Jump to content


Popular Content

Showing content with the highest reputation on 02/16/2017 in all areas

  1. 6 points
    The following article contains quotes from interviews with Todd Papy, Design Director at Cloud Imperium Games, Geoffrey Smith, Lead Game Designer at Respawn Entertainment, Paul Haynes, Lead Level Designer at Deep Silver Dambuster Studios and Sten Huebler, Senior Level Designer at The Coalition. A big heartfelt 'thank you' goes out to these guys who took the time out of their busy schedules to answer my questions! On the MapCore.org forums many amateur level designers ask for feedback on their portfolios or for advice on how to break into the games industry. But once you have signed your first contract and you have your foot in the door you will realize that this step marks merely the beginning of your journey. It is a winding path with many diverging branches and without much information available on the road ahead. This is the reason why I decided to interview professional designers in Senior, Lead or Director positions to share their personal experiences and advice with others trying to navigate this field. It is worth mentioning that the questions were not selected and phrased with the goal in mind to compile a ‘how to get promoted fast’ guide. Instead I wanted to give level designers insights into the careers of others - who have stood at the same crossroads before - in hopes that they get the information to pick the path that is right for them. Hands-On VS Management At the beginning of his career, Todd Papy started out as a “designer/environment artist” – a job title that dates back to times when team sizes were much smaller and one person could wear both hats at the same time. As the project complexity and team size grew, he specialized in level design at SONY Santa Monica and worked on the God of War titles. During his time there he moved up the ranks to Lead Level Designer, Design Director and eventually Game Director. From level design to directing a game - a career thanks to careful long-term planning and preparation? “It wasn’t even on my radar” says Todd. “I just wanted to build a game with the team and soak up as much information from the people around me as possible.” So how do level designers feel who step into positions where the majority of their daily work suddenly consists of managing people and processes? Do they regret not doing enough hands-on-work anymore? Todd says he misses building and crafting something with his hands, but instead of going back to his roots, he decided to look at the issue from a fresh perspective: “As a Lead or Director, your personal daily and weekly satisfaction changes from pride in what you accomplished to pride in what the team has accomplished.“ Today Todd is designing the universe of 'Star Citizen' as Design Director at Cloud Imperium Games. Geoffrey Smith - who created some of the most popular multiplayer maps in the Call of Duty and Titanfall series and who is now Lead of the ‘Multiplayer Geometry’ team at Respawn Entertainment - says his output of levels remains unchanged thus far, but he can “easily see how being so tied up with managing would cut into someone's hands-on work”. Geoffrey calls for companies to provide the necessary training to employees new to management positions: “Managing people and projects is hard work and is normally a vastly different skill set than most of us in games have. Maybe that is why our industry has such problems with meeting deadlines and shipping bug-free games. A lot of guys work for a long time in their respective disciplines and after many years they get moved into a lead position. They certainly know their craft well enough to teach new guys but managing those guys and scheduling would be something brand new to them. Companies need to understand this and get them the training they need to be successful.” At Respawn Entertainment, the studio provides its department leads with training seminars, which helps the staff immensely, according to Geoffrey. Sten Huebler, currently working as a Senior Level Designer at Microsoft-owned The Coalition, in Vancouver, says he definitely missed the hands-on work when he worked in a Lead capacity on 'Crysis' and 'Crysis 2': “I was longing for a more direct creative outlet again. That is why coming to The Coalition and working on Gears of War 4, I really wanted to be hands on again.” To Sten it was the right move because he enjoyed working directly on many of the levels in the game’s campaign and could then experience his fruit of labour with others close to him: "After Gears 4 shipped, playing through the campaign, through my levels with my brother in co-op was a blast and a highlight of my career. He actually still lives in Germany. Being able to reconnect with him, on the other side of globe, playing a game together I worked on...So cool!" 'Gears of War 4' developed by The Coaliation and published by Microsoft Studios Paul Haynes, Lead Level Designer at Deep Silver Dambuster Studios, encourages designers to negotiate the amount of organizational tasks and hands-on work before being promoted into a position that makes you unhappy: “I always told myself that I wouldn’t take a Lead position unless it could be agreed that I retain some hands-on, creative responsibility, after all that’s where I consider my strongest attributes to lie. I agreed to both Lead positions (Cinematic/Level Design) under that principle - I never understood the concept of promoting someone who is good at a certain thing into a position where they potentially don’t get to do that thing anymore, as they spend all their time organising others to do it. So far I’ve managed to maintain that creativity to some degree, though I would imagine it’s never going to be quite the same as it used to be, as I do have a team to manage now. On the flip side though, being able to control and co-ordinate the level design vision for a project and having a team to support in fulfilling that is quite an exciting new experience for me, so not all the organisation and planning is unenjoyable.” Specialization VS Broadening Skillsets For the level designers who aren’t afraid of management-related tasks and who are willing to give up hands-on work for bigger creative control, what would the interviewees recommend: specialize and strengthen abilities as an expert in level design further or broaden one’s skillset (e.g. getting into system design, writing etc.)