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Becoming a Level Designer

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#1 Wisbits   Members   


Posted 14 April 2014 - 11:06 AM

Hello everybody,


I am new on Gamedev and I just read the FAQ :)


I will turn 17 soon and I already know what my dream job is. First of all, i though about industry design, but as a gamer I would like to combine my hobby and job. As I am not like my brother, who is an ace in programming, I decided to pursue a line of career in something similar like Level Design or Charakter Design. I am already practicing hard for my drawing skills and some days ago I researched about the topic.


As I understand, it's big plus to be familiar with some Engine. Therefore I downloaded Unity, UDK and Source SDK just to look which is better for myself.


BUT, all that is a lot of information and I am just a beginner. So my question is:


1. What do I need for proper use of these tools, for getting acceptable results? (Languages?) (I know one: Time and patience :))


I would also be pretty happy about aditional info regarding your start into all this, the career of a level designer et cetera :) rolleyes.gif



#2 glportal   Members   


Posted 14 April 2014 - 11:16 AM



start by looking for tutorials and building your first map asap. Then improve on it.

When playing with the features you already know is getting you bored you can

look at some more tutorials to find new features to play with.


A very easy but not industry standard map editor is included in the game Cube 2 http://sauerbraten.org/

the editor can be learned in a few minutes and you can make pretty good maps after playing with it for a few days.


The engines you choose are good choices. Play arround with them.




#3 Godmil   Members   


Posted 14 April 2014 - 04:01 PM

I miss the good old days when level design was all about placing large blocks (brushes) and slapping some textures on them.  Things are a little trickier now a days there you need to be filling your environments with pre built models. I'd say jump in the deep end and get unreal engine 4. one month subscription is $19 then you can cancel and keep using the tools. You can make some amazing environments in it, then as you get more advanced you can spice it up with all manner of particle and lighting effects, then you add layers of interactivity with blueprints. However you'll probably want to learn some low poly modelling too so you can make your own assets.

level design is awesomely rewarding when you complete something and other people can explore the wolds you've created. Good luck smile.png

Edited by Godmil, 14 April 2014 - 04:02 PM.

#4 Mouser9169   Members   


Posted 14 April 2014 - 04:22 PM

If you know the type of games you want to design levels for: go out and play lots of those games.


Played them before? Play them again - but this time with notebook next to you. Take notes on every game level you play through. What made it interesting? or not? What was challenging? Did it look good? What were its main visual features? Too much detail? Not enough?


I could keep writing questions, but I hope you get the idea. Study the work of the level designers that came before you and keep examining the levels that 'made the cut' and got worked into solid commercial (or even non-commercial) games.


That's not meant to replace you designing your own levels - you need to jump right into that. Post your levels up and ask for criticism. Make sure you've got tough skin and remember they're criticizing the level, not you. I say that because unless you're some savant your first attempts at level design are going to suck. Post them anyway - you'll get there faster hearing the criticism and using it than you will designing on your own until you think you have something good enough to show people.


Just like going back through your drawing portfolio and seeing the things you made when you first started learning that - and if you didn't keep everything, start: a clear record of your progress serves many functions - reminds you how far you've come, but also lets you spot 'habits' that turn up that you may need to consciously avoid to keep from getting 'lazy'.

"The multitudes see death as tragic. If this were true, so then would be birth"

- Pisha, Vampire the Maquerade: Bloodlines

#5 Wisbits   Members   


Posted 15 April 2014 - 02:46 AM

I downloaded Cube2 yesterday, but didn't look for the editor yet. I guess the game was pretty hilarious :D thanks for the advice though

Godmil: I might look into a subscription some time, but i guess it's a little early yet. I would like to experiment a little more.
But: I think UDK is the direction I am going. For two reasons:

1. I am pretty happy with it because it isn't as frustrating as the other engines. Probably because I was able to get visible results.
2. I read that Unreal is a popular engine and a plus if you want to get into the commercial sector. So getting a grip on it early on, and polishing my skills sounds like a good idea.

I am not really happy about the Content Browser though. Am I doing something wrong or is there really so little content from the start on?

