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How You Got Into The Industry


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I'm currently in College where I will complete the second part of my two year course in IT at the beginning of September through to next July. After completing the course I could go onto University and study Games Design or try and apply for a job in the industry.

I created this topic to try and gain some insight into some mapcorian's first-hand experience of getting into the games industry. So how did you get into the games industry?

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short version:

1. being a school student with lots of spare time. making first experience in content creation for games

2. stoping starting projects that never get finished. always finish what you started. no matter what.

3. starting posting in forums. getting skills that others already had.

4. having 9 months of social service (no more school. just stupid ass work with low pay) and even more spare time to focus on a portfolio.

5. spitting the portfolio to every game developer in my country and requesting an internship.

6. getting like 70% positive feedback (30% were no feedback at all). 6 out of 20 companies inveted me. each one wanted me for the internship (or even more. *hint to friedrich*)

7. doing the internship for like 4-5 months

8. starting university

9. keep on working on sideprojects in the remaining spare time

10. recieving multiple job offers from internet forums

11. extending the portfolio slower and slower but with more quality work

12. finishing the degree.

13. gaining work experience as ... well i dont know what i am officially called. i would describe my tasks as follows: leveldesign, teacher for 2d and 3d for the junior artists, technical artist, content creation.

well actually getting into the industry is pretty easy. you get to know people if you are active in forums. there is always someone around who might help.

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For me it was all about working with the right people on mod projects.

The now lead level designer of Grin worked on the same mod as me when he was still an amateur.

I just wrote him a email a couple years later when i felt ready to work in the industry and got hired.

So the best advice that i can give you is to work on mods/hobby projects in your freetime and do some social networking.

Once your portfolio is good enough its pretty easy to get your foot in the door especialy if you know the right people already.

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I dropped out of school when I was 18 as I found it really boring and inefficient, and started focusing on level design for UT1 full time. Got into ONP and Xidia, and modded my portfolio together. I applied to a number of studios but I was always out of luck. Either the studio was really interested but in the USA, or it was some really small studio, or they didn’t offer me a job. In the end I managed to get hold of a simple freelance job at Streamline Studios for like 3 months modeling very low poly buildings for a race game. Things got interesting after that. Streamline got in touch with Psyonix who got in touch with Epic. They showcased ONS to Epic, and Epic wanted to see a demo, so they asked Streamline to create the demo level. Streamline in turn asked me to create the level as I was just done modeling the houses. The whole thing got rolling pretty quickly after that and I ended up working for Epic on an individual basis after that first level. Entirely unrelated, at the same time Tonnberry, an old mapping colleague from UT1 and ONP, got in touch with Epic and asked if they weren’t interested in an official 1on1 map pack for UT2003 and they said yes. So we teamed up with a few long time mapping friends and made a number of levels for that pack. Epic liked it and figured they wanted to add those levels to upcoming UT2004 instead. Rankin was one of those levels.

Once the UT2004 contract was over, it landed me a job at Sony’s Guerrilla Games studio, my first onsite job. Stuff really kicked off at that point and I never had to struggle for a job anymore since. Getting hold of your very first job is definitely one of the most difficult steps, and the sheer luck you sometimes need can be extraordinary frustrating.

Now working at Starbreeze. Fifth or sixth year in the industry.

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Was unemployed, sat in front of the computer for 15 hours a day for over a year. Went from not having had a single 3D experience before to completing a test for Ubisoft Montpellier. I had sent my application to Montreal, who bumped it back to France without me knowing. Two months later I received this email from Montpellier where I had not even applied.

The interview started with my then future lead telling me "I don't care if you're more talented or more skilled than any other applicant, I'm looking for guys with personality in my team. Of the 20 guys applying, you were the only one that read my instructions for the test and made the test I asked for. That's why you're here"

Never underestimate the value of knowing how to work as opposed to purely having skills.

