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

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36 minutes ago, AlexM said:

You can remove me from the list. I've left my job and I'm planning to take a fair amount of time off :)

I think you meant to post that here? Better to stop and recharge, than to burn out entirely. Clear the space for those better things to come. Best of lucks bro.

 

 

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On 8/24/2020 at 2:04 PM, [HP] said:

I think you meant to post that here? Better to stop and recharge, than to burn out entirely. Clear the space for those better things to come. Best of lucks bro.

 

 

Oops! crap my bad!

 

and thanks :)

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I feel like i can now share a bit about my experience on this topic.

 

I had a weird profile, making maps was a hobby since I was a teenager, but I wasn't aware that video game schools exist and I went on another direction for my studies and beginning of career. I never lost that hobby though, and realized at some point that my skills at making maps could allow me to work on that field. From that point, I started to take it more seriously and learned stuff online as much as I could (thank you GDC) but didn't go to a videogame school and i had no pro exp on making a videogame. Another issue was that I was aiming at a company that makes SP games and at that point I almost only made MP maps (CSGO), and I don't even know anything else than Source (No UE4/Unity knowledge, no visual scripting, no model-only / modular world building ...).

So ... the bet was risky but, as Grapen said, the only way to figure it out was to give it a try, at least I wouldn't be disappointed that I didn't try.
What I did first was trying to build a portfolio that could convey things in my work that could be interesting for what I was aiming. Even if you're making MP maps, there are plenty of stuff you're doing that are similar to SP : building a layout, solving bottlenecks/dead ends problems, tricks to guide the player, make your map readable, easy to learn, create a theme and make it a believable space, script systems...
Being able to show finished projects also helps to demonstrate that you can focus on something, iterate on it and bring it to its final state.
Most of my previous profesionnal experience was useless for a LD position, but I've been on projects, I managed an industrial project and I worked with people for a few years ; this is valuable for a company if you know how a real-world project is handled and can bring knowledges and methods from another industry.
I also worked on a SP map while my portfolio was being processed by HR, to be able to show one good piece of SP work.

 

It worked, my folio catched the company attention and i'm asked to do a test (the usual process).
I dedicated time for it, used some day off, and tried to stick to pillars and rules that I assumed the LD were following for the test. Being able to manage your time here is crucial, you don't want to make something too simple but you also want to finish it. It was tight, I decided to build it on Source (HL2:EP2) so I had the brushwork and entities systems known pretty well, but I had to create systems for AI (to allow stealth, which is inexistent on Half-Life 2) and mechanics (very few and simple). I was proud of my work but had no idea if it would be good enough. I just gave as much as I could into it.

 

It worked, I got an interview.
I was able to explain my intention, why i'm here and why is my profile weird. It went well. Interview is important to show your personality and communication skills.

 

And after some time (a very long time actually ^^') I joined the company. The same way it has been told before on that topic, for a profile like mine it was kind of a bet for them : no profesionnal experience in that field and no school → You start with a Junior position or something close to that (at Arkane there's no official junior/senior levels but still, this is considered for the salary obviously). But in the end, i managed to adapt successfuly and got reevaluated after a year. Learning a modern engine wasn't that hard, it was pretty quick. Having tech LDs and being able to ask your colleagues for help accelerates things, but the same way I always did when I was doing this as a hobby, looking for things by yourself and trying to ask to the right persons helps tons too.

I invested myself quite a lot into the project, so I am hoping it will be good so that I'll be proud of my first game!
It's been quite a journey but I'm not thinking about my previous work at all and still find ways to use that knowledge/exp (for instance : at work with env artists, because i was a mechanical engineer so I know quite a lot about this, or on personnal projects where I can still do some stuff as a hobby this time, thanks to 3D printing :)). So for now it's going fine ! Best of luck to other who want to "break in" the games industry !

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That was a really good read @leplubodeslapin thank you for sharing.
This is also a great site for "breaking into the industry" and resource's (if it hasnt already been posted its worth checking out) https://www.beyondextent.com

They also host good podcast that i enjoy listening to whilst working away on things

 

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Maybe too broad or too heavy a question for this thread; but is level design - or game dev in general - a reliable enough source of income to justify fully dedicating to it without a good backup plan?

Although level design - in some form or another - has been my passion for the better part of a decade now, I always wrote off trying to make it my job because it just felt too unattainable somehow. I didn't want to end up just another wannabe moviestar trying to make it in hollywood . . or, for a more zeitgeisty analogy, a full-time youtuber/streamer with 7 subscribers.

Started college last year, kind of all fell apart with covid lockdown & changed my major after the summer. Lockdown continues and it's the same tale as last time.

If I drop out and start learning different engines + working on my portfolio fulltime, what's the minimal amount of time I should reasonably expect before I might get a chance to get into the industry? Can I reasonably expect to get into the industry eventually, or will I be chasing a dream for 5 years & have nothing to show for it in the end?

