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July 5, 2013 / KingsIsle Entertainment

Tips For Getting Into the Gaming Industry – Programming

Today we have a real treat for any young players interested in working in the gaming industry one day.  Cheryl Starcher, a Lead Software Engineer here at KingsIsle, has taken some time to let us know a little bit about her background and what can help an aspiring player become a game programmer one day!

I love my job.  Here’s how I got to this position and why you might also love a job as a game programmer.

I graduated from Duke University with a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and a second major in Computer Science.  I worked for IBM in their server group doing logic design and verification using C++ while getting a masters degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering.  Eventually I reached a point where I wanted to do something more creative and that’s when I went to work for KingsIsle.  I’ve been working on Wizard101 since before it launched and I still love it.

Having a four-year degree and work experience with C++ opened the door for me into the game industry. Luckily for me, KingsIsle was working on MMO games which are the most complicated and challenging type of game to program. They involve a huge codebase and major technical challenges.  Supporting the game after launch is just as challenging as we keep adding more features making the code more complex, and fixing problems while maintaining the data we have (you can’t solve a problem by starting over from scratch).

wizard-tournaments

KingsIsle also supports a lower min-spec machine than is typical for an MMO so we jump through hoops to keep the game accessible and we debug problems that only exist on odd pieces of old hardware.  We’ve localized the game for different languages including Asian languages, which are an additional challenge.  With our partner, CodeWeavers, we support the Mac.  I can’t say enough about how interesting it is to be a game programmer and encounter such a variety of challenges.

I recommend that anyone who wants to be a game programmer one day should get a four-year degree in Computer Science.  I also recommend that you play games – all kinds of games including board games!  Even though a four-year degree and gaming experience are great, the thing that is really going to get you that game job is making your own games.  Start off simple and make something you can show to other people.  This is what shows future employers your dedication and ability to figure things out.  I’ve listed some free resources below that one of my fellow programmers, Gary, has compiled that should help you get started making games.

As a final word of advice, being a game programmer requires someone who thinks logically and is creative.  Programming teaches you precise attention to detail, but allows you to solve a problem in multiple ways.  Any code you write is an expression of yourself and all of the training and knowledge you acquire allows that expression to work as intended.

Cheryl Starcher
Lead Software Engineer

Some Resources to Make Your Own Games

20 Comments

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  1. Frank / Jul 5 2013 6:53 pm

    How important would you say learning Design Patterns, Object Oriented Programming and Design (OOP/OOD) and Test Driven Development (TDD) are to developing games? Most recent computer science courses of study I’ve seen tend to emphasize these areas a lot.

    As someone who’s been programming professionally for nearly 30 years, I agree that the most important thing an aspiring programmer can do is to start programming. That’s where you really learn to apply your knowledge to real problems, unlike most classroom instruction. If you have a passion for it you’ll even find creating inventory, logistics and process control apps exciting. Maybe not as exciting as working on a cool MMORPG, but still a lot of fun.

    • Cheryl / Jul 8 2013 5:15 pm

      It is important to know Design Patterns. We use them and discuss them when implementing code. Sometimes we ask about them in interviews. Object Oriented Programming and Design is essential as most of our code is C++. Test Driven Development, in my opinion, is a good way to program and that’s what I was taught in school as well. First it has to work, then you can make it better.

      🙂 You’re right, ensuring a quality software product is exciting, regardless of the product. What tends to give MMORPGs the extra boost of excitement is being able to see and show your work to other people and also participating in a visually artistic endeavor. Of course it’s possible to get that on other products as well.

  2. Sniper Rose / Jul 5 2013 7:39 pm

    Well now programmers can start making games with these but there’s only one thing you’re missing if you want to design a variety of games with models or from your creativity that cost some money if you wanna make a complex game using some GUI or something like that. But you can do it for free with your creativity with no extra cost! This programs uses the scripting language of Lua. This program is what I like to call “ROBLOX”. I will be giving codes out for some Robux, the games currency if you’re interested playing it. You’ll get to know allot about of it and my Robloxian name is Dovahkids2 so plz PM me if you have any questions. Also there are a few bugs like Lag and such and is the only the main bug but you can reduce it with less bricks or a script. Also there are some annoying Guests so watch out for them. Please post this comment because it’s a resource and I’ll put the link in if you allow me.
    Link: Roblox.com
    P.S Play Land of Valour. It’s a great place if you’re in the fantasy thing which you should all be so that’s why I’m bringing it up. You’ll find out about the groups if you ask them.