I basically owe my change of career to this one man. I had not started mapping to join the industry, I had no intention of doing that. I then realized I was enjoying the creative part of this work a lot more than anything else I had done in marketing or sales. So when I realized I couldn't even go to interviews without thinking of mapping, I had to start looking at it.

The social networking is important from the outside looking in, but all the same when you're inside. My lead in Montpellier wanted to keep me on his team after Rayman, and is mostly responsible for me not being sacked after that project like 80% of the team (contractors we were). It's why I was able to continue at Annecy, and while not the reason why I am in Montreal now, he's also played his part in me working on PoP rather than any other project. My current lead is a former LD on his team much like I was. He started on Beyond Good and Evil, me on Rayman.

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Well, that's kinda easy for me.

I'm mapping since 2002 (on 3d engines). I'm still a student, I'm going to study Game Design in one year (after my last High-School year) in an Inforgraphy school based on Montpellier. After these 3 years, I'm planning to work for some other companies, well, I hope. :v

For school, same as Hourences, I find it really boring and useless, since it's not showcasing your "artist skills".

I got into Streum on Studio because a friend of mine (also working there since the beginning of the game developement) asked me to join them (they needed someone else to help them). I just sent an email to the project leader without hope, mainly because I don't really find my levels to be "outstanding quality" and such (I'm not really pleased with some of them to be honest). I got a response hours later and I got into the developement team. The project leader was really impressed by my works (still I don't really find my works impressive, compared to awesome things I see here everyday at mapcore for example) and I began working on some levels that needed some additional work (though I'm working on my own level now).

That's my tale. :banjo:

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Back in 1998/99 I started mapping with Unreal for fun, few years later got into cs mapping, then joined a few well respected hl2 mods. Contacts from Nuclear dawn and Insurgency gave me allot of confidence so I decided to apply for a local game studio, I got the job :P

Wolfs advise is priceless, sure join a game school if you want, it will help, but everyone that wants an industry job should join a few decent modifications, you don't have to be fantastic and you'd be amazed how much you will learn.

If your a level designer you can make a small SP section using hl2 assets, if you don't want to join a mod team.

Also, try to get skilled in a single area of development, don't go for the jack of all trade approach allot of schools will attempt, sure it has it's benifits as you'll be sure your doing the right job, but it will take you quite sometime longer that way.

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Interesting thread to read through :) My story isn't exactly very exciting, but I'll share it regardless...

I found an article in a PC mag about using Worldcraft to make a custom HLDM level soon after the game's release. I was actually more interested in using Worldcraft as an architectural tool as I harboured ambitions of becoming an architect, but after a while I started to enjoy the prospects of game design instead. I kept tinkering with it as a hobby on and off through school, and eventually came to the decision that I wanted to do it as a career. I wasn't ready to be applying for jobs by the time I finished, so I looked for a University course that would support my ambitions, and a BSc in Games Technology seemed like the best fit around. I kept doing level design in my spare time during the course, but became a (somewhat!) competent programmer in the process.

A few weeks before the end of my final year there was Games Industry Fair in Dundee. I went along with copies of my CV, spoke to a bunch of companies, and tried to sell myself. While there I met my current boss, who was at the time looking to take on a couple of people for development of The Ship. Given that it was being developed on the Source engine - an engine which I had not only level design experience in but also programming experience - I fit the bill quite nicely. I was asked along for an interview, and a few days after that I heard back from them and was offered the job. I started about 5 days after I handed in my dissertation at uni and I've been at Outerlight now for over 2 years.

As a bit of a comment contrary to 2D-Chris's point, being a bit of a jack of all trades was actually quite useful in my case. I wouldn't like to say it is for everybody, but in the case of small companies like Outerlight (~10-20 developers) it stands some of us in good stead to be able to handle a few different tasks. I was taken on to be a bit of a middle man between design and code as I had a good understanding of both, and although I've only done minor programming work for the company I do find my knowledge of programming is useful on a daily basis. You should certainly excel in one area if you plan to get a job in the industry, but I wouldn't trade in my programming experience to have spent more time on level design, personally.

