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

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I have a small question, I would love to be answered. I am a resident of a country where there is hardly any gaming studio present, so any work I can do is basically mod games online or work on a couple of small time projects and there is no chance of gaining meaningful experience. So what do I do, because even mentioning that I will relocate basically anywhere doesn't help, since companies don't want to deal with visa, employment, etc ? 

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They will, if you are good enough. Time to get working on that amazing portfolio that will instantly convince any recruiter out there. Mod experience is a big plus since it's demonstrates your ability to work in a team and finish projects.

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Poor HR departments drive me insane. SO tired of hearing nothing back and putting time into writing personal cover letters. 

All HR should follow the same structure CD Projekt have in processing your application. You get told what stage your at and when your portfolio gets reviewed. Plus when you get feedback of any kind at least you know where you might need to improve.

Shit HR has to stop!

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Poor HR departments drive me insane. SO tired of hearing nothing back and putting time into writing personal cover letters. 

All HR should follow the same structure CD Projekt have in processing your application. You get told what stage your at and when your portfolio gets reviewed. Plus when you get feedback of any kind at least you know where you might need to improve.

Shit HR has to stop!

CD Projekt was the worst application process I have ever had. Absolutely terrible.

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Perhaps my experience was better because I went through a developer on mapcore.

I guess when the system works they were pretty good and prompt in responding to e-mails.

Really it's communication that needs to improve, especially studio sites that say you can ask the team/about the role email here or phone! ... half the time a receptionist hangs up or the most insulting response. An automated email several months after you apply. Great...

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Do I sense some frustration here?

No :)

It's just that in whatever branch of business I've worked, I've never had the pleasure of having a good HR department.

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Poor HR departments drive me insane. SO tired of hearing nothing back and putting time into writing personal cover letters. 

Back when I was applying for my first job I rarely heard anything back. I applied anywhere I felt would be relevant and heard back from maybe 5 or so companies.

It is frustrating but keep at it and eventually you'll get there. :) Don't forget these studios probably get a lot of applications. Replying to everyone individually would be quite a task. It would be nice to know if you're being considered or not though, even an automated email would do.

If you are unsuccessful with any application though, do ask for feedback. I have found a lot of companies will give some feedback when asked.

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I have to agree with the negative sentiment for HR. They are rarely required to have even a remote understanding of what they're hiring for. I often see and hear the advise of asking for feeback on the application.  No one does that, at least not in North America.  They don't even give you a clear indication of whether or not you've been passed over. They all have semi automated systems that if you do get notice will go as far as 'Your application is being considered' and stay in that status for an incredibly long time in part to keep you from trying to send another application in for that job.

Almost no one has their HR integrated in any effective way. They just sit in their own magic world in the clouds of whatever developer they latched onto and hire based on buzzwords in a spreadsheet.

I've seen job listings where they wanted entry level talent to have somehow have 5 years of experience in software that had only existed for 2 years.

Let's break that down. They wanted entry level talent, people who are expected to essentially have zero professional experience. To have 5 years of experience. And they wanted them to have that experience using a program that had not existed as even a concept

I've applied for jobs where I was well verse in similar software to waht they were using and knew I could easily bridge over (Maya vs 3dsmax for example) but because their spreadsheet said 3dsmax and they didn't even know what that was, I got passed over.  Then I go to a trade show like GDC and hear 'oh you do good work you should apply'

The people working in HR are always polite, great to talk to as well, however;

HR Is the bane of the industry due to their lack of proper integration.

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The first couple of pages of this thread were awesome.  I work in a parallel industry (tabletop game development) but have a software engineering background (have contributed to DIY game dev projects).  I'd say some of these topics really apply to any creative work - like making your development unique and able to stand-out.  

I haven't gone' through the entire thread, but I would add, make sure you surround yourself with people who are better at dev than you are in certain areas.  It will push you to develop a much better asset than you would otherwise.  But most people know that - everyone I know who is in game dev has a host of mentors.  Awesome thread.

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I have been interested in getting into game development for years but I wound up going straight to work (I have a solid job for only a high school education.). Recently I really wanted to go back to school to try to get a bachelors in game design and was more or less curious how prevalent employers in the industry look at what school you do graduate from? I ask because it would be a semi long term process (as all extra-educational school is....) because I would primarily be doing it all as online courses due to working a really good full time job (I just see it as a placeholder job till I find something I am passionate about), but working overnight. So I figured I would try and get myself into the best position out of school as possible. I understand that the school you go to isn't always everything a lot of it is usually what you can offer that differs from everyone else, or rather makes you unique. (Did I just answer my own question????) Input would be awesome!

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Keep your job, fuck the school, and make a lotta stuff while you're at home, oh, forget about your social life too, if you don't have one, then you're perfect stay how you are.

