The Lead Programmer leads the programming team responsible for creating all the computer code which runs and controls a game. Programmers have various roles and specialisms including AI (artificial intelligence), game engine development, user interface, tools development and physics.
The Lead Programmer oversees all of this. They are responsible for the technical specification of the game and manage the overall code development process. It is also their job to make sure that the team delivers on time and within budget.
The Lead Programmer manages the software engineering of a game from start to finish. In conjunction with other key team leads (e.g. the Game Designer, the Lead Artist, etc.) they develop the technical specification for the game, and then delegate the different elements to their team of programmers.
They usually compile all the technical documentation for the software produced by the programming team and ensure the quality, effectiveness and appropriateness of all the game code.
They manage the production of the different ‘builds’ of a game (different versions, each an improvement on the last), ensuring that coding bugs are fixed and appropriate solutions found (or as many as possible within the production time frame), liaising with the Project Manager to make sure this all happens on schedule.
The Lead Programmer must also provide support and guidance to the programming team, making sure that the programmers understand the specification and have the right skills and training to be able to do their jobs effectively. Lead Programmers will also write a substantial amount of code themselves.