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What does the possible career progression look like for a tools programmer? Would experience in that field be useful to gain other programming jobs in the industry, like gameplay, engine or AI programming? Or is it considered experience that only qualifies you for further tools programming jobs?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Why would it be useless? Do you believe there is a form of programming from which you would learn nothing that you could apply to other programming challenges? \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Jan 9 at 22:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DMGregory I don't think it's useless. This question is exclusively about the industry perception of the position. I am certain it's an interesting, technically challenging, and educational job, I am just curious about what kind of expectation it would engender in future employers and colleagues, and whether that perception would be a help or hindrance in seeking jobs in other game programming specializations in the future. I could probably have worded the question better. \$\endgroup\$ – linkalonk Jan 9 at 22:16
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What does the possible career progression look like for a tools programmer?

No one knows. Every career path is different.

Would experience in that field be useful to gain other programming jobs in the industry, like gameplay, engine or AI programming?

Yes.

Now the question you did not ask:

I want to become an engine/gameplay/AI developer, should I start by applying on jobs for developing tools because that's the only thing I have the qualification for?

Like anything related to career, it could be possible. And you could also be stuck at what you do for various reasons. You could get a job doing X and always be assigned to the same job, on the same franchise, for ten years, even if you ask HR to move you somewhere else (because, you know, you're good at it, and you know the part of the software, and we need a monkey to do that boring job). You could also get a job doing X because you want to eventually do Y, but finally find out that X is so much fun and challenging that the desire to do Y is not there anymore, and keep on doing X, on the same franchise, for ten years, and love it (because, you know, there are still so many improvements to be done and you have the freedom to apply them). You could start doing X, ask to be moved elsewhere in the company, but get stuck there, and decide to move to another company to do Y.

Yes, any experience helps (even if you're not from a game dev background), as long as that's what you seek and there are opportunities (it's harder if you're in a small town with only one game dev studio). This will depend on you, the company where you work, etc...

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your response. The not-asked question is half true, I do have a lot of programming experience outside of game development, and tools programming is what I am most qualified for. But I am not aiming for any of the other positions specifically, and think tools is a stepping stone. I just want to know more about the role and whether it pigeon holes me, in case something else seems interesting in the future. My career so far has been very generalist, and that's kind of how I like it. \$\endgroup\$ – linkalonk Jan 10 at 7:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ In this case, I think the pigeonhole-ing is really dependant on a lot of factors, mainly the company for which you work (and their approach for people moving inside), and the hierarchy (if they want to see you leave your spot or not). It's not as specialized as some other tasks in gamedev. \$\endgroup\$ – Vaillancourt Jan 10 at 11:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, your responses have been helpful \$\endgroup\$ – linkalonk Jan 11 at 10:56

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