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  • Career Advice: Creating Your Demo

    [05.25.06]
    - Marc Mencher
  • These days, to get a job in the game industry, you must have a demo no matter which career track you choose as a focus. Writers create portfolios to show off their best work, so do photographers. Obviously a game artist won't get a job without one. Neither will a game designer, a programmer, marketing professional nor a producer. What you put in your demo depends heavily on what sort of job you're after.

    Regardless whether you create your demo in the form of a personal Web site, a CD, a videotape, or an Acrobat Reader file, you need to put your best foot forward. The biggest demo turnoff is a collection of big ideas done poorly. So what's the right path to success? Follow our advice…

    Game Designer, Level Designer, Or World Builder?

    The trick is to clearly show and communicate your abilities in the area you intend to focus your career. For example, if you strive to be a full game designer, what most game companies expect you to demonstrate -- outside of good communication skills -- is your ability to generate clearly understandable design documents, diagrams, and AI designs. And you should be able to pace out the gameplay throughout the entire game, keeping the player engaged, excited, and not frustrated.

    Similarly, if you desire is to be a level designer or world builder, you should be able to not only show levels you created in the area you are seeking employment, but also an ability to walk your prospective employer through each of your levels, explaining why you designed it the way you did. Don't be afraid to talk about how you altered your designs to fit a game engine or game hardware restrictions. That information is very impressive. Show and share it!


    You should be able to show an example of your work such as this level made using the Half-Life engine.

    The best format for your demo is a Web site or CD containing completed 3D level designs for Quake, Half-Life, etc. Design map layouts, script AI behaviors, build and modify characters, create and modify triggers, demonstrate your ability to do level layouts using 3D Studio Max or Maya.

    Your samples should show an understanding of gameplay and strong design principals. You'll want to include a text file with your levels to give instructions on how to load the levels, and provide a brief summary of your design thought process for each level. Include in your demo samples of design documents, grid paper designs, game pitches, and game systems (i.e. resource economies, combat models, etc.).

    There may be some areas of experience that are more important to your specific target game company, so it's best to do as much research as possible before submitting your demo. If you're target company uses a licensed technology, like the Unreal Engine, then you should use the same technology to create levels in your demo. Find out how your target company prefers to see 2D or 3D levels and make sure your demo is customized to this. Don't forget to add as many notes as possible describing your play mechanics and how they work. Sometimes you will find several designers working on the same world or level. Therefore it is very important that, in your demo, you clearly distinguish your specific contribution.

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