Working on live games and seeing your name in the credits of Sea of Thieves
Imagine the feeling of seeing your name in the credits of a popular computer game. For Computer Games Technology student, Kian Bennett, this has already become a reality whilst working as a Software Engineer for Rare during his placement year. Kian tells us about his placement so far and shares some portfolio tips.
How did you find your placement role?
This placement, along with many others I applied for, was listed on the Creative Careers placement database. My approach was to apply for as many placements as I possibly could – I was lucky enough to be open to relocation so wasn’t limited by distance. I made around ten to fifteen applications to start with. However, Rare’s application process happens early in the year so didn’t have to make more than this.
How did Creative Careers support you in your placement search?
Their help with my CV and covering letter was crucial in my placement search. They went through every line and made essential suggestions and improvements that really helped my application to stand out. I also did a mock interview where we covered common interview questions as well as preparing for more technical discussions – many of which did come up in the interviews and helped me give well-prepared, coherent answers.
Who do you work for and what do they do?
I work for Rare who make games for Windows and Xbox, which at the moment are Sea of Thieves and Everwild. I work as a Software Engineer on the Gameplay Engineering team, and we are currently working on the gameplay features for the Season 5 update for Sea of Thieves.
Being able to work on a live, continuously updated game presents a unique opportunity to receive and rapidly iterate upon player feedback throughout the development process. I've found this incredibly rewarding.
The image above is the driveway leading up to the Rare studio which has several statues of their most popular characters. I've grown up with these games so seeing them is always a surreal experience!
What's your role?
As a Gameplay Engineer my role is to implement various gameplay features. This gives me opportunities to interact with many other departments: I work closely with the design team to make sure the mechanics feel great to play, with engine and rendering to keep things performant on original hardware (this means Xbox devkits!), and QA to ensure our features are bug free and function as intended. We don’t want any ships flying off into the sky.
How is your placement related to your university degree?
On my placement I was able to build on the skills I started on the programming pathway of my Games Technology degree. I got hands on experience with use of industry-standard C++ practices and Unreal Engine development, as well as source control. I continuing to learn problem solving through engineering and writing performant, readable code, as well as building on my communication skills working as part of team and adapting to agile development practices.
Best and worst things about your placement
It’s difficult to pick just one best thing, but it would have to be just getting to be a part of a professional game development team. Every day I get to collaborate with industry veterans and people I look up to across multiple disciplines, which is a huge source of inspiration and motivation.
The only disadvantage of taking an internship now is that I've been working completely remotely so far. Although we have daily catchups and Rare has held several in-person social events at the studio, I still feel like I am missing out on the “water cooler” environment somewhat. Hopefully, I’ll return to the office soon, and 2022 placements will be back to normal!
Did you have any concerns about doing a placement?
My biggest concern before starting my placement was just being given a task and being completely out of my depth. Something I really appreciate about my university course is how well tailored it is for real industry jobs. But I was still worried I’d just be completely unprepared for working on such a well-established game with a huge codebase, surrounded by industry veterans.
Not only was I well prepared by my second-year programming modules to take on unknown coding tasks, but everyone I work with is so willing to help and explain things. I have no hesitation in reaching out when I have a problem, and I have been given every opportunity to grow as a developer and build my skills, both technical and interpersonal.
Have you done any training?
Rare has an onboarding process that is the same for all new starters, which involves a simple programming task to get you used to the tools, coding standards and development philosophy. I then had a couple of weeks of UE4 training within the context of the Sea of Thieves codebase – this was my first time using Unreal Engine so there was a lot to get my head around! Thankfully everyone on my team was happy to answer all the *many* questions I had.
As well as this, Friday afternoons for our team are reserved for learning and personal development. This is totally separate from our day-to-day feature work. I’ve taken advantage of this opportunity to watch some technical talks given by Rare engineers, dive deeper into specific areas of the Sea of Thieves codebase, and generally playing around with feature prototype ideas.
What have been the highlights so far?
Seeing my name in the Sea of Thieves credits for the first time!
For Sea of Thieves we have a program called Insiders, in which we allow a select group of players to test out features before they are released. When the first feature I worked on went to Insiders I was able to see real players playing and reacting to what I had made, which was so incredibly rewarding!
What are your plans for the future?
Before starting university my plan was always start a career in games programming, and my degree would serve to give me the skills I needed to enter the industry. My placement at Rare has cemented my belief that this is the right career direction for me and exactly where I want to be. My plans for after I finish my degree is go straight into the industry in a graduate engineering role – the UK games industry has so many amazing studios and exciting projects to be a part of!
Do you have any advice for students searching for placements?
Passion and motivation are what will help you stand out the most – unfortunately just completing university coursework to a satisfactory standard won’t quite be enough. Take part in game jams, work on personal projects, volunteer at events and generally get involved!
Your portfolio is the single most important piece of your application, and there’s a bunch of great advice online but the three things I think are key are:
- Keep it short but sweet and only show your best work
- Show videos as well as source code
- For each piece say what skills you showed and what you learned from it