School Project Interview: 14 questions on Game Development :)

Hey guys!

I need to interview people who work in the field that I'm interested in pursuing, which is in my case Game Development/Design. I spoke to @dislekcia (who has been super kind and helpful) and he told me to post my questions here, if anyone wants to answer them.

These questions were originally made for employees working at a company that I would be job-shadowing, but if you are self-employed or don't have an official "title", just say whatever suits you. You don't have to answer all of them. Your answers can be short or long, I don't mind! Any help is really appreciated. :)

1. What is your official position within the company?
2. What do you do day per day within the company?
3. How long have you been working here?
4. What did you study in order to qualify for this job and how long did it take you?
5. What did you do in order to earn experience required for this job?
6. Have you learnt new things while in this position?
7. Was this position easily available or in very high demand?
8. What are some qualities in a person that are important for this career?
9. What can a high-schooler do in order to gain the edge over others who want to pursue this career?
10. Are you satisfied with this job? Why or why not?
11. Is it easy doing this job? Why or why not?
12. Was this career your first choice?
13. Does this job give you enough work/home balance?
14. Do you think that pursuing this career is a good choice?

Thank you for answering!

Comments

  • edited
    Welcome to MGSA!

    1. What is your official position within the company?
    I work at Free Lives. My official position is "Game Developer", which I chose myself to be purposefully vague (but isn't helpful at all to answering interviews, unless you want to get into why). For most of my career, however, I advertised myself as a "Technical Artist", so I'll be answering most of the questions wearing that hat.

    2. What do you do day per day within the company?
    A lot of the time I make art assets for our games. Sometimes I write tools or shaders, sometimes it's marketing material, sometimes it's prototyping something that I find interesting, and sometimes it's just learning something that I find cool that we might be able to use later. In a larger team, the things I'd do would likely be much narrower, but in a smaller team people tend to do lots of different things.

    3. How long have you been working here?
    I started working here back in 2014, but left to work overseas for a while. I didn't enjoy that job, so I returned last year. I've been working in the game industry for 8.5 years, and at Free Lives for about 3 of them.

    4. What did you study in order to qualify for this job and how long did it take you?
    I posted work on MGSA fairly regularly, and was building a portfolio and showreel based on the work I'd done previously. In it were bits of art, interesting shaders, an auto-rigger and some pipeline tools. Free Lives at the time was particularly interested in the shader- and tech art-related skills, because it wanted to have the option of expanding the sorts of art that the studio could do to look more expensive and fancy.

    When I first got into games as an intern years ago, I had an art portfolio that had a game character and some game assets with breakdowns, and a lot of miscellaneous art (a traditionally-drawn comic, some 3D renders, some digital illustrations and some photography).

    In my view, studios have only ever cared that I could do what my showreel or portfolio claims I can do, and they've only ever been interested in me because of what's in my showreel or portfolio. I have friends who got BA postgrad degrees who struggled to find work, and others who found work right out of high school because they were already doing interesting things.

    I do have a 3-year BSC in Computational and Applied Maths, and a diploma in Visual Communication (it was 2 years of a 3 year BA degree; I was top student for two years before dropping out). There were parts of both degrees that were interesting and useful, but it was a very indirect path. I don't think I'd recommend someone study what I studied unless they weren't in a hurry, and had a lot of money to spend on an indirect path. (But I'm not sure if there's a direct path either. Tech art is pretty niche, so few places think to teach it. There's one local place that claimed to, but in my view it did an awful job of it.) I think most people who end up as tech artists started off being artists and gradually picked up some programming experience on the side, or vice versa.

    5. What did you do in order to earn experience required for this job?
    When I had no work experience, I interned at a game studio over my university holidays. Those holidays were really long, and I figured if I worked over my holidays, then by the time most other people graduated from a 3 year degree, I would technically have squeezed in almost an extra year in work experience. When I couldn't find internships, I set myself personal projects that I'd work on -- there'd typically be some game art competition happening somewhere online, or an online course that I'd sign up for.

    6. Have you learnt new things while in this position?
    I learn new things all of the time. Part of it is because game technology is constantly progressing, so there's always new stuff to learn. Some of it is because I'm never satisfied with my art, and try to be better. Some of it is just from working with people who're better than me at other things. Some of it is because there are always new problems to solve: each game has its own distinctive requirements depending on the kind of game, its art direction, and whom I'm working with.

