Image of two kittens showing down in eternal combat.


Who Exactly Makes Games Anyway?

13 May , 2014  

One of the most common requests I’ve received is for an overview of what the typical roles at a game studio are, and how this changes in studios of different sizes.

Here’s are my 3 goals for what you should learn by the end of this article:

  1. What are the common roles in game development
  2. How those roles are added and changed as companies grow from small independent studios to major AAA developers
  3. The ultimate fate of Kitten Kombat.

I’m going to walk you through the growth of a fictional company, ‘Arrow Knee Games‘. Keep in mind game studios come in all shapes and sizes, and the amount and types of employee can vary drastically. While this particular company is completely made up, it is based on a composite of some of the studios I’ve worked at before – from tiny 5 man indie teams, to mid-sized studios like Relic, and all the way up to giants like EA and Ubisoft.

Before we get started, I want to give three quick caveats:

  1. Arrow Knee Games is a PC/console ‘traditional’ developer. Mobile/Free to Play/Social Games studios have similar roles, but in quite different arrangements and numbers, and add some crazy new roles like Monetization Designers and Data Analysts. Alas, there are lots of things to explain here, so this will have to be the subject of a future post.
  2. I’m not really going to deal with hierarchical roles; imagine that as soon as you have more than three or four employees of any given role, some will be promoted to be ‘leads’ or ‘supervisors’ to help organize the team. As teams get even bigger, companies will add ‘Directors’ (e.g. Art Director, Audio Director etc.) to define the overall vision within a particular role, and help the team to achieve that vision.
  3. I’m also leaving out all the support teams – Marketing, Communication, IT, HR, Finance etc. These are all critically important roles, but are beyond the scope of this article. Again, hopefully I’ll address them in a future post (stay tuned!).

So with warnings out of the way, gather round, for I am about to tell…

Logo for imaginary Game Development Company, Arrow Knee Games

The Epic Tale of Arrow Knee Games

Chapter One: Suzy B has had enough.

Suzy B. has worked in the industry for a few years now, and after a few too many overtime pizzas and cancelled projects, she has decided to strike off on her own. Suzy is a Generalist Programmer, which is very common of one-person operations, as it is very difficult to make a game without at least one programmer. Suzy designs the game herself, and spends the majority of her time programming, but as needs arise she has to hobble together some art assets, sound and anything else to get her game finished. After a lot of hard work, Suzy completes her first game, ‘Kitten Kombat‘.

Arrow Knee Dev Team, Year One:

Year One Roles at an example Game Development Studio

New roles introduced:

  • Generalist Programmer 

Chapter Two: The First Employees

Kitten Kombat was a success and some money is rolling in, but a lot of the reviews mention the lackluster art and animation in the game. Suzy wants to build on the success, so she decides to hire a few more people to help out. First she brings on a couple of 3D Artists, and a 3D Animator so she can address the most critical feedback. Getting all of this animation and art integrated takes a lot of additional programming though, so Suzy also hires another Generalist Programmer, as well as a specialized Network Programmer to add a Multiplayer mode to the game. Towards the end of production, the game is really coming together, but has a lot of bugs, so they all decide it would be a good idea to add a Game Tester to the team.

Kitten Kombat II is released to rave reviews, and now Arrow Knee Games is finally starting to get some attention from the rest of the industry.

Arrow Knee Dev Team, Year Two:

Year Two Roles at an example Game Development Studio

New roles introduced:

  • 3D Artist
  • 3D Animator
  • Network Programmers 
  • Game Tester

Chapter Three: Contract Development Blues

Thanks to the attention they were getting from the Kitten Kombat franchise, Arrow Knee games has been contacted by a major publisher, who is taking bids from indie studios to help make a new budget title for the recently released Family Friendly Console 2000. The team has a great idea for the pitch, and work around the clock to secure the contract. Suzy struggles to figure out a bid, but really wants the contract so she undercuts her competitors, though she realizes it will probably hurt her team in the long run. In the end, they secure the contract, and start development on the new game Happy Happy Party Time.

