How To Get Into The Games Industry Part 1: Exclusinterview with Scott Harber
|Image from gamemob.com|
In terms of the required skills. It varies massively, depending on which field of the industry you wish to enter. The following list isn't exhaustive, but it covers the fields I know:
- Engineering: C++ and C# tend to the weapons of choice for most studios. Ideally, if you learn the fundamental principles behind software development (architecture, coding standards, optimisation, best practices for iteration, etc), then the actual language you learn becomes less relevant. The ability to adapt and develop and grow is also essential. As an engineer in the games industry, you'll often be given tasks that are outside your current sphere of knowledge, with the expectation that you can do the research and learn what you need to know in order to deliver within a given time frame (this is not a skill you can learn, you'll just need to have this!).
- Art: Most studios use Maya or 3DS Max for 3D art, and Photoshop for textures. But as an artist, you will be sat in front of a lot of bespoke tools and software and be expected to learn them quickly and use them well. So as with coding, learn the fundamentals and the software won't matter; Core art skills (i.e. visuals that don't involve a computer), an understanding of 3D modelling principles, optimisation (if a programmer doesn't have to chase you to get your art into budget, they will love you!), core computer graphics skills (LODs, mipmapping, tri-stripping, draw calls), etc. Some scripting skill is also a bonus, as it will make your life easier.
- Everyone else: Audio, QA, production, design, pre-vis, marketing, dev management, cinematics et al. I don't know enough to comment on their required skill sets, but I wanted to acknowledge that there are other routes into the games industry that don't involve art or code!
- Technical Art: LEARN ALL THE THINGS!
- Indie Developer: Also learn all the things. But if you can't, then design your game around what you can do well. More on that later...
In terms of commonality, I'd say the most important skill that every developer needs is that of project management. My opening remark about Flappy Bird vs GTA was something of a telling statement. What you can do, what your resources comprise, and how much time you have, ultimately dictates what you can deliver.
Any developer who understands this core principle has nailed game development, because it's the hardest lesson to learn.
For example, if you're a AAA developer, this applies to everything that you can control. In other words, the scope of your schedule or your team's schedule is directly dictated by how many people you have, how much memory/performance your engine will allow, how much money you can spend on more staff, the training costs of adding more staff, and how much time you have left.
If you're an indie developer, this applies to everything, full-stop. For example, if you're not great at art, then you should probably design a game that doesn't need high-end graphics. If you're not an amazing programmer, then perhaps you should limit your design to a relatively simple game mechanic. If your cash flow is limited, you should probably target shorter development cycles. If you're only one guy working alone, maybe you should shelve your massively-multiplayer open-world masterpiece until you have a larger dev team!
This Youtube video is a prime example of what I'm writing about. Fundamentally, it's the charming story of a indie who ultimately failed to estimate the scale of his project before he started coding it.
Basically, any time you hear about a team “doing crunch”, or a team getting laid-off at the end of a project, or a project being delayed, or an indie game being cancelled, or an Early Access game on Steam that never gets finished, it's the result of someone somewhere not managing their scope in a realistic way."