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How to break in the games industry - an insiders' guide


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These days, the extent to which level designers need to know how to use Max or Maya is to produce the rough gameplay mock-up. Think squares that define the collision meshes you will be going through in a level. No uv mapping, no texture painting, etc. The most you need to know is how to extrude polys, weld vertices and make a collision mesh that follows the guidelines as set by your engine and tech director.

For Prince of Persia for instance, that meant that all ledges had to be 90 degrees vertically, up to 45 degrees horizontally, and 2 meters wide (1 meter each for Elika and the Prince to hold on the ledge side by side).

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A good LD needs to know how the entire process works, that means knowing the basics of art (pipeline etc) coding (what is going to be possible in the timeframe) and level design itself.

And as mentioned by furio a lot of engines don't use BSP and therefore you need to know how to use max/maya to blockout but thats about it.

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I'm curious how many of you LDs, or people just working in the industry, find some modeling skills essential in landing an entry level LD job?

On one end I hear modeling isn't the LDs job, but I also notice a lot of LDs know how to do it none the less.

Modelling skills are not really needed. Being a skilled user of 3d modelling programs however can be very useful. Thing is that you will rarely if ever be doing actual modelling, but you will very often be fixing whatever technical shortcomings that some artists introduce in their models. A good example of this would be fixing up the collision of some prop as a lot of artists just don't have the feel for how get this right.

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Hey guys not sure how on topic this is, but I don't want to start a new thread. I quit a games design course a few months ago for several reasons, mainly because it was crap/ I wasn't learning anything. I'm at a point where I cant see myself feeling passionate about another possible career, So I'm thinking of going back and doing a masters course in games design. When I left I asked my tutor if it was possible to get in with a relevant portfolio and he said yes. I think this could be beneficial to me as I really need some education behind me to get a bit of a boost. I'm wondering what you guys think I should do, I'm not in a financial position to start a full 3-4 year University course, nor do I want to unless its something I know will be worth while where I will learn something and actually enjoy it.

If I manage to get onto this masters course and finish it, do you believe that would look better to employers? I know these 'games design' courses alone don't get you a job in the industry (unfortunately I don't think most people on them know this), I just can't see myself doing anything else so I feel this is the right thing to do considering my situation.

Any help would be much appreciated, cheers.


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Well, to put things simply, you've essentially got two options.

Option A: Study game design and work on your portfolio/stuff in your spare time (which you'll have a lot of). More game dev learning, more spare time, less money, less working experience.

Option B: Work with something non-game related and work on your portfolio/other stuff in your spare time. Less game dev learning, less spare time, more money, more working experience.

You could say that I'm currently going for Option B. Not accumulating debt is nice, but working your ass off for eight hours and then coming home and trying to focus on making solid levels isn't always that fun. Then again your job could be part-time, or not too demanding or something along those lines. But as you don't have a degree, it's probably going to be relatively low-wage and hard work. If you go for option B, try getting a half-decent IT job with a relatively good wage and you should be pretty okay (beats McDonalds). When choosing option A, you're not just going to have to attend school. You'll have to work in your spare time to "fill in the gaps" and create a solid portfolio (but as mentioned above, you'll have a lot of time to do that).

So, keep an ear open to the input from Mapcore about this then weigh the alternatives with your personal situation in mind and go for something. Both alternatives can lead to a job within games (just look at other Mapcorians). GLHF. :)

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Well, first question: Which country are you in, which kind of university is it and what would be the country you are looking to work in?

As long as you stay inside of one continent/country a degree is not a necessesity to get a work permit. Degrees are mostly helpful with traditional visa application processes (e.g. migrating from EU to US). But for the actual job they are pretty unrelevant in most cases and the portfolio is the only thing that counts. If you don't want to go back for the degree because it does cost you something, the best choice would be to work on a Portfolio of your own.

Keep in mind, junior positions/internships are in most cases production positions. Applying as "Game Designer" is usually seen as applying as "The idea guy", which translates to "I like video games, have no clue how to make them and should be in charge of everything". So - in short, it's a pretty bad idea to apply for that. See what you like about creating games. Is it level design (actual proving of game mechanics, player guidance etc), is it environment art, character design, animation, tech-art and tools, cinematics, vfx (particles) or sound? It might be a good idea to look into all of these subjects. See if there's something in there in which you excel or you see your self having motivation to improve in and strengthen that.

Once you got that nailed, take the time the degree would have taken you and build a strong portfolio, make your progress visible (by posting here and on other forums like polycount) and start looking into what studios could be interesting. Keep in mind - for your first position it might be enough to work at a smaller company in your hometown or state. That will lower the risk for you to getting lost. And it will probably raise your chances in actually landing a job, because relocation is usually pretty expensive for the studio, so if they look for a junior then they might prefer someone with low relocation costs.

If you want to get a degree and you feel the degree you can get at your university is not worth the paper it is printed on, get a degree in something else. Would I have the chance today to study again, I'd probably get a degree in maths, physics or computer sciences. Gives you a broader spectrum of jobs to fall back on to, the degree and course is established and in the end it will always come in handy in whatever part of game development you work in.

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Option A could work, The masters I'm looking at can be part time over 2 years. That would hopefully give me enough time to study, work on my portfolio and give me the chance to work a part time job. Perhaps I'll even be able to find placement/ work experience?

Option B is one I'd like to avoid, yet I probably wont be able to, Right now I'm working 8 hours a day in a shit job, and like you, coming home after than I'm too tired and burnt out to even turn my pc on.

Option C, Carry on working shit jobs until I have enough saved up to support myself, THEN move onto education again.

E-Freak : I'm in the UK, and if I have to move half way across the world to work in something I enjoy, I'll do it. Staying in the UK would be nice to begin with however. Level design has always been my biggest interest and thats where I'll focus my efforts. Lately I've been trying to improve my asset creation and general quality of my work, to aid in future level design projects I set myself. I gather you're currently employed in the Industry E-freak, do you ever offer work placement/experience to people? I'd really like to spend some time at a studio, even for just a few weeks to see how things work, I'm just not sure how willing some of the companies here would be to offer me that. I've spoken about the course I was on before here so I wont clog this place up with repetitive info, The masters course 'Sounds' like it covers a lot more relevant area's in more depth, but then again I felt like I was lied to before. Heres a link to the course info :


Thanks for taking the time to help me out here. :)

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