? Paul believes it doesn’t necessarily have to be one or the other: “I think it’s possible to do both (strengthening abilities and broadening skillsets) simultaneously, it would really depend on the individual involved. I would say that a good approach would be to start with the specialisation in your chosen field and then once you feel more comfortable with your day to day work under that specialisation, take on work that utilises different skillsets and experiment to see if you find anything else you enjoy.” He started out as a pure level designer but subsequently held roles that involved game and cinematic design at Codemasters, Crytek and Dambuster Studios. “I’ll always consider myself a level designer at heart”, says Paul, “though it’s been incredibly beneficial for me to gain an understanding of multiple other disciplines, as not only has it widened my personal skillset but it has enabled me to understand what those disciplines have to consider during their day to day job roles, and it has helped me to strengthen the bond with those departments and my level design department as a result.” This advice is echoed by Todd who encourages level designers to learn about the different disciplines as “that knowledge will help solve issues that arise when creating a level.” 'Homefront: The Revolution' developed by Dambuster Studios and published by Deep Silver Sten also gained experience in related disciplines but ultimately decided to return to his passion and do level design. He explains: “It’s a good question and I feel I have been wondering about this myself regularly in my career. I think those priorities might change depending on your current situation, your age, your family situation, but also depending on the experience you gain in your particular field. (…) In my career, I was fortunate enough to try out different positions. For example, I was a Level Designer on Far Cry (PC), Lead Level Designer on Crysis 1 and Lead Game Designer on Crysis 2. Each position had different requirements and responsibilities. As a Lead Level Designer I was more exposed to the overall campaign planning and narrative for it, while on Crysis 2 I was more involved in the system design. However, my true passion is really on the level design side. I love creating places and spaces, taking the player on a cool adventure in a setting I am crafting. My skills and talents also seem to be best aligned on the level design side. I love the combination of art, design, scripting and storytelling that all come together when making levels for 1st or 3rd person games.” Picking The Right Studio As you can certainly tell by now, all of the interviewees have already made stops at different studios throughout their career. So each one of them has been in the situation of contemplating whether to pass on an offer or put down their signature on the dotted line. This brings up the question what makes them choose one development studio over the other? To Geoffrey it depends on what stage of your career you are in. “If you're trying to just get into the industry for the first time, then cast your net wide and apply to a lot of places. However, ideally, someone should pick a studio that makes the types of games they love to play. Being happy and motivated to work every day is a powerful thing.” This is a sentiment that is shared by all interviewees: the project and team are important aspects, but as they have advanced in their career other external factors have come into play: “It’s not just about me anymore, so the location, the city we are going to live in are equally important.” Sten says. Paul is also cautious of moving across the globe for a new gig. “The type of games that the company produces and the potential quality of them is obviously quite important – as is the team that I’d be working with and their pedigree. More and more over the years though it’s become equally important to me to find that balance between work and life outside of it. Working on games and translating your hobby into a career is awesome, but it’s all for nothing if you can’t live the life you want around it.” And it is not just about enjoying your leisure time with family and friends, but it will also reflect in your work according to Todd: “If my family is happy and enjoys where we live, it makes it a lot easier for me to concentrate on work.” He also makes another important point to consider if you are inclined to join a different studio solely based on the current project they are working on: “The culture of the studio is extremely important. I consider how the team and management work together, the vibe when walking around the studio, and the desk where I will sit. Projects will come and go, but the culture of the studio will be something that you deal with every day.” 'Star Citizen' developed and published by Cloud Imperium Games; screenshot by Petri Levälahti But it goes the other way around, too: When it comes to staffing up a team of level designers, these are the things that Todd looks for in a candidate: “First and foremost, I look for level designers that can take a level through all of the different stages of development: idea generation, 2D layouts, 3D layouts, idea prototyping, scripting, tuning, and final hardening of the level. People that can think quickly about different ideas and their possible positive and negative impacts. They shouldn’t get too married to one idea, but if they feel strongly enough about that specific idea they will fight for it. People that approach problems differently than I do. I want people that think differently to help round out possible weaknesses that the team might have. People who will look for the simplest and clearest solution vs. trying to always add more and more complexity.