though this is certainly not the norm):  http://www.geek.com/games/teen-who-created-massive-skyrim-mod-falskaar-lands-job-at-bungie-1578474/.  And then there's the local example of course (Derek Paxton).  

Don't be afraid to fail

Failure is really no big deal most of the time.  Especially earlier in your career.  Try things.  Try different jobs, different genres.  Start new projects that try new and interesting mechanics.  If they fail, so what?  This is especially true before you get capital tied up in your projects.  All you are using if you fail is your time, but if you're doing what you love that shouldn't be a problem.  

Failure teaches us.  It's the best teacher we have if we're willing to listen and not afraid of it.  Try, fail and analyze.  Why did you fail?  What went wrong?  Be honest with yourself about the failure and correct it.  Move on.  

Interesting side note:  This is one of the things that kept my faith in SD after WOM fell on it's decidedly unmagical boring buggy face.  Brad's multiple mea culpas were blisteringly honest.  They showed that he knew how to fail and how to turn that failure into a strength going forward. I'd never presume to put words into his mouth, but if he stops by this thread I'd be interested to hear if he thinks SD Games is better off because of WOM's failure.   

One of my favorite sayings that has gotten hugely popular in entrepreneurial circles is "Fail fast, fail often".  Experiment and learn, rapidly.  Get comfortable with failure, learn to recognize it early and master learning from it.  

Anyway, that's my advice.  Hopefully there is something useful in there for you.  

Hell, sat down to write two or three points and spit out a badly written essay in their place.  

Hate it when that happens.  

 

 

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December 14, 2013 1:39:41 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Looking for career advice

By Illauna on June 18, 2013 20:33:27 from  Elemental Forums

I don't honestly know why I'm posting on this forum but people seem pretty cool here so I feel comfortable posting this here. Anyways.

My Story time: I grew up always wanting committed to program games. become be a game programmer.  I spent most of middle/high school years reading books on programming. Then One day I found out that a little program, called QBASIC, (I prob dated myself with this) which was bundled with every version of DOS. So I taught myself QBASIC.  I and loved it. I'm like I was one of those  a nerdy kids kid that was so excited once I found out each time I discovered what a function or sub routine could do did and all the possibilities it they unlocked. Anyways I went to  I earned a College degree in I majored in programming in college for programming and graduated Dec 21st,  in 2000.  I was under-prepared for the real life challenges of the post college world.  Adjusting to this new reality challenged me.  Also, the vast layoff of programmers beginning in 2000 discouraged me.      ...and was emotionally devastated because in my immature way of seeing things my dream job collapsed (big layoff around this time because the world didn't end after Y2K.)  Also, recently, my checkbooks were stolen and my marginal finances devastated.  I got myself into some financial trouble with having my checkbooks stolen and just being bad at managing finances. Networking is so important to career development.  So I attended Anyways went to the last BlizzCon and decided I'm going to pursue my dream job again. I signed up for school got enrolled and now I'm nearly finished with my second Associate's degree in programming. Now a BS seems appropriate.  I plan on going towards my Bachelor's right away but want advice what I should do.  I ask those of you with experience in these areas to offer me quality advice in pursuing my goal.

TLDR: ***Big giant woe is me story mixed with a ton of random nonsense*** any advice for getting into the gaming industry as a programmer.

I live, breath, and sleep video games. Everyone knows me as the person with the a one track mind: video [do you mean computer games here?] games. Every new game I see as a new spreadsheet to develop  challenges me to analyze the game mechanics and formulas. So I kinda want to make sure that this attempt to break in the industry works.  I want a viable strategy to successfully get into a programming team.  I'm fully aware of the industries industry’s problems challenges: 80 hours per work weeks, the internet, and testing, testing, testing, until your eyes bleed, your fingers turn wear down to nubs, and your brain turns devolves into primordial soup the it evolved from. That all doesn't matter   I eagerly embrace this simply because this is my dream. 

Top Dream Companies:

1) Stardock, not just because I'm posting this on your forums. Strategy games are my favorite.

2) Firaxis

3) Paradox

4) Blizzard

P.S. My purpose of this is to get advice, but I will throw out that if anyone can get through all this blah blah blah and wants me to send a resume just PM me.

(( Does your PS mean you want help composing your resume?))

