Tools programmers are specialized software engineers who help design, enhance and implement architecture to ensure video game tools function properly and improve the production team’s efficiency and effectiveness. A tools programmer rarely works directly on a game, but works on developing and improving internal tools that aid artists and game designers. There are a fair amount of opportunities for remote gaming jobs for tool developers.
The main responsibilities of the tools programmer include:
- Analyze and correct bugs in tools as determined by testers and the quality-control team.
- Examine existing tool features in the Engine and suggest enhancements through designing and implementing new systems where needed.
- Document all production work to communicate issues to understand how to use the systems and their features.
- Provide support for the features and systems designed for video game engine production. These can include plugins for third-party applications such as source control, 3DSMax and Maya, as well as productivity tools.
Skills and Knowledge:
- Ability to understand and take user needs into account.
- Be able to work as part of a team.
- Possess strong analytical and reasoning skills.
- Be resourceful, show initiative and be able to work independently.
- Understand system development needs, assess tool feasibility, and improve the overall production pipeline.
- Have strong communication skills.
- Possess a command of C++, C#, Python, SQL, WPF and other programming languages.
- Working knowledge of concepts in ergonomics.
- Strong problem-solving skills.
- An attention to detail and be results and user-oriented.
- At least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field, or the equivalent gaming industry experience.
- Broad experience in composing software in Python and C++.
- Practical and demonstrable experience as a software engineer.
- Applicable experience writing extensions for standard-industry software such as Maya, Mocha, Nuke, Silhouette, PFTrack, 3D Equalizer, etc.
- Knowledge of automated-software testing methods and tools.
- Experience working with visual effects pipelines.
Software engineering is a massive umbrella that covers many unique high-demand positions. While many industry analysts predict the need for some computer programming jobs will decline in the next few years, video game recruiters report job openings for tool programmers should increase due to the degree of specialization. This means applicants holding at least a bachelor’s degree and possessing a strong knowledge of the various programming languages will have the best prospects.
Video game recruiting companies say tool programmers will have to stay current on evolving technology and emerging tools to stay competitive. This will require a commitment to ongoing industry education and willingness to learn new technologies. Those with UE4 and C++ experience will be in the highest demand. The best prospects for tools programmers are in California, Texas and Washington, respectively, with over 15,000 market share. The worst states are Vermont, Hawaii, New Mexico and Wyoming, with less than a 500 market share. Currently, 40 percent of all video game companies in the U.S. have an opening for remote gaming jobs for tools programmers.
Irrelevant of how in-demand a particular position is, the gaming industry is competitive with new job applicants entering the field each year. Here are some essential tips from some of the country’s top video game recruiters:
1) Be Prompt
Always arrive at least 15 minutes early to have time to relax and mentally prepare. This also demonstrates that you are reliable and responsible and take the opportunity seriously.
2) Dress the Part
The video game industry is one of the few business sectors that has more of a laid-back culture and emphasizes dressing casually. Don’t show up in a suit unless you want to get pegged for being unfamiliar with the industry atmosphere.
3) Research the Company
Most gaming companies are more likely to hire people who have at least a basic knowledge of their work. While you don’t need to become an expert on the company, applicants should have an overall understanding of the company’s vision and successes.
4) Know the Company’s Games
Knowing what kind of games the company creates, their biggest successes and demonstrating a passion for the types of games the company produces will help you stand out from other applicants.
5) Prepare to be Tested
Many programming job candidates are asked to take a test to demonstrate their skills. While interviewers and recruiters will usually give you a heads up, sometimes they forget, so be prepared.
Expect the interviewer to ask questions that require some preparation. Here are some examples:
- “Explain a development issue you’ve had and how you solved it.”
- “How do you prioritize your tasks as a tool programmer?”
- “Tell us about a project that failed and what you could have done differently.”
Considering questions the interviewer might ask can immensely help to boost your confidence and achieve the desired outcome. Try to strike a balance between too much honesty, which may damage your chances, and coming across as a braggart.
7) Promote Yourself
The interview is designed to let the interviewer(s) assess your qualifications. Always try to connect with the person asking the questions and be straightforward about your abilities.
8) Follow Up
Always follow up with a thank-you email within 24 hours of the interview. This is such a simple thing that most candidates don’t make the effort to do and will help set you apart from the other applicants.
Due to increasing demand, salaries for tool programmers tend to exceed the market average. Following is a breakdown of annual salaries:
- Entry-level tool programmers’ base salaries can start at $80,000 annually.
- Skilled tool programmers earn an average annual salary of $102,000.
- Top-level tool programmer’s salaries typically top out at $149,000 per year.
About DAM | Video Game Recruiters
A comprehensive resume and a well-designed portfolio are essential in creating the right impression. At DAM, we take an objective eye to ensure your talent, abilities and skills are properly showcased to potential employers. DAM has been one of the leading video game recruiting firms since 2000, successfully securing thousands of jobs for gaming candidates. We also provide candidates unpublished job opportunities as well as salary negotiation and career guidance. As the employer pays DAM’s fees, we supply all of this to you at no cost.
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