    7. Was this position easily available or in very high demand?
    Technical artists are still in very high demand. In its broadest sense, technical art describes someone who does some amount of art, and some amount of scripting/programming. Within tech art in games, however, there are typically four sub-genres: rigging (e.g. making a skeleton that is used to animate a character), tools (e.g. something that lets you scatter objects in a world instead of manually placing them), FX (e.g. magic spells, muzzle flashes and explosions) and UI. I'm confident that in over 90% of game studios that post on job boards online, at one of the jobs is for a tech art position (it's just maybe not called that, because of the different sub-genres). It's difficult to find people who're interested in both art and programming, and it's not something you typically find in a course.

    As a personal side note, although there's high demand in terms of job postings, I don't believe that there's a high demand for "junior"-looking work. I don't think it's good enough to be able to do a bit of art and a bit of programming; I think you at the very least have to be a competent artist with an interest in programming, or a competent programmer with an interest in art. I think this is likely reflects why most tech artists start out as just artists, or just programmers, and pick up the other skills when they're already working.

    8. What are some qualities in a person that are important for this career?
    I answer more of this below in 13, but I think it's important that it's something you're really interested in. If you're fiddling with game prototypes for as much time as you spend watching Netflix just because you're having fun, that's a really good sign.

    But, as with most creative careers, it's also quite risky, especially if you're coming at it from the art-side. It sort of sucks to mention this as a "quality", but having access to decent internet, funds for online art courses, and funds to survive the initial period of internships and poor junior salaries would be helpful.

    9. What can a high-schooler do in order to gain the edge over others who want to pursue this career?
    Unity and Unreal are free. Blender is free. Visual Studio is free. There are educational licenses for Houdini, Maya and 3DS Max. Pencils and paper are very cheap. There's nothing stopping you from making games, or making art, already. Making small projects, taking part in game jams (there are online ones as well as local ones) give you some early experience, and show that you're interested enough in it to pursue it without a teacher or lecturer first telling you that it's something you need to learn.

    10. Are you satisfied with this job? Why or why not?
    Yes. I have a lot of interests and get bored easily. Making games on a small team helps with both of those.

    11. Is it easy doing this job? Why or why not?
    No. Figuring out what would be fun to make, fun to play, would confidently well very well, and is within the capability of your team's skill and resources, is hard.

    12. Was this career your first choice?
    Yes. I took a while to get to it though, because I initially didn't think it was possible to make a career out of making video games. I figured, eh, if I can't do what I'd love to do, then I'll study what'll likely make me the most money. I went through actuarial science and applied maths (the latter of which pushed me towards investment banking) before being super depressed imagining doing those for the rest of my life, fled to art for a while intending to be a 3D artist, and then discovered that South African game studios actually existed and had some really solid people working at them.

    13. Does this job give you enough work/home balance?
    In general, the game industry is quite notorious for working people quite hard, and this is common to almost all creative careers. My friends who work in advertising have had a lot more crunch than I have.

    In my career personally though, I've seldom worked very long hours as a job. I think I could count on my fingers (and maybe toes) the number of Saturdays/Sundays I've worked as overtime in the past 8 years for an employer. However, I think I could count on my fingers (and maybe toes) the number of weekends in which I didn't do some form of creative thing either: I paint, I take part in game jams, I sculpt, I write, and I read blogs, papers and articles about other people making art and video games. I do these because I enjoy them as hobbies anyway, not because my employer asks me to do them, but they do benefit my work too.

    I think it's easy to be exploited as a creative person if you're not careful, but I also think it'd be difficult to do well if you don't want to do some form of creative pursuit after hours.

    14. Do you think that pursuing this career is a good choice?
    For me, absolutely.
    Thanked by 2yayokb konman
  • 1. What is your official position within the company?
    I am a private game developer. Hence, I am my own company or something like that.

    2. What do you do day per day within the company?
    I am basically stepping into my projects as often as I can and doing as much as I can. I accidentally chose my two projects to focus on need procedural generation, and that is what is slowing me currently. Some days I just read the code for a few minutes, some days I change one or two lines of code, and others I sit for hours when an idea hits and I can focus on something impressive in my ideas.

    3. How long have you been working here?
    I have been private for a few years, I did do internships at some companies (like Luma Arcade, and Microsoft for instance, I just have less memory of those times). I have been dreaming of game dev as a job for the last ~14 years.

