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Can a programmer run out of work in a development team?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Sklard, Apr 8, 2019.

  1. Sklard


    Apr 8, 2019
    Hi guys, this may sound silly but it is an situation that I did not count with and I would like to know people's opinion.

    My team started making money from our game, we are already planning to leave our jobs and focus on developing the game, but there is a problem that I did not count with, I did a good job programming the game, the scripts are easy to assign, modify and alter, so (for example) applying the different movements and attacks to enemies is not hard at all and can be done without touch the code at all as everything is set to get the correct animation, distance and proyectil (if any) in an easy way,same for the main character so a huge part of the mechanics of the game are already programmed, but of course the art of the game requires constant work, creating new enemies, scenarios and a huge etc is a non stop work that will probably take 10-12 more months, so much that we need to hire an extra artist, that put me in an weird situation where I can easily reach a point where everyone is busy with the development but me, as there is nothing else to code, that situation when we all are already getting an salary every month can be tricky, at least I do not feel confortable with the idea.

    I would like to ask you guys how does it work out in other studios, how do you guys manage to keep the programmer busy when all the necessary parts of the game are already scripted?
  2. Lurking-Ninja


    Jan 20, 2015
    I wouldn't worry about it, there is always things to do, stuff to improve, people with crazy ideas to support.
    If your mainstream coding pressure is lower that just means you did a fairly good job initially, but it does not mean you won't have to modify, optimize or do things. If they becomes busy with the current game and you really don't have anything to do, start to work on the next one. It's not uncommon to people to support multiple projects (one is going out of the door, the other is beginning to formulate from the thin air and great brains).
    angrypenguin and xVergilx like this.
  3. Red-Owl-Games


    Feb 4, 2015
    To answer the main question: yes, that sounds very possible. :p I haven´t encountered this specific situation however (programmer "finished") as usually it is easy to come up with a lot of ideas or variations that then need to be tested. Before you can test something, it has to be made first, and then some new work for the programmer just popped up.

    Every discipline has its peaks in workload intensity. I can list some activities you could do, but if you now have "downtime" because your team has structured work in such a way that the pressure is now on other departments, what's the harm in enjoying that downtime? It will probably not last that long, so why not enjoy the quiet before the storm breaks loose again?

    I am making an assumption here, but if you just started out, this probably means the team is not too big yet. A common thing you see in smaller teams is that people perform multiple roles. Maybe there are some other departments that need help?

    Then, the list of activities if you desperately want to quell that feeling of imbalance. (but again the question whether it's a bad thing to not be overloaded with work every day):
    Toolbuilding (help the other disciplines by making useful little things they can use to automatize some of their work)
    Self-study (sharpen your skills)
    Optimization (Faster performance of the game)
    Look into porting/other platforms
    Refactoring/Working off tech debt (make stuff simpler, so when you need to add other things, it won't cost you as much time)
    Working on a new project maybe?
    Trying out new, risky, fancy technologies
    Streamline your own planning/workflows

    Hopefully this helps somewhat! :)
  4. Joe-Censored


    Mar 26, 2013
    Documenting the code, working on features for the next update or DLC, or working on the next game are what the dev would be doing when there is not enough work for the current release.
    angrypenguin and xVergilx like this.
  5. Sklard


    Apr 8, 2019
    I'm writing down everything, thank you guys! I did thought about the tool one, even working in things that we can commercialise to get extra money.
    Joe-Censored likes this.
  6. MadeFromPolygons


    Oct 5, 2013
    It sounds less like a problem of running out of stuff to do, and more of a problem of not knowing how to find more jobs to do. There is always (always) something that can be done to make the product better, you just have to find it. As a programmer you stand at a unique point where depending on what your doing you can be also helping the art team (Technical art stuff like shaders, writing tools for their DCC apps, writing editor extensions for stuff), helping designers (tools), helping future development (document code), and in a good position to help with production (make task boards and processes tip top shape).

    If you genuinely cannot think of a single thing to do, its time to start looking at yours and everyones workflows and begin pinpointing the bits that take the most time and/or effort. Now you know where your problem points are, start making them better by making new tools and processes to either alieviate those areas, or automate them entirely. Rinse and repeat.

    This is meant as a joke ,but there is some truth behind it : Until you have a single button that you press that makes your entire game for you including rave reviews on all top tier media outlets, then you have not run out of stuff to do ;)
  7. LMan


    Jun 1, 2013
    Figure out how to support the rest of the team- you say it's going to take them 10-12 mo to crank out the assets. What can you do to smooth that out or shorten it? I know there are a lot of options for improving the art workflow so that artists don't have to worry about getting their assets working inside Unity.

    Designing a way to test that everything performs as it should, so that any time something is added or changed, you have an early warning as to if it broke something.

    Design tools- make designing your levels/stages ect really simple with an editor tool to simplify the workflow. Bonus, you can sell it after, OR just recycle it onto your next project

    Start working on the next product. You will not likely make a hit, so you're going to need a bunch of hooks in the water to catch enough fish to feed everybody. Start prototyping the next thing so that the team can flow from one project to the next with no hiccup in productivity. OR try out ideas for features. Got social sharing features? Can you enhance your user acquisition flow? Like you make 'stories' that are easily sharable via social, which then confer in game bonuses for the player when you get a new user via that story.


    Jun 1, 2017
    Just don't let the rest of the team know you are twiddling your thumbs. Walk around quickly and always have an overflowing binder in your arms.
    Pagi and Joe-Censored like this.
  9. bluescrn


    Feb 25, 2013
    Usually coders are busy long after the artists are done... there's always more bugs, and even once you're happy with stability, there's always optimization that could be done, and more platforms to port to.

    Are there any tools you could build to make things easier for the artists?

    Have you got a continuous integration setup so the whole team has easy access to the latest build on all target platforms?

    Have you dealt with localisation?

    Have you considered accessibility features?
  10. palex-nx


    Jul 23, 2018
    Don't worry. You will always have some bugs to fix and some perfomance spikes to optimize. Also, if designers/artists works takes so much time you may think of coding some editor automation for them so they can make things esier and faster.
    angrypenguin likes this.
  11. Zo_ey


    May 27, 2019
    I really enjoyed this discussion. It's like this - if you are really good at your job, you have to find a new project fairly quickly! Maybe a small pat on the back is well-deserved, and then you can get busy with doing more.
  12. angrypenguin


    Dec 29, 2011
    This! So much this.

    What does your QA process look like? If you don't have one, there's a nice body of work which will help with every project your team does. What about customer support, do you have a system in place? Also worth looking at.

    Past those things, others have already covered what I'd be looking at. Can you use your skills to save time and effort, or improve quality, for those still working on the current game? Or can you spend time getting started on the next project?