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Chuckleluck

How to become the "idea guy"

4 posts in this topic

Hello,

I've been wondering about this for a while.  In most major game companies, how do the people that design game concepts (how much recoil will this gun have? What should we name this city? Should we add X gameplay element? etc.) get those positions?

 

My plan for a while was to become a programmer and work my way up to game designer from there.  I suppose that was probably the case years ago when teams were smaller, and in some indie studios, where the same is true, but what about now?  Do people get game designer jobs fresh out of college?  And if they do, would a programmer have any chance of obtaining the position of game designer?

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Have a look at the requirements that are listed on job boards for designers:

http://www.gamasutra.com/jobs/board.php?category=9

 

I doubt many people get a design job without any previous work. If you're fresh out of college and applying for jobs, you should have a portfolio of hobby games that you've designed in your spare time throughout college.

 

Having knowledge of another non-design field is always useful, because professional game development is a team sport, and it will help you to communicate with the other people that you share this knowledge with.

Knowledge of programming is especially useful because you can prototype/implement your own designs, which means you can build a portfolio.

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There are no real "idea" guys. Game design is a lot more involved than that. Coming up with ideas is a very small part of their job (and in reality ideas come from everywhere and are a dime a dozen).

 

Determining recoil on a gun for instance involves a lot more than one person deciding "how much recoil" to use. First the designer needs to outline the details for reloading each weapon. They need to have the foresight to outline that they need the recoil time tunable, and what tuning recoil involves (is it just speed-scaling the animation? Is it swapping animations that were built at different speeds? Is it more complex than that?). For this they need to work closely with engineers and animators (and sometimes audio guys).

 

They would then need to modify the values themselves and organize and run playtests to get statistics on balance. This could take weeks or months (obviously they would have all sorts of other tasks they would be working on at the same time).

 

After that it's a constant battle of gathering feedback and reacting while trying to ensure you are delivering on the vision for the product. They'll also need to make compromises based on schedules and capacity or technical limitations, which is often harder than it sounds (coming up with a backup solution that doesn't leave gaps in the original design is difficult).

 

On top of that there are presentations with executives to sell your vision, press tours to hype your game to the press, working with the marketing team to capture screenshots and videos for trailers, E3, gamescom, etc. Getting demo builds ready. There isn't room for "idea guys".

 

 

 

As for how to get the design/production jobs? You need to start somewhere. Get a job in QA, art, audio, software engineering, etc (and get a degree if necessary). and learn the craft. Work harder than everyone else (and do good work, no one cares how hard you work if your output isn't good). Make it known you'd like to move into a producer/designer role. Get offered a job in production. Some places have entry level design staff that might also be an option to get your foot in the door. These people would work under more senior producers to balance parts of a game (level designers for instance).

 

Once you've gotten a design job it's a constant and slow grind to prove your worth to get promoted higher up. Most of the senior designers I work with (regardless of where they started) are the hardest working people at my company (I'm an engineer for what it's worth).

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