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I've been programming business applications for Windows for a decade now & thinking it might be time for a change & considering game dev. I've played around in XNA and really enjoyed it. I've mainly programmed in Delphi but my favourite language is C# and I've never worked in C/C++.

My perception though is that most game companies write in C/C++ and would only use something like XNA for tools development/fast prototyping.

So my question is can you be taken seriously applying for game programming jobs having just self-taught games experience in XNA or should I really learn C/C++ & OpenGL/DirectX? What other recommendations would you make for increasing ones chances of getting hired?

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8 Answers 8

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Create games.

Can't stress that enough. Even if they are small prototype fun things or small finished games.

If you are applying for a programmer job, show your skill in that area by doing a well programmed game. The graphics do not need to be good.

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Absolutely. You need to prove you can create something. There are a lot of people that don't do this and hope for the best. If I'm looking at someone with independent projects vs. somebody who has nothing, it's a no brainer. –  David McGraw Jul 15 '10 at 20:21
    
Can't agree more. Write games. And expect that they want to see your code, so better have one very polished example! –  Andreas Jul 16 '10 at 13:35
    
Do you think learning how to write games in C++ before being hired is important or do you think language doesn't really matter so long as you're creating? –  Ben Daniel Jul 18 '10 at 3:28
    
If you know C++ well, and can make simple gamelike things in (for example) SDL and perhaps more complex things in python. Then you should be good. But if you are going to be working in the C++ section, then a strong C++ showing is always good. –  Ólafur Waage Jul 18 '10 at 10:12
    
I think this is the biggest fallacy about getting a programming job in the games industry. It does no more than make your CV look good. I'm never going to hire someone based only on their demos. In fact I'd rarely look at the actual source from demos. If their CV is good they can have an interview, but that's where I'll make my decision. –  tenpn Jul 23 '10 at 10:13

Play to your strengths. Check websites like develop that have jobs listings and look for jobs that want the skills you have. Ok, most game development companies would only hire C# programmers for tooling positions, but at least you then have that all important foot in the door! You never know what might come up when your on the inside.

Also, might sound silly but keep your eyes on the xna creators club forums job section. I got a 6 month contract position there on a xna powered serious game. 8 months later and I've wound up being permanent staff on the project.

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Most, if not all, game programming positions should state the language you will be working in. In order to apply for the job, you should probably have a decent understanding of the language, even if you made a conscious choice to do your game programming in a different language. It seems unlikely to me that they would hire you for a C++ position if you didn't know C++ at all. However, if you knew the C++ language from some prior business app development but you have a good portfolio of XNA apps, I think any reasonable company would hire you.

There are certainly game programming concepts which transcend the programming language level, but in order to be productive to the company, you need to be able to write those concepts in the language they want.

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I'm only just learning to code myself, but CVs passed through my hand for several years at a moderately sized (50+) company. Most CVs went into a storage box or archive directory, never to see the light of day again.

Research the studios that you want to work for and find out how they break down their coding tasks.

First, learn C++. In the industry it will be absolutely necessary. If you only know how to work in C# and a job opportunity arises, you don't want to miss out. If you plan on working independently long term, learn whatever works for you.

If you don't have strong 3D and graphics coding skills and you apply for one of those positions, expect it to be discarded. If you do have strong skills in those fields, absolutely include a demo or a link to your website showing those skills/projects in action.

But you don't have to have leet 3D-fu skills to get picked up. Tools programmers work very closely with the designers and artists, and you get constant feedback on your work. If you like working with people and your portfolio shows that you developed game design tools this can be a rewarding experience. If you don't handle criticism well, it's not the role for you.

Sound, animation, scripting - depending on the project you may find positions dedicated specifically to those fields, especially if there's an engine in development or heavy modification of one.

Unlike 10 years ago where a bit of enthusiasm and just showing up with something cool could land you a job in-house, now roles are quite specialized. If you settle on one or two that you find exciting and hone those you can expand your skills as you go.

Additionally, expect a coding test. If you walk in off the street for your interview and show off something impressive, it doesn't mean it's yours. They will want to see what you can do. You can expect 3 or more hours of problem solving or code refactoring to satisfy your interviewers.

Good luck :)

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Coding tests and strong interviews ftw. –  tenpn Jul 23 '10 at 10:14

Having talked with employees of small game development shops around my area, they said they tend to favor those applicants that have some proof of the work they've done before. For example, making mods for an existing game or being behind a game engine that someone besides yourself has heard of.

As far as development knowledge, C/C++ is still the leading technology to know simply because it allows for total control of what's going on and so many of the popular engines are built in it. XNA is useful, but you're at the whim of the framework for a number of things. When you're dealing with a limited number of updates per second it pays to have complete control.

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It depends on the studio.

The studios I've worked for wouldn't hire you. They require extensive and very solid C/C++ knowledge coupled with 3D math and prefer candidates experienced with the middleware engine they utilize.

That being said, there are a lot of studios out there. I'd highly suggest listing the studios you're entertaining the idea of applying for and seeing what they ask for in their job listings. At that point, you can buff up whatever knowledge you so require.

In general, solid C skills are amazingly beneficial. Every interview I've ever had (games and otherwise) has involved straight C programming.

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You could try applying to work for a casual games company first, if you can find one in your area that's hiring. That way, you can get experience writing smaller games for a couple of years, which may help you get that entry level position at a studio that makes larger games.

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As a game developer who has been involved in the talent acquisition process, I will give two pieces of advice.

  1. Make games. Our best tool for seeing how you work is seeing how you've worked. On that note:
  2. Contribute to open source projects. Our best tool for seeing both how your write code and how you play with others is... see above.

Bottom line: We want to see what you can do, how you will do it, and how you will perform as a member of a team.

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You have to be careful with the open source part. Most game companies are very careful with the Intellectual Property issue, and many are wary of people who are overly enthusiastic with the "information wants to be free" agenda. In general, showing what you have made is certainly better than simply stating what you want to make, so making games and doing open source are good, but not the only (and arguably not necessarily the best) ways to demonstrate yourself as a good hire. –  Panda Pajama Feb 25 '13 at 4:54

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