Technical Designer

Game Design and Review

Developer's Note: Do Not Rework Your Projects

As of the last few months, I have been very focused on my portfolio. Recently, I've noticed many of my friends and colleagues looking at previous works to place in their portfolio and being fairly disappointed with any previous works they have in it. As with everything, over time a developers own work will seem lackluster when looking back on it.

Which is a good thing!

Finding the issues with your past work is a show of progression, and your want to be a better developer! This feeling becomes problematic when a developer decides to rework their past work to have it "up to par".  Reworking your previous projects is an unfortunate trap many developers fall into, and it can hinder your ability to get the dream game development job you dream of.


Proof of Progress

After searching through many entry and mid level developer/designer positions, it quickly becomes obvious that a developer needs years of experience creating games. But what do the applications specifically mean when they say experience? 

    - Do they mean a previous developer position?  

    - What about creating some quick game jams for a few years?

    - Would this situation count design courses from college? 

Game design job applications are incredibly vague, and that's completely on purpose. They want to see your creativity.  When they want 2-3 years of design experience, they want you to figure out how you can relate the time you've spent working to their job position.  If we were to look at the questions above, all of them would fit this criteria.

One of the best ways to show this progress of time is with old projects that you don't like.  Most developers will think the project bad, or that they're well above that skill level now, and that's why it's perfect.  The best way to show experience and progression is with old work.  Nothing reads better than, "This game I made two years ago is really rough, but look at this new game which it allowed me to make!"  

By destroying or reworking a previous project, you are getting rid of the proof that you've not only been working at this for a long time, but more importantly that you've been improving your overall skill set.


Remaking the Project

The next argument that comes from the previous point is that remaking a project can be good practice for a developer.  I would agree with that point as a practice tool, since it can increase ones overall ability to design and implement. This does not mean it is a good idea to show off that remake of your project.

You can imagine a scene where a hiring agent finds your application and portfolio after seeing your resume. He see several iterations of the same project.  To him, it's great to see that you can improve a product over and over again!  It looks very nice, and shows improvement which is all fine and dandy until he asks you what else you have to show.

While showing the ability to iterate on a project is great, it is more worthwhile to spend that time on better, more complicated projects.  You are able to show your ability to improve your skills with each different project, as well as fill a portfolio with various works to give you the highest chance of getting hired at the studio of your dreams.


Final Thoughts

There are both good and bad reasons for reworking an old project to turn into portfolio work.  I firmly believe that the best way to show yourself is a good mix of the two.  If you are someone who has a wide array of projects in their portfolio, then feel free to rework a project!  Just make sure it is an old one, to make it plainly obvious how you've improved. You wouldn't want to fall into a situation where you show off your new project and someone can hardly tell the difference.

If you do not have a lot in your portfolio to show, then stay away from reworks.  Focus more on the amount of good content in your portfolio, and you will get the same information through to the hiring agent.  

-Zach McCormick