A Guide to Becoming a Casino Games Developer
Without the special skills of developers, there would be a return to the old days of street corner card games. If you can’t think of anything better than taking designers’ concepts and turning them into playable games for users, then here’s what you need to know about becoming an online casino games developer.
What does a casino games developer do?
Once game designers have created the concept for a new game, as a developer you would use the design concept, along with drawings and the rules of the new game, to build a usable end product. This is done by writing code and using applicable program interfaces (APIs), or even programming machine learning or artificial intelligence components in a game for non-player characters.
As a developer, you might develop anything from land-based arcade games and jackpot slots, to online scratchcards or bingo variants for online enthusiasts. You could even develop games intended for tablets and mobile phones or be responsible for developing fan sites that demo new games and invite feedback from members before taking a new product to market.
Of course, table games have been instrumental in the evolution of the gambling industry, but in the last two decades, slot machines and online games have changed the way people gamble. Not only is it easier to play slots online instead of heading out to a land-based establishment, but players can also gamble on any number of devices and even join player chat rooms for an enhanced experience.
The responsibilities of a developer
Although the basic functions of a games programmer tend to be similar, your specific duties will usually depend on whether you’re employed by a large company or work as a bit of a ‘one-person show’ for a smaller concern. Gambling companies like Mecca Bingo that have a dynamic online games offering, can either employ a team of their own designers and developers or contract a games publishing studio to develop games for them. As part of a bigger concern, you could be responsible for just one aspect of development like bringing the graphic component of a game to life or testing game prototypes. Whereas working for a small concern, you could be responsible for a wider range of components, from concept creation and market research to generating prototypes and testing before launching a new game.
Depending on its complexity, it may take a team of professionals years to fully develop a game from concept to end-user product. Usually, there are five focus areas when developing a new game: brainstorming ideas and coming up with the game concept, building a prototype, coding, testing, and finally releasing then maintaining the game.
Finding your personal niche in this process can be a varied and fulfilling endeavor – whether this is creating the look of a range of new online slots, character animation and audio, or editing and producing the final product.
Typically, the responsibilities of a developer in this field include:
- Collaborating with designers, artists and other staff involved in the design process or even developing your own designs and gaming concepts. This may include generating game scripts and storyboards.
- Creating the visual aspects of games in the initial stages of a project.
- Delivering high-quality code using online gaming software coding like HTML5, open-sauce Angular and Node JS, or Vert.x and similar technologies.
- Creating new game prototypes using tools like Framer, InVision, Marvel or Unity which is a comprehensive platform for designing a range of games, from mobile, social and instant, to virtual reality, augmented reality and others.
- Carry out code reviews to check code quality or use refactor code to improve existing code.
- Work with 2D and 3D modelling and animation software to produce audio for the game.
- Perform diagnostic tests to identify problems or bugs and implement debugging programs during production to ensure the smooth rollout of a game within deadline. A prototype will usually be tested for functionality, compatibility, regression (also called re-testing), load testing to see if it works with real-time loads, and playtesting. This phase of the development process can be particularly stressful, especially when working to a deadline, so a developer must be able to work under pressure.
- Depending on your skills and work experience you may even be responsible for technical strategy and carry the responsibility of the ultimate delivery of a project. This would include resource planning and managing the development team.
It’s worth pointing out that you might have to be flexible around the hours you work. Developers typically work a 40-hour week or more when deadlines approach for the launch of a new game. You might even be required to work evenings and weekends.
Depending on whether you work for a casino, studio or production house, you might be based in an office with teammates sitting beside you or have the opportunity to work remotely with colleagues in other parts of the world. The largest concentration of game developer jobs in the UK are in London and the South East, the Midlands, as well as Bristol, Cardiff, Sheffield, Manchester and Edinburgh.
What you can expect to earn
Junior developers can earn between £19,000 to £25,000 per year, while according to
PayScale, you could earn as much as £30,000 to begin with. Mid-level positions typically offer salary packages of between £35,000 and £50,000 while those in more senior roles can expect to earn at least £75,000.
Of course, your salary package will depend on your area of specialisation and the size and type of company you work for as well as where they’re based.
You’re most likely to be employed by either a casino or a studio that is sub-contracted by a brand that will want you to develop their games or administer their networks and manage their Bingo sites, for example. A game studio can either operate independently or come under the ownership of a game publisher.
The employment landscape for developers is extremely varied, from small studios with a few employees, to large multinational concerns that operate around the world and employ hundreds of people. UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE) is a great resource for UK game developer companies and publishers.
Qualifications and training
To become a games developer of this nature you will need to graduate with a degree in computer science, software engineering or a related area of focus. If you want to make a living bringing hours of enjoyment to patrons or people then your best way into the industry is to study a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher National Diploma in computer science, preferably with a specialisation in games technology, computer games development, design or programming, software engineering, or mathematics and physics.
If you are planning to work as a designer and developer, you will need to include in your degree, subjects like art, animation, interactive media, or games and graphic design. Look out for games courses that are accredited at both the undergraduate and postgraduate phases of your degree by The Independent Games Developers’ Association (TIGA).
Already completed a non-gaming degree or it’s unlikely you’ll ever get one, but you’d still like to get into games development? You could begin as a quality assurance technician or tester, but you will need some programming experience and be able to demonstrate a definite understanding of the difference between slots and bingo games, let’s say, and the various styles and platforms used by these and several casino favourites.
It does sometimes happen that a university graduate without a computer science degree is given an entry-level job if they can demonstrate programming proficiency and are familiar with the industry. But keep in mind that this is a competitive line of work, so you’ll need experience and an impressive portfolio to get the top jobs. The latest statistics forecast that the global revenue of the online gambling market alone will hit a £46 billion high in 2020, increasing competition amongst job applicants.
If you’re just starting out, you could look for employment in smaller concerns or apply for an apprenticeship in software development or a similar role. This will allow you to gain experience and build your portfolio. Look out for opportunities in the IT section of TARGETcareers, or Gamedev.jobs, GamesIndustry.biz, Games Jobs Direct or similar websites.
UK top computer science courses
Most UK universities and colleges offer computer science or specialist degrees and higher national diplomas in the various aspects of games development. Check out the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) website for a comprehensive list.
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