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Old 06-12-2007, 03:11 AM   #1
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Default Starting From Nothing.

Hello everyone. I'd like to begin by apologizing for yet another "How do I get started?" post. I have been reading a lot about the industry lately and I am examining a serious career in game development but I donít understand how I can get started.

My Goals and Background.
Basically I know windows and basic hardware troubleshooting and I am not an artist so nothing stellar in the way of skills. I'm not a programmer and would not want to do much of that kind of work if I could avoid it. I enjoy concepts and the visual so I would like to explore a career in game design. Level/Mission design interests me but I have never tried this with anything more than ultra user friendly map editors.

I have no experience, no portfolio, and I am genuinely confused about where and how I should start.

Specifically I would like to know:
1. What tools I should learn with and what is a good starting tutorial for them?

2. What skills should I learn to be a good level/mission designer? (I would like to make games that are like Elder Scrolls but I also like games that take on a more global view like CIV4.)

3. Because I am not well trained I would like to attend a school. I've seen so much conflicting information on the issue of education. Some say I don't need it and can go it alone but then I read that I probably won't score a big break while on a mod team unless I were part of a major top shelf project like CS or Desert Combat. I'd like to attend school if it would help. I am looking at Vancover Film School. My line of thinking is that the portfolio that comes with the diploma would be valuable along with possible contacts.

Is VFS a good place to learn game design?

Is game centered education useful?

Thank you for your time and responses. Have a good day.
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Old 06-12-2007, 09:48 AM   #2
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I have said this to many people over the past few months and don't mind saying it again. When it comes to education it depends on your motivation. Be honest with yourself and ask can i motivate myself to learn something new for about 3-4 hours a day? If the answer is no I would suggest school if it's yes don't go and learn alone.

I myself was a very unmotivated person so I choose to go to IADT toronto. Not the best school but I took a lot out of it. While there I made it my goal to be better then everyone else. I picked the top guy in the class and aimed to surpass him. Eventually I did but not until about 5th term. This gave me a lot of motivation and made me stay late study hard and figure stuff out on my own.

Before you get into the tools I would suggest you start sketching. Not great things just top down maps with thumbnails of areas of interest. In level design you have to present these 'concept sketches' to your lead to approve them before you actually do anything.

As for tools, I would suggest using hammer. (Halflife 2) as it is great for demoing stuff. Also learn 3DStudio Max. This will let you model texture and import things into your map.
You could also learn the oblivion editor. It ships with a ton of tutorials and documentation so it should be easy to pick up.
The new Unreal Tournament is supposed to come out third quarter (July-Sep) so try and learn that if you like as well.
All these editors ship with the games.

Also as far as mod groups go, don't kid yourself. A mod group is a great way to start. My friend was working on a game called 'No More Room In Hell' It's basically a zombie apocalypse mod for HL2. Before the mod is even done(still in development) he got hired at Rockstar Toronto as a junior modeler. The idea behind a mod group is to create something as a team. Get that experience and build a portfolio. Thats all. I bet you have never even heard of 'No More Room In Hell' yet my friend went to a AAA studio. That sounds like a big break to me without being a shelf title.
~Justin Dooley

C, C++, C#, Objective-C, Java, PHP, SQL, Javascript, Actionscript, HTML, CSS
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Old 06-12-2007, 10:53 AM   #3
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Thanks for the reply. I have two follow-up questions.

1. When you mention a thumbnail of an area of interest what would that look like exactly? A crude drawing of what the area would look like from the Point of view of the player?

2. I know you attended school in Toronto but do you know anything about VFS through associates?

Thank you for the insight. Now I have a starting point!
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Old 06-29-2007, 05:21 PM   #4

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Thumbnail sketches are used to get down a concept quickly, in a small space before taking the time to sketch it out on a larger scale with more detail. You wouldn't want to spend hours on a concept your lead isn't going to approve, so you make several thumbnails of it, for environments I usually do 4 to a page. But yes, a thumbnail is a rough rendering of your concept. As for the PoV, that depends on your direction. Eventually you're going to have to model it in 3-dimensions, so the more views you can bang out for it, the more complete the concept will be, and the better off it will be if it's going out of your hands and to a modeler. But in terms of presenting to a lead, you'd probably want the view the player would see, and a top-down view of the area, laid out almost like an isometric map, with points of interest marked out. Does that help at all?

I don't know anything about VFS, but I do know there are a lot of game deisgn studios in the Vancouver area. Take a look at this:

From what I've read, the best thing you can do for yourself if you have no experience is to go to go get a Bachelor's. It doesn't necessarily matter what you get it in, or where. What matters most is that you've completed it. Especially for degrees that require you to work on a team for some capstone project, those are definitely a great thing to show that you can work in the industry. But if you can do it, you might as well take a specialized game design degree, just make sure you know what you're getting into.

1. Is the university accredited? Obviously VFS is, but how many classes have graduated from the program you want to attend? what's the placement rate?

2. What kind of degree is it? A lot of schools have a degree for "Game Design", but that's not what you're actually doing - you're learning a general game programming degree, and maybe some courses of a more general nature. If you're deadset against programming, try and find a Game Art and Design degree.

3. What kind of courses are you going to be taking? You want to make sure you're getting some diverse classes in there. Being a game designer takes creativity but it also takes a lot of knowledge of the world around you. So if you can choose your electives, choose humanities courses you're interested in, or art history, or psychology, sociology, ethics, etc. ALL of these things, and so much more will help you become a better designer.

4. Game design, and.... A lot of smaller companies can't really justify hiring just a game designer whose sole purpose on the project, from start to finish, is just to design. So they hire someone who's good at one thing like programming or modeling, and who also is a good designer. As the industry matures, I think you're going to see more and more places hiring game designers specifically, and even sub-divisions in that design team such as junior designers. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't learn something else. Explore the whole industry, and see if anything else interests you. The more skills you learn, the more valuable you're making yourself to potential employers. And along with making use of random knowledge, a game designer really needs to be at least briefed in the languages of his or her teammates, because you'll need to communicate with artists, programmers, marketing, etc to get your ideas into production.
Courtney Keene
Game Writer
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