Video Game Career Tips

I love video games and the prospect of making a career out of them has always been a dream that I believed too good to be true. However, the game industry has been on the rise for decades and increasingly proves to be a real career choice with the added benefit that even a small team can produce something that stands out. With this dream in mind, I’ve read the following article on how to get started in the game industry with advice and interviews from current game developers.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/mar/20/how-to-get-into-the-games-industry-an-insiders-guide

The first question asked to the panel is “What is the best way to start making game?” To which many emphasized the importance of learning the basics of coding. While some game development tools allow you to get started with little coding knowledge, its unavoidable that you eventually learn a programming language or two, C++ is recommended specifically. Game developments tools such as unity, RPG maker, and game maker studio help significantly with transferable concepts of what goes into making a game.

Another question was “If someone is looking to set up a small studio themselves – what advice would you give them?” A few panelists strongly advised not starting a studio early on and that a better choice would be getting experience in an already established studio before gaining the confidence to branch off on your own. However, if you were to start a studio you absolutely need a great programmer as well as an artist. Also it is very important that you have a team member who knows the business of the industry. Byron Atkinson-Jones shares that “the making of the game, that’s actually the easiest part. Managing things like business finances, making sure you can all eat regularly, marketing, PR, legal stuff, QA and selling the game once it’s done are the hardest.”

The next question asked was “Are there any key skills that people should have or things they should know that aren’t obvious or aren’t taught on design/coding courses?” To which many of the panelists stressed the importance of communication within a team. Learning to be a nice person while being open to criticism for the sake of the project are invaluable traits that cannot be taught in schools. You could be very skilled and experienced but if you don’t get along with group members and refuse to communicate effectively, your project will suffer greatly.

The last question ill go over in this post is “Is a degree in computer games programming or design a necessity?” The short answer from most of the panelists is no, you can go a long way with passion and devotion to video games as long as you have the portfolio to back it up. Aj Grand-Scrutton expresses that “a degree is effectively gravy compared to an actual portfolio” emphasizing that real experience dominates over just having a degree.

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Getting Experience

As a junior in college majoring in CS, naturally I cannot stop worrying about what is going to happen to me after I finish college. I recognize that I am not the best programmer in my major, there are plenty of colleagues I know with more experience, better grades, and stronger connections that will help move their career down the line. Comparatively, I worry about my own standing in the industry once we all graduate, so what am I to do? Firstly, enough self deprecating, I need some experience.

https://www.quora.com/How-do-you-get-a-programming-job-or-internship-if-you%E2%80%99re-a-sophomore-CS-major-but-dont-have-experience-How-do-you-choose-a-project-and-set-goals-for-it

This link is a question posted on quora.com asking how to get a job as a CS major in college with little experience outside the classroom, with advice from people currently in the field. The first person down the list of answers, Jane Huang, has particularly useful and calming advice. She goes over 5 points explaining how to answer this question, each of which can apply to various people with the same question.

Her first statement is meant to immediately disarm any person panicking and stressing out over what to do. She emphasizes that although it seems like life is hitting us fast, we are still very young and have plenty of time on our hands to gain experience with. She includes that interviewers will cut you some slack generally as they expect you to learn as you go.

Next she states that its very important to learn a framework, any framework. You can get by as long as you know either ruby on rails or django in python, since most frameworks are similar and you can adjust accordingly after you learn at least one. This isn’t a particularly daunting task, you can learn django in about a week if you practice it about three hours a day. It is also important to just start working on a project that you can manage, it doesn’t have to be original or groundbreaking, just finishing a project is good experience and something you can show as knowledge outside the classroom.

Lastly she makes the point that you might not enjoy coding, and should consider another field you might enjoy more. This isn’t meant to demotivate anybody in the field, you can do it if you believe you can do it. Her point is that if you are afraid switching your major too late and hate the idea of having to spend another year in college to make up for it, imagine spending many more years in a field you find you don’t like and dragging yourself to work every day to support yourself or your future family. Conversely, you don’t have to absolutely love programming in order to succeed professionally. It isn’t required that you have an extreme passion for programming, so really don’t think about it too much but don’t commit to it if you honestly don’t like it.

Most Used Programming Languages

https://www.inc.com/larry-kim/10-most-popular-programming-languages-today.html

 

This article lists the top ten most commonly used languages for programmers in the real world industry. It also talks about each one for about a paragraph explaining its strengths and weaknesses, as well as what specific fields of programming use each. Since I am still learning programming, it makes sense to see which ones are going to be in higher demand as i seek jobs after college. Knowing more languages is like having more tools under your belt to solve a problem, and being able to put more down on your resume will set you apart from other candidates.