Hope this helps…  I’m no expert with resumes.  My experience is limited to Clergy Resumes, and State Licensed Nursing Home Administrator resumes.  But if you wish me to get you started, I would be happy to.  Just know that your best results will come from people already in the gaming / programming industry.  I’m not.

One final comment; I have noticed that a number of people seeking to get into game programming enhance their credentials by creating (or lead teams who create) high quality mods for games already released.  The example closest to home is Kael, who led a team that made the very best mod for Civ 4:  “Fall from Heaven2” (FfH2).  I have noted several mods made for Oblivion, and Fallout that the mod maker says is part of their body of work to demonstrate their skills to potential employers.  Something for you to consider?

 

Wish I had more to offer.

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December 14, 2013 2:37:09 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Whew! Glad I didn't try to get into the gaming industry, I did take some programming courses to try and follow in my father's footsteps, but was twice as good at math & science than language and communication on SAT's lol. (Was never very in touch with my feelings or able to express myself well). I think Einstein had a similar problem and was considered quite crass- not that I would compare myself to him or anything! That probably came off wrong as well...

 

Anyway, good luck Illauna!

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December 14, 2013 7:21:57 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

If you plan on making a game yourself, don't do it by yourself... it is just too much work and no fun on your own. Find a few people that you like and share your general ideas, and then work together with them, it will be best for your motivation.

Also very important: use a programming language that has a proper garbage collector. You don't want to spend lots of time on bug-hunting memory leaks, those are just evil. So do NOT use C++. Do NOT write your own garbage collector. Just settle for a "slower" language, it's a trade-off between speed and ease-of-programming I know, but ease-of-programming is important.

I know because a looong time ago I worked on a small open-source project, mostly spending time on fixing other people's bugs, and 99% of those were invalid memory pointers that caused all kinds of crashes. That was not very funny I can tell you that!

 

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December 14, 2013 8:17:06 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting GeomanNL,
You don't want to spend lots of time on bug-hunting memory leaks, those are just evil.

Managed languages may make it easier but they aren't immune to leaks by a long shot. And sticking to managed languages greatly reduces your future job prospects. A few indie studios use managed languages outside of mobile, and pretty much everyone else uses C++.

Managed languages are awesome if you're looking to get *out* of the games industry, though. They're huge in internal and SaaS business apps.

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December 14, 2013 8:29:26 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting kryo,
Managed languages may make it easier but they aren't immune to leaks by a long shot

True, you still have to be careful about your design, but it'll get rid of the majority of bugs.

Quoting kryo,
And sticking to managed languages greatly reduces your future job prospects. A few indie studios use managed languages outside of mobile, and pretty much everyone else uses C++.

I don't see how this can reduce your prospects, languages aren't that different now are they ... in any case you will have to start on your own and imho C++ is a bad choice for a small group (I wouldn't be surprised if a large gaming company has a few programmers and testers whose sole job is to get rid of invalid pointer references and inexplicable crashes) ... you cannot afford that if you're with just a few people. The very last thing you want to do is, correcting each others invalid pointer references.

Although if it's really necessary, you could add a C++ lib for the bottlenecks in your code, or where assembler code is required.

C++ isn't necessary for the majory of the code, though.

 

Quoting kryo,
Managed languages are awesome if you're looking to get *out* of the games industry, though. They're huge in internal and SaaS business apps.

Yes, after my short experience with the open-source game I went to work in the IT and nowadays I use Visual Basic instead of C++. I had to get used to it, but that was easy... and I wouldn't want to program in C++ anymore! NO WAY! Perhaps C# or something.

 

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December 14, 2013 9:10:25 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting GeomanNL,
Also very important: use a programming language that has a proper garbage collector. You don't want to spend lots of time on bug-hunting memory leaks, those are just evil. So do NOT use C++. Do NOT write your own garbage collector. Just settle for a "slower" language, it's a trade-off between speed and ease-of-programming I know, but ease-of-programming is important.

I probably won't take this advice. I generally don't avoid a challenge. Which is why I'm actually working on my own 4x game. Lol it's called Elements with no relation to Elemental. The title just describes the process I'm using to generate the terrain. Basically 4 elemental beings blast a earth-like planet with powers. I mostly got the earth like planet created now I just need to find some elemental beings. 