I thank you for all the other advice I got. Really helpful and nothing was said twice :)))

#6 Satharis   Members   


Posted 15 April 2014 - 05:30 AM

Tools for level design really tend to differ by game, for instance the creation kit for Skyrim could roughly be considered a level editor(along with an everything else editor) but yeah, most of it is slapping modeled sections of areas together into unique designs, or doing terrain work. On the flipside there's more traditional brush based stuff for FPS's, stuff like source still uses the hammer editor and unity and unreal have their own stuff as well.

The most important thing really, if you want to do level design as a job, is probably just to treat it like an art career. What do developers want to see from an artist? Why a portfolio of course! They want to see a bunch of drawings and paintings, models and animations depending on what visual job you are focused on. So what will they want to see from a level designer? Levels of course! The important thing is more you demonstrate your ability to not only create the content but to plan it. A lot of level design is actually very architectural, especially for stuff like multiplayer maps.

The engine doesn't matter a whole ton, though something rather recent is probably the best candidate. Make a map for an fps, or a few maps, or a campaign or something for a game. Heck even tactical games and RTS's need designers usually, the important thing is that you can show your work. I would say learning to plan things is helpful too, learn to draft out little blocky designs of levels, maybe draw them or just scribble something down with your mouse even. I've done a bit of level design in the past but its never been my forte so I couldn't give you a TON of advice on the subject.

That said a lot of forums and things have very nice tutorials and advice for stuff like this, there are definitely sites out there with tutorials for stuff like hammer or the skyrim creation kit or the unreal editor, unity, all that stuff. Making maps for a game rather than a generic engine is probably a lot more in your interest since it lessens the amount of extra material you need. Just go make maps basically.

#7 Tutorial Doctor   Members   


Posted 15 April 2014 - 08:23 AM

"WorldofLevelDesign" is a good place to start (they have a youtube channel)

You could also look into the word "modular design." It is used very often in level design.

I was given a tip once that it is good to make "base models" as starting points for other models.

For instance, you make a cup-looking-thing, and that cup-looking-thing could become a bowl or a plate or a waste basket or a hat, etc.

I have created a base model for humans myself.

For the architectural side, I use "Google Sketchup 8" (easy to use, fast to work with, and free).

I can only afford "Blender 3D" for my major 3D package (free).

Hopefully this will help.

They call me the Tutorial Doctor.

#8 Jazonxyz   Members   


Posted 17 April 2014 - 11:43 PM

Starcraft 2 has an interesting Editor where you can design maps for multiplayer, games for the arcade, or even levels as it if were a single player mission.  I highly suggest looking into it!

#9 Tom Sloper   Moderators   


Posted 18 April 2014 - 08:26 AM

I would also be pretty happy about aditional info regarding your start into all this, the career of a level designer et cetera

Since you're asking for career advice, I moved your thread to the Game Industry Job Advice board. You should read FAQ 69. http://sloperama.com/advice/m69.htm
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#10 Mark Y.   Members   


Posted 19 April 2014 - 10:45 AM

Hi Wisbits,


I'm actually in pretty much the same position as you at the moment and have also started playing around with a couple engines. Personally, my favorite at the moment is Source, since the hammer editor is, as Godmil said, slapping brushes together and throwing textures on them, and then once you have a core layout, you use models and brushes to detail it and make it look attractive.


Cryengine is also a nice one to look into, but sculpting a level in it requires a combination of modelling skills and level design skills, since most maps designed with it are fairly heavy on models, even in the terrain itself.


For the rest of you, I was wondering, if I wanted to look into world design for larger, open worlds, where would be a good place to start? 


I mean, I guess you could use a lot of the standard engines, and with a bit of tweaking they'd be able to accommodate it. Another tool I found was, now bear with me, the Sims 3 Create a World Tool. Now, I get that it's a tool geared towards a sim game based around a birds-eye view, but it comes with a lot of useful tools in building an actual open world and if you have the tools to fiddle with the hex code in the files actually makes it really customizable. Would it be a good start, since you could practice road layouts, as well as the finer details such as houses and commercial buildings and even the people who inhabit them?

#11 Tutorial Doctor   Members   


Posted 19 April 2014 - 11:42 AM

Great tip Mark. I didn't know about the create a world tool. Sims is a simulation, and so it could be useful in simulating what it really takes to make an environment. I used to like the build tool, and also it could help with character design too. Now I might go buy the game. haha

They call me the Tutorial Doctor.

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