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Hello everyone,

This is my first time posting here, but I've been following for a while. I am finishing my last term in college before getting my Bachelor's in Game Programming and Development. I have always been interested in level design, and I'm hoping to find a job in this area once I'm done. 

My question is, how should I go about breaking into this field within the industry? I have a little experience with developing game levels in Unreal; 2D Platformers, but not much else. Should I keep focusing on creating levels in game engines, or are level schematics/maps a good way to demonstrate skills too?

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I would hope that any college giving students a BS in Games Programming and Development would provide that sort of information.

But my advice would be to create a portfolio of game designs or actual games. If possible, create a game using Gamemaker or any game library/engine. Publish the game on Steam, Windows, or iOS. That way you have something to show and talk about in the interview and won't look completely green. There are 1000s people looking for the same job. So you'll have to demonstrate that you're capable to fulfilling the tasks they may assign you.

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1 hour ago, DrBFragged said:

I am finishing my last term in college before getting my Bachelor's in Game Programming and Development. I have always been interested in level design, and I'm hoping to find a job in this area once I'm done. 

Is there a reason you're not interested in the programming path?

The best thing for a career in level design is to show that you can design levels. Creating levels in game engines is best, however they don't always convey your understanding or intent. Schematics and maps can do that. But don't overdo it, because employers want to see the finished products more than the drafts.

You might want to think about different game types and their different needs - a Skyrim dungeon has different considerations to a FPS map, and even within FPS games you'll have different constraints for a level designed for single-player and one designed for multi-player. Consider niche titles like puzzle-platformers and racing games, too.

Also consider trying to show competence with a variety of map editors and engines, and maybe standard 3D modelling tools.

Finally, be aware that some companies and some roles have separate environment artists who are responsible for all the visual look-and-feel after the level designers make a 'blockout' or 'grey-box' level, and some companies basically like environment artists to do level design in conjunction with all-rounder designers. This means a degree of artistic skill on your part is useful, but probably not mandatory.

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Thank you greatly for the insight and advice! This should be very helpful when developing a portfolio and when needing ideas on what to do next.

As for your question about following the programming path, I am interested in programming as well. Going to school for this portion of game development though, I have a decent start on a programming portfolio, and I have a better understanding of a direction to take. I would just like to show my abilities in other areas as well, and, if possible, combine my two passions.

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9 hours ago, DrBFragged said:

I am finishing my last term in college before getting my Bachelor's in Game Programming and Development. ... My question is, how should I go about breaking into this field within the industry?

The term is what, 8 weeks? 10 weeks?  That is not much time.

Get your information together and begin applying for jobs immediately. Include your expected graduation date in the applications. Start networking and tell people your expected graduation date there, too. Talk to your school about what employment options they can help with.  Don't wait until graduation day to line up your first job.  

Tom Sloper has several FAQs about this in general on his site, start with this one then keep reading.  

As a fallback plan, also start applying to non-game jobs.  That is one of the biggest reasons against a game-specific degree, there are times when finding a game development job that is a good fit is hard, so you'll need to find employment outside your preferred industry.  But you are where you are, so hopefully it will all work out well.

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Hello Frob,

Thank you for your time and the advice. The site that you posted also had some great information. The terms are 8 weeks, and I have about 6 weeks left. I have started to apply at studios in my area, but I am limited with what is around, and my portfolio is not yet where I want it to be, so I am working to improve on that aspect. I will also reach out to my school, and see how they are able to help me. I currently have a job as well, so my time is limited, but I also have security after graduation.

 

Thank you again!

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13 hours ago, DrBFragged said:

I have a decent start on a programming portfolio, and I have a better understanding of a direction to take. I would just like to show my abilities in other areas as well, and, if possible, combine my two passions.

Okay, just don't apply to a job saying, "I'm a bit of a programmer, and a bit of a level designer". And don't send a mixed portfolio. With only a few exceptions, companies hire at the junior end for specific roles, and if it looks like you're doing "a bit of everything", that can translate as "not particularly good at anything". Worse, it can translate as "they applied for job X, but they really want job Y". Tailor your applications to be specific, and the other skills can be a bonus that you might be able to introduce later.

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This sounds like great advice Kylotan. Thank you! Another question that I have, is a QA position the best way to get a job in the industry? I only have a couple of studios near me in the Albany, NY area, and at these companies, even the QA positions are asking for previous experience. I'm not sure how to get a job if even the entry level positions take experience.

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No, the best route is to demonstrate direct competence with the role you intend to do. The "work your way up from QA" approach is commonly shared for some reason but I only ever met 1 person who successfully did that in 10 years in the industry. QA teams are typically quite small, and some smaller companies don't even have dedicated QA in-house. So, if you want to be a programmer or a designer, it's those skills you should focus on. Many companies will ask for 1 or 2 years of experience, but if your portfolio and qualifications are good enough, they may bring you in for interview anyway. Don't be too discouraged by the lists of job requirements; view them as something to aspire towards.

Generally speaking, you should expect to have to relocate for your first role, because not everywhere wants juniors and game development companies are relatively rare compared to other industries and employers. You have to take what you can get until you have the experience that makes you more universally employable. If that is not a suitable path for you, then you're probably going to have to work doubly-hard on your portfolio to make it relevant to the local companies.

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This is one of very few times that I have heard this advice. Most advice that I've read has stated the necessity for a QA position first. I will continue working on improving my portfolio then. 

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