What Does A Game Programmer Do?
Game programmers can be considered as the creative and technical brains behind video and computer games. Although they collaborate closely with game designers who come up with the concept of the game and what it’s going to be about, it’s the game programmers who actually create the code to make the game come to life. Without them, games are going to be nothing more than fantastic ideas in the heads of those who conceptualize them.
Game programmers are the minds behind the movements made by the characters of the game. They determine the actions of the players in each level or the difficulty of each stage. For example, they decide the speed that a car can go on a race track or the actions of the opponents when they are attacked in a particular manner. They are also responsible for putting the game’s audio feedback mechanism in place to signal that a secret weapon has been uncovered or that a level has been passed.
There are actually several different disciplines in game programming. Focusing on these areas largely determine the specific tasks that game programmers do. For example, they can work as game engine programmers who are responsible for creating the main engine that drives the game. In this role, they will be responsible for coming up with the physics or graphics that will influence how the characters move or how events unfold. They incorporate real-world physics phenomena, such as gravity, to the game. They can also focus on optimizing 2D and 3D graphics for the game.
Game programmers may also specialize in artificial intelligence. In this role, they will be responsible for programming the logic that will enable the characters in the game to simulate intelligence. They use AI to enable enemies and opponents to come up with strategies and tactics. Role-playing and strategy games rely very heavily on a team of AI programmers.
Music and sound make games come alive. They signify changes in the level or stages in the game as well as identify its unique characters. With the use of sophisticated techniques like 3D positional sound, sound or audio programmers are trained in digital signal processing that make sound play a very vital role in guiding the players as they hurdle every step of the game.
A technically challenging role that some game programmers focus on is that of network programming. The network programmer is responsible for writing code that enables players to play modern computer games online or through a LAN connection. These programmers must consider the issues that could come up in these gaming arrangements and plan for them accordingly. These include dropped connections and packet compression, among others.
There are other specializations among game programmers. Some may focus on programming user interfaces, others focus on gameplay while still others concentrate on scripting. However, it should be noted that in smaller studios, game programmers don’t specialize. Rather, they act as generalists or as jack-of-all-trades who work on the various aspects of game development.
Aside from focusing on the different disciplines of game-making, programmers may also work on a particular gaming platform. They may focus on creating games for the Wii or Windows, for example. In this case, they will have to be very experienced with the platform they will be working on. The good thing about most of the skills needed in game programming is that they can be used no matter what platform they work with. That being the case, they still need to have a very good understanding of the internal mechanisms that are unique to various gaming platforms.
An integral part of the work of game programmers is making sure that the game will not crash while it is being played. They have to see to it that the sounds will play well and that the commands for a particular strategy employed by the characters will actually work. For online games, the programmers must anticipate problems when the connection gets interrupted or the number of players that the servers can handle at a time without reducing the quality of the gaming experience.
Because of the creative work they do and their expertise in writing code for video games, game programmers earn very good income. As they gain experience and move up to positions of leadership in the gaming studio, they get the chance to earn six-figure salaries. Game programmers who are already assuming leadership positions don’t focus their time just on writing code. They supervise the entire process and help solve problems encountered by the designers and programmers. They will also have to meet clients and update them on the progress of the game and make other administrative decisions.