Currently it creates a random fractal world that generates somewhat realistic positioned biomes. Although it does put the occasional boreal forest smack dab in the middle of a hot desert. Or right now I see rain forest in the plains and a lot of grassland near the equator. Still tinkering with the numbers and code. 

Shameless screenshot: https://www.dropbox.com/s/20tuaxc07wozkln/element.png

Anyways, I'm going to take a break from the world generation and try my hand at some AI and pathfinding next. 

 

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December 14, 2013 9:12:22 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Personally, I find networking to be a lot of work, with little return. And if done wrong can actually backfire as people feel used or don't believe you're being sincere.  But if you think it's right for you, here are some tips.

http://www.forbes.com/2010/05/25/career-networking-tips-personal-finance-network.html

 

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December 14, 2013 9:31:23 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting GeomanNL,
I don't see how this can reduce your prospects, languages aren't that different now are they

It's one thing to be familiar with C-style syntax, but if you have no experience with pointers and memory management, you're going to have a high hurdle to overcome if you want to actually work in C++. Many managed developers I know can't even wrap their head around null-terminated strings.

There's no problem using a managed language if you are making your own game, but if your long-term goal is to work for a bigger studio, don't assume experience with managed languages will trivialize entry into unmanaged languages just because the syntax is similar.

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December 14, 2013 10:03:41 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting kryo,
There's no problem using a managed language if you are making your own game, but if your long-term goal is to work for a bigger studio, don't assume experience with managed languages will trivialize entry into unmanaged languages just because the syntax is similar.

Sure, but the step that comes before that is that you actually make a game of your own first. And you shouldn't make that any harder than necessary. You should make it enjoyable for yourself, and you shouldn't spend a lot of work on hunting down obscure pointer bugs... not in your own time anyways

But well... that's my 2 cents and it's already ignored by the OP so why am I even writing this..

 

 

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December 14, 2013 10:23:54 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Lol GeomanNL I'm not ignoring you. But umm Kyro has so much more weight with that Stardock tag next to his name

 

And coding in a language the does all the hard parts for you does not seem to be a good idea. 

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December 14, 2013 10:45:23 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Looking for career advice

Only commenting on the title of this thread. As I have no experience with the program language needed for games. 

A career is what to have to decide and than go and achieve it. It's one thing to know some program language but it's another to know all the language needed to make and do something good. I would suggest you use some of the advice given especially from kyro as he is a SD employee and knows what it took to be one. Being able to do something isn't the same as being able to do it all with what you want to do. Sometimes you have to do things for free to get ahead and have things to add to the resume. 

I'm by know means an expert and i'm pretty old. Can tell you I decided to be what I was and worked very hard at it to be the best. It paid off in the long run. I think you know what you really need to do and have some of it now. If making games is what you want then go after it no matter what it takes. I do think if you know more of the programing language you will also have many other opportunities in other fields that you may also enjoy.

Whatever you decide I hope it works out for you. Not if but when you get stuck, work it out. One last thing. Every wants to say "I have a problem" Really there are only a very few actual problems that can't be solved. Everything else is just a situation, road block, etc. that has a solution. May take 5 minutes or 5 days but the solution is achieved.  

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December 14, 2013 11:22:56 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

One last remark: some games use C++ only for the core programming. The higher level logic goes into scripting languages like LUA.

Like Supreme Commander, that used a scripting language. I don't know why they did that... maybe to allow modding so that people could design their own units ?

Since you're interested in RTS, perhaps you should consider including a scripting lib into your game.

 

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December 14, 2013 1:00:27 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting DaveBax,
I would suggest you use some of the advice given especially from kyro as he is a SD employee and knows what it took to be one.

Eh, it's still just advice. I made a game or two years ago, but I'm just a forum admin here. Consumer software development is more stress than I need, so I gave up on trying to make a career of it. Though maybe if Brad's side projects go well I could revisit that in the future.

By day I'm a software architect in the banking industry. Though I spend more time fixing memory/performance problems in other peoples' managed code than designing anything, it seems like. So you can see how I would feel that managed languages aren't an 'easy button' for development.

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December 14, 2013 3:17:32 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting kryo,
Eh, it's still just advice.

I understand. Was just making a point that if you have a dream to become something then go for it all. If possible. Not for me I know that as I spend every morning trying to remember how to get out of bed. lol.

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December 14, 2013 7:40:30 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums
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