    • Sniper Rose / Jul 8 2013 7:52 pm

      It’s a honor to have this comment posted! 😀 Now many people will see it and join LoV! That should keep a flow of players for a bit.

  3. Logan / Jul 5 2013 9:56 pm

    Thank you for the information i always wanted to go into this but just didn’t know where to start 😀

  4. Samantha / Jul 6 2013 7:09 am

    Do you have to have a degree in Computer and Electrical Engineering or Computer Science, or are there other Degrees and majors we can join? I always wanted to help in the gaming careers and when I played yours, KI, I loved it and wanted to know how someone like myself could join. The problem is I have problems reprogramming a computer. I’m not too experienced with editing or programming softwares or, computers in general. I was wondering if there were other job-spots in y’alls community that doesn’t get involved too greatly into computers; somewhat like marketing sells I guess. I’ll be going to collage in a couple years as soon as I finish High School and I would love to hear some feedback, please.

    • Cheryl / Jul 9 2013 4:26 pm

      There are many other areas of expertise in the gaming industry besides programming. You should be seeing some tips for getting into other areas with some future blog posts. The other areas I can think of right now are design, art, sound, production, quality assurance, web development, operations, marketing, community managers and customer support. We also have an office manager, a game music composer we contract with, voice talent for the dialog voice overs in-game and a terrific IT department that is very friendly and very knowledgeable.

  5. Anonymous / Jul 6 2013 4:07 pm

    cool

    • Sniper Rose / Jul 8 2013 7:59 pm

      KI? Shouldn’t there be a login for all of the Wiz and Pirates accounts? And they should be allowed to comment the way they would on Wiz or Pirate101.com. Just consider that because it kinda seems odd you allow all people to reply but since it’s a blog it makes sense but everyone should make a user of their account user or what they’re known on the message boards. I see some people here I seen on the message boards like Coolster50 for example. Just consider this and add if you can.
      P.S You picked your user that you use on the message boards at least Coolster. I did that to and I’m sure others have done so to. Also sorry if this is off topic but it went with the Anonymous thing when I seen it so I’m reply here. Also you should get a user so people would identify you Anonymous.

  6. Coolster50 / Jul 7 2013 12:09 am

    Ever since I started playing online games (which was back in 2006-7), I’ve always wondered how cool it would be to create a game, And once I started playing Wizard101 (in the spring of 2009), I knew that one day I wanted to create a game, and your advice is very inspiring and helpful to me, I hope that one day that dream can come true. Thanks again Cheryl

  7. FrostBiteTheThird / Jul 8 2013 7:26 pm

    Thank you so much for starting my new game making career. GO KINGSISLE!! 😀 🙂

  8. Jared WindWalker / Jul 10 2013 3:39 pm

    I have always wanted to design/create a game so thx again kingsisle

  9. Sly Neela Jellico / Jul 11 2013 9:34 am

    Have you ever tried or would reccommend using Kodu from Microsoft?

  10. MasterTarlac / Jul 13 2013 3:48 am

    Hi, Cheryl. I want to work for KI soooo bad right now and help you guys make these amazing games and see how you guys make them. I just want to say keep up the good work and I’ll be trying hard to learn coding. Also ever since I played Pirate101 it has been a thrill ride for me, farming, leveling, strategics, etc. Wow! Thanks Cheryl, hope I get to work for KI in the future.

  11. Musketeer Danielle / Jul 31 2013 9:55 am

    How long does it take to make a game?

    • michaelcoen87 / Aug 13 2013 3:50 pm

      It depends. Sometimes 1-2 days, other 1-2 months. It depends on the complexity of the game, and the code you write.

  12. Paul / Aug 20 2013 2:39 pm

    Hi, what program do you use at KI to program, is it one you made yourself or it is something like C++ or Python?

  13. LHilton / Sep 13 2015 2:52 pm

    What about working as a writer for Kingsisle? I know you must employ many creative minds to write the story lines and dialogue!

    • KingsIsle Community / Sep 14 2015 9:36 am

      We sure do!

  14. Anikate / Sep 15 2015 9:46 pm

    WOW! finally! Thanks! Kinda been waiting a while now to hear tips from KI about how to get into the industry

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