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A day in the life of a games developer

Interviews with developers from Square Enix and Sumo Digital about the average day for a games developer.
So what does an average day look like in the video games industry? Let’s find out from the developers themselves. An average day as a producer typically starts out with a stand up, where you get your entire team, or subsets of that team that need to talk to each other, standing up, talking. And first thing in the day, we figure out what we’re doing. The rest of the day is largely then facilitating those plans. It’s having small meetings, getting people together, writing notes, documenting. It’s doing everything you can to keep your team moving as efficiently and as fast as possible.
An average day for me usually is I’ll be given a task that usually takes about a good three or four weeks. And in that task, it’s usually I’ll be given a concept, and then it’s my job to make the 3D model of that character. And, yeah, within that is a lot of discussions with the other teams, discussions with animation and design about how it works in the game, if it has any requirements like that. Yeah, it’s the same basically. So at the start of the day, we all kind of usually do a scrum. And we meet up and discuss what tasks we’re doing. And then that kind of leads into, like, you know, talking to other disciplines and stuff.
So I’d probably come up to you guys and be like, I’m doing this today. Can you help me out? Like, I need to know something about how something’s working or how this model is going to look when it ends up in the game and stuff. So I’m currently working on AI and enemies. So my general days are just making the, like, behaviours and the gameplay of those enemies. So that will be talking to design, asking what they want, reading the specs and stuff. So, yeah, it’s a lot of that, and just talking to people, and then fixing bugs as they come up and finding out who I need to talk to in order to get those bugs fixed.
I suppose a lot of my surprise was around not everyone knows what they’re doing. And this industry is still so young and so new and so fresh that even the experts are still figuring it out. So it was realising that these people who’d been in their roles for decades were still just finding everything out as they went, the same as I was. I’ve been given a lot more responsibility, and there’s a lot of freedom to contribute to the project that I’m on. I think you go into games thinking that everything will be, like, regimented, and here’s the task. And you don’t do anything outside of this. You just do it.
But it turns out that we get to contribute quite a lot. And so we go home, and you can play games and do research. And then you get to come in the next day and share that with everyone and actually be like, well, actually, I think this is a good idea. And I think this would work great on the project that we’re doing. Mm-hmm. Yeah, it’s always interesting when you can come back from playing games at home and suggest it to design, and everyone is very receptive to it. And then that can be in the game in, like, another couple of weeks. And you’re just like, wow. That’s really cool.
I never would have expected to get to work on, you know, a main character. So I was very surprised when I’d come in, and they’d be giving me these tasks that were to work with that kind of stuff.
In my role as a producer, my favourite thing is helping people to fix problems that they didn’t know they could fix themselves. Sometimes, you’ll have two people sat next to each other, working on distinct things. But they need each other’s help, and they don’t know. And it can be as simple as coming over and chatting to them both, getting them talking to each other. And suddenly, we fixed a problem that we didn’t even know existed. The thing I love doing the most, I think, is interacting with people. It’s really– I don’t know– fun to see, just as you’re going around to different people, just seeing what they’re working on, seeing how that builds into the main game.
Yeah, I really love the early stage of making characters, when you’ve just got the concept. And it’s kind of just like sculpting and kind of going freehand and just figuring out, does it work in 3D? It’s a very fun process, and that’s definitely the bit I enjoy the most. Yeah, it’s kind of the same for me, because it’s, like, I really like the sort of pre-production tasks of, like, just being able to just go and design a level. Just go off and do whatever you like and have fun with it, and then after that, getting to actually, like, make it come to life, because previously it was just on paper.
And now it’s something, like, tangible that you get to play.
A lot of the role of a producer is sitting at a computer, dealing with Post-it notes, Excel, emails. And it can be a lot of solo work, just interfacing with a computer, which isn’t always the most motivating thing to do. I’m a lot less keen on the kind of file structure side of a character. You know, making sure everything is named correctly, it’s put in the right place, that’s very important for the game to work. But it’s a lot less fun and stuff. So– Yeah.
I think the thing I’m least keen on is, because as part of the pipeline of stuff going through, all of design, into the animation, et cetera, to me, sometimes you just run out of tasks to work on. And you’re just kind of sitting around, trying to find bugs, or just waiting for a task to appear. So, yeah, that’s probably the worst bit for me. Yeah, I also hate being bottlenecked by, like, other parts of the studio. Like, obviously, it can’t be helped. It’s just, like, the nature of games. But it can be quite annoying when you don’t really have much to do, so you’re kind of just chasing after people and stuff.

On an average day, a games developer may be responsible for a vast range of tasks. We spoke to our four developers to find out more about their work and to hear about a typical day.

After watching, think about the jobs they do and share your thoughts in the comments.

Were any of these tasks a surprise to you?

Have they made you think differently about the role you’re interested in?

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