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My path to getting a job was very similar to ReNo's.

I also started level design in my spare time after reading the very same PC Gamer article. Anyway, I got into TFC mapping and really enjoyed that, so I kept going and making more and more. At that time, I had no real ambition to be a professional level designer, but I knew I wanted to work in the games industry. I took the same course (Computer Games Technology BSc -- all programming & maths) and kept doing level design stuff in my spare time. At university, you have a lot of spare time. In that time you can either mess around and have fun, or you can spend a bit (or a lot) of it on creative endeavours that will make you stand out from the crowd. IMO if someone is talented and focusses on a discipline with the mindset of "I WANT A JOB, GIVE ME A JOB", they are sure to get a job out of it eventually.

I chose to spend most of my spare time working on the mod Fortress Forever. Again, it was more of a fun thing and I didn't really plan to have it on my CV -- it was just something I wanted to make. It took many years and got stomped by TF2, but it was an invaluable experience. I can't recommend modding enough because learning how to work as a team is one of the most important things you can do. You learn how to make stuff, but most importantly, you learn to constructively deal with other people. You also learn very quickly that people who do their own thing and listen to no-one are absolutely useless, no matter how talented. You make a lot of mistakes along the way and learn from 'em so that you don't have to make the same mistakes in your first job, too ;) It was a major part of my job interview and it's something I find I can go back to and say "look, I finished this", too.

Equally importantly, mod-making gives you a lot of contacts, same as these forums. I've had a few job postings prodded my way (nothing definite, just people I know via FF sending me a message saying 'company X is hiring and I can put in a word for you'). Even if you only get a few opportunities like this, you may only need that one break.

Anyway, I graduated and applied to one place as a level designer and got knocked back, but I had also applied to the same place as a programmer. In the end, I decided I was more employable as a programmer so I went with that (currently a junior software test engineer, which is a bit of a weird job title :P). I enjoy both disciplines and I think my art & ld knowledge will give me a good middle ground for communicating between departments, too. I would generally recommend against doing a games course unless you know it has a proven track record in terms of graduates breaking into the industry. A recent study in the UK showed that something like 95% of games courses are 'not fit for purpose' -- that's an eye-opener indeed. The one I did was one of the few accredited ones, but even then it had a lot of areas that could've been better.

Basically, it may be a safer bet to take a non games related course and just do your games stuff in your own time (though it depends on the content & quality of the games degree course you are considering). Tread carefully!

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Nice read :)

I can only give you one advice: This industry is seeking specialists rather than generalists, that's specially true in big studios. A college degree is very important in my opinion considering that this industry is getting very competitive. But don't fool yourself/waste your money with a generalistic degree. Find out what aspect of game creation you like and choose a course that's going to help you land a job in that area. A design/fine arts degree is the right choice if you want to be a game artist. Go for a Computer Sciences degree If you want to be a programmer and so on. Work on a few good mods in your free time and that should give you enough experience/social networking to help you land that job in a kickass studio in the future, as stepp said. I don't see much point in doing a game design course because they mostly teach you how to use softwares and frankly you can do that reading free tutorials on the internet. Just my two cents.

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Yeah if you're going to study, avoid "game design" programs... They have bad rep in the industry and well...they are pretty useless.

My story on getting the industry...

I was working on textures ever since 99, creating custom content like cars and race tracks for a racing game called "F1 Racing Simulation" by Ubisoft. Soon after playing through Half-Life I started creating some custom stuff on the HL engine, like character skins and stuff... Then I started creating some environment textures... When Day of Defeat was released I became a really big fan and started hanging out on the forums and eventually teamed up with IR to texture a level which is now known as dod_jagd. I textured some more stuff with him and it and Valve ended up buying the mod which was great news for me as it meant my work would be included in the retail version.

