Online Gameplay Programmer

  • Online Gameplay Programmer

Online games, unlike offline console or PC titles, are in a constant state of evolution. As new players join the community, and early adopters tire of the same old thing, developers must find ways to constantly keep the game fresh and exciting while also improving performance and functionality.


As a member of the online programming team, the gameplay programmer is responsible for designing and implementing systems and tools that support the networking needs of internet-based titles. Specific systems may include in-game communication, client-server, matchmaking, and leader boards. To ensure tools are running at optimum efficiency, the programmer performs regular profiling tasks of implemented code—a method of examining where and how a program spends time in operations—and deduces solutions for tuning or optimizing the program in order to shorten the run time. He or she completes a series of test patterns for all new tools and updates to existing systems, maintaining careful design documentation concerning all program parameters. At the request of his or her supervisor, the online gameplay programmer may participate in designing and testing offline systems for needs outside of his or her regular purview.

Skills & Education

The most important skill necessary for a career as a programmer is the ability to write clear, efficient code that is easily maintained and ported for similar needs. To build this skill, a bachelor’s degree in computer science, game development, or equivalent major is required. Coursework must include classes in advanced mathematics. An online gameplay programmer should be fluent in the use of C and C++, but additional scripting languages are beneficial to this career. While game studios will train new employees on proprietary systems, applicants must demonstrate experience with third-party tools commonly used in game development as well as the appropriate test patterns and profiles.

What to Expect

The role of the online gameplay programmer is a mid-level career for an individual with at least one year of professional experience and one shipped title. Credit on an online game is required. In most instances, the programmer will spend most of his or her time constantly improving and rebuilding tools and systems for a single, live online game. On occasion, he or she may be pulled to assist another team with improvements or design activities. Working conditions will vary by studio, but you can expect to work at least an eight-hour workday under normal circumstances. When crunch time hits, workdays at game studios can increase to as many as 10 or 12 hours per day. With at least three years of successful employment as an online gameplay programmer, one may seek advancement to a supervisory role within the programming department or transition into another specialty within game programming.


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