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Puddy

Theoretical work in your Portfolio

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Hey guys,

I got a pretty general question for ya and I'm interested to hear what you have to say! I've been playing around with the idea of writing either a constructive critique/analysis of a game or a pitch document for a game concept. In both cases the end product would be a nicely layed out PDF that is reminiscent of a magazine (with illustrations, concept art etc to break up the text). Assuming that the ideas presented in the document aren't absolute shit, is this something that has ANY portfolio value? Could it possibly be seen as a minus (because recruiters might frown at non-practical stuff)? TL;DR maybe? ;)

Would like to hear your opinions on this. :) Oh, and the reason I want to do this is because I want to start exploring game design and mechanics more (and not just level design for existing games).

If this is the wrong forum for this, feel free to move the thread. It felt like a good fit though!

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I started doing the analysis of random levels from games and abandonned it after a couple because the result didn't seem like it would benefit anyone but me, and writing it with pics and all that made sense proved way longer than analysing it :P

If those are well done, and you've done a few different ones, I think it could be a small plus on a portfolio, although obviously actual levels is going to be much more important. Basically, if I was hesitating between 2 designers and one had well-thought-out level analysis as well, it might make a difference, but that's it.

I don't really know about the game concept doc, those files are usually walls of text and hardly convey the actual vision of the game, so I would be tempted to overlook it in your portfolio and get to something that I can appreciate in a minute.

My advice is: do your level analysis, and if it helps put your thoughts straight, why not, write something down. But the actual benefit you'll get from it is not by putting it on your portfolio, but by being able to respond to interview questions much more in depth, thanks to the knowledge gained by looking closer at those levels/games. That's how you can usually tell at an interview the difference between someone that manages to do decent levels by trial and error but doesn't really know what or why he's doing, and someone who actually understands the mechanics at play and that you're confident knows the ins and outs of his craft well.

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Thanks for the input Corwin. Yeah, I would mainly do this as a learning experience for me. I'm sorry if I was a bit unclear about that! :P It's not a question of making this kind of stuff to specifically make my portfolio stronger. It's more a question of whether or not I should showcase any of this on my folio while I'm at it. You are probably right about the benefit of doing this. It might become very time-consuming to translate an analysis to something presentable and interesting which can be put on my folio.

The concept doc idea is actually pretty treacherous. I think it might give a recruiter the wrong impression; one might think that I'm the kind of person who actually believes what my signature quote says. :D In reality, the concept doc would only be meant as a way of showing that I can think out, discuss and evaluate mechanics/gameplay systems. But it's probably a bad idea in the end.

Edited by Puddy

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In a portfolio maybe not, but on the side on a personal blog it could be interesting. But this kind of work is very personal I think.

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I did something very similar after designing two maps for that one Mapcore challenge with the Portal 2 Puzzle Creator. I have to tell you that both "Behind the Scenes" articles (here and here) took me a lot more of time than I had planned.

Although I really enjoyed doing that exercise to sharp my analytical skills, after writing them, including screenshots to ease the writing process and make the articles more interesting, and also creating a presentation of the level's layout + flow (maybe that's why it took so long!), I don't plan to do that again for every project because I believe my time could be better spent with practical work.

I posted the articles in my devBlog, linked each one in the corresponding project's page in the portfolio and in the Articles page as well.

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Many interviews will ask you to speak about a game you have played and talk about the good and bad, often requiring you to go into detail. There may also be theoretical challenges to expand or limit game mechanics, so it definitely helps to be familiar with that (or to only bring up games you feel confident dissecting :P).

Ultimately I think actual content will speak much louder than any sort of game analysis document to show you know your stuff. That said, studios often have a few people that will share their experiences with games or film or whatever and are able to pick out great bits of information that can prove to be pretty useful. It might be useful to try an exercise like this but I don't think I would have it as a primary feature on a portfolio.

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If I were to hire a level or game designer I would definitely be interested in reading theoretical work. When evaluating a the competences of a level designer the very most optimal is naturally to play a level designed by him. As this is not particularly practical, at least not for rough scanning, we stick to indirect measures of how well this guy can design levels. Typically this includes screenshots, videos or short descriptions of the levels created by him. As a recruiter is already dealing with indirect measures of level design quality I would not see any issues with evaluating other indirect work such as a theoretical analysis.

Also, as a lecturer I have evaluated a bunch of level designs with accompanying theoretical work and I have found there to be a pretty good correlation between quality of the level design and quality of the theoretical analysis.

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suggestion: submit / pitch these theory pieces to Kotaku or Destructoid or The Escapist or RPS or your favorite games blog thing that'll pay you

- players like learning about craft

- you want to write something that's "generally interesting" / readable by anyone anyway

- if the writing is good, then these sites are likely to publish it

- if you have industry affiliation or credentials, then they're even more likely to publish (assuming that's okay with your employer)

- you'll get some money for your trouble -- I mean, very little, but congrats, you're officially a published freelance writer

- great thing to put on your portfolio, to be affiliated with one of these sites, it means "you matter"?

for example:

- Hamish Todd analyzing barnacle placement for Destructoid http://www.destructoid.com/untold-riches-the-brilliance-of-half-life-s-barnacles-233589.phtml

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suggestion: submit / pitch these theory pieces to Kotaku or Destructoid or The Escapist or RPS or your favorite games blog thing that'll pay you

- players like learning about craft

- you want to write something that's "generally interesting" / readable by anyone anyway

- if the writing is good, then these sites are likely to publish it

- if you have industry affiliation or credentials, then they're even more likely to publish (assuming that's okay with your employer)

- you'll get some money for your trouble -- I mean, very little, but congrats, you're officially a published freelance writer

- great thing to put on your portfolio, to be affiliated with one of these sites, it means "you matter"?

for example:

- Hamish Todd analyzing barnacle placement for Destructoid http://www.destructo...es-233589.phtml

I never thought about that. Cool!

Let me take this opportunity and ask this: do you think I should do something similar and submit those two articles I wrote (and linked above) to a game news blog?

And btw, great linked article.

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If you are applying to a job then anybody will ever just look at screenshots for 10 seconds until jumping to the next applicant, nobody will appreciate the millions of hours you took to analyze and break down Nintendo Classic Game #23, what do we call ourselves? Gangster Squad! You can't kill me, you are a cop! Not anymore.

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