“ For lead positions, it goes to show yet again how important a designer's professional network is, as Todd for example only considers people that he already knows: “I try to promote designers to leads who are already on the team and have proven themselves. When I am building a new team, I hire people who I have had a personal working relationship before. Hiring people I have never worked with for such positions is simply too risky.” Ups & Downs While the career paths of the designers I interviewed seem pretty straightforward in retrospect, it is important to note that their journeys had their ups and downs as well. For instance Geoffrey recalls a very nerve-wracking time during his career when he decided to leave Infinity Ward: “We had worked so hard to make Call of Duty a household name but every day more and more of our friends were leaving. At a certain point it just wasn't the same company because the bulk of the people had left. The choice to leave or stay was even giving me heart palpitations. (…) After I left Infinity Ward, I started working at Respawn Entertainment and by work I mean - sitting in a big circle of chairs with not a stick of other furniture in the office - trying to figure out what to do as a company.” But he also remembers many joyful memories throughout his career: Little things like opening up the map file of multiplayer classic ‘mp_carentan’ for the first time or strangers on the street expressing their love in a game he had worked on. To him, shipping a game is a very joyful experience by itself and the recently released Titanfall 2 takes a special place for him. “The first Titanfall was a great game but we had so many issues going on behind the scenes it felt like we weren't able to make the best game we were capable of. (…) After all the trials and tribulations of starting a new game company, Titanfall 2 is a game I am very proud to have worked on.” 'Titanfall 2' developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts As a response to the question of what some of the bigger surprises (good or bad) in his career have been thus far, Paul talks about the unexpected benefits of walking through fire during a project’s development and the lessons he learnt from that: “It surprised me how positively I ended up viewing the outcome of the last project I worked on (Homefront: The Revolution). I’d always thought I would aim to work on big, successful titles only, but I guess you don’t really know what’s going to be a success until it’s released. Obviously it was a disappointing process to be part of, and a lot of hard work and effort went into making it, despite the team always knowing that there were some deep lying flaws in the game that weren’t going to be ironed out. We managed to ride the storm of the Crytek financial issues in 2014, coming out on the other side with a mostly new team in place and yet we carried on regardless and managed to actually ship something at the end of it, which is an achievement in itself. I see the positives in the experience as being the lessons I learnt about what can go wrong in games production which stands me in good stead should I decide to take a more authoritative role somewhere down the line. Sometimes the best way to learn is through failure, and I don’t believe I’d be as well rounded as a developer without having experienced what I did on that project.” Last Words Of Advice At the end I asked the veterans if they had any pieces of advice they would like to share with less experienced designers. To finish this article I will quote these in unabbreviated form below: Geoffrey: “I guess the biggest thing for guys coming from community mapping is figuring out if you want to be an Environment Artist or a Geo-based Designer and if you want to work on Single-Player or Multiplayer. Each has its own skills to learn. I think a lot of guys get into mapping for the visual side of things but some companies have the environment artists handle the bulk of that work. So figuring out if making the level look great is more enjoyable to you or thinking it up and laying it out is, will help determine which career you should follow. Other than that, just work hard and always look to improve!” Todd: “BUILD, BUILD, BUILD. Have people play it, find out what they liked about it and what they didn’t. Build up a thick skin; people will not always like your ideas or levels. Try out new ideas constantly. What you think looks good on paper doesn’t always translate to 3D. Analyse other games, movies, books, art, etc. Discover what makes an idea or piece of art appeal to you and how you can use that in your craft.” Paul: “The games industry is not your regular nine to five job, and everyone is different so it’s difficult to lay down precise markers for success. Different specialisations have different requirements and you can find your choices leading to different routes than your fellow team members. You need to make sure you carve your own path and try everything you can to achieve whatever your personal goals are within the role; success will come naturally as a result of that. You need to be honest with yourself and others, open to criticism and willing to accept change. I’ve seen potential in people over the years hindered by stubbornness, succeeding in the games industry is all about learning and constantly adapting. Also it’s important to keep seeing your work as an extension of a hobby, rather than a job. The moment it starts to feel like a means to an end, you need to change things up to get that passion back.” Sten: “I always feel people should follow their passion. I firmly believe that people will always be the best, the most successful at something they love. Of course, it is a job and it pays your bills, but it’s also going to be something you are going to do for gazillions hours in your life, so better pick something you like doing.” Written by Friedrich Bode for mapcore.org What are your personal experiences? Do you agree with the statements made by the interviewees? Any advice you would like to share with fellow level designers or game developers in general? Let us know in the comments!
  2. 4 points

