What is a Gameplay Programmer?
Today I'll be taking a look at the role of 'Gameplay Programmer' within industry, expanding my awareness, and seeing who is hiring today. To start with, I researched online looking at the most recent job posts for the role, expanding to encompass job roles of similar titles, given the flexibility of the job role. I kept my search results limited to the UK, given that is where I will most likely be proceeding in my career, at least initially.
Who is hiring?
It was interesting to find that most companies keep their name hidden, as they submit job advertisements through recruitment agencies most of the time. Most companies that shared their location, are commonly either based in London, or Manchester, with many other more built up areas around the UK having odd job opportunities here and there. Take note, that this is just a observation from job results of the current time, most definitely changing over the coming months.
The different levels of gameplay programmers
When looking at jobs, I identified there were different levels of Gameplay Programmers, with Junior, Mid-level, Senior, & Lead roles taking centre stage. Each different level expects similar requirements, but there are major differences the further along the ladder you go, like comparing the Junior role and the Lead developer roles.
Just looking a this structure in itself indicates the kind of career path that I have available to me, that being if I restrict myself to this particular job role.
How do hiring companies describe the role?
All gameplay development roles generally define the job as the following:
What experience is required to become a gameplay programmer?
There are many requirements to become a Gameplay Programmer, but the jobs usually more tightly define to range of work you'll be doing. Take for example a Unity Developer job, they'll focus more on having Unity game engine experience, and less so in Unreal Engine 4. Still, this all depends on the job that is being offered. Sometimes the role requires expansive knowledge on pre-existing APIs and frameworks, such as ASP.NET, jQuery, or Bootstrap, but these job comes with a high pay salary.
The general requirements I found to become a Gameplay Programmer consist of the follow list, including requirements that only appear sometimes depending on the how specialised the job is:
What is the difference between each level of the gameplay programmer role and how does it affect the job?
For junior developer positions, they are a little more slack with how much technical experience is required, like depth of knowledge of game engines, though you must still have solid fundamental knowledge, and commercial development experience is a major plus for this role.
Fro lead developer positions, major expert experience is all requirements is a given. They also need strong experience with mentoring/managing teams, with experience in previous lead roles providing a big plus. Experience is also expected to include previous work on AAA games due to the massive importance of this role. The pay rate certainly reflects the job, with annual salaries of £80-100k.
Specified years of experience isn't always included in job experiences, but from those including them, a general amount of 2-3+ years of experience is required for any senior and above positions. Even mid-level developers require 2-3 years at least.
What is the salary of Gameplay Programmers?
Each different level of the gameplay programmer role has a different average salary.
My future career path
- Talk about the career paths available, including adjacent/similar ones
Generally there is a simply level system to how experienced you are, and then you work your way up the ladder, though this isn't always the case.
Most games developers in industry will want to start with Junior development roles to further their knowledge and build up their experience, though others with major skills from personal projects will be able to leapfrog their way up the ladder slightly. Years of experience within the industry still matters and will limit those from applying for higher, lead positions, but yet again this can be bypassed by the start-up if your own games studio.
Not only this, but as you make your way up the chain, you can then begin to specialise more, steering yourself in a certain direction, for example VR development, which is what I want to achieve. From conducting this research I have a much better realistic understanding of how I can achieve my dream job (a fully-fledged AR/VR developer) and will use the ladder, to begin my venture into the games industry. Most likely I will branch out, happily starting my own small games company if need be, but I'm sure there are enough opportunities out there for me, as long as I work on building up my experience and tool-set, ready to tackle the next job's requirements list!