Would really appreciate some insider opinions. What separates the people who can do this as a job from those who can't? Mapping is one of the only things I can do for days on end without becoming distracted, bored or fatigued, and I want to believe that's something I should be able to harness. But whenever I actually think of trying to do so, a little voice in my head says ''yea but what about the people who play minecraft all day, or build model railway sets? What about those people who make huge lego statues, and every self-professed artist who'll never sell a canvas in their lifetime?'' And it turns my mind to static.

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I had a similar attitude going through highschool and university. After I graduated and got my BA in photography I decided to fuck it and put together a level design portfolio. The first year and a half was a disaster. Although I had some decent understanding of ld, I lacked discipline and was too ambitious with my projects. Finishing stuff has always been an issue for me and it's still an area I'm improving at. What really helped me was to have a concrete goal for the portfolio.

At the time, @grapen got his first job as ld and I basically used his portfolio as an end goal. He had 5 levels in total. Though, I decided to only do half of the content for the previous mentioned reasons. I didn't want to keep doing photography jobs, so I started working as QC at my local Ubisoft. During that time, I put together a portfolio featuring a wingman map for csgo and a fc5 map. About 9 months later I landed my first ld job. So there, it can be done! It took about 3 years since I made the initial decision. Bumpy road, but if you're clear with what you want to accomplish, scale things to your ability and have a bit of confidence, you'll get there.

It also helps to be active in the community and talk to people who have been there or are currently trying to get their foot in the door. Same period @Lizard was also working to get his first job in the industry, so we supported each other through the ups and down in order to reach our goal. Overall, having a stable job and income in these times has been great.

Edited by Radu

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2 hours ago, ThunderKeil said:

Although level design - in some form or another - has been my passion for the better part of a decade now, I always wrote off trying to make it my job because it just felt too unattainable somehow. 

You've just answered all your own questions. Its been your passion for a decade. If this is your passion and you really want it, then work towards it. Push yourself, demand more from yourself. Nothing materialises out of thin air, effort rewards effort. Don't worry about the ifs and what's. You said you can map for hours. So go and map for hours. Release stuff on here. Anywhere. Get better. Stop questioning yourself and future possibilities that have no effect on the present, other than talking yourself out of what you actually want to do.

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4 hours ago, dux said:

You've just answered all your own questions. Its been your passion for a decade. If this is your passion and you really want it, then work towards it. Push yourself, demand more from yourself. Nothing materialises out of thin air, effort rewards effort. Don't worry about the ifs and what's. You said you can map for hours. So go and map for hours. Release stuff on here. Anywhere. Get better. Stop questioning yourself and future possibilities that have no effect on the present, other than talking yourself out of what you actually want to do.

Everything seems simple with a positive attitude :)

I don't question that this is what I want, nor that it is one of if not the only thing of which I can without doubt state that I'm capable and willing to put in the time for. That said, I do also firmly believe talent, as an inherent or at least young-taught quality, exists. And I'm not as- confident I have it. Like I said, or at least alluded to, I'd hate to be the kind of person who spends his whole life deludedly chasing a dream out of reach. Jon Richardson will never win the Olympic 100m, and chris chan will never draw a comic that looks like it was made by someone more than 12 years old. No shade on Jon, he just came to mind. But I'd hate to be the chris chan of level design, and god knows someone's got to be.

Well, at any rate. Thanks for the insights and the motivation, guys, guess I've got some plans to make

 

Edited by ThunderKeil

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1 hour ago, ThunderKeil said:

Everything seems simple with a positive attitude :)

I don't question that this is what I want, nor that it is one of if not the only thing of which I can without doubt state that I'm capable and willing to put in the time for. That said, I do also firmly believe talent, as an inherent or at least young-taught quality, exists. And I'm not as- confident I have it. Like I said, or at least alluded to, I'd hate to be the kind of person who spends his whole life deludedly chasing a dream out of reach. Jon Richardson will never win the Olympic 100m, and chris chan will never draw a comic that looks like it was made by someone more than 12 years old. No shade on Jon, he just came to mind. But I'd hate to be the chris chan of level design, and god know's someone's got to be.

Well, at any rate. Thanks for the insights and the motivation, guys, guess I've got some plans to make

 

Read: https://www.amazon.com/dp/014312417X/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_fabc_IRSSFbD2NX7JX

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4 hours ago, ThunderKeil said:

Everything seems simple with a positive attitude :)

Haha you must be new here. I'm the most un-positive person on here. You gotta come at it with big dick energy.

It sounds to me as though you're shooting yourself down before you've even left the runway.

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@ThunderKeil you're in college? You're a young buck, you got all the time in the world to pursue LD, and YOU CAN DO IT. I was 29 when I decided I needed to make the switch. Did my 9 to 5 and worked on my portfolio in the evenings and at night. Took 2-3 years to land the job. Yeah it messed up my marriage, but I'm loving where I'm at in life right now. You just need to put the grind in, do your research on what it is that makes some portfolios stand out. Best of luck.

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