Rare’s James Thomas recently wrote an article on Microsoft’s blog discussing what it’s like to be a gameplay engineer. You can read last of the blog entry below, so be sure and visit the official Microsoft Jobs Blog for the full entry.
With most disciplines a certain amount of training will see you through but with gameplay it’s as much a mind-set as it is a skill set. Gameplay programmers need to be good engineers first and foremost, able to turn their hands to most things, but they also need to use that repertoire of algorithms and approaches to interpret a designer’s requests.
There has to be room for tweaking values to adjust the feel, scope for design changes (as certain approaches won’t work right away), and an understanding that the end product is highly subjective.
What separates the good from the great gameplay engineers? Simply put, the ability to work closely with design. Barely anything created will be 100% right the first time it is tested and often there is a lot of churn with design, popping in little tweaks, exposing editable values, and tinkering that needs to take place before that ultimate moment when it all finally clicks into place.