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Was: "What is a 'Technical Programmer'"?

I've noticed in job posting boards a few postings, all from European companies in the games industry, for a "Technical Programmer". The job description was similar, having to do with tools development, 3d graphics programming, etc. It seems to be somewhere between a Technical Artist who's more technical than artist or who can code, and a Technical Director but perhaps without the seniority/experience. Information elsewhere on the position is sparse. The title seems redundant and I haven't seen any American companies post jobs by that name, exactly.

One example is this job posting on gamedev.net which isn't exactly thorough.

In case the link dies:

Subject: Technical Programmer

Frictional Games, the creators of Amnesia: The Dark Descent and the Penumbra series, are looking for a talented programmer to join the company!

You will be working for a small team with a big focus on finding new and innovating solutions. We want you who are not afraid to explore uncharted territory and constantly learn new things. Self-discipline and independence are also important traits as all work will be done from home.

Some the things you will work with include:

  • 3D math, rendering, shaders and everything else related.
  • Console development (most likely Xbox 360).
  • Hardware implementations (support for motion controls, etc).

All coding is in C++, so great skills in that is imperative.

Revised Summarised Question: So, where does a programmer of this nature fit in to software development team? If I had these on my team, what tasks am I expecting them to complete? Can I ask one to build a new level editor, or optimize the rendering engine?

It doesn't seem to be a "tools programmer" which focuses on producing artist tools, often in high-level languages like C#, Python, or Java. Nor does it seem to be working directly on the engine, nor a graphics programmer, as such. Yet, a strong C++ requirement, which was mirrored in other postings besides this one I quoted.

Edited To Add

As far as it being a low-level programmer, I had considered that but lacking from the posting was a requirement of Assembly. Instead, they tend to require familiarity with higher-level hardware APIs such as DirectX, or DirectInput.

I wasn't fully clear in my original post. I think, however, that Mathew Foscarini has it right in his answer, so barring someone who definitely works with or as a "Technical Programmer" stepping in to provide a clearer explanation, I'll go with that. A generalist, which also fits the description of a more-technical-than-artist TA.

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closed as off topic by Jim G., Jarrod Roberson, maple_shaft Jun 28 '12 at 2:07

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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

XXX Programmer

It's a generic two part title to refer to a topic followed by an activity. For example; web programmer, software programmer, cad programmer, etc.. etc..

Given this naming pattern, then the word "technical" would refer to a topic. So it's a position where a programmer would write source code to over come technical challenges in the production of video games.

They likely defined this title to make the programming language non-specific to the job, and focus on more the challenges that need to be resolved using programming skills.

It sounds to me like they are seeking a generalist.

Software development is an unregulated industry. Therefore, there is no governing body to define rules for job titles.

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I'd say it means they want someone with the math and hardware programming experience and not the typical web programmer or business application programmer. They want someone who has more expertise than is normally needed in those fields. –  HLGEM Jun 27 '12 at 22:20
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In the context of a game company (and supported by the specific requirements in your quote), "technical programmer" probably means they want someone who can work with low-level hardware, graphics, and numerics. For example, a technical programmer might be responsible for the nitty-gritty infrastructure of a game engine.

As opposed to, say, a gameplay programmer, a user interface programmer, or any other aspects of game development that require programming.

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