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NeilDuncan

What Do You Look For In A Designer?

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I'm currently a student and am looking to develop my portfolio to make myself more desirable for design positions for when I graduate later this year. What exactly do you look for in a Designer? What areas do you think are most important and how would you suggest I go about developing them? Any other general advice would be much appreciated.

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For the title of game designer, the first thing I'd look for is experience designing games pro-
fessionally. I'd want to see some credits, some game titles. Then I'd look at those games, and
I'd contact people from those projects to inquire about that candidate.

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Would you consider professional experience in game design to be only for games fully released to the marketplace or would games developed during Game Jams or through collaborations at University or elsewhere be acceptable. If not, how would you suggest to go about gaining professional experience in game design given that professional experience is already required to work on a game?

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Would you consider professional experience in game design to be only for games fully released to the marketplace or would games developed during Game Jams or through collaborations at University or elsewhere be acceptable.


Professional means professional. Class projects and game jam projects are fine for portfolio material, but they are not what I look for when looking to fill a full game designer position.

If not, how would you suggest to go about gaining professional experience in game design given that professional experience is already required to work on a game?


Aspiring game designers need to find their own unique entry pathway into the industry. See
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson14.htm
and
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/m85.htm

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The job title of "game designer" is generally a senior position.

Level design, character design, those are beginner design roles. After a time of those, associate and assistant game designer may follow.

The title of plain "game designer" usually means responsibility over a multi-million dollar portion of projects, with an enormous influence on the success (or failure) of the product. That is not handed out to just anybody. The role requires many years of professional experience.

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Would you consider professional experience in game design to be only for games fully released to the marketplace or would games developed during Game Jams or through collaborations at University or elsewhere be acceptable. If not, how would you suggest to go about gaining professional experience in game design given that professional experience is already required to work on a game?

Well,

I like to say. "people only take you as seriously as you take yourself, never more, sometimes less"

 

As someone who's technically not in the Industry yet, but who;s interviewed with AAA companies, I've gotten close, and they always ask if you have "professional experience".

 

That usually means money is on the line somewhere.

Rev share/ indie can be considered as such if you hold yourself and the project to industry standards, same for Modding. (which is what I technically do)

 

If there is no money/ if your rev share, then the questions are:

1. How professional are the tools? (all tools, from art, to code, to management)

2. How Professional does the product look and play?

4. How professional do the members communicate on all platforms?

4. How long did it take these people?

5.What are their other qualifications?

 

Money or no money, they want to see you produce something, something different, something long term, something that they've never seen before.

 

Most people do not consider "game jams" professional experience, for the simple fact that it's by design a very short term project. 

It's actually been a huge issue in games staffing for the past few years, that people put game jams on their resume, without identifying it as such.

 

Sure, your a game designer. but you neglect to mention, it was for 3 days, and the team didn't finish, and the product didn't work.

 

As for your "school projects", do you mean:

A. they were done for a class.

B. they were done while you were at school

C. A & B

D. Other (please specify)

 

You need to be careful about listing games on your resume, out of the games industry, most people have no idea what you mean, or what you were doing, unless you have a link to show them. (and sometimes they won't look)

 

Due to the PR of the games industry, and just the term "games" people will assume your "playing" not "making", so you need to make that distinction as much as you can,in everything you do.

 

The Activision recruiter asked me in a playful way what I did for fun, and what games I usually play, that's a trap, the correct answer that needs to be true, is "I hardly have time to play games, because I'm working on them." If that's not true for you, your not doing it right.

 

For some mysterious reason, as my  project developed, we never gave anyone the title of "game designer", nor do I, and have I ever put an Ad up looking for specifically "Designers".

It probably has a lot to do with us being technically a mod, but the reason honestly is, all core "design" was done by me, my creative & Art director, and former lead coder years ago during preproduction.

 

The high level of the full "game design" is done by the person who wrote the GDD, and who plans out all the core mechanics and features, in my case, it was a collaboration between us three, but mostly me, since I wrote out the GDD, and did all the "thrilling" spreadsheets.

Once that is established, and agreed upon, anyone on the team can come up with a "design" feature, but the core design is locked in.

 

To this day, I don't consider myself a "designer" nor do I give myself another title. 

It's just how it turned out.

 

We'd need an official, "Game designer" once we start our new IP tho, but it's  still a high level position.

 

At the end of the day, a designer's job is to develop, implement, and communicate  systems.  

 

Also:

Edited by GeneralJist

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Thanks for all the feedback guys.

 

I understand that the title of "game designer" is often quite a senior position, but my main inquiry was mostly concerning what you would personally expect from someone in that position so that I can identify the areas that I need to build upon for the future. Obviously I don't expect to be able to enter a senior design position at this time, but it's good to know what areas I need to develop. I should also have been a little more clear on my experience level, since I think the assumption has been that I'm entirely new to games development. I have an undergrad in Design and Production Management and I'm currently studying a Professional Masters in Games Development. I have experience in design positions ranging from class projects to rev-shares and solo projects and I have experience as a Producer and have recently successfully ran a project to build a prototype for BAFTA. However, I do think my portfolio is lacking at the moment and while I may be able to enter a junior position at an established developer or be involved in a start-up, I'd like to build up my portfolio further for my own professional practice. I apologise again for being unclear with my original questions.

 

Here are some questions that are maybe a bit more focused: If you were interviewing for a design position (be it UX, level design etc) what would you really like to see on an application or in a portfolio? As a game developer what do you value in your colleagues who work in design? What do you think makes them good designers?

 

Thanks for any further responses.

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If I were interviewing for a specific position, each specific position would have different requirements, and I don't feel like writing out a list for each one. But it should be self-evident; if you're applying for UX, you need a portfolio where you can talk about your UX work. If you're applying for level design, you need to show levels you designed. And in any case you need to be able to explain and justify your choices.

 

Other things I might hope to see, depending on the role, could include:

  • feature specifications (Word docs, Wikis, etc)
  • content creation tool experience (modelling, level editors, Photoshop, etc)
  • UI design (Photoshop mockups, or in-engine creations)
  • systems design (balance, progression, economies, maybe some Excel demos)
  • scripting experience (C# for Unity, Blueprints in UE4, Lua for some general purpose engines)
  • modding experience (e.g Elder Scrolls creation kit)
  • product pitches (elevator pitches, one-page pitches)
  • competitive analyses (how does product X differ from Y, and why?)

What do I think makes a good designer? Depends entirely on what 'designer' means in the company I'm working for. But I have found that a surprisingly rare skill is the ability to create game specifications that (a) are flexible enough to accommodate technological limitations, (b) specific enough to make it clear when they have been implemented properly, and (c) stable enough that the designer doesn't feel the need to keep going back and revising them after the coder already did the work.

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