WHEN PROGRAMMING IS MORE THAN JUST CODE
As technology has evolved, so has programming. Previously in video game history, programmers often found themselves doing many aspects of game development. However, as hardware and software improved so did player expectation. Games have become increasingly more complex using high-end graphics and artificial intelligence to enhance the user experience so resulting in a multidisciplinary team approach.
A game programmer writes the code that brings a video game to life. They work closely with producers and other departments including game designers, game artists and audio etc, to translate the vision into a playable game. Being the one implementing the core feature you not only need to know the limits of the engine and tech being used but you also need to be able to communicate and collaborate with other disciplines. Visions and expectations are often high and the window of time often narrow.
So, the role of the programmer is not just about code. One of the most important aspects of the role is production management which involves explaining technical concepts, ideas and information to people with varying levels of technical knowledge. As a programmer, we interface with several departments such as Art, Design, Production, Animation and Audio, all of who speak in various languages depending on their department. It’s important to relay information to those within these departments clearly and without jargon.
Successful collaboration of a project with a client can depend on their understanding of the work. It’s always a good idea to find out what experience they have in the type of game being created and even games in general as well as how detail oriented they are. This allows for better communication and expectation management. Transparency is important too as it will improve relations, reduce misunderstanding and help with gaining approvals and achieving deadlines.
The core of successful production management of any project comes down to goal clarification, managing expectations and taking ownership of tasks. However in order for this to truly be successful its important to have good and clear communication to ensure that the right support is in place for the team to meet those goals and learn quickly from failure and success. Whilst communication is an important skill to have to help your non-technical co-workers, coincidentally, it can also help you fix a problem. By breaking jobs down into simple tasks and asking simple questions can help to find problems and solutions.
As you can see, programming is not purely about writing code. It’s not just technical as when working with a variety of disciplines its important to be able to work as a team and with those who are not technically minded. Although there are numerous departments involved, each has the same goal and that is to make the game the best it can be and to market.