    4. What did you study in order to qualify for this job and how long did it take you?
    IT in high school, Computer Science and Math majors at university. I don't have my degree yet though, I learned programming as my dad was teaching himself as a younger kid. Mostly, it is just for me to practice programming currently, and hopefully, my ideas will be awesome when they are playable. I just need to practice programming as often as I can, and it is enjoyable in game development.

    5. What did you do in order to earn experience required for this job?
    I went to meetups (like at rAge, or the monthly meets at Microsoft), took part in "jams" we have had (though rarely now), and when I feel something awesome in the theme I join things like Ludum Dare.

    6. Have you learnt new things while in this position?
    We can always learn new things. That's why I am learning proper procedural generation for the first time. I didn't experience that at all while at university so far. It is awesome to go "I would like to do X and Y" and then research it for myself and try things out. It really helps the learning cycles.

    7. Was this position easily available or in very high demand?
    I can't really share more than what I have seen and read on the news, though, it is somewhat skewed. Considering my friends, and lots of other people are quite hooked on games. Especially new, interesting, ones. The news reports have been showing that companies wanting developers is picking up a lot every few months. That isn't in game development though, I think that is slightly more difficult. It would be easier to get a game development career through an international company at the moment. Though, that's unless you are financially stable at the moment and have a game idea and plan that people already want to pay for.

    We have quite a few game development companies here in SA, they just have employment limits for themselves. It has to do with project sizes and things, it would currently be easiest to learn as much as you can so you can get an international game dev job.

    8. What are some qualities in a person that are important for this career?
    Having interesting thoughts, and creativity. I am not great at art, but I love challenging puzzle projects (that's why I am making a puzzle game and a roguelike). If you love being creative in drawing things (and one day also animating things, and such) you could be enjoying game development.

    If you get completely comfortable with programming and you enjoy some games, you could see you love doing certain aspects of game development as hobbies (my hobby isn't just those games I mentioned, I am playing with DirectX 12 from the ground up). That being said, however, it is important to remember that you might not enjoy game development. It is easiest to try it for yourself for a while, then you will understand if it is the programming you would like to move into.

    9. What can a high-schooler do in order to gain the edge over others who want to pursue this career?
    Make it your hobby and pass time, I'm sure you can understand that. I finished work this weekend, my parents are out of town, my friends can't do anything, I don't feel like just watching TV or playing PC games. Since I am a Computer Science major student it is awesome for me to practice programming. I love making games, that means learning things with programming are fun. "I want to use a database to store the save files", then I learn everything to do with databases and enjoy it as if it isn't such a "hardcore" computer science idea. I remember it easier because whenever I touch databases I remember the game I created that saved files in a database (for some daft reason I chose).

    10. Are you satisfied with this job? Why or why not?
    Yes, however, that is since I suffered very unfortunate circumstances (I can share them privately for the school project alone, however, we will keep that private). For me, this year I need to learn completely new things regularly, and I have been coping with that since I have such a comfortable exercise to "relax" and "stop working". Sure, it is also "working" on games, but I love it and the time I spend feels awesome for me.

    11. Is it easy doing this job? Why or why not?
    Yes, and no. We can always help you get into it easily, then help you slowly but surely make your first game, and so on. It isn't easy as game ideas aren't quite like that. As you add anything it becomes more difficult. Like me adding procedural generation to my existing ideas? You might be close to the end of a project, move to the next feature you will be adding and then it becomes a stumbling block as it slows you down a lot.

    Consider this example. I make a game state where all the machinery is working in a factory. You make a machine that you can play Tetris on, let's call it "state 1". You want it to open the new play "state 2" to play Tetris when the player interacts with that computer. We don't want the update of the "state 1" as that would fake us clicking a button on "state 1"s screens, we only want the "update" from "state 2" but the other machinery in our factory should be updated since we are playing this game while waiting for "copper to smelt" and it is slightly boring as it slowly heats up and melts. That state difference just adds a bit of complexity. It gives reasons for learning things like that, which is awesome, and makes it a bit more fun to look at things like threading. You can always find interesting things to learn, they just might be quite difficult. That's why it is more towards the "no", you can enjoy it and not worry about the difficulties, however, it isn't completely easy on its own.

    12. Was this career your first choice?
    I have wanted to be a full-time game developer from when I first learned to programme (at around 12 or 13).

    13. Does this job give you enough work/home balance?
    Not quite, as the computer that I use is at home, and obviously, I live here. So I'm not sure about this.

