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  • Career Advice: Creating Your Demo

    [05.25.06]
    - Marc Mencher

  • Game Programmer?

    To get a game-programming job, a great way to standout is to present a portfolio of code samples and games you have developed. If you're just starting out, create a game of your own or clone an existing game, yet be sure to add an original idea. Create your own software tools for game development. In short, design an application that showcases your coding ability and strengths.

    Your demo need not be too complex; what you want to do is demonstrate your grasp of current game programming techniques and technologies. Do this by creating a few small, self-contained games. The more robust and complete the game (multiple levels, beginning and ending sequences, etc.) or tools, the more attention you will get. Your aim is to demonstrate that you understand how a video game works and how it is designed. You'll want to include a text file that gives any instructions on how to load the game, and provide a brief summary of your design thought process or what you learned technically.

    Example tools that you can create for working on a game include image loaders for bitmap or GIF files, audio loaders for WAV files and MP3s, tile map editors, preview utilities for audio and image files, or wrapper classes that will make it easier to use a popular API like DirectX.

    For each game or tool you have coded, show screenshots. Consider creating small AVIs that quickly walk a prospective employer through a level of your game or that demonstrate functionality. That way, when someone hops onto your Web site, they can quickly get a feel for your abilities without having to take the time to download and then run your game or tool.

    On your Web site, make available an accurate sample of your production code with a large enough scope to demonstrate some interaction among various sections of the code. This is a great way to show off your coding prowess. Remember that the code needs to be clean and well-documented. Technical hiring managers want to see how you organize code and go about solving problems.

    Another way to generate assets for your programmer demo is to join an open source project. Head over to SourceForge, which is a repository of applications currently in development. All the source code there is available for free. You can learn from looking at other people's code as well as modifying it to your purposes. One of the cool things about the open source movement is that you get to learn from others and extend their work in your own way.

    If your target game company creates console games and you don't have this experience yet, get creative. Figure out what you can code that might assist your target game company more efficiently create games. I promise you will be considered first for a job if you can provide your prospective new boss with a solution to a problem they face.

    Yes, it is tough to obtain console experience without having access to a development station. However, the Net has tons of technical information available on almost any game platform. Do research and obtain the specific information you need to familiarize yourself with a console and some of the issues around it.

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