Money starts coming in from the publisher, and Suzy needs to ramp up her team. Since none of their earlier titles were on console, they hire an Engine Programmer to help make the transition. H.H.P.T. is way bigger than the Kitten Kombat games, so they add more 3D Artists, another Animator, and a few more Generalist Programmers to handle the different game modes. Additionally, Arrow Knee games hires their first UI Artist to help make the menus and HUD for all the game modes.

The first couple of months of development are rough. The Programmers and Artists are complaining that there is no documentation and designs are changing on the fly, and Suzy is torn between helping out on programming, trying to make sense of the game design and organizing everyone’s work. She realizes that she has missed a couple of key roles from the team. The first thing that she does is hire a Producer to help organize things, and deal with communication and negotiation with the publisher. Then, she hires three Game Designers, to work with the team on improving the game-play systems for each of three main game modes, and to formalize the designs in documentation so the Publisher, Programmers, and Artists are all on the same page and working towards a common goal.

Things start going better. Towards the end of production, the team decides to bring on a dedicated Sound Designer and a VFX artist to help spruce things up.

Though the team has to work through some excruciating overtime due to poor up-front negotiations, they are able to finish the game, the publisher is happy, and Happy Happy Party Time goes on to become a hit.

Arrow Knee Dev Team, Year Four:

Year Four Roles at an example Game Development Studio

New roles introduced:

  • Engine Programmer 
  • UI Artist 
  • Producer 
  •  Game Designer 
  • Sound Designer 
  • VFX Artist 

Chapter Four: The Big Break

After completing a couple more successful contracts for some big publishers, the team at Arrow Knee Games has finally saved up enough money to try to make their own property from the ground up. There’s been an incredible idea for a RTSFPSRPG bouncing around the studio for the past couple of years, and now they can afford to build the élite team that will make Kitten Kombat Universe of Honor a reality.

Building a brand new universe requires some new specialized talent. The Art Director scouts out some promising Concept Artists to help visualize the world, and the team hires a Narrative Designer to help write the dialogue and flesh out the characters. Additionally, since this is a shooter, they hire some experienced Level Designers to make interesting spaces to play in. Suzy decides to flesh out her programming team with the addition of a couple Gameplay Programmers, a dedicated AI programmer, and a 3D programmer to make sure the game will be competitive visually.

In order to stretch their money as far as it will go, they decide to do some work up front to make the rest of the production more straightforward. To help with this, they bring on a Technical Artist and a Tools Programmer to help create efficient pipelines and tools for the rest of the developers to use.

The team rallies behind a common purpose and dream, and Kitten Kombat Universe of Honor is a big success, single-handedly revitalizing the RTSFPSRPG genre.

Arrow Knee Dev Team, Year Six:

Year Six Roles at an example Game Development Studio

New Roles introduced:

  • Concept Artist 
  • Narrative Designer 
  • Level Designers 
  • Gameplay Programmer 
  • AI Programmer 
  • 3D Programmer 
  • Technical Artist 
  • Tools Programmer 

Chapter Five: The Major Leagues

After the smash-hit success of Kitten Kombat Universe of Honor, Actisoft Arts, a major publisher who has tried to break into the RTSFPSRPG genre for years, decides to acquire Arrow Knee Games for a reasonably big pile of money. There is much rejoicing. The team agrees that their studio name was a bit played out, so they all agree to change the name of the studio to Actisoft Arts Seattle.

Suzy B. is promoted to a vague executive role, and the studio grows to handle multiple projects, while learning to work under the umbrella of a larger parent company. With Suzy not able to oversee production on each project as much, they decide to add a Playtest Coordinator to make sure they are getting external validation on their games and features, and to help iterate on the experience and improve player understanding, they also add a UX Designer to the team.

To stay competitive visually, the studio builds a top of the line Motion Capture Facility, and hires a Cinematics Director, and some Mocap Technicians.

Actisoft Arts Seattle releases their first game under new ownership, the newly marketing-team-ified ‘Kombat‘, as well as a new entry into one of Actisoft Arts‘ long running franchises, the puzzle combat game God of Gears.

