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MrMitra

Level Design

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I have been looking very seriously at the game industry for some now. From researching all the various jobs I have concluded that level design is what I want to do. I want to design the layout, program scripted events, be the person that helps meld the art into the layers of code into the final video game presentation. In particular I would like to design levels and environments for RTS and RPG games, although all genres interest me. Also I am interested in the balancing process as well as far as difficulty, multiplayer balances, etc. go. Is my "dream" job an actual job in the work place? Is level design a legitimate full time job or is it a position that a developer contracts for a couple of months or something? I am talented at math and plan on learning programming either going the Full Sail or Computer Science major/ English minor route (I've noticed that even major universities are offering classes for their programmers interested in a career in gaming). However, I know I will burn out if all I am doing is spewing out lines of code and banging my head against broken code. I figure a more encompassing role like level designer (I would play for hours with Starcraft's map editor, creating scripted missions and the like) If I were applying to a company as a level designer, would a portfolio consisting of levels and mods I made with existing games' toolsets like Starcraft, Neverwinter Nights, and Half-Life? My thought is that my talents and abilities would present themselves better on a polished toolset rather than a game that my buddies and I scraped together. Thanks for any input anyone is able to provide!

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Quote:
Is my "dream" job an actual job in the work place? Is level design a legitimate full time job or is it a position that a developer contracts for a couple of months or something?
That depends on the developer. If you're good, or the developer needs you to stick around - you'll most-likely stick around. If you're bad, or the developer plans on hiring different level designers for different projects, then I don't see why they wouldn't hire someone else for a different project.
Quote:
I am talented at math and plan on learning programming either going the Full Sail or Computer Science major/ English minor route (I've noticed that even major universities are offering classes for their programmers interested in a career in gaming). However, I know I will burn out if all I am doing is spewing out lines of code and banging my head against broken code. I figure a more encompassing role like level designer (I would play for hours with Starcraft's map editor, creating scripted missions and the like)

If I were applying to a company as a level designer, would a portfolio consisting of levels and mods I made with existing games' toolsets like Starcraft, Neverwinter Nights, and Half-Life? My thought is that my talents and abilities would present themselves better on a polished toolset rather than a game that my buddies and I scraped together.
Well, that depends on the developer. Show them that you know exactly what a level designer does, and that you were trained to push the limits of whatever game engine you are handed, and you will probably score a job.

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I like you had done a TON of research and had come to the conclusion I want to be a level designer, I finally decided to go to college and get a BA in game design. I really regret it, and at the same time im so glad I did.

To tell you the truth no ammount of research can really get you to figure what you want. What you need is to actually try a little bit of every field.

I did my level design class already and i was really excited and iT was fun.I even made arguably the best map in the whole class, it was for unreal, it was a dark almoast sin city esque city block with an apartment building and cars that drove by and could run you over and everything. But in the end, I liked programming a hell of alot more. Ive never really been strong in math, infact I suck at it. And to me programming didnt really sound appealing, It looked like a big giant pain in the butt. However when I got to actually try it, I just fell in love. I mean its just soo much power and controll. Have you ever got the chance to sit down in a perfectly calibrated fine tuned car like a racecar or a classic such as a mustang. And you just felt it. Its alot like that, the fact that I can write up some code and it is followed exactly as I put it down to the tee, and if the program crashes its because I told it to, its that perfectly calibrated feeling a classic mustang gives you, your in complete controll, down the most minute of details.

Get a taste of every field, then make your decision.

If your smart in the least bit you wont pigeon hole yourself into one path or idea, but you will keep an open mind.

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I've created levels for the past 8 years or so, although it really caught on when I got my hands on Half-Life, some 6 years ago. During that time I've seen a few community mates make it into the industry. Needless to say, they had been very involved in the various communities and their portfolio's contained several quality levels. I noticed that most companies they got into where somewhat larger companies, focussed on the kind of games you see on the shelves.

I'm currently doing an internship at a small, just found company, and we're not looking for specific designers or such. It's either programming power, or a mix of artist and design skills that we need, and mainly the programming. This may vary from company to company, but most small companies are looking for some broader skillsets: they simply can't afford a person for every specific area.
Having that said, it's possible to get to work at one of the bigger companies, but it takes some good quality work to get there, and having some contacts in the various communities certainly helps. However, I believe having a broader skillset is always an advantage. It helps you get insight in the whole process, which I found quite helpfull so far.

As for whether to go with existing games or not, modding existing games lets you focus on using a given ruleset and making the best out of it, while creating a new game allows you to define the whole ruleset - but it costs more time than a single level would have. If you can make sure the game is fun to play, I don't see why it's a bad choice, while on the other hand, you'll probably miss out on the modding communities, and therefor contact opportunities. It's a choice you'll have to make. I've seen various level-designers getting jobs, but I've also seen the Portal team get the attention of Valve with their own game...

Then again, this is just my point of view. Good luck. :)

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