What projects would you recommend for a gameplay programming portfolio, and how do you think one should go about selecting new projects on their own?

Let's establish a baseline first - the purpose of a portfolio is a showcase of your best work to get you hired. Thus, anything that goes into your portfolio is put there with the goal of getting you a job. Does that make sense? I hope it does. With that in mind, here are some skills that teams tend to look for in a gameplay programmer, and some sample work a candidate could use to demonstrate that she knows how to do those things.

Data-Driven Gameplay Systems

Much of the time, gameplay programmers need to build a system that requires minimal further maintenance and updates for designers to create the content. If the designer can use the system to create more content without needing the programmer to rewrite large parts of it, that's the ideal. An example of this would be an equipment system for a normal RPG - imagine a weapon that adds stats and maybe has a proc on hit. A weapon-creation tool might allow a designer to set the weapon's data - name, damage, attack speed, stat bonuses, and procs (e.g. effects that fire on hit, on damage taken, etc.).

3D Math

A lot of gameplay happens in a 3D world, which means that 3D (vector and matrix) math is important to understand where things are and how to get them where we need them to be. An example of this might be a backstab feature in combat, where a player can deal bonus damage to an enemy if the player is behind the enemy. Detect when the player is attacking from behind the enemy, deal some extra damage, and provide some feedback to the player to notify them that they have successfully backstabbed a foe.


Getting games to run at 60 fps is certainly not easy. Understanding how to improve performance is very helpful. An example of this would be to have a demo where you show a lot of something, but still keep it performant. A good example is a navigable field of grass that has non-uniform wind blowing across it. Making a field of grass is not that difficult, but getting said field of grass to perform at a high frame rate with a lot of grass in it is.

Remember, the purpose of the portfolio is to showcase the skills a candidate has to help her get a job. If a candidate has things to show (and, more importantly, talk about), it helps persuade the hiring managers that she can do the kind of gameplay engineering work that they need done. A candidate won't need all of these in a portfolio before applying - these kind of examples are helpful to have if she doesn't already have work experience in those areas. If she has work experience in those fields already, they should be on her resume and we hiring managers should be aware of them. If she does not have that kind of experience, then she should have something in her portfolio to demonstrate her skills.

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