Actisoft Arts Seattle, Year One:

Year One Roles at an example AAA Game Development Studio

New Roles introduced:

  • Playtest Coordinator 
  • Cinematics Director 
  • UX Designer
  • Mocap Technician 

Thus ends the story of Suzy B, Arrow Knee Studios and the epic Kitten Kombat franchise. While this example may have been a bit silly, I hope it was helpful in breaking down the types of game development roles, and how those roles are added as studios grow in size.

Please leave a comment letting me know which role you are most interested in pursuing, or which roles I’ve missed from the list!

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44 Responses

  1. Great article, just what I wanted to know!
    so here’s a question.
    a lot of Names I see in interview trailers go by the title of “Creative Director” What jobs does that entail? To me it sounds like “lead Game Designer” but I think I heard that Ken Levine did a lot of the story/narrative in his Bioshock games. Is Creative Director a Hybrid role? Would Suzy have become Creative Director of Arrow Knee games while still functioning as a programmer?
    I ask because the role of Creative Director sound lucrative and I want to make it my career goal.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Sterling,

      I considered including Creative Director as a role, but ended up leaving it out as it was a ‘hierarchical’ role – nobody starts as a Creative Director.

      Creative Directors oversee the entire creative aspect of production – they are generally above the art directors, lead game designer, sound director etc., and they are the person that has final say on which direction the game should go in creatively.

      Typically Creative Directors come from a Design path (Game Designer –> Lead Game Designer –> Creative Director), but I have also seen Art Directors or Producers become Creative Directors before. If your goal is to become a Creative Director, I would suggest starting by focusing on getting a job as a Game Designer.

      Hope that helps!


  2. Hugo says:

    Great article, very informative. I wish I would have read this years ago…
    To think a Narrative Designer would come in so late in the game ! I always find it sad that in many games the story is left aside, but well, that’s how it is.
    This role is my ultimate goal, even though it is probably one of the most competitive…

    I’ve seen some positions for “Game Writer” supervised by the Lead Writer and/or Narrative Designers. Does this only concern larger productions ?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Hugo,

      This varies from company to company, but at many smaller studios, the Game Designers, Level Designers and/or Creative Leads (Art Director, Lead Designer etc.) will create the story. This is because many small companies simply cannot afford to have someone on staff that ‘only’ writes – everyone needs to chip in on multiple tasks. Also, it is worth mentioning that even at companies that do have Writers and/or Narrative Designers, they do not really have free reign to create the story. They generally write all of the dialogue, and have a lot of influence on the story, but the story is still a group effort, as it needs to work well for the Level Design intentions, the Game Design intentions etc.

      I’ve received a lot of interest in this position, so I’m going to do my best to do an interview with one of the Narrative Designers from work to help out.

  3. Myburgh says:

    Thanks so much for the articles! I’ve been considering going into game design since about a year ago. Its my last year at school, so I’m looking into what I want to study. I’ve always been a little confused as to how exactly the roles play out, but this article has really explained it all very well. I have a problem though and I hope you’d be able to give some advice. I live in South Africa and I can’t really afford to study out of the country. There are two places that do game design courses, but I’m not too sure as to how impressive it would seem to employers to have a certificate from a country that doesn’t really create games. Would you perhaps have a route that you could recommend I could take? Be it taking internships after I studied, or anything else that might be a wise choice from my position? Once again thanks so very much for this website! Its really helping me get peace of mind

    • Matt says:

      Hi Myburgh,

      I love South Africa! It is where my mum grew up and I had a blast when I visited.

      Don’t worry about game companies not caring about the certificate from SA – to be honest they don’t really care about the certificate in general, only your portfolio/skills/results. That having been said, you should care if the program is actually good or not, and, as mentioned in my article Top 10 Cities for Game Design, cities with a strong industry presence tend to have good schools (and unfortunately the reverse is also often true). If you can’t find a good ‘game school’, and happen to be interested in programming, you can often find good Computer Science courses at local universities that will do a good job of preparing you for the industry.

      Internships are a great way to break into the business, but in general, I think if you’re serious about breaking into the industry, sooner or later you’ll need to look at moving to a city that has a thriving game industry.

