Get That Job Daily: How to be a lead gameplay programmer

Get That Job Daily: How to be a lead gameplay programmer
Aaron Lee

By Aaron Lee

January 20th 2014 at 1:26PM

Massive Entertainment’s Jesper Carlson discusses the key skills needed for his role in programming

Every working day this month, as part of our New Year, New Job 2014 special, Develop brings you a game industry professional to explain what their job involves and key advice to help you follow in their footsteps.

Lead gameplay programmer

Jesper Carlson, lead gameplay programmer at Massive Entertainment, explains what it takes to direct a team of coders on a brand-new entry in the Tom Clancy franchise.

What is your job role?
I’m the lead gameplay programmer on Tom Clancy’s The Division.

How would someone become a gameplay programmer?
The most common way is to get a bachelor’s degree in computer science or similar and then apply to a programming position at a games company. However the degree is not the most important part, it is the technical expertise and the passion for games that separate out our potential applicants.

What qualifications and/or experience do you need?
Strong knowledge of C++
Either previous work experience as a programmer or a programming / engineering focused education
Passionate and creative
An ability to work both independently and as a part of a bigger team.

What do you look for when recruiting a new gameplay programmer?
It is very important that the applicant is a ‘team player’, someone that can work closely together with the rest of the team. It is also quite important that the applicant has a feel for what makes a game good and is able to explain that. And most importantly the applicant must have a high technical skill level and knowledge of C++ programming.

What opportunities are there for career progression?
The natural career progression is that you develop your talent and become a senior or expert programmer. Another possibility would be to broaden your field of expertise and take on larger responsibilities as a technical director or choose to delve deeper into the people and product management side of things as a producer or similar. My two predecessors are now technical director and producer for The Division.

Why choose to follow a career in your field?
It is truly inspiring to work together with so many incredibly talented people that all share the same passion. Being a gameplay programmer is very interesting because you get to work with different technical challenges all the time, from making sure your game characters move and animate correctly on the game client, to synchronising a huge amount of data between hundreds of clients within half a second. Some days you sit and debug very technical issues, like when different hardware threads access the same memory at the same time. Other days the problem is more related to getting that ‘good’ feeling in the game when your character hides undercover in the middle of a gunfight. Where I am in my life right now, I can't think of anything else that would be more fulfilling to work with than games.

If you’d like to get involved with Get That Job Daily, contact aaron.lee@intentmedia.co.uk. You can take a look at all the available programming vacancies over at our Develop Jobs section.

This feature is part of New Year, New Job 2014, Develop’s month-long guide to games recruitment. You can read more at www.develop-online.net/jobs2014.