Job Roles in the Game Industry
Different Types of CompaniesThere are different types of companies in the gaming industry that serve different purposes. Development studios basically create all of the aspects of the game, from the art to the level design this studio will create it all. However when it comes to the publishers they have an entirely different job, one of the main ones is marketing the game, a team will often have to do market research to decide on the price of the game this will consider the platform its coming out on and popularity of is genre at the time. A publisher will also have to physically manufacture the disks and cases for the game, as well as any other promotional items. An independent studio can consist of a small amount of people to work on an entire game, obviously this can be a huge amount of work depending on the size of the game. They have to serve as both developer and publisher, this has become easier over the years with the introduction of virtual stores like Steam.
Responsibility in the IndustryEach of the different roles fall into categories and usually to each category there is a team assigned to work on a specific aspect of the game. Each team often has a lead that will run the team and oversee all the work that they do, for example the lead programmer will manage the software engineering throughout the development of the game. They normally delegate tasks to their team and overlook the work during and after development.
The company Blizzard has many different roles and so I'll be using them as the example for this section. The average salary for a software engineer working at Blizzard is $82K a year, this is 14% higher than the nation average. This is a staggering amount higher when compared to Indie developers, 60% of which made less then £500 in game sales in 2013. Since working at Blizzard is in an office environment the hours are normally 9 - 5, however they may do irregular times when close to a release date. Working on an indie game is pretty much always irregular hours as you are often working from home and need to finish the game in order to earn a living wage. Occasionally during the development process the work may become to much or they may want to hire someone more experienced, and so they would hire a freelancer. This is someone that comes from outside the team to work on a specific job. Another type of employee is one on a fixed term contract, this means they are employed to do a job for a set amount of time and their employment will be terminated at the end of that contract.
AnimatorAn animator is responsible for showing movement and behaviour in a game, they use the best of the games engine technology, however are sometimes limited by the platform they are animated for. The aim of the animator was to bring life to a character in the most realistic way possible whether this be in game or during a cut scene. Animators often work with the programmers and artists to create smooth movement that is optimised for the correct platform. They work as part of the art department and use the objects, models and characters created by the 3D artist to define their movement and behaviour. Animation combines different aspects of movement and so the Animators can create a library of reusable animations, this makes to process quicker. To make the process more efficient the Animators often create and underlying structure that acts similar to bones.
These guys create the visual elements like the characters, objects and textures. Quite often they are also responsible for the concept art or storyboards which help create the visual element before the production for the game has even started. There are a lot of different artistic styles that are used for games, from photo realism to cell shaded and its an artists job to make the desired result. The look of a game is often related to its success, so an artists job is an important one. There are specific jobs that fall under the artist category for example 3D artists and concept artists.
Assistant ProducerThese people work closely with the production crew to ensure that the game is of highest quality and is produced on time. To do this role you must be able to work well in a team and have strong verbal and written communication skills. They normally focus on one aspect of the development process. A large part of there job is to manage communication between different teams like development, art and programming. In publishing, Assistant Producers will liaises between sales and marketing, however their roles can often change during the development process, this happens as the development of the game progresses. Quite often the assistant producers plan due dates and track the progress towards it, they would also review the work at completion.
One of the most important jobs in the industry is game designer, these people choose how the player will interact with the game and also several elements of it for example its setting and the characters. Once they decide on how they want the game they pass it on to the development team who create assets and code that allow the game to be played. The designer has to consider the time frame and budget they have and use this information to create the best game they can. Developers often have a good understanding of how the software they use will interact with the platform they are making the game for. They also decide on changes to make after having a response from the QA testers.
A scriptwriter has the job of creating the story for the game, however they have a say in other aspects for example what the music would be like and events that trigger something like a cut-scene. In a game there are often several choices to make and so quite often a script writer will create a flow chart that shows the possible out comes of a players actions. The script will start as a summarised version to simply pitch the story in general and then become a more detailed story when the video game has been approved.
The level designer is responsible for creating separate segments of a game which usually include buildings and objects. They are slightly limited as they have to use characters and story elements created by the Game Designer. They have some freedom to change the look and feel of the level that they are responsible for. They have to define the environment and layout of the level, as well as lighting and textures. They have to add the NPCs and the behaviours associated with them. The levels can have an underlying meaning as well that can give players clues about how to progress through the game. They often sketch out the level in 2D and have to imagine themselves playing it in 3D to map out the possibilities of progressing. They are then mapped out in 3D and tested in the games engine.