Aug 29, 2019

How I became a Gameplay Programmer – Natalia’s story

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Working with games is a dream job for many. One of the people who has fulfilled this dream is Gameplay Programmer Natalia. In this article, she tells the story of how she got into the industry, what it means to be a gameplay programmer, and shares her best tips for people who want to work with games.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fortunate enough to know what my dream job is.

It all started with my uncle assembling a computer at our home in Russia sometime between 1998 and 1999, and then bringing us some games to play. One of these was the amazing adventure game Kyrandia: The Hand of Fate, which half of my family became obsessed with solving.

I think that I knew already then that I wanted to be part of the industry – a part of creating these games that I love so much. And a hundred or so games later, I knew for sure.

Today, I work as a Gameplay Programmer at Massive – the type of job I always dreamed of. So how did I get here?

Math and games

When I started university, I had an easy time choosing my path into programming, mainly because I was very good at math.

And even though it wasn’t a university course about specifically game programming, I took every opportunity to focus my projects on games, which allowed me to experiment and learn a lot of new exciting things within programming. It’s something I recommend to anyone interested in working with games: try to build up your knowledge about it any way you can!

I took every opportunity to focus my projects on games, which allowed me to experiment and learn a lot of new exciting things within programming.

After my Bachelor of Science in Information Systems, I decided to focus my expertise on games even more. And so, I started a master’s in game development in the UK.

This program was still focused on programming, but it also helped me get a broader idea of what it is like working as a team with different people who have their own ways of solving problems. I believe this is super useful knowledge no matter what job you do in the games industry!

From porting AAA to mobile to AAA

From there I got a job at a company that ported AAA games to Mac and Linux OS, but for different reasons I couldn’t stay there for very long. So, I came back home, got a little rest, and started looking for a new job.

After a few months, I’d found a job at a mobile game company, and I would like to say that that was my first real step into the games industry.

Being able to solve bigger issues in games helped me grow so much during a very short amount of time. All the coding, complex challenges, and social experience let me become a professional in my work.

All the coding, complex challenges, and social experience let me become a professional in my work.

I think it’s not really until the moment you see your knowledge and skills being used to craft something tangible that you truly understand what you are capable of.

The feeling when you are faced with a task that seems so complex and challenging that you must break your head a few times before finding a solution, but then you solve it … is unbelievable.

After working there for a while, I came to the realization that I wanted to work on a bigger game project. And by a random happenstance I stumbled upon a job ad from Massive, and I haven’t looked back since!

So, what does a Gameplay Programmer at Massive do?

Being a Gameplay Programmer means that you can work with a wide variety of tasks. It all depends on which part of the game you are working on! It can be anything from developing player movements, to creating mission systems which gives the players exact goals to accomplish.

Most of the time (at least when you’re working on a bigger project!) you will be mainly working on the back-end of the game, which means that you are creating tools for a specific usage of the engine.

One of my favorite things about my job is that I’m able to see things happen on the screen any time I change something. That means that I can see the immediate impact of everything I do, and the progress is super clear.

At Massive, for example, we work with our in-house Snowdrop engine, and my role is connected with creating specific features for the designers working in Snowdrop. In short, my job is to make sure that the designers have all the tools they need to fulfill any artistic ideas they might have.

One of my favorite things about my job is that I’m able to see things happen on the screen any time I change something. That means that I can see the immediate impact of everything I do, and the progress is super clear.

My top tips for aspiring gameplay programmers

  • Love solving puzzles. Practically everything about programming is about the process of finding solutions, and it’s important that you love that type of work.
  • Bear in mind who the user of your work is. Sometimes we can become too focused on getting things to just work, instead of getting it to work the way it should according to how it will be used.
  • Do it. Just do it. If you think you will enjoy programming a game, just try it out! You’ve got nothing to lose.

Interested in Programming?

  • Check out our open positions!
  • Learn more about the Snowdrop engine.
  • Watch our latest Inside Massive episode, which is all about Tech and Tools at Massive (and where you will also see Natalia!):

 

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