#Senior Game Developer — 4 minute read
Marko Senior Game Developer
Coding for gaming – off to a successful career
Seven years ago, Marko was a student at a career crossroads. Today, he is celebrating his 7th work anniversary as a Senior Game Developer at Nanobit. We couldn't help but ask Marko about his career path and how he decided to step into the realm of game development.
This is when the journey began
Making games was not a future I inherently knew I was destined for when I was little. It was a future I eventually grouped under risky and improbable alongside other childhood dream jobs, such as being an astronaut or an inventor. I directed my education toward the things I appreciated and could see around me, like math and science, and eventually computers got involved. By the time I reached college, I knew I could code, but I was indecisive and unsure about my future, doubting both my motivation and my education. Despite having worked on several game-related projects it was only months before graduating college that I started thinking about actual work in the gaming industry. Would I be able to get hired? If work was unfair, would I be able to quit? What if I get fired for not meeting expectations? What skills am I missing? What kind of work could I be satisfied with?
Mobile Game Developer, the new title to the next chapter in my life
Job options for newly graduate programmers at the time were abundant and many employers prided themselves on the impressive salaries they offer. Web development, bank and insurance company apps, an academic career or simply moving abroad for more options were all part of an array of choices, and their advantages varied. Did I want to work in popular frameworks, job security, familiar surroundings or something entirely new?
To me, making games is a fascinating crossroads between many disciplines, where creative powerhouses meet to create wondrous, impactful art through solving a variety of complex engineering issues.
With only weeks to go until graduation, a friend sent me a job ad advertised by Nanobit. As soon as I read the description, I knew I had to apply. A “Mobile Game Developer” was needed, and I was ready to make that into the name of my next chapter in life.
The 'mobile' prefix only added to the magic by mystifying it further. I knew I wouldn't be bored at this job, and it was work I would really be able to get invested in, even though it seemed incredibly daunting at first.
Behind every successful developer is a supportive mentor and team
I applied immediately and all my worries were dispersed during my first week on the job. Kind colleagues from all educational backgrounds created a learning atmosphere, and so I started my journey of demystifying the process of game making.
We learn through mistakes, and not every attempt is immediately successful. My trial by fire included creating the player portfolio in the game Hollywood Story: Fashion Star. I am proud to say that flimsy as my programming was back then, it still worked. We shipped it and it is in the game to this day. Behind every successful developer you’ll usually find supportive colleagues and a patient, understanding and knowledgeable mentor, and I am glad to have had both. You can see how much you have improved by just looking at the code you wrote a year ago, which may now seem terribly written.
With time and experience came new responsibilities, such as system design, organizational and educational roles which were new sources of inspiration that further motivated me and introduced more variety to my day-to-day work.
What makes game dev an interesting career path
So, what is it I even do, and why is game development so interesting? Apart from obvious differences in project specification (technology stack, features, clients) I also get to collaborate with a large pool of people with diverse backgrounds and ideas. The teams I work with are not only programmers but also artists, UI, UX and game designers, testers, content writers, producers, data analysts, marketing managers, player support teams and several more. When faced with a difficult problem, this diverse team brings to the table different perspectives that can help solve it. On the technical side, the difference between genres usually outweighs the difference between platforms, meaning the underlying code of a PC and a mobile game of the same genre will be similar, more so than that of different genres on the same platform. One of the common challenges on mobile platforms is the presence of third-party software – we use many different tools for analysis, notifications, ads, purchases, login and even text processing. These tools need to be properly integrated and maintained in a somewhat restrictive mobile ecosystem.
Understanding performance in mobile games is critical – every asset is carefully examined before adding it to the game and code is constantly reviewed and refactored along with the regular optimization tasks to keep the animations run smoothly and the game load as quickly as possible. However, it is far from the only important skill – when I was just starting out, I was missing knowledge in areas other than programming and knowing what your coworkers are doing and how you can help is invaluable to the whole team.
You don’t have to be a gamer!
This may be obvious, but you do not need to play games to enjoy working as a game developer. The kind of games you prefer working on may not even be the kind of games you like playing! There are many areas of expertise, ranging from engine, tools, and graphics programming to gameplay and even backend work, and there are as many motivations as there are people. For some, it is being satisfied with personal technical expertise and achievements, for others, it is the excitement of contributing and eventually releasing a large collaborative project and some simply enjoy all the aspects of making games. I enjoy many of these aspects, but if I had to accentuate one, I would say that adding tiny pieces to the puzzle that is our project, and then at some point seeing the bigger picture and how I have contributed, is extremely rewarding.
The winning formula
The winning formula is not the speed at which you complete your tasks or your knowledge - those will come in time. Instead, focus on your will to grow and improve yourself in all areas. Even when successful, analyze your work and learn from it. Finally, keep an open mind and acknowledge your mistakes, and that will help you recognize opportunities you would otherwise ignore.
The game development industry is vast, and there is always more to read about and update ourselves on: games and their analyses, new engine and language features, coding and organizational standards, interesting design patterns and frameworks, and even YouTube videos and Stack Overflow answers for some everyday practical questions. I would recommend using a news aggregator with credible sources for the topics you are interested in, and refining your feed regularly, especially if world news clogs your sources with repetitive news. Staying informed, learning, and growing in this ever-changing market has been a fantastic way for me to stay interested and motivated for over seven years now, and I do not think this is a journey I want to quit anytime soon.