    totally random texture thread

    I got this in my steam inbox a few hours after that post. Am I being watched?
  3. 4 points

    totally random texture thread

    Finally got some more personal work to show off after a bit of a dry spell The Allegorithmic guys invited me to give the new Substance Designer 6 a test drive, so I made a new substance using the new nodes. Mostly the curve node which allows you to precisely control gradients.
  4. 2 points
  5. 2 points


  6. 2 points

    WIP in WIP, post your level screenshots!

    ClockWork Temple i have been working on for a Zelda esc game for university (all feedback would be helpful)
  7. 2 points
    Messing around with the idea of a cs_office, might be cool?
  8. 1 point

    [CS:GO] de_drill

    Hey Mapcore! I hear u all thinking "oh dam again starting a new map.." well yeah that's right! Soon I will release de_armory, but first I will have it tested on Reddit for the definitive layout. In the meanwhile I started on a new layout and I came with a drill platform located in the dessert. Bombsite A is a drill platform and bombsite B is a train hangar which transport the products. I hoped to do a more deviant layout which worked on paper but not in hammer really, but still I am kinda proud on what it have been come. It's not tested yet so I guess I probally soon will. Workshop link: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=856122075 Screenshots:
  9. 1 point

    POTUS 2016

    So long Flynn. Puzder just withdrew his nomination for DOL. Who's next? I like how most of the Republicans are all huffy and puffy about the fact Flynn's lying got leaked to the media. Same guys who said nothing about a foreign state hacking our officials and leaking that information, including classified documents. Oh wait that's because it was concerning HRC. NOW they get all butthurt about a leak. The fact that the president has known about this for a few weeks now and just happened to do something about it immediately after it got leaked... Yeah, awesome.
  10. 1 point

    Game Design YouTube channels/websites

    watch his dark souls video really recommend it https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyhnYIvIKK_--PiJXCMKxQQ
  11. 1 point

    Im so lost right now. Need advice!

    wait WELL FUCK that explains a lot
  12. 1 point
    Great article. Thanks for putting it together!
  13. 1 point

    Im so lost right now. Need advice!

    All this girl talk is making me miss my single days and making them go.....
  14. 1 point

    Valve: Future Hardware Plans

    Plenty of great informations. I love the interest they have in innovation rather than trying to compete with others. If i had enough money i'd buy a 3D printer at my house and build prototypes of crazy controllers and stuff (It's also the interview in which Gabe say that they are working on 3 "full" games (not expriments like the lab), using both Source 2 and Unity and all the infos we learned recently.)
  15. 1 point

    [CS:GO] de_armory (before Lab)

    Hey Mapcore, I have chosen to keep the map simple as it is for now and release it. Next week it will be tested on Reddit and maybe that will result in a few small changes, but nothing drastic I hope. Workshop link: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=864075927 EDIT/UPDATE - fixed a few small things - I have add a heli drop off for CT's
  16. 1 point
  17. 1 point
    I really agree with Paul's final words. I think it is good advice that it can be applied to a much wider audience, not just games. Mapcore, thanks for putting together good quality articles like these. I'm looking forward to the next one.
  18. 1 point
  19. 1 point

    WIP in WIP, post your level screenshots!

    I like the increased grenade possibilities.
  20. 1 point

    [CS:GO] de_Transit

    As we are getting closer and closer to the playtest here are some new fresh screens. This is a set up area for T's leading to B bombsite. Best Regards !
  21. 1 point

    [CS:GO] de_armory (before Lab)

    Hey Mapcore, I worked on the feedback I got from two playtests. I am kinda searching of a nice night skybox. I found one but it has a ocean as down image and a hugeee moon so that sucks But yea It should be something like this. For now I will do some more detailing and continue my search. http://roald93.imgur.com/all/ [Imgur](http://i.imgur.com/u4kIler.jpg)
  22. 1 point

    Im so lost right now. Need advice!

