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spencerd

Becoming a Games Designer

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spencerd    100
Hey folks.

I'll be returning to University really soon, and I'm changing my course. I was doing a Computer Games Programming course, but decided I had a change of heart. I looked into doing a Honours Degree in games design or Foundation in Games Technology.

The change of heart was because I thought I had it in me to become a programmer, but throughout the course, I just became distant and didn't want to put myself through something I wasn't comfortable. I still want to be within the games indsutry, something I can do, and something I'm comfortable with. So I'm here asking anyone, with their knowledge a few questions which really have me a bit worried.

These are the course links if you wouldn't mind reading them, it's just a link giving the course description and what we will be doing:
Games Design - http://www.hud.ac.uk/courses/course/index.php?ipp=00000827&year=2012-13
Games Technology - http://www.hud.ac.uk/courses/course/index.php?ipp=00000848&year=2012-13

After reading those I really would like to be a designer, but the art side of things have me worried. Do I need to be fluent with a pencil and provide loads of art work? Because in fairness, art and concept isn't what I'm good at. Secondly, the Games Technology course has me interested because of the career opportunities how people have gone on to become producers which is something I could do, and using that role I would hope to pitch in something.

I'm just generally worried because I'm not very artistic, and I believe that's something they may require. I really do want in on the games industry, but I do feel some factors are holding me back. Can someone shed some light for me?

Thanks for your time.

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inavat    317
What makes you think you'll be a good designer? Are you choosing design because it seems like it doesn't involve something hard to learn like programming or art? It kind of sounds like you're looking for an easy in.

In my opinion, being a good designer is even harder than being a good artist or programmer. You can become a good (though perhaps not great) artist or programmer by learning and practicing. Being a good designer requires some very abstract skills that are (in my opinion) impossible to teach. You can teach someone how to use correct grammar and spelling, but how do you teach someone how to write a great novel.

How are you going to prove yourself at a company if you're applying as a designer? Have you ever designed anything creative? Have you written a book, or modded a game, or written a movie, or something that shows some ability to design something worthwhile? How are you going to prove to a company that you can:
* design a game that would be fun
* come up with creative gameplay ideas
* utilize existing ideas from other games in a fresh way, or at least do it well
* balance game rules so that the game is not overly easy or frustrating for anyone involved
etc,etc.

The first program you posted there includes a lot of art. The second includes both art and programming. Learning those things probably would be useful, but they're not going to make you a good designer.

To answer your question, the material in those courses might help you, just as it might help a film director to learn about how to build sets or how to write a screenplay, but those aren't going to be your primary tasks. No one can tell if someone's good director until they direct a film, and no one will be able to tell if you're a good designer until you design some games. My recommendation is to mod some games to find out whether designing/orchestrating/directing/choreographing is really what you want to do.

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Obscure    175
Just so you are clear you need a degree to (make it much easier to) get a job. You don't need a degree to be able to design games. You can start doing that now by designing and building game levels using the modding/world building tools that come with many of today's top games. The best way to find out if you will enjoy design is to get on and do it. You will need a kick arse portfolio to get a job* so the sooner you start the better. Don't expect the work you do during your college course to be enough for a portfolio.

* Design is seldom an entry level position. Most designers start out in QA, programming or art before moving into design.

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Arcfusiongames    140
I'll answer this with one of my personal learning experiences. I used to just design games in my spare time and that is all I wanted to do but I soon realised that just being good at designing games isn't going to get you very far. So I began learning how to model and animate in Blender 3D, make maps in Unity 3D, draw concept art, write better dialogue and stories, compose music in FLStudio and now I am learning C# programming. You see, I knew I couldn't get very far with just game designing alone, you have to expand your skill set but still focus on the main thing that you are really good at. Try to find your calling, it may been game design it may not be but the point is, the more skills you have the more likely you are to get the job.

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Hodgman    51234
Professional designers don't need art skills. They've got an art department at their disposal to back them up there.

Take note though that a professional development team might have:
* a dozen programmers
* a dozen artists
* a few sound engineers
* a few designers
* a producer + assistant

If getting into the industry as programmer or artist is hard, then getting in as a designer or producer is going to be a dozen times harder -- as mentioned earlier, these roles are sometimes even filled by internal transfers rather than external hiring.
In any games role though, simply doing a university course isn't going to give you what you need to break in; what you need is experience. As a designer, that means that you need to be getting practical experience by designing games! In your interview, you'll have to be able to talk about design decisions that you've made and share stories about how you coped with the development process on different games. Without having a team of developers at your disposal right now, designing games probably means you'll have to be doing some art/programming for yourself.

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