  4. Pep says:

    Loved the article, thanks Matt.
    Feels like I start to get a general view of the roles of the gaming industry.
    The roles that have caught my attention have been:
    – AI programmer
    – Generalist programmer
    Then there’s the Gameplay Programmer, but I didn’t quite get what they do.

    Thanks again!

    • Matt says:

      Hi Pep,

      Glad you liked the article!

      Let me try to clarify:
      Gameplay programmer – makes your character and others do things – combat, weapon abilities, animation systems etc.
      AI programmer – makes non player controlled characters think about what to do – note this generally uses the navigation systems/combat abilities that a Gameplay programmer would create, but the AI programmer is making the logic for when they use their various abilities.
      Generalist programmer – makes all of the other things surrounding the characters work – the UI system, the economy that lets you purchase upgrades, the level loading and unloading etc.

      Hope that helps!

  5. Vincent Roy says:

    Hi Matt,

    Great Article! I’m in that Suzy case in fact, but without videogame industry experience !

    For a future article, I would like to see something like a project guideline for attempting to make a successful video game. That would help me a lot !

    Best Regards,

    • Matt says:

      Hey Vincent, if I had a project guideline to make a successful video game my job would be much easier : )

      That having been said, there will be many more tips, and I’ve got an idea for a kind of ‘community challenge’ post that I think will be a lot of fun. Stay tuned!

    • Vincent Roy says:

      Thank you Matt,

      I’ve knew there’s no magic receipt 🙁

      I’ll try it as i feel it 🙂 I’m waiting for the next post 😀

  6. James Wood says:

    This article was very informative! I’m surprised I haven’t come across a similar break down before.

    Hypothetically if I had the opportunity to focus on being a 3D artist or a generalist programmer what would be the primary differences between the criteria studios look at?

    I understand they are at opposite ends of the spectrum and require vastly different skills but would a portfolio still be asked for when applying for a generalist programming position or would it have a greater focus on a competency based interview?

    Thank you, please keep up this blog!

    • Matt says:

      Hey Jamie – glad you liked the article! Generally studios would have very different criteria for evaluating 3D Art and Programming – the portfolio is extremely important for the art roles, but for programming studios will generally give you a test, and any interesting prototypes, tech demos and research you have done is much more interesting. Even if you are going for ‘Generalist Programmer’, I think the best way to get noticed is to focus on an area – create an amazing UI implementation tool, or make a really neat physics tech demo etc.

      Hope that helps!

  7. Hey Matt,

    am reading your blog since your first article and THIS is a real awesome addition to your prior articles. You should add a note in your first article since it’s kinda regards where a person wants to start and where they want to get into the Industry, since this kinda helps to see how it all starts and where it may end.

    I myself want to get into the Industry as Game Designer and am glad to see kinda that you did not just elaborate on the hierarchy but also the roles, made it detailed who does what, etc.

    Really glad you got your blog running!



    • Matt says:

      Hi Andreas,

      Great suggestion! I’m going to go back and add some links to the newer articles in the older ones where it is relevant.

      Glad you like the blog – stay tuned for more coming soon!


  8. César Desmond says:

    Haha awesome article! Now it’s a bit more logic the structure of the company! I’d love to work for Actisoft Arts!! Sounds awesome!! hahaha

    Thanks for your work Matt!

    • Matt says:

      Actisoft Arts has the best working conditions. They have a foosball table, free pop AND complimentary banana muffins every Friday.

  9. Joao Cesar says:

    I got a similar problem James Woods got:

    I’m great at logic, good at math (In fact, my psychologist said I learned math alone, even in the school, I couldn’t understand what the teacher tried to tell me so my “mind” learned by “herself”), but I know that I don’t want to become a programmer. On the other hand, I’m not even a good doing art, but I believe I got some skills at evaluating art. My role in College completion work, was to evaluate the position of buttons, and the development of general layout prototype and writing the documentation.

    Do you think that I can “learn how to do art” in an art school? Or art is something that I should have learned when kid, and is really hard to just become good at?

