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Skills/Experience required for Game/Level Design Jobs?

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Having held the same position for other companies is the best experience you can get. The better known that previous work is, the better. Of course, since you ask the question, I should assume that you don't have that kind of experience yet.

I would expect a level designer to have designed levels for several video games or mods (winning level-design contests, being acclaimed by the internet public or working for a well-known mod certainly makes this kind of experience better).

For game designers, it's somewhat more difficult. Having designed an existing game that shows clear signs of a solid design is a big plus. It doesn't have to be a complete video game: you could go with a published pen-and-paper or board game (these are 95% design and 5% graphics, so it's much easier to get a publisher to listen to you if your idea is good), a mod for an existing game (assuming, of course, that you get enough players to warrant you a spot in the top 10 mods for that game) or even a scripted game level (DotA, anyone?).

Other skills involve being fluent in English and an excellent communicator (for instance, your resume and cover letter should be perfect both in terms of spelling/grammar/punctuation/layout and in terms of content exposition and argument flow). Published books, comics or articles, or a reasonably well-known and well-read blog or web comic, also convey some information about someone's communication skills (although they are by no means a proof that they can design games well).

Experience leading people in creative matters (such as staging a school play or setting up some important event, such as a role-playing or comic convention, or even being the dungeon master on one of these conventions) is also good. Don't forget, however, that you won't be leading people: you also have to show that, if your project manager or your testers tell you a feature cannot/should not be included, your ego will not prevent you from taking the right decision. As such, a solid experience of having great ideas and noticing their shortcomings is good.

Of course, it's sometimes easier to move into design from the inside than from the outside—in both cases, you'll compete against experienced professional game designers, but at least when you're on the inside you have the advantage of showing off your general skills (communicator, hard-working, dedicated, team player, intelligent, and aware of corporate rules and traditions) that might tip the scales in your favor.

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Great reply, thanks!

I've worked in IT for over 10 years, but not in the video game industry. However, as I have a passion for video games, and have done for over 20 years, I'd love to break into the game industry.

Game programming, QA and game/level design are the areas I'm most interested in, especially game/level design.

How valuable are the following modding skills to potential employers? (particularly for a game/level design role)

-Game level editors and SDK Tools (e.g. UnrealEd, Sandbox2, Hammer),
-Visual scripting systems (e.g. Flow Graph, Kismet),
-Scripting languages (e.g. LUA, UnrealScript),
-3D Modelling applications (3DS Max, Maya, XSI),
-Programming skills (e.g. good basic understanding of object oriented C++)

Can someone without game industry experience but with some of the skills detailed above, and a number of good examples of levels/mods that they've worked on, break in?

*edited for clarity*

[Edited by - MattSimpson on November 14, 2008 4:06:10 PM]

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ToohrVyk provides fantastic advice. I'm also HIGHLY recommend you read Tom Sloper's website at Sloperama.com.

In response to the modding skills you mentioned: The "skills" themselves mean nothing, but the practical application of them does. What I mean is that if you want to do level design then actually make levels. Experience in UnrealEd over Hammer over Sandbox2 doesn't really matter, the fact that I can sit down and play a FUN level that you designed does mean a whole lot, however.

Knowledges of scripting languages and 3d modeling is also advantageous, but again you need to demonstrate that you can apply them in game. Show you can use UnrealScript by making a fun mod. Show that you can model by showing a static mesh or character that you made running in the game.

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Hello Matt

Quote:
Original post by MattSimpson
Great reply, thanks!

I'm thinking about skills/experience in the following;

-3D Modelling applications (3DS Max, Maya, XSI), etc

-Programming skills (C++)



It's not possible to be specialized in so many fields; you have to be specialized in C++ programming for example OR in 3d Modelling but NOT both.
3ds Max is a very sophisticated and complex 3d modelling tool and it requires a complete training course, an artistic background .
I would say the same for C++ programming ; it takes a long time to know how to correctly program with C++
To help you in your choice, if you are on the creative side ,you love painting, designing therefore 3d modelling in the game industry is made for you.
If you have instead the engineering spirit , thinking about complex algorithms therefore C++ is made for you

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I agree! ToohrVyk, great response. It's been hard for me to find out what exactly is needed for a games designer as opposed to a level designer. I really wanted to know if making a game level was an additional requirement to separate myself from the competition or a recommended one.

Thanks!

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Quote:
Original post by Tierce
I agree! ToohrVyk, great response. It's been hard for me to find out what exactly is needed for a games designer as opposed to a level designer. I really wanted to know if making a game level was an additional requirement to separate myself from the competition or a recommended one.

Are those questions answered for you now?

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