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Adrir 10-29-2008 02:54 PM

Theory & Practice - Your Skills & Using Them To Get Into The Industry
 
Theory & Practice - Your Skills & Using Them To Get Into The Industry
Adam Langridge, Senior R&D Engineer, Lionhead Studios


Foreword

Recently, I attended the GamesIndustry.biz Game Career Fair at the EuroGames Expo in London. As part of the event, several lecture sessions were arranged to help inspire and advise attendees. I would like to thank everyone who was involved in aranging the career fair and especially Adam for taking the time to give us a presentation.

Since the session had a general focus on programming and my main interest is coding the following notes are more applicable to aspiring programmers.

Introduction

Your skills can be broken down into various categories. The main categories include:
  • Theory - Core Hard Skills & Other Hard Skills
  • Practice - Soft Skills
  • Selling Yourself - CVs, Portfolios & Interviews

Theory

Core Hard Skills

Core skills are those that suit the following criteria:
  • Timeless
  • Broad
  • Industry Standard

Timeless skills are not likely to change dramatically within the next century and form the foundations of other skills. This can include topics such as mathematics and logic. Skills that cover a Broad range of topics or can be applied to a range of work responsibilities. Industry Standards are considered core skills since they are what the majority of companies are using. In order to have the opportunity to apply to a wide spectrum of companies you will need to pay attention to industry standards.

This can therefore include:
  • Mathematics
  • Logic
  • C++
  • Object-Orientated Programming
  • Data Structures

In order to reflect specialist interests, semi-core skills exist. These depend entirely on your chosen discipline. These can include:
  • Physics (Physics Programmer)
  • C#/Java (Prototyping, Tools Programmer)
  • HLSL/GLSL/Cg (Graphics Programmer, Technical Artist)
  • Assembly (Hardware-Based Optimisation)
  • Servers, Networking & Protocols (Network Programmer)
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI Programmer)
  • Graphics (Graphics Programmer)
  • Human-Computer Interaction (User Interface Programmer)

Note on Mathematics: Generally, programmers at Lionhead are expected to have a level of mathematical knowledge equivilent to A Level Mathematics with Discrete Maths and Mechanics.

Non Core Hard Skills

Non Core Skills include those that could be useful but not essential for a job. Sometimes they may be preferred by some companies. Sometimes they may provide an insight into other roles.

This can include:
  • IDEs (Visual Studio/NetBeans/Eclipse)
  • Frameworks (XNA)
  • Console Experience
  • Scripting (Python/Lua)
  • 3D Modelling
  • Audio
  • Design
  • Art

Non-Core skills can help you alot when it comes to making a killer demo on your own, however do not spend too much focus on them as they could distract you from developing your core skills.

Theory

Soft Skills

Just as important as your hard skills, are your soft skills. Today, games are made by large teams. Billions of people. You might be spending a large ammount of time on a project too. Your soft skills reflect how you conduct yourself and help you to work well with others.

Soft Skills include:
  • Enthusiasm/Passion
  • Written & Oral Communication
  • Time Management
  • Inter-Personal
  • Learning
  • Flexibility
  • Respect
  • Honesty
  • Independent Drive
  • Humility
  • Leadership
  • Quality
  • Willingness to Learn

There are many others that could be useful. Communication is particularly important for a programmer as you could potentially be spending a significant portion of time communicating either through meetings, documentation, or direct interaction with colleagues.

Selling Yourself

CV
  • Emphasise your education - Core skills at the top, reinforce skills with certification
  • Concise - Get to the point
  • Use targeted CVs, never use a blanket CV
  • Help - Use agencies cautiously, apply direclty where possible

Portfolio / Demo
  • Get a finished project
  • Equal in importance to degree
  • Less is More
  • Grab Attention, Do Only A Few Levels
  • Choose something exciting or original
  • Ensure it is easy to use or install
  • Group Work is really nice but...ensure that you only highlight the work that you did
  • Focus on Games
  • Get the Guys Excited

Interviews
  • The interview is the last hurdle.
  • Make a good impression
  • Research Companies
  • Relax
  • Programming Test - Depends on Company, C++ & Maths,
  • Be Honest, Be Yourself
  • Don't Give Up
  • Don't Take it Personally
  • Ask For Feedback

ndimucci 10-29-2008 05:04 PM

Great post, perhaps a sticky?

Thanks!

TG1 10-29-2008 10:45 PM

Sticky it is :)

Thanks Adrir

Duckman 10-30-2008 08:24 AM

::claps and bows simultaneously:: This is awesome! Thank you! :)

rkurata 12-16-2009 11:06 PM

Thanks for the summary. Much appreciated.

poweeezy 03-30-2010 07:17 PM

Are you saying Programmers should have As in Maths cause I have had a few Bs and tiny Cs.?

yaustar 03-31-2010 12:33 AM

Where did he say that?

Adrir 03-31-2010 06:55 AM

An "A Level" is the name of a qualification in the UK.

tsloper 03-31-2010 08:08 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Adrir (Post 9704)
Generally, programmers at Lionhead are expected to have a level of mathematical knowledge equivilent to A Level Mathematics with Discrete Maths and Mechanics.
...
An "A Level" is the name of a qualification in the UK.

Can you explain more what it means? It's kind of like NEWTs in Harry Potter or something, right?

In the American university system, freshman (first year) classes are numbered in the 100's, sophomore (second year) classes are numbered in the 200's, junior (third year) classes are numbered in the 300's, senior (final undergrad year) classes are numbered in the 400's, and graduate (for Masters degree) classes are numbered in the 500's. That doesn't mean only freshmen can take 100-level classes, and that doesn't mean freshmen can take only 100-level classes.

How do "A Level" classes fit in, how can Americans understand what "A Level" means?

kenshee 03-31-2010 08:34 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by tsloper (Post 19203)
Can you explain more what it means? It's kind of like NEWTs in Harry Potter or something, right?

They are something like the NEWT's, as most university degree programs are only 3 years in the UK or 3 + 1 including co-op, the A'levels can be considered as the first year (sophomore) of an American University as most first year courses can be skipped by transferring A'Level grades as transfer credits.


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