Why yes, the grass is greener

I am probably going to sound wrapped up in myself in this post, so I will try to keep it brief. Programmer Andy Bastable writes in #altdevblogaday, reprinted on Gamasutra, about how gameplay programmers deserve love, too.

Gameplay programmer is a bit of fuzzy term, depending on the company it can cover anyone from the low-level C coder who just happens to handle some of the game mechanics to the LUA scripter or the technical designer who uses flowcharts to create interactivity. Needless to say, wherever the work of individuals starts or ends the discipline is necessary for game development. Without the gameplay programmer we would not have a game. But I have heard the story about envying “the hardcore graphics coder” a bit too often now, and I think the envy (and occasional backlash) is misplaced.

Sure, it is nice to be in a position where you seldom have to wait for someone else to implement a feature that you need in order to do your job – usually you are the one developing the features. And “hardcore graphics” being what they are, we tend to get specialized and often get a lot of freedom to work the way we feel is best since people are reluctant to tell you how to do your job when they do not understand it. There’s also this. Tobias once jokingly told me he loved being a graphics programmer because it had this reputation of being difficult so you got many interesting offers when, really, any programmer could do it.

But the obfuscation is also the catch, and envying a graphics programmer seems to me a bit like envying the engineer who puts the hardware in the console together; it is a fundamentally different task and you loose some of the things by doing it. It is often very hard to explain to someone who is not a programmer just what your contribution really was. A lot of the work is just painstakingly trying to widen the box just a little so artists can have slightly fewer restraints, oftentimes you are so far away from the game that people expect you to not care about it.

By no means is it a bad job, but it is different. I know a lot of engine programmers who hardly play games at all, maybe if this was part of the image of the graphics coder we would see less misplaced envy.

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Posted on Sep 07/11 by Saint and filed under General game development | No Comments »