    P.S.: Sorry for any writing mistakes, I’m from Brazil. 🙁

    • André says:

      I am feeling with you. I’ve got exactly the same problem. I am a C# programmer for 5 years now, but in the gaming industry it is the art stuff that always leaves me breathless… so I started general work with Photoshop like wallpapers, flyers, etc. and since a few months I do actual drawings and paintings on a tablet. It is hard on your own and it requires you to be very dedicated, but especially with the help of a school I think it is achievable! Don’t give up! 🙂

    • Matt says:

      Hi Joao,

      This is a tough one. To be honest, if you don’t feel you are ‘good at art’, I think you’ll have a tough time in art school. It is certainly possible, but most of the people you’ll be competing against will have been the top artist in their high school, so if you’re going to follow my advise from 10 Things To Know Before Game School, you’ll face an uphill challenge.

      If you are good at logic, good at math, and are good at analyzing systems to improve their use, I would recommend pursuing Game Design.

  10. Hey Matt! I am really digging your articles, especially since they help a noobie indie developer like myself. I’ve been working with game development for two years now, starting with school, and plan to showcase my first game (as an indie) at Chicago’s anime convention for the first time! I’m nervous and excited!

    As for your article, I think this general guideline will help me through my future projects as an independent company, so that Taiyou Productions can grow in size and ambition. It’s important to have a plan for the future as much as it’s important to have a plan for whatever project is currently in development, that way there’s never an unsure, idle moment.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Wilfido,

      Congrats on your game progress, and it will be very exciting to showcase at the convention; this is a great opportunity.

      One word of warning: the article was based on what I would consider common organizations of companies, not necessarily my suggested organization. I’ll hope to cover some of that in a future article, but much of it will be specific to your circumstances, your game style etc.

  11. André says:

    Great article again, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    I know it is not exactly the point of the article and you can never generalize stuff like that, but would you say it is easier to start off on your own, or would you recommend to find some like-minded people for a first project? In my job I’ve made the experience that digging into coding stuff with two people is more than twice as efficient as working alone. But then again developing a game is bit different from developing a website or desktop application. What do you think?


    • Matt says:

      Hi Andre,
      I think it is up to the individual, but I’ve always found it easier to find some like-minded people and work together for a project. The important thing is to find people that are also very motivated – that way you’ll feed off of each other, and to commit to a regular schedule – meet every week or whatever it is. The danger is that if there is only one person who is not motivated, not that interested or simply doesn’t have time, they can drag the whole project down. Choose your teammates carefully.

  12. Dennis José da Silva says:

    Hello Matt.
    First of all, I would like to thank you for the blog, it is really impressive as you show the right information that I had missed from the internet in the clear and well-right way.
    So, I am Dennis and I am graduated in Computer science and now I am working as a computer programmer (actually I have been working with web programming for 3 years), but I always wanted to work with games, you can see my projects in the university all of them are relation with games. Recently I have put my code in the web (you can see here on gitgub: ), but actually they are pretty simple.
    I would like to ask 2 questions:
    1 – What is the different between Tools programmers and Engine programmers? For example I know engines that just have code like Ogre3D and XNA, they are just an abstraction from the low level code but also there are engines with some more stuff like Unity and Unreal that has some kind of scripting and Level design tools. I cannot separate what is a tool and what is an engine.
    2 – knowing that I would like to work with 3D, engine or tool programming in an AAA game studio, what should I do to start my career in the game industry? I mean should I invest more time in doing small things like I did in my portfolio or study low level programming like OpenGL and DirectX and Shader language like HLSL?

    Thank you very much.
    By the way I don’t know if you are involved in, but Ubisoft Child of Light is just fantastic, Ubisoft is doing a great job with UbiArt I am looking forward to play Valiant Hearts


    • Matt says:

      Hi Dennis,

      Great questions!


      1. Ogre3D, Unity and Unreal are all engines, but the editor that designers or artists use is a Tool – thus, Engine Programmers tend to focus on low level functions: memory management, rendering and data structures, and Tools programmers tend to work on adding new functions to the editor to help out LDs and Artists.

