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Old 08-23-2009, 02:22 PM   #1
marvinhawkins
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Default But I really want to be a game designer

Hey guys,

Cliff notes: Want to do a design reel, but have been told not to because "they don't exist" looking for feedback


I am also seeking critique on my WIP demo reel. Thanks alot,

WIP Demo reel



I am new to these forums but I have followed the Game Career Guide site since it's inception. I have glad to see that it has grown. I myself, have grown with it. When I first started coming here, I was a Sophomore/Junior (long story) in college. I am now (lord willing) three weeks away from graduation. As such we are tasked with creating a demo reel. I go to one of the largest network of art schools in the country. (name omitted) And as such they churn out a lot of game art and design students. My conundrum is this. My major is both Game ART and DESIGN. I loved the art stuff, and enjoyed exercising my creative freedoms. But I really found resonance with design. I have read many a post/article about design jobs not existing for new graduates. I am well aware of this. But in speaking with many industry professionals I have been told that there are entry level jobs in Level design, and other jr design jobs.

My point in all this is that with this knowledge I focused my portfolio and demo reel for the job of level designer. I checked several job ads to make sure that skills displayed on my reel match the job description and requirements of potential employers. I was really surprised however to find out that my school does not want me to focus my reel on level design at all. Their arguments are level designers don't do reels. Do an environment art reel instead. They also told me that they liked what I was trying to do, but they didn't "get it" so I should change it.

So my questions is what's a guy to do? i always thought an environment artist's job is quite different from that of a level designer's. This is supported by seeing several level design and environment art reels. I also have included an example of my WIP reel. Is it in line with what professionals would look for?

I know this post is way too long but I appreciate any feedback you have.
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Old 08-23-2009, 03:23 PM   #2
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Job titles and responsibilities vary from company to company. However, it is my understanding that environmental art and level design are very closely related. On a large project, I wouldn't be suprised if there were environmental artists and level designers working on the same team. Both of their jobs are, afterall, to make a good level. A quick look through IGDA's Career Path Overview would indicate that level designers create the "interactive architecture" of a level while an environmental artist would "lay out the levels that have been designed by the designers".

Personally, I feel that demo reels would be appropriate for either role. An environmental artist may focus on showcasing their artistic talent through demonstrating a series of completed levels and objects within those levels. The job of the demo reel in this case is to show off their best looking artwork. Meanwhile, a level designer may demonstrate a walkthrough of a level (or several levels) they have designed. This would include commentary on how the designer designed the level and why they made the decisions they did.

In terms of the demo reel you have created - I would focus more on your actual works rather than the skills you have been developing. For example, the actual designs and the actual artwork.

Look through "A Guide For Aspiring Level Designers" for more details.
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Old 08-24-2009, 01:19 AM   #3
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After watching your reel, I have a vague idea that you might know how to create maps in UT3 and a few other editors, but I still don't know if you can do good level design.

It would be good to see a reel where you actually go through a level and explain why the level was designed the way it was and what you were trying to achieve with it. Tell me about the level and go through it slowly enough so I can grasp the architecture. Show me some videos of players fighting on it, and analyze that to convince me the map has good gameplay.

In short, the video kind of showed me your ability to use some level editors, but you didn't show me you could design good levels. You had one brief part on the UT3 level where you attempted to do this ("Players on ground are awarded with ammo and cover"), but it went by too quickly and had I not played generous amounts of FPS games and UT3, *I wouldn't have understood what you meant.

*I assume the point you were making is that players up on the side railing have a height and therefore accuracy advantage, so you awarded players on the ground to try and balance it out?

One more thing to add- visually, some of the levels look pretty rough (specifically the finished version of the UT3 map.) It's not imperative that you have great looking levels, but it would certainly wouldn't hurt your chances of getting hired. You could team up with an environmental artist if you aren't big on art assets.

Last edited by Ezion : 08-24-2009 at 03:23 PM.
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Old 08-24-2009, 06:06 AM   #4
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Marvin, firstly welcome to the forums!

Secondly, I think a good level designer in the purest sense of the word is someone who can develop a level that has a good flow to it. For single player this means that it doesn't get boring at any point nor does it get too difficult, in multiplayer its about finding a balance to allow players play the game using the tactics they want to use.

-For this you really need top down 2d sketches or images showing areas of importance and the reasons for them. Showing how the level developed from play testing is also a good idea.

Moving on from this there is an artistic and game design side to level design- can you make great environments or assets, do they fit within the context of the level? What is the backstory to the level, why is the player there, what is their goal?

So you can script in Kismet, well what have you scripted, how does it interact with the rest of the level.