After DOD, I joined a HL2 mod called Nuclear Dawn... One of the art directors on this mod was an Art director at Ubisoft, and he really liked my work and pitched my portfolio to the producer of Rainbow Six.. They interviewed me, and I got a job offer 3 weeks before graduating from Highschool... I moved to Canada a few weeks after I graduated and shipped Rainbow Six: Vegas. After that I worked on Surf's Up and Splinter Cell: Conviction. After 3 years at Ubi I decided it was time for a change and moved to Spain to work for Grin's Barcelona studio on the game Wanted. I also did some lighting there for the UT3 mission pack created by AGEIA. Now I'm back in Canada working for Eidos on Deus Ex 3. Year 4 in the industry for me. Exciting times :)

I agree that once you're in the industry and worked on a couple games it's pretty easy to stay in it... But for artists at least it is always important to have a competitive portfolio.

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Well, basically I've been into modding since I'm 16 years old.

It all started with Max Payne 1, I started changing the color of the enemies blood, and ended up making full blown SP levels! :P

Time passed by me, and with it came the obligation to learn certain apps, like 3dsmax and photoshop.

Eventually I finished one mod, (more exactly, a TC) that took me, and the rest of the team, around 2 and half years to finish, M:I New Dawn!

Working on mods, taught me a lot, like how it is to work in a team.

After that, I started making 3d environments, and eventual I ended up being hired by a architectural visualization company. But I continued to make stuff for games on my free time, this is where I got contacted by a local gamedev company. By now, we already finished a NintendoDS title, and we are currently working on a announced Playstation3 title to probably be released on PSN.

I like to keep my eyes on the horizon though, and who knows when It's my turn of going overseas and finally get to work on a AAA title.

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Yeah if you're going to study, avoid "game design" programs... They have bad rep in the industry and well...they are pretty useless.

I have to agree with this. If you want a degree make sure you go to a accredited university and get some sort of design degree (industrial, environmental, graphic, whatever) This will give you a traditional and conventional art foundation that will carry into the workplace. Those game design degrees are so specific they are pretty much useless. You may not study the specific tools that you need to or as in-depth, but that should be something you do on your own time. While a good portfolio is most definitely your most important asset, having a bachelor's will help you tremendously.

Most of the stuff that they teach in these 'game design schools' is stuff you could be learning on your own. There are a few legitimate places for game design curriculum like digipen, full sail, and SMU. At this time though I would still recommend getting a traditional BS or BA and in the process taking up the skills you will need to get you your job.

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Lots of personal histories here :P

I asked a similar question about 18 months ago: Should I go to school and do a course that focuses primarily on game design.

The answer was a pretty resounding NO!

Resons being, it costs a lot of money, it takes up a lot of time. These two things, money and time, could be better spent suporting yourself while you build a good portfolio, learn new things, and start hunting out companies to apply to.

If you're doing art, then I'd suggest doing a demo reel (90 seconds). Or, put together a rar/zip with all your best work and start sending it to people. It helps if you know someone on the inside as they can pass it on to the right people and skip the whole annoying application step.

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Aye, good read this thread :D

I got my gig at IO more or less the traditional way. Started mapping in 2000 and worked up some skills till 2003 where I really started building a proper portfolio, working on several mods that never got anywhere, but it definitely didn't hold me back. The funny thing is that around 2001 I was trying to get a job at IO, but they told me I was too young and inexperienced(16 at the time), so I basically went to school for 2 years just to get old enough. Was also brilliant for doing layouts during classes and thinking up what to do when I came home each day, and I guess that also explains why I got as close a humanly possible to failing my final exams :D (not that it would've mattered if I had failed em). About 4 months after being done with school I then sent in the final portfolio that got me a job interview, which then led to the job :)

Anyway, yeah, pretty much the traditional modder's way into the industry. Its my firm belief that if you love doing something, nothing will prevent you from getting a job, no matter how rubbish you might start off as. I especially remember not really believing that it would get me anywhere in the beginning, and I was definitely doing it more for my own enjoyment rather than thinking it would get me anywhere. I still wonder how viable the MOD way will be for getting into the industry in a few years, wouldn't be surprised if that's going out quickly with all these artsy fartsy educations.

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