      2. There are a few paths to start your career in the game industry, but I think the safest one is to really focus on a specific field and dig in as deep as you can go – so if you want to focus on 3D programming, then absolutely learn OpenGL, DirectX, HLSL etc. forward and backwards, and work on some impressive tech demos. I would say 3D programmers also tend to have a solid art understanding, as you will probably get noticed by creating something impressive, and if you don’t have a good eye for art, it will be tough to tell what is impressive.

      For an engine programmer, I would focus on either trying to majorly extend an existing engine (open source engines like Ogre3D are great for this), create a new engine from scratch, or build up in-depth knowledge with an existing popular engine – Unreal is a fantastic place to start, especially given their recent $20/month for Unreal 4 with Source Code deal.

      Unfortunately I wasn’t involved with Child of Light, though I have met some people who were. Agree that it is a beautiful game, and I can’t wait to find time to play it!

  13. Hello sir ! this was really good article for me as long as i am new in this world and sorry for my poor english too.But what role can i play after completing my Computer Science and Engineering ?? Truth be told my dream is to create a game, i mean an unique game which isn’t tasted by no one yet !! So want to be a developer but What kind of role actually suits me best ??

    Hope i will get a good answer and thank u again for that kind of stuffs 🙂

    • Matt says:

      Hi Muhammad,
      Glad you liked the article! The most obvious path from Computer Science is to go into Game Programming – focus on your C++ skills, and start playing with some game engines like UDK or Unity. Don’t worry too much about learning 3D art software, as it is easy to find other assets to play with, but start putting together some small games. Also, I would recommend that you start to specialize in a particular programming field – I can’t tell you which one, as it depends on what interests you most, but start digging deep into a particular area; this will be your best bet for getting hired in that field.

      Hope that helps!

  14. Louis says:

    Hi Matt!

    Once again you gave us a great and informative article to read and, more importantly, you have shared your precious experience in the field with us all. Thank you again!
    There are so many interesting positions in the universe of games developing, and I think it’s impossible to know which one you’ll like best until sit down and try to make something like a small level of a game or a demo. Hopefully I’ll soon be able to finish mine and then I will gladly tell you which part of the process I enjoyed the most! 😉

    • Matt says:

      Hi Louis,

      This is a great approach, and I’m even planning a series of articles for the future to guide people through accomplishing some quick tasks in each of the major game industry disciplines so everyone can try them out and see which they are drawn to. Stay tuned!

  15. Hi Matt!

    First I need to tell you something, thanks for this post. I really enjoyed reading it.

    In my case I’m really interested in Game Design and Level Design so hope you write about it in the next future. I’m starting with modding and map design with the Portal 2: Perpetual Testing Initiative Map Editor (is pretty basic but is an start) and in my degree I’m working with 3ds Max, programming and making small video games for game jams.

    PS: also thank you for answer all our comments, I appreciate it a lot.

    Waiting for your next article 😀

    • Matt says:

      Hi Vicente,

      Glad you enjoyed the post. Modding is a fantastic way to get started for Level Design – in fact, it is probably the best way that I know of out there, and many LDs that I work with started out that way. Sounds like you’re on a great path forward!

      I’m going to be posting some specific articles for each discipline, and also interviews with people in different fields within the industry. Stay tuned!

  16. Irvin Lira says:

    Hey Matt. Great article! This definitely sure helps out a lot for someone wanting to break into the industry. One quick question or rather a request. Do you think you can write an article explaining the salary levels each of these roles can make?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Irvin,

      I’m glad you liked the article! I will probably write about salary expectations in the future, but in the meantime you should check out the latest Game Developer Salary Survey, which includes a lot of info about expectations within different major fields of game development. Hope that helps!

  17. Marc says:

    Already took a few weeks off your blog, huh? What started as a fountain of information has now turned into a drip-feed. Congrats!

    Maybe you should talk about the realities of working in video games too. The average 4.5 year career one can expect. The 50 – 70 (or more) hour work weeks. The zero job security, even if you are a full-time employee. The yearly job search, and having to move anywhere and everywhere for the next 9-month contract.

    It’s easier to fix the newcomers to the industry instead of the industry itself I imagine. These noobs all have these reasonable expectations after all.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Marc,

      Unfortunately between my project approaching a major milestone and my kids, I haven’t had as much time as I would have like to update the blog. My goal is one article a week; I have a new article ready to go up tomorrow, and have lined up a couple for the next two weeks after that, so I should be back in the regular routine shortly. Thanks for your patience.