The programming language with the number 1 spot in the top ten list, is java. Java is mainly used for building server-side applications, video games and mobile apps. It is the most commonly used language because a lot of developers start by learning java first, since it is fairly user friendly. Java excels at being able to run on multiple platforms, as it is designed with the concept of WORA (write once, read anywhere).

The second most popular language is python. This is interesting news to me because I’m not very familiar with python, so now i might just look into it a bit further. Python is a general framework for mostly anything involving coding, you can find it anywhere and write pretty much anything using it. It is credited as the easiest programming language to learn because of its uncomplicated syntax, so if you already know a language its very easy to adapt to python.

Moving a bit further down the list, number five is JavaScript, which is entirely separate from the language of java. JavaScript is mainly used for online web applications. This language makes it very easy for developers to create interactive elements to their website and allows a lot of online customization options.

Also pertaining to web development, number six is PHP (personal home page, renamed to Hypertext Preprocessor). PHP is a very heavy duty language, used for dynamic big data websites, making it a great language to learn for any aspiring web developer. Another great feature is that PHP is a completely open source language, meaning the community has created many free modules anybody can use to perfectly fine tune their program to fit their exact needs.

The last but not least language on the list is C. C is the basic programming language that modern object oriented languages such as java and C# were built off of. The advantage to knowing C is that you have an understanding of the bare-bones of your code, being very close to how the machine reads it. C is more of an academic language, taught in colleges but not very used in the industry, although the knowledge and experience you gain from learning C you can use anywhere.

Podcast Highlights

https://www.codingblocks.net/podcast/clean-architecture-programming-paradigms/

This podcast, coding blocks episode 69, talks about various aspects of coding paradigms. So in this post ill summarize some of the topics i found interesting and insightful.

firstly, before their main discussion they talked about a question from a viewer that is definitely worth mentioning. The viewer is a project manager with the question: “if there is a room full of programmers working on a project, and another room with just a handful of programmers, which room is more productive and why?” The general consensus from each of the hosts concluded that there is a lot of valuable communication that gets streamlined through having just a few people, and blocked by having too many people. However, there is a certain threshold where obviously 300 people can do more work than say 50. So the answer really depends on the situation, which is up to the project manager to decide based on the project itself.

Skipping a few minutes down the podcast, around 40 minutes they start discussing interfaces. Allen states his basic rule for using interfaces, where if your coding something that doesn’t have any behavior, just a bunch of data, there is no reason to use an interface. In any other case however, if your coding something that has any behavior at all, it should be an interface. He says that even if you never use that interface for inheritance, the effort isn’t wasted in assuming that you might use it for something later. Joe jumps in by saying that using interfaces makes it much easier to change or debug your code with less volatility, overall if you don’t know if you should or shouldn’t make an interface, its probably a good bet that you should.

Later on towards the middle-end of the podcast, they start talking about the open closed principle. In this concept, changes can be made to code only by extending it and nothing can change the original directly, in this way all code is completely additive. This concept is very good because literally perfect base code is created and cannot be changed in any way, but still widely used. Joe remarks that some companies actually have a problem where developers are too scared to change base code that they may not fully understand, so they create a copy of it and only change the copy which leads to clutter. however, when done correctly, this concept is extremely efficient and easy because the coder doesn’t have to rewrite certain segments.

I recommend listening to this podcast, these guys are easy to listen to and know a lot about many different subjects of computer science. I’m sure you can learn something new with every podcast as these three hosts have both fun and educational banter.

Software Development Paths

https://simpleprogrammer.com/2017/07/17/software-development-career-paths/

This detailed article by John Sonmezn excerpt of one chapter out of the book “The Complete Software Developers Career Guide.” This chapter explains the different career choices available in the software development field. This is important to me because I am a junior in college, on my way to a bachelors degree in computer science with a software concentration, so planning out my future from here on out is vital. There are three types of software developers described here; Career developers, Freelancers, and Entreprogrammers.

Career developers are the most common type, where the developer is working for a company where they are paid regularly. All programmers either already are career developers, or they are working towards establishing their position as career developers. This path is pretty standard, a developer works at a company, gets promoted within that company or switches to a new one, then eventually retires.

Freelancers are a more risky choice, as their income is tied to the amount of work they can find themselves. A freelancer doesn’t work for one company particularly, and you could say a freelancer is his own boss, however to be successful you need to produce a quality service to anybody who hires you, which means taking down their intentions very carefully.

Entreprogrammers is a term for a mixture between a programmer, and an entrepreneur. In this path, a programmer uses his skills to develop some marketable software to sell to clients. An entreprogrammer could writing their own application, create training videos or tutorials, writing a book, or even having a successful blog.