    Mapcore - Masculine Advisement Program Concentrating On Relationship Experiences
  23. 1 point
    Hold on to your hats and take a deep breath. Things are about to get a bit... strange... The game is pretty close to having a rough version of all the gameplay elements now. This post will mainly focus on a particular part of the game, namely Pedro's world *distant rumblings of thunder* The idea of Pedro's world is that anything can happen and I can play around with ideas that would otherwise maybe break the setting of the rest of the game. First up we've got some pretty standard bounce pads. Combined with the acrobatics they're really good fun. Bounce pads is also something that's been part of most platforming games I've worked on before, so I guess it's a bit within my comfort zone as a developer too. Next are some simple platforms that disappear as you step off them. This is the introduction level to Pedro's world. It seems work well for setting the tone of just showing that this world is different from the rest. I thought it'd be funny to make use of the spin-dodge maneuver in an unexpected way. So I made these massive screws that you control by spinning on top of them. It also provides a platform for puns such as 'things being screwed up' or suggesting that the player might have a 'screw lose'...... After doing a bit of playtesting it quickly became apparent that people expected to be able to do double wall jumps. I tried adding the feature and it turned out to be really fun! This is this works outside of Pedro's world too, btw. Last but not least we've got the propeller hat... Because why not. As you spin you travel up with help from the propeller (it's a bit hard to see in the GIF) and as you start to fall down a little umbrella opens and makes you float downwards. And that's all for this time. What I'm currently working on is dressing up some of the levels and figuring out what the different themes should look like. It's a bit of a struggle switching from the design/programming head space in to the visual, but things are coming out quite nicely so far. I'll probably give you an update on that next time Until then, sayonara
  24. 1 point

    Quantum Break - Remedy's next game!

    I'd say buy it if it's 50% off. I get what you mean @Rick_D, I pretty much feel the same for a lot of aspects… I just think they missed out big time with the pacing. Also TV show would have definitely worked better if they did something a-la Alan Wake with the webisode prologue. That's why I'm disappointed, seems actually a step back from Alan Wake. Also I bought the collector's edition being a Remedy fan boy, and the blue ray doesn't work on my computer, Sam Lake was unable to explain some concepts without avoiding spoilers (which was unnecessary as I was perfectly able to understand what her meant without the examples). What do you think of the combat, you played on PC, was it running smoothly? I wonder if my problems with that aspect of the game are tied to performance. I'm tempted to replay it and blaze through to see if it's just my exploration addiction that spoiled it… at the same time I want to play other stuff. Might be that going back to it in a year time I would love it, like I did for Alan Wake.
  25. 1 point
    In my experience, what engine you have experience with only gives you a small boost when it comes to being hired: it's always a plus if your future colleagues don't have to train you and you can jump right in. But it is more important to see relevant experience and quality level design in someone's portfolio, no matter what they built it with. When I mean quality LD, it's a lot of different things combined together, like showing you understand what you're doing and why, showing you can stick to the end and finish something, balance it, that you have an eye for detail, that you know how to lead a player, that the spaces you build are well sized, that you have good scripting experience, that you can create something original that stands out, that you are able to present all those facets of your levels in a straightforward manner through your portfolio and interviews... (a lot of people I interviewed through the years may have been good but were bad at showing that.) And of course there's the actual professional experience which reassures potential employers that you've gone through development and all of its intricaties and can work as a team, deliver on time, etc. Without the professional experience, you have to do a better job at showing you're a good LD through the content of your portfolio and through LD tests that companies give you to assess your skills (and usually start as intern/junior because it's still a bit of a bet for employers, and in some cases because they know you're desperate and they can offer you a shit pay while knowing you'll give all you've got). With relevant pro experience, you're already half-way there and usually the interviews are where the selection happens. When I say valid experience, it's stuff the studio you apply at can use, for instance if you worked on racing games for a while and applied at a FPS-centric company, they may have some reservations about you and have to dig through your personal projects or really drill you at interviews to determine if you'd be worth their investment. That doesn't mean your racing game experience is bad, it will have taught you valuable skills and you'll have gotten through a game's dev process at least once; just that you may have a tougher time convincing employers that you're a good fit if you have no experience in the kind of games they do (rather than with the exact engine they use). Also, completed personal projects are always a plus in any case, whether you have pro experience or not.