Gameplay programmer interview - Christophe Mézerette.

How would you define the job of gameplay programmer? Can you tell us more about your role at Kylotonn?

I've been here for 3 years, working only on TDUSC. I joined as a senior gameplay programmer, and today I'm associate lead gameplay programmer. You could say that my job is mainly to code the game, but it can be more complex than you think. We integrate what we get from the various artists, whether they're UI, 3D artists or even game designers. We're in contact with all of them, we integrate all their work into the final game, we're the masons of the game in a way: they give us the bricks, and we put it all together. Sometimes, certain bricks don't fit, so we bring up the problems and discuss them with the divisions concerned to find solutions.
But to sum up, we integrate the rules of game design, the resources that come from sound, graphics... We also create tools that allow everyone to work. I'm digressing a little here because this is more the job of the tools programmers, but we also have to make tools that are specific to the game we're working on, whereas the tools programmers will develop tools that can be applied to all projects.
We also have technical restrictions, such as memory limitations: we can't fit everything into the game, so we have to make choices! Or the different controls for consoles and PCs, because they have to work in the same way, even though there are far fewer keys on a joystick than on a keyboard. 

Can you tell us about your background?

First of all, I did a two-year DUT in IT (ED : technology degree in France, post bachelor) , and that was the end of my studies!
Then I applied for a job at Gameloft in Aurillac. I ported games to mobile phones, on Ubisoft licences such as Prince of Persia, Asphalt... I made 11 versions of poker games too! And then I worked at Lexis Numérique, doing creative work on mobile and DS. Then I moved on to Dotemu, where I ported retro gaming games like Metal Slug and Final Fantasy 8, which I ported to PS4... In short, I worked a lot on games for mobile phones, but also for handheld consoles. It was great because on mobile, you're usually on your own and you get to touch on all aspects. It's the first time I've worked on a project of this scale at Kylotonn, so it's different but it's great!

What do you like the most about your job?

The fact that everything is changing all the time. You're constantly discovering new things.
Then there's the fact that you get to work on longer, more ambitious projects: it's always interesting, because you get to see the project grow as it goes along. I like to think that our work is going to be played by lots of people all over the world!  


Tell us about your typical day?

At the moment, I'm doing a lot of debugging. And then I have a job that's a bit special because I'm an associate lead and I also talk to people a lot. There are days when all we do is integration, depending on what's going on at any given time. I can't really give a typical day, apart from 'open visual and code'! There are days when we'll be doing a lot of coding, and others when we'll just be looking for bugs and changing a character in one place, for example. We spend a lot of time looking for the source of errors. Often, the first step is to reproduce it. Then we try to understand why. And finally, we correct it. You have to love puzzles in this job. There's also a support part, where we help other colleagues when they encounter a problem or don't understand something.

What qualities do you consider essential for your job?

The first is curiosity. You have to like discovering new things, it's a constantly evolving profession. I started out coding Java on old phones like the Nokia 3310, and everything evolved very quickly. You have to love learning, otherwise you'll never get anywhere!
You also have to be open in the way you work, and not be conservative. It's good to change your habits, know how to question yourself and listen to the people around you. In a nutshell, you need to be adaptable, both in terms of technological developments and the working environment.

What was your favorite project to work on?

I've got several, for different reasons! For 'fame' it would be Final Fantasy 8, and then there were the fun technical aspects, because it was reverse engineering. They'd lost the game code, so we had to take a PC version and decompile it to generate new code from a finished version, which was a fun technical constraint. Otherwise, I loved doing Titan Quest. It's a game from 2006 that I had to port to...2016 at the time of the iPhone 6. The technical aspect was super hard and very interesting. And Test Drive! It's a big project and a lot of fun to work on. 

August 29, 2023