More seriously, losing your job for going back to school is the worst move you can do, keep your income and work hard on your free time, get in the feedback loop and iterate your work, then move on. There's plenty of tutorials on the internet, you are actually in one of the best level design forum with a lot of great active talents, you don't need much more, imo you will waste a lot of time if you go to school.

 

Just my 2 cents, i'm not into the industry so take my advice with a pinch of salt, but yeah, just make stuff man, you don't need someone behind you to tell you what to do next.

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I've been reading through this thread and found a ton of great advice. I just had a couple of questions for some of you who work in the industry. So I'm kind of using my free time while in school to build a portfolio (Level Design) so that when I graduate I can start applying and hopefully get something in the games industry.

Let's say you apply as a Level Designer for a company and you have no experience with how their engine/editor works (and they don't have tools out there for you to learn). What then?

I play games and unless I've actually used the game's mod tools/level editor I honestly have no idea how they are structured/how they are made. Most of my experience comes from Skyrim's Creation Engine and Source Engine. I feel like these engines are a little niche in terms of how their levels are built (because they are older engines), but I honestly have no clue. Would skill/knowledge in slightly older engines like Source/Creation transfer over easily to more modern engines? Should I use my time to work in more modern toolkits?

If you work in Level Design, what tools/programs are you using to create your levels? How would you describe your day to day tasks?

Basically I'm worried about the transfer process between modding/mapping to working in a professional environment. Would you say that creating mods/maps prepare you for a professional industry job, or is there something more that I'm missing out on? I feel like I have alot of gaps to fill. Thanks for any information and sorry if some of this is poorly worded.

Edited by nikkoship

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I've been reading through this thread and found a ton of great advice. I just had a couple of questions for some of you who work in the industry. So I'm kind of using my free time while in school to build a portfolio (Level Design) so that when I graduate I can start applying and hopefully get something in the games industry.

Let's say you apply as a Level Designer for a company and you have no experience with how their engine/editor works (and they don't have tools out there for you to learn). What then?

I play games and unless I've actually used the game's mod tools/level editor I honestly have no idea how they are structured/how they are made. Most of my experience comes from Skyrim's Creation Engine and Source Engine. I feel like these engines are a little niche in terms of how their levels are built (because they are older engines), but I honestly have no clue. Would skill/knowledge in slightly older engines like Source/Creation transfer over easily to more modern engines? Should I use my time to work in more modern toolkits?

If you work in Level Design, what tools/programs are you using to create your levels? How would you describe your day to day tasks?

Basically I'm worried about the transfer process between modding/mapping to working in a professional environment. Would you say that creating mods/maps prepare you for a professional industry job, or is there something more that I'm missing out on? I feel like I have alot of gaps to fill. Thanks for any information and sorry if some of this is poorly worded.

Modding and mapping experiences are still strong arguments in a portfolio for some companies. It proves that you want some 'cause you took time to create this and learned by yourself, you're autonomous and you've got your workflow. Finishing a project is already better than most of people. I've seen a bunch of dudes in my school applying even without any portfolio to companies like DICE or Ubisoft just because they thought the diploma would give them a job. It's sad but true. 

Concerning editors, Skyrim's editor is indeed very special but it's a requierement if you want to work at Bethesda for example. Source is good but I think it's very common to see this in people's resume. The important point is what you did with it. Is it just building? importing assets? lighting? Level design + playtest? scripting? This defines what makes you interesting in the first place; Key Words; because HR pass very quickly on resumes/portfolio. So I don't think Source is niche but I personnaly can't say how it is important in a profile. Many principles are still the same in modern engines and i'm pretty sure that you could get into one if you made it through Source. The little I know from Source has been very helpfull to me to understand other tools and to learn one way of level creation. Obviously, beeing able to use modern tools like Unreal Engine 4 or Unity is a requirement but i may be wrong. Almost everyone works with these and home-made engine are very close. So if you know one of them, it would be much more easier to move to a company who use another modern engine. 

You should read this : https://www.mapcore.org/articles/interviews/working-as-a-level-designer-in-the-games-industry-r67/
Tasks and workflow depend on the company, the project and the size of the team so it's difficult to give the right proper example. Some use narration, game design, art direction, a lot of things can modify the way you work and what the studio needs from you. Older could probably talk a bit more about this than me. 

To me, the most difficult things may not be about tools or workflow, but about people. It may not always be easy to join a built team. You have to learn about people, how they think, how they work, how you should interact with them etc. The is the side where you learn about the team and which role you should take in this group. It is also a real work on yourself. If you are introverted it can be really hard for you and for the team as much as if you are extroverted (exhausting for the team (can also be refreshing)). It really depends on the people you'll work on but it's really something to concider to me. After explaining my skills in an interview or something, I always try to put a bit the human side of the work on the table 'cause you're not joining a studio to make your level alone. 

 

Edited by TheOnlyDoubleF

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