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  • Rare's Nick Burton on Getting Into Programming

    [11.02.07]
    - Jill Duffy
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     Programmer Skills: Core Competencies
    Burton also came up with a list of skills that aren't core skills, meaning they are not necessary, but are helpful if you happen to have them. His list includes: C# or Java, which simply are not dominant programming languages in game development; Visual Studio, GCC, or XNA; program management, which is "nice to know, but as soon as you get into the industry, you will know how that works"; console experience ("I see time and time and time again students clamoring to get experience on a particular console ... It doesn't matter at all. Everything I need to know to be a games programmer I can do on this £500 laptop right here"); 3D modeling on 3ds Max or Maya. These things will look great on a resume or CV, but they are not the core skills. "You need to target where you spend your time," says Burton.

    "One thing you may notice is completely missing that some of the universities have started to bang on about is soft skills," says Burton, referring to non-technical skills such as honesty, interpersonal skills, time management, written and verbal communication, humility, team work or collaboration, flexibility, respect, and leadership.

    There are many people on a team, and developers typically spend between one and three years with them working on a project, often more than 40 hours per week. "People skills become as important as your technical skills," he says. "It's difficult to say that in a CV," but an applicant should stress these points using clear examples and anecdotes in an interview.

    When it comes to actually working in a studio, Burton claims that the university experience can never truly prepare someone for what it will be like. The scale is larger, the resources are more plentiful, and the demand to create top-level work will be more evident.  However, the software environment is not too different in terms of working in Visual Studio, he says, "but you will be working on many many more lines of code." He adds, "But when you start out, the bit of code you'll be working on will be only maybe one object ... [At Rare], we take three to six months to ease you into this process ... and only when you're ready do we unleash you onto a game team."

    Burton finished his talk with some tips for how to write a CV or resume, and what to do during the application and interview process.

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