Personally, I feel a portfolio site is the best way to illustrate level design skills as you can show prospective employers what you have done and they can read the back story, look at images or watch a video of it- a well implemented portfolio site I think would be far more benefical than a demo reel.

NOTE: I don't work in the games industry but level design is an area where I would like to move into the industry, so take my advice with a pinch of salt as it is mostly secondhand information but I hope it helps.
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Old 08-24-2009, 11:08 AM   #5
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Slightly echoing Ezion's comments,

I would say that your reel is technically rather good, but you fail to demonstrate any real evidence that you understand your level (and wider games design) theory. Clearly you are skilled with UnrealEd etc but an exceptionally pretty level does not a designer make.

Focus on explaining your design decisions, describe how your choices of geometry, statics and environmental entities affect flow, guide the player and encourage balanced combat.

This is IMHO, more what employers will be wanting to know, plus, if you see level design as a route to generalised or another specialised area of games design, then you need to demonstrate your comprehension of games design outside specific levels. If you had a series of levels with weapons and environmental considerations being introduced gradually, explain how your design decisions train the player for future encounters and situations.

I'm going to stop here as this could go on forever, but I hope that was of some use
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Old 08-24-2009, 03:05 PM   #6
marvinhawkins
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trask View Post
Slightly echoing Ezion's comments,

I would say that your reel is technically rather good, but you fail to demonstrate any real evidence that you understand your level (and wider games design) theory. Clearly you are skilled with UnrealEd etc but an exceptionally pretty level does not a designer make.

Focus on explaining your design decisions, describe how your choices of geometry, statics and environmental entities affect flow, guide the player and encourage balanced combat.

This is IMHO, more what employers will be wanting to know, plus, if you see level design as a route to generalised or another specialised area of games design, then you need to demonstrate your comprehension of games design outside specific levels. If you had a series of levels with weapons and environmental considerations being introduced gradually, explain how your design decisions train the player for future encounters and situations.

I'm going to stop here as this could go on forever, but I hope that was of some use

No please by all means! Make it as long as you want. I appreciate all feedback. I really agree with you. I see that the technical stuff can be demonstrated elsewhere. Overall I think it lacks a certain creative "umph" My new format will make sure that each piece highlights design goals more so than the process to make them. Again I'm at an art school I think that I need to make it more visually appealing. The only problem is my school thinks its a sin to create a level using anything other than your own assets. I know that's not necessarily how most companies work (disclaimer technically i don't know how any of them work) But I know the levels need to look better so that's what I'm going to focus on.

I will update this but please keep the crits coming. i appreciate it.
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Old 08-24-2009, 09:10 PM   #7
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Hey Marvin,
To be quite clear, while being a level designer at a prominent game company, I've never had to make my own assets.

If you're interested in art, then by all means make all of your assets from scratch. If you're interested in design, use any and all assets (within memory and performance regulations) to bring across whatever idea you want.
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Old 08-25-2009, 01:00 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marvinhawkins View Post
my school does not want me to focus my reel on level design at all. Their arguments are level designers don't do reels.
All they're saying is that they're an art school and don't know thing one about the game industry. Do what you have to in order to get your degree and graduate, but build a level design portfolio anyway (outside of school). You need it.
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Old 08-26-2009, 08:27 AM   #9
marvinhawkins
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Thanks Mr. Sloper. And everyone else. I appreciate the responses. I feel a lot more vindicated in my decision to do a reel with a designer's touch. After speaking with my teacher, he thinks that if I simply highlight that I did SOME art and show my designs that would be okay. I just read that new article about coursework Vs. Real world. This is definitely one of those scenarios. Honestly I'd never probably never touch the stuff (art) as many of you have said. But since I'm in a Game Art and Design Program, I have to play the game to a certain extent.

On the one hand, I get it. As a student Institutes and Universities want to make sure that you are a "well rounded individual". But a professional company (from my understanding) wants a specialist. Many of my school's instructors have echoed this sentiment; yet pressure students into making Generalist reels.

I like the fact that I have learned a lot here. I know enough about the different areas of game development to work on my own indie titles whilst searching for a job with the big guys. On a personal note I wish schools would learn more about the industry they are selling.
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Old 09-03-2009, 07:00 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Monkeh View Post
Hey Marvin,
To be quite clear, while being a level designer at a prominent game company, I've never had to make my own assets.

If you're interested in art, then by all means make all of your assets from scratch. If you're interested in design, use any and all assets (within memory and performance regulations) to bring across whatever idea you want.

WOW............lucky u lol. hate making assets coz i suck at Maya UV mapping and texturing in photoshop

so basically u just add someone else's assets into the game level??? did u have to make your own textures as well(eg walls)
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