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

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A-Levels here in the UK are non compulsory and a choice. However at my school you had A-levels in groups of say 5, and pick one from each group. The only people who took maths are the ones who did Chemistry/Biology/Physics or the guys who really want to be Programmers. However at my school the Maths/Computer Science were in the same block so it was one or the other.

Now GCSE (age 16) Maths is compulsory but trivially easy.

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Get used to it Ginger you will be looking a long time, I was. Get turned down over the stupidest thing. I remember once I was applying for a Junior position but got chose over another guy who had more experience. For a Junior role. Haha. In the end I gave up and looked into contract work which I'm doing now, and then suddenly Minh Le and Charlie Cleveland ask me to work in the same month.

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I know, had that multiple times already :D You'd think for a junior role they'd pick the less experienced person so they can pay them less!

Never heard back from Minh Lee about his stuff that he posted. Contact seems to be the way forward for getting experience but it seems the vacancies aren't out there at the moment. Guess it will pick up in the next few months as financial year comes about and budgets etc are set.

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I've only got GCSE's but a wealth of practical experience in game development - just not the boilerplate "3 years commercial experience and/or 3 published AAA/NextGen/WTFBBQ titles" that they all seem to want.

I think I've been interviewed (sometimes more than once) by just about every game company in or around Stockholm and they've all turned me down for some bullshit reason. The classic was applying for one job, turning up and being interviewed for a different position and then turned down as being unsuitable - "err, but I was applying for as a junior environmental prop modeller? Not as a tool/engine developer?" ( I'm looking at you, GRIN :fist: )

I think I spent about 3 years trying to get a foot in the door and just gave up. :D I had/have other options so it wasn't a hassle.

So yes, you've got to be prepared to wait and wait and keep looking. Networking is the #1 thing though - get to know people, get to trade fairs, interface (yah) with people.

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To summarize: You've got a degree, you've applied at 50+ companies (entry positions), your English is excellent (naturally), you've got level-design, modding, 3D modeling software experience,you're willing to relocate - question is: why has nobody picked you up yet? Maybe it's a tough time to get your foot in the door, maybe lots of companies have odd job requirements or maybe your work isn't up to what other applicants show. I've got the feeling it's a mix of all these things. This probably better belongs to your portfolio thread, there is already a lot of good work-specific advise given there, but I really believe you need to work on the variety of your stuff. All I see is WW II, to make bad things worse most of it is for a MOD that isn't released yet. All of it is work for Source or even Gold Source, instead of applying at more companies maybe you should build a kick-ass map for a recent game (that is not WW II themed). Or you get that MOD out of the door, so you can impress by putting this as a released project on your resume. Something that you've worked on from start to finish and that X many people are playing.

Apologies in advance for being so brutally blunt about it, but it seems to me that you're stuck in a dead end. You can either send out more applications and hope for the best or work on your stuff and get a gig that might be a hundred times better than the one you would have gotten with your old portfolio.

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All fair points and its something I'm trying to rectify in the near future, its just finding the time to fit in the extra stuff. :-D

I've dug my heels in and am in for the long haul.

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Gingers WW2 mod is pretty cool when I was helping beta test it. Not sure how much it has changed since but it was good fun. So stop jerking off all the time and release it already :quagmire:

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To be fair to Ginger's (and mine) WWII mod - it's been in development for 3 years of which the first 18 months were an abortion we had to write off due to various factors out of our control.

It is getting VERY close to a public release but we've been unable to thus far due to legal reasons. That said, it's effectively been a 4 man team putting in 8 hours a week to turn the game around which is pretty amazing when you consider just about all the art assets are totally original and weigh in at almost 1.5GB alone.

I've always had a bit of a problem with companies being so hung up on shipped titles - is it a art/dev guys problem if the game doesn't ship? Surely that's a contractual/managerial problem? I would of thought being able to turn up showing a diverse portfolio of different work demonstrating technique, understanding and creative ability was far more important than units shipped.

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I think it has more to do with the fact that if they can actually play your levels, then they might consider you.

I would never hire a level designer, on screenshot value alone. I'd MAYBE give the guy an interview if the screenshots was damn jaw drippingly sexy. But if they aren't, then I'd have to try the maps out first, preferably in a free or commonly owned game like TF2 or Crysis to see if they played as good as the looked.

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you will be creating rough shapes using either a "brush" based tool (think hammer, unrealed) or using a 3d program (3dsmax, maya, xsi, and most places now will use sketchup if they have any sense - because how easy it is to use for basic level creation).

Thank you for clarifying. :)

a good idea (imho) would be to get into an engine you are familiar with, that has a single player campaign. use the assets, textures and "universe" of that game to create your own levels. because this is what you will be doing in a job, placing assets created by someone else, into a level built by you. heavy emphasis should be placed on the gameplay - but unfortunately you will have to make sure it looks relatively appealing as well.

This is exactly what I have been doing so far. Thanks for the affirmation. :D

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I think it has more to do with the fact that if they can actually play your levels, then they might consider you..

Well that's always a factor. Flat screenshots along wont sell your skills.

Personally, every interview I've had I've taken a laptop with HL2, 3DS Max, etc. and a copy of my mod and the source to my files so I can let them try it and inspect my work in detail. In many cases I've left a DVD with files on they can look at their leisure.

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I think it has more to do with the fact that if they can actually play your levels, then they might consider you.

I would never hire a level designer, on screenshot value alone. I'd MAYBE give the guy an interview if the screenshots was damn jaw drippingly sexy. But if they aren't, then I'd have to try the maps out first, preferably in a free or commonly owned game like TF2 or Crysis to see if they played as good as the looked.

Naturally, if anyone gets hired on screenshot value alone that would be insane. I know a few mappers who crank out amazing looking maps, but if you look at their source files its :oops:

If you've got screenshots on your portfolio, naturally there should be something to play with behind them. If companies want to play with them then thats fine, I can (anyone should) make it available to them. But some things aren't ready for public consumption as they say.

Anyway, interview tomorrow, time to crack on with prep :celebrate:

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