Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Game Dev Shortage

Apparently there is a shortage of people to work in video games:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7460870.stm

Me and some other ex-industry people I know find this very amusing. Apparently one of the issues that game developers have is finding suitably qualified graduates to hire. Here is a newsflash for them:

If the experienced people didn’t leave, you wouldn’t need the graduates

It’s sad the way many games companies work. They deal with horribly high staff turnover as a matter of course. Staff turnover is a devestating problem for a knowledge based business. A new coder probably achieves nothing of any real value for the first few weeks, little for a month or two, and is probably only really working as a games coder by the end of their first year. To becomre really experienced at the practice (not theory) of games dev takes at least 3 years. By then he (almost always a ‘he’ sadly) is sick of his job and often keen to leave, and so the company promotes everyone and hires a new graduate.

Staff turnover is always bad, but for programmers it’s unusually damaging. It’s easier to find your own bugs than the last guys bugs, especially if the last guy isn’t here to ask him what the f**k he was thinking when he wrote that stuff. If your company doesn’t adhere to coding standards, it’s even worse.

Here’s some free advice to anyone wanting to retain game coding staff:

  1. Pay the experienced devs more. They are worth more. they can find the bugs the others can’t. their code is better, faster, more stable. Don’t worry if some coders earn treble what others earn, this is very often justified.
  2. Give them a decent working environment. We stare at monitors a lot. if we need ones that cost $1,000, then that’s what we need. Deal with it. It’s worth it. Ditto chairs.
  3. Ditto PC’s. AAA games take ages to compile. if you don’t want to pay coders to sit and eat donuts while the code compiles, buy them the fastest PC’s you can get. This will *save* money.
  4. Make everyone go home at 6PM. Abolish the stupidity of the long-hours culture. If you can’t concentrate on emails after 8 hours, what makes you think that a programmer can write decent C++ code without bugs after that many hours in a day. Less tired coders == less bugs == faster dev time, and happier developers.
  5. Train the devs. If they want half a dozen C++ book on expenses, let them have them. It’s trivial in cost terms in terms of increased productivity. Most coders *want* to learn. so support them.
  6. Either give developers individual offices, let them work from home, or get everyone noise canceling headphones. Maybe 1 in 10 programmers can work well in a busy noisy office, but the other 9 will be working less efficiently than they would be in a quiet office, and getting annoyed about it

Of course, many companies don’t want to hear any of this, because to many guys in suits who aren’t coders, the cheap graduate in jeans sat slouched at his keyboard is doing the same job as john carmack. why the hell would they treat any of them better than the cheap graduate?


12 thoughts on Game Dev Shortage

  1. Now there’s an idea. Programmers should start their own game development companies. I am willing to work for you, if you’re interested. :D

  2. Sounds like in the future there will be one roll available in the games industry,

    Artist/Programmer/QA/ wanted Р£SHIT

    . bah… if only the universities could keep up to date with the demands of the games industry, perhaps there should be a course module named “how to work for peanuts”

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  4. 3. So true. This is why we have the best computers Dell can deliver. Keeps build times manageable.

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  6. hi,
    is it ok if i include this post as part of an article for my website?
    would leave a link to your site?

    cheers

    roger

  7. This was insightful. One very important thing mentioned was to make everyone leave after 6 pm.

    I am thinking of starting up a game company in Pakistan and my plan includes following

    1– No office in tall buildings or IT Parks. I will get a decent banglow away from all city noise.
    2– Game developers are hardcore gamers also. So, provide them with all the latest consoles, games and big monitors.
    3– Yes make them stop working after 6 pm. They can stay in work place and play games or do something else. This would make them better at time management. When you think you have whole 24 hours, you get lazy and delay work.

  8. Much truth spoke there.

    I’ll never understand the ‘save a penny, waste a pound’ system that companies seem to run (until everyone gets an extended holiday due to having no job).

    I love working in games, love making them, playing them (Although I’m still shocked at the number of dev staff that don’t), but I really don’t like the lack of respect and constant repeated mistakes the industry brings.

    Here’s to the future!
    :D

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