National Careers Week – Tips and Insight for Young Professionals from Games Industry Pros
Here at Codemasters, we have been making games for over 30 years. Time really flies! Of course, none of our amazing racing games would be possible if we didn’t have a fantastically talented team beavering away behind each title.
It takes many different skills to make great games and to run a healthy business. Games development is home to people like programmers, artists, producers, QA technicians, designers, animators and audio specialists. Alongside this we have the likes of sales & marketing, finance, IT, facilities and HR, all supporting Team Codies’ work. Then there are areas such as live operations, analytics, licensing, legal and video – in fact, there are so many varieties of careers at Codemasters that we couldn’t possibly list them all here!
As it’s National Careers Week – a week dedicated to encouraging the education sector and all companies to offer guidance and resources to young people leaving education, and stepping into the working world – we thought we’d spotlight on some of the superstars in our midst. We want to give you a glimpse of the real people behind some of our open roles, to help picture what these legends actually do. We’re a busy team and have several exciting new vacancies that we are hiring for, so get ready for a deeper dive with us into the world of making video games.
For someone interested in the Development QA route and taking their first steps as a professional, the skills required for a Dev QA Technician include a keen interest in learning and understanding the development life cycle of a game and each step of production. As a Technician, you’re involved from the start to finish and post-release game, and as an individual you have a sizeable impact on the outcome. An excellent pre-existing knowledge and passion for games, with a willingness to want to learn how to validate and test prototypes/ features, evaluate manual and automated tests and monitor continuous integration to maintain build quality of a game, is ideal. Working as a Development QA Technician heavily involves on working together with your peers, with a methodological and logical way of thinking and approach to tasks. Existing knowledge on test management apps such as JIRA, Confluence and Test Rail earn brownie points, too!
What opportunities and experiences would a Dev QA Technician role at Codemasters offer to a young professional?
Whilst being a Development QA Technician largely involves working and collating with QA, it doesn’t limit you to this. It also includes working daily with developers, artists, designers and producers. It allows an individual to experiences all areas of development, which means the days are never dull! Being a Technician also exposes several career paths within Development QA, and growth is always encouraged at Codemasters. Development QA allows opportunities to expand knowledge into the engineering side of development, and the analytics and data side of development.
On a usual day for a Dev QA Technician at Codemasters, what sort of tasks and roles would you be fulfilling?
A usual day for a Technician involves monitoring the stability of a game before it’s thoroughly looked over by QA. Major issues discovered are then alerted to developers and production and we work together to resolve them – this prerequisite ensures QA’s ability to work and test the build appropriately, without coming across any game-breaking issues, and this allows smooth game development. The best part of being a Dev QA Technician, however, is that no day is the same! It can vary from being an integral part in development scrums, to working with artists and handling designers to check the quality of liveries and car models, to then having opportunities to attend and be a representative of Codemasters at highly recognisable gaming events!
Communication is key; both verbal and written. The ability to accurately and concisely get your point across to others will work wonders in your career. Focus on other skills that may not directly link to your idea of games design, too. Learn how to use Photoshop, Unity, 3ds Max or any other industry-used tools to not only improve your output, but broaden your skill-set.
I got my start in the industry in an embedded QA team. I had 18 months of non-games QA experience from my university placement year, which set me up well for my interview at Codemasters. Everyone’s path into game design is different. You’ll find yours! There are loads of opportunities at Codemasters. I was fortunate enough to go along to Gamescom 2019 with GRID. I set up the consoles with the game, worked the booths on both the Deep Silver and Xbox stands, and conducted interviews for the media and content creators alongside the Game Director.
For someone taking their first steps as an entry-level programmer, we like to see at least a Bachelor’s degree, ideally in a computing related discipline, such as Computer Science, Computer Games Programming, or Computer Games Technology; or a strong maths/computing background. As we use a proprietary game engine, we’re interested in people with good C++ knowledge, up to C++17. In general, you need to be able to use logic, spatial maths, and reasoning to solve problems, while balancing a variety of factors such as performance, memory, data processing, and parallelisation.
Career progression can be fluid; if your interests in an area of programming become more specialised, or diverge from your original specialism, you can move to other departments to further that skill-set. Advancement to more experienced roles requires knowledge and experience with growing areas of responsibility. As a Junior, you may add to existing systems based on design feedback, and offer suggestions of improvements and changes to the areas you are assigned. As you progress to Experienced, you may find yourself owning some larger modules of the engine or game, and these will increase in scope, size and importance on the road to Senior. For personal development and knowledge gathering, we also send members of the team to conferences, encourage suggestions towards a growing collection of programming literature, and benefit from a highly collaborative working environment to share knowledge amongst the teams.
As an Experienced Programmer, my typical day involves: investigating engine capability to implement new features; making improvements to our tools to assist designers; going to meetings to break out design, art, and technical requirements of new features; adding to coding discussions with members of the team on how best to build a system, or implement a new coding technique; and testing my own code by playing in isolated test levels to see if it meets the requirements of my tasks.
For someone taking the first steps in their professional career, what skills would you say they should focus on to work towards a Senior Game Designer role in the future?
For someone just starting out, I’d say that listening to and learning from your more experienced colleagues is key, and focus on your teamwork and communication (both written and verbal) skills to give yourself the best chance of success. Early on in your career you’ll be tasked with designing smaller portions of a game, and at this point it’s important to show that you can work to a specified brief and then embrace any feedback you’re given on your work. After that it’s a case of working hard and playing your part on a couple of full development cycles, and then you can start to think about a Senior role.