    14. Do you think that pursuing this career is a good choice?
    It is as good as pursuing any career. If you absolutely love making games when you first experience that you will potentially be just like me and go "I would love to pursue that as my career in the future".

    When I was a student at Wits and helped out in the computer labs. We had a high school bring their students to see what can happen at any department at the university for their subject choices (at grade 10 if I remember correctly?). Everyone was confused how we could get them interested in programming as the students that were coming had no experience using computers yet. Us as students suggested making a game using scratch, in the afternoon they were free to go back to any department they liked and we had tons coming back to the coputer labs we used as they loved the fact they could program and make games there. It was awesome.

    So yes, you might love it, then just come into it and have some fun!
    Thanked by 2yayokb konman
  • edited
    A perspective of an indie developer with no interest in making game dev a career where you do not own the game yourself and you're making it for a company/someone else.

    1. What is your official position within the company?
    I do game development as a hobby, but would swap it for doing game development as a career anyday in place of a professional career of 23+ years doing corporate software engineering in many, many industries. Why swap? Because it is creative and fullfilling. Why not swap? Because risk-wise (aka paying the bills) game development is financially not viable for too many reasons.

    2. What do you do day per day within the company?
    I sometimes wake up at 4am and then code game prototypes, afterwards leaving for a day job doing corporate software development work. I then return home and spend at least an hour or two on prototypes (weekends, usually 10+ hours per day), be it adding a feature, tweaking something, anything creative or simply watching motivational youtube videos
    about game dev. Game dev is extremely fun and fulfilling, but needs to be carefully considered as a career option.

    3. How long have you been working here?
    I have been making game prototypes (MonoGame/Unity) for just over 5 years. A lot shorter than my professional corporate development career. I have made no money doing game dev. Not a cent. I have no regrets.

    4. What did you study in order to qualify for this job and how long did it take you?
    My 4 year B.Tech degree in IT (software development) helps a lot with the coding aspects of making a game.
    Although most of the coding knowledge was actually gained, after the fact, in industry making software for corporates.
    I do regret not focussing on making art or understanding marketing as well. Indie developers need to be multi disciplined if they are to succeed in it as a career, especially as an independent. If you want to focus on it as a career, then you need to specialise in a specific area that employers value (programming/art etc)

    5. What did you do in order to earn experience required for this job?
    Worked in corporates making non-gaming related software. Playing many,many games is an easy way to gain experience as a game designer.

    6. Have you learnt new things while in this position?
    Absolutely. Game development is a journey, it is very hard and it takes an extreme amount of time to master.
    You will learn new things all the time. Which is fun and rewarding.

    7. Was this position easily available or in very high demand?
    As a hobbyist game developer it is easily available, professionally not so. I don't think I would seek a position in any company unless it is my own. Corporates being the reason. You won't ever own your work that way or have the creative freedom to make the decisions for where you want to go creatively.

    8. What are some qualities in a person that are important for this career?
    Be stubborn. Be driven. Be passionate. Don't compete with others, compete with yourself. Be unique.

    9. What can a high-schooler do in order to gain the edge over others who want to pursue this career?
    Gain experience as often as possible. Don't wait for an employer to afford the opportunity for that experience.
    Gain it on your own first and then use whatever employers can offer you to grow. Or preferably do both at the same time.

    10. Are you satisfied with this job? Why or why not?
    Yes, very. Being able to create and share any creative work is extremely rewarding.

    11. Is it easy doing this job? Why or why not?
    No, NO. I have regrets. Despite the creative, enjoyable work and the long hours, dedication and isolation has a huge, HUGE impact on other things in ones life. Family, friends, relations all suffer if one is truely focused and driven, selfish perhaps.

    12. Was this career your first choice?
    No, although games were the very reason I first became interested in programming in the first place.
    I cannot tell you how many of the best corporate programmers I have met that said the same, but they have never considered making a basic game/prototype. It's weird.

    13. Does this job give you enough work/home balance?
    Nope. I feel deep remorse at giving so much attention to game dev at the expense of my relationship with a loving partner who supports me unconditionally and all the times I passed on an opportunity to hang out with friends because of it.

    14. Do you think that pursuing this career is a good choice?
    No, not as a career. For simple financial reasons. Start doing it as a hobby/part-time and when you do find it is what you want to do and you have a real shot at it being financially viable, then consider it as a career.
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