      As for career expectations, overtime and job security, I agree that they can all be problems in our industry. Nothing is perfect, and I certainly don’t intend to sugar coat some of the rougher edges of this industry. That having been said, I still feel like this is a very exciting and rewarding industry, and I love doing what I do. It isn’t for everyone, and I have respected friends that have chosen to leave the industry over the years.

  18. Vidya says:

    Hi Matt!

    Your article is amazing. It really helped clarify a lot of doubts I had in my mind. But I do have one question. Can you tell me the difference between a Game Designer and a Gameplay Programmer? I’m interested in programming and I was wondering if you could give your opinion on which subjects I should concentrate on more at school. Thanks for replying to my e-mail! It was really helpful 🙂

    • Matt says:

      Hi Vidya,

      Game designers tend to come up with the idea for a feature, write out detailed documentation for that feature, and then hand it over to the gameplay programmer to actually create. Some strong game designers even make small prototypes to prove out a feature first. Once the gameplay programmer has created the feature, game testers will test it, and the programmer will then fix the bugs, while the game designer goes back in and tunes the variables (damage, speed, health etc.) to make it ‘feel’ as good as possible.

      Generally if you are interested in programming, math, physics and IT/computers are all good subjects in high school, and of course any programming you can get your hands on, and then for college or university Computer Science or a specialized Game Programming course are good options.

  19. Chris says:

    Hey Matt!!

    I just read this well written article and i wonder where all the documentation and customer support for these big games gets done.

    Many of the support related tasks could be managed by the testing department but how does the tier 1 customer support, which is usually done by the publisher, gets all relevant information they need to help the players with upcomming issues?

    I want to become a support professional and would like to see where i have my opportunities in the games industry.

    Is there a job at the interface between the game/software and the customer?


    • Matt says:

      Hi Chris,

      For larger developers, documentation and customer support is often done outside of the development studios – sometimes at their HQ, or at another facility. For smaller or indie developers, it is often done by the developers themselves, in addition to their other responsibilities!

      Unfortunately this is not an area that I have a ton of experience in – I’ll try to ask some friends and see if I can get more info – feel free to email me at matt at gameschoolprep to follow up.

  20. Magnum says:

    Well, i am a bachelor physics student, from Hong Kong, which ubisoft has a financial office… I like Computer graphics and games, playing and creating… And when people learn that i am interested in game making… they say i should go for the track as Programmers. But i spend most of my free time doing 3D graphics, modeling and rendering scenes… thats wt 3D artist do, right? And i feel like i wanna be a 3D artist more than programmer. i know its better to make up my mind on a discipline in all the roles you mentioned… i am still building up some more porfolio works this summer… Hope i can share with you later…

    • Matt says:

      Hi Magnum,

      My best advice is that if you want to get into making games, you should pursue the field that you are most interested in (sounds like 3D art). Programmers may make more money on average, but you won’t succeed in any of them without the passion and drive that only comes from being really engaged in what you are doing.

      Send me a link to your portfolio and I’d be happy to take a look!

  21. Bernard says:

    Your articles are very nice and I enjoyed reading it.
    I am an IT guy (Team lead of a project/event coordination team) and want to work for a video game company (Ubisoft Toronto ia actually one of my prefered as I am planning to move from Montreal to Toronto).
    What is your advice? Are they any junior producer job on the market and is any IT project manager able to fill this position ?
    Should I consider going back to school?

    Looking forward to read your article on IT roles.


  22. Zayd says:

    Hey Matt thanks for writing this article, I learned a lot!

    I am currently studying Computer science and my first question is, would it be possible to switch roles when working for a game company? For example – switching from Generalist Programmer to Gameplay Programmer, or even a more drastic change like Generalist Programmer to Concept Artist. There are a lot of roles that really interest me and that I would like to experience, but since my strongest skills lie in programming I’m wary of simply starting with them.

    My second question is, how likely would it be for someone in a programming or visual arts role to take on the role of a Producer?

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