What opportunities and experiences come with a Game Designer role at Codemasters?
Here at Codemasters you get the chance to work on some incredible games alongside people who are really passionate about what they do – and a lot of motorsport fans too! Every day you’ll learn something new, or find something you want to know more about and are supported in pursuing that knowledge or new skills. We have some great facilities and offices across multiple locations, and in Southam we have a great canteen and a free gym. I’ve also been lucky enough to meet and work with several racing drivers and professionals from the motorsport world during my time with the company, as well as promotional tours across Europe and the USA.
On an usual day for a Senior Game Designer at Codemasters, what sort of tasks and roles would you be fulfilling?
At a Senior level you’ll most likely be looking after a big feature or two, such as a Career Mode, so depending on where the project is timeline-wise there are several different tasks you’ll turn your hand to. If it’s near the start of the project, you’ll be working with the Game Director or Lead Designer to understand what the overall vision for the game is and then coming up with appropriate ideas for your mode and documenting them, before these are refined into a final specification, ready for the code team. At that point it’s up to you work closely with the coders to make sure everything runs smoothly throughout the implementation phase, as well as designing around any problems that may crop up and starting to balance the gameplay elements as required. The closer the team gets to finally releasing the game, the more varied tasks you have to turn your hand to. The final big push to get it finished is where teamwork really counts and everyone is expected to chip in wherever needed.
For someone taking the first steps in their professional career, what skills would you say are required for a Producer role?
You enjoy working and being around a team of people. Whilst you will find yourself doing individual tasks, your key focus will be ensuring the team are able to get on with their work to achieve the project goals, and ultimately the release of the game. You get a buzz and enjoy the challenge of solving problems, and it will also help that you like to be organised – or getting other people organised, at least! Of course, having a passion for games helps, but you may be someone who has experience in game art/code/design and found that you enjoy the organisational aspects of the role. You are passionate and are eager to learn, but be prepared for a challenge! Developing games is a lot harder than playing them. Most of my friends think I sit around playing all day; this is definitely not the case!
What opportunities and experiences would a Producer role at Codemasters offer to a young professional?
A production role would allow someone to see the creation of a game from all sides, and interact with many different team members from a multitude of disciplines (Code, Art, Design, Audio) within the business, and sometimes externally, too. Whilst your output is less tangible than a coder or an artist, knowing you have helped solved a problem, or helped the team achieve their goals, is equally as rewarding. At Codemasters, you will get an opportunity to work on a AAA title with a great team, who have a wealth of knowledge and experience in the racing genre. Best of all, once the game is complete, you will get to see your name in the credits and see your game on sale!
On an usual day for a Producer at Codemasters, what sort of tasks and roles would you be fulfilling?
The day would usually start with a production meeting. This is an opportunity to catch up on any key issues from the previous day, and discuss priorities for the day ahead with the teams’ directors and the rest of the production group.
When we are in full game production, scrum meetings would usually follow with the dev team. These meetings bring together the relevant team members who are working on a particular game feature or content for the game. The scrum meeting will usually highlight particular challenges that the team might be facing in completing their work, and the rest of the morning can involve trying to resolve problems the team have highlighted.
The rest of the day can be a mix of the following:
• Holding planning meetings to discuss new game features, and establish the work required. Once complete, the data will then get transferred in our tracking software
• My role involves co-ordination with other areas of the business, including licensing and the marketing team. I will spend time ensuring our game assets are sent to licensing for approval, and any requirements needed for marketing are being created
• Reviewing our tracking software to check on the teams’ progress
• Planning meetings to determine future priorities and workload for the team
• Reviewing builds of the game, and determining how we need to improve features or content
• Ensuring the team have the equipment or software required to do their job
• Interviewing candidates for Production roles!
My day would usually end with a review of the day’s emails; this ensures any urgent issues have been responded too and dealt with. I will also run through of any issues highlighted to me in our tracking software. I always create a to-do list for the following day before I leave, so I am prepped for what the next day will throw at me!
Skills I would expect to find in a junior artist are the ability to accurately source and use reference images for the best visual fidelity, a critical eye to break down assets as well as reference and identify the most impactful features and subtleties to create quality assets and to be technically minded in terms of workflow and cost optimisation, so that their work is not only done quicker, but efficiently. This is on top of the mastery of at least one mainstream 3D software (3dsmax, Maya, Blender), and knowledge of current tech workflow relevant to your speciality (PBR, high-to low poly baking processes, sculpting, etc.).
Working at Codemasters will give you the opportunity to work in a fully-fledged team of different level of experiences, meaning you get to both learn from others and teach others what you know – which you may not get in a much smaller dev team or working with a quick production cycle. You will not be pigeon-holed into any tasks, but instead be given the opportunity to learn about all the processes that have gone into the game’s development cycle. Not only will you be able to polish your artistic skills by broadening the processes you know, but your day-to-day routine will involve a lot of team interaction. Codemasters is very team-focused and everyone gets to pitch their own ideas, discuss how tasks can be broken down and divided between colleagues, all to secure a healthy exchange among the team, leading towards a successful project.
You’ll be part of the creative process from the white-box stages of a level, research and development to improve tech and visual quality, asset and terrain creation, reviewing and liaising with our offshore team, bug fixing and most importantly evaluating the game as a group.
Make sure to connect with Codemasters on LinkedIn for company news, latest vacancies and application details!