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Sam Combs - Level Designer


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Couldn't find a Resume page or download, this is a must on any portfolio.

Quite handy to offer a linkedin link at your contact page.

Optional: At your contact page you might want to give some insight on why you enjoy level design, what motivates you? This however is a personal matter :)

Feedback on presentation of your work:

3 out of 5 screenshots from 'A Brief Detour' show the same location in a different angle, this makes me feel that the map is really small. However from screenshot 4 and 5 I see there is a lot more.

Good luck!

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You're right about the resume. The one problem with that is I've just graduated from college and have no professional level design experience. Should I just list the personal projects I've worked on, more of a functional resume?

I switched up the order of the screenshots to show an overview map first. There are a bunch more screenshots besides the first five, but I don't think it's immediately obvious that there are more, which might be a problem. So I switched it to a list view, where all the images are full sized, you just have to scroll down the page. Is a long page of large images better/worse that the single big image and thumbnails?

I'll try my hand at adding some personal insight.

Thanks for the feedback!

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Should I just list the personal projects I've worked on, more of a functional resume?

Absolutely. Personal projects are valuable to list on a resume. If you take a look at the portfolios of other people on this site you'll see most of them list their personal projects in addition to their industry ones. Just make sure the experience you list on your resume is relevant to games. I doubt potential employers will care that you were the fastest burger flipper in your town.

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Hey, Sam, usually a lot of the feedback in this forum hinges on the actual portfolio structure - I have a few comments on that, then I'll hit the content.

I think your base portfolio is actually in pretty good shape for what you've got. I think a key factor to keep up with is the reasoning behind decisions made in each area. You'll need to be able to articulate the "why" in your designs in job interviews - you don't have to get too fancy or overthink it, but it's good to see. The inconsistency between your two projects bothers me a little bit; personally I prefer the gallery display from the L4D2 map over the HL2 one. A real nitpicky thing but something that did stick out is the gap between your projects and the bottom of your page on the index - but, like I said, nitpicky. :)

ChopperDave is right about listing your personal projects on your resume - they're all you've got at this point. The one piece of advice I'll give you there is be careful about the trap of overdoing them. When you only have a couple projects, it's easy to bullet point the crap out of them and get some redundant points in there. We've had some resumes come through at LightBox where well-meaning people have overdone things to the point of appearing to claim far more than they actually did. I think yours is ok and you probably don't need to change it, but Iyou might be able to merge or trim down a few bullets and still get the point across. Just something to keep an eye out for.

As for your content! Speaking honestly, at first glance, it is a bit unremarkable. There's not a lot in the screens that jumps out and grabs you, and some really simple layout and brushwork. That said, two key things did jump out at me - your attention to detail and thought process behind the scenes. Stuff like the pair of sleeping bags next to the deck of cards, or the use of the slow gate to softly hinder progression against the Hunters are great touches that a lot of amateur (and even some professional) developers might miss. Keep building more stuff, keep showing those two strengths, and work on bringing the rest of the level's layout and visuals to that kind of bar, and I think you may get some good opportunities.

Hope that helps!

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If I can say something, don't show stuff that everyone can do in 5 minutes. I was especialy talking about the last screenshots of office space. You have to make screenshot of thing you can be proud and when people will say "oh look ! it's the map of xxx !" and not "oh look ! it's a beverage machine in a corridor with a foliage"

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Thank you very much for that feedback, KungFuSquirrel. I switched the HL2 page back to the gallery display, I'd rather the text not be hidden all the way at the bottom. I tweaked the resume a tiny bit so the bullets aren't quite as copy/paste, and I'll be sure to avoid padding. When you're talking about the "whys", do you think I covered that fairly well, or is that something I need more work on?

I guess what's sticking out is relatively bland levels and simple brushwork. I've been trying to work on that, breaking up blocky shapes, using height variations, adding trim and more surface details, but I think some of it is my chosen subject matter, although I assume I should be able to make even an office building look great. I'll pour some more effort into analyzing other levels for help with layouts and detailing. Besides more practice and using photo reference, are there any particular tips?

And 3Dnj, that corner has an uncanny resemblance to a corner in my own office, but it's pretty boring in real life as well. I dropped the screenshot.

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  • 1 month later...

Update: I've added a section for OWC_Traverse, a level I made for the Half-Life 2 mod Overwatch. It won first place in a contest they were running, so I'm proud of that! No download yet, it's coming in one of the upcoming Overwatch updates, apparently. Let me know how it looks.

Gratz! It's good that you have an overhead shot but perhaps you could draw the path over it, mark some events. There's still plenty of space in the bottom right corner to write short notes so you have all "technical" information in one picture. But don't cramp it up with too much words as well.

It will make it easier for the person reviewing your portfolio to judge if your layouts are ok, a shot like that is meant to be informative after all.

Something like you did here: http://samcombs.carbonmade.com/projects/2935324#3

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  • 1 year later...

Update: Added a section for Station 51, dropped some older projects off, rewrote some descriptions.

I want to go back and add overview maps for all the projects, just have a hard time not making them look terrible. Is there an easier way to make simple, clean, maps than making shapes in Photoshop?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hmm. Well, I sent off a half dozen applications two weeks ago, no responses yet. Is all my stuff being Source engine holding me back? Or is it just that I'm still not there yet quality wise? I know I'm competing with a bunch of professional level designers with the current job market, but I feel like I'm using that as a crutch.

I feel like employers are opening my portfolio, going "Ew, Source engine?" and just closing it. But I see a lot of TF2 maps in portfolios, maybe that's more acceptable than HL2 stuff? But I keep hearing developers want to see single player stuff. Maybe I'm just not presenting my work well.

I want to start working in a current generation engine, like the UDK or CryEngine 3, but I'm not sure I can get very far without art support or a wide variety of stock assets. And I'd really like to do single player, but I can't think of a recent Unreal engine single player game that comes with the editor. Is there an Unreal Engine 3 game with single player and access to UnrealEd?

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Disclaimer: I am not a proffesional game designer.

- The general look and feel of the actual webpage is pretty dull. It could definitely be improved.

- I would seriously downplay all form of text, charts, graphs, illustrations as part of your main presentation. Have a brief description of a project and use photos and videos instead. You can link to an article on a separate page that details your process/workflow/project history etc.

- Keep the first impression in mind. Not all screens on the start page look that great TBH.

- Only present your best work. Or at least emphasize your best work more. My very shallow impression is that OWC_Traverse is nowhere near Station 51 in terms of quality for example.

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Thanks, Puddy! I think you're right on OWC_Overwatch, the visuals aren't really helping me there. I dropped that project. I'm thinking I might need to switch hosting and whip up a new site, but I'm not exactly a web designer, and I do like the drag and drop ease of Carbonmade. But I've heard multiple similar comments on the layout.

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