After choosing a broad type of software development, there are several concentrations within to choose from. Some of these include web development, video games, data science, and automation. Some developers choose to have multiple specializations, though it is imperative to at least choose one.

Web Development is the most populated specialization for programmers, where developers create various web based applications. Within this specialization there is front end, middleware, and back end technologies for the developer to work on. More specifically, this pertains to the user interface, business logic, and databases of the application. Developers who are skilled in all three of these technologies are called “full stack developers.”

Software development in video games is a viable career option, though it sounds like a dream to most. As a result, there is a lot of competition which makes it a challenging field to be successful in. The trade off for the amount of hard effort put into this specialization, is the satisfaction of working in video games.

Data science is a new and lucrative path where a data scientist uses various skills and tools to analyze large amounts of data to be able to draw conclusions. Often times, software programming experience is helpful because a data scientist can write specific programs to organize the data in order to make better predictions.

Object Oriented Mistakes

https://www.codingblocks.net/?powerpress_pinw=2994-podcast

This week I listened to the CodingBlocks Podcast Episode 67 titled “Object Oriented Mistakes.” Over about two hours the three hosts, Allen, Michael, and Joe discuss common mistakes and various programming problems that are easy to run into. I chose to listen to and write about this podcast because all of the programming I’ve done so far has been object oriented, so this was an easy opportunity for me to learn.

I picked up on one example they used early on while talking about the concept of BaseBean. BaseBean is when a class is implemented without falling under the category of “is a” for the parent. The example was if you were creating a car class including physics based attributes such as speed and weight, then creating a bullet class that inherits from it. This saves time in the short term since a bullet has attributes like speed and weight as well, however, a bullet is not a car and therefore you can easily run into problems later. Say you now wanted to put a new attribute into a car, like seat belts which no bullet should ever have yet it is inherited anyway. This can also be confusing for other developers looking at your code, assuming that bullet is some type of weird new very very small fast car for ant people. A good work around this common mistake is to only inherit things that fall under the “is a” category for the parent.

Next the hosts talked about how it is common to wrongly call the super method. Having to call super means that there is something in the parent class that is meant to be changed by its children. A common inefficiency occurs when a programmer sees they must remember to always change some common inherited method from the super class. Quoted by Martin Fowler, “Whenever you have to remember to do something every time, that’s a sign of a bad API.” This can be fixed by implementing template methods with the concept of the Hollywood principle, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.”

So what I’ve learned from this podcast is in the future, I will remember specific common errors like these and know how to solve them. There are many other topics the hosts of CodingBlocks talk about in this episode, so i suggest you go listen to it if you want to hear more. Their content is interesting, their personalities are likable, and they have plenty of episodes to choose from with more continuously coming out.

 

Software Community and Toxicity

http://www.codesimplicity.com/post/kindness-and-code/#more-1673

This week, I read this blog post titled “kindness and code” authored by Max Kanat-Alexander on his blog, Code Simplicity. The post is about the toxicity of the software development community and Alexander is trying to help improve it by explaining the importance of kindness and treating fellow developers with respect. I chose this post to write about because I am interested in improving the typical harshness people tend to deliver to each other on the internet. As somebody who plays a lot of remarkably toxic video games such as league of legends or call of duty, its easy to see how that type of bad behavior can also exist in software development. In fact, you can find horrible behavior common in any field regarding random community communication on the internet.

I believe people tend to lash out over the internet more often than in real life. This is because they are mostly anonymous and care less about good manners or reputation when it involves somebody they may not ever meet again. This allows somebody who is given any slight reason to judge you, the justification to barrage you with hate. This type of behavior is pointless as Alexander writes “There is no value to being cruel to other people in the development community” as it seems like an instinctual reaction for some people to point out anothers flaw just to make them feel bad about it. Take an example of any normal person trying to learn something new for the first time, either with a video game or in software development, and they make a mistake. If another person online is able to see their mistake, they might be aggravated by it enough to insult and verbally abuse the poor person who is just trying to learn.

Usually this occurs when somebody more experienced looks down on a newer person however, not necessarily. As the internet matures like an older brother, more and more experienced people are picking up the habit of lending healthy advice down towards the still learning user, and that is what Max’s blog is about. Coming from an experienced point of view, he offers techniques of constructive criticism to the software development community in hopes that they will help each other rather than judge each other. While today it is common sense to simply ignore and accept the inevitability of horrible comments on the internet, it is becoming more of a growing trend that not everybody on the internet has something hurtful to say. That means progress! Even though it is difficult to imagine an internet without any angry anonymous trolls waiting to insult your every move, I believe the internet community is getting better and better every day.