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jdanielx

Daniel McKenzie - Level Designer ( Hoping to get feedback)

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Hi Everyone, hope your all good,

I'm Daniel  I'm an aspiring Level Designer. always looking at different ways to improve in my spare time.

Well I have been trying for two years now to get into my dream job as a level designer in the gaming industry with having no luck, and I have been creating levels in my spare time and this year has been short due to pandemic and PC keep crashing.

Here the link to my website: www.danielmck.com

 
I'm looking for feedback on my portfolio and my levels, what's good about it, can it be done better or what bad about the level.

Additionally, I'm always on the look out for a level designer position within the industry and would be excited to further discuss any opportunities.

Thanks in advance for any feedback and help you can provide!

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Hey, welcome to Mapcore!

I had a look over your portfolio. I like that it's clean and easy to read. You did a good job with that!

I have to ask, to what companies have you applied over these 2 years? How far did you get in the recruitment process? Did you manage to do any tests? And what feedback did you get if any?

The level blockouts are cool, but they're easy to dismiss because of that. Most of them look like the very first version with limited consideration for metrics or art. The only exception to this appears to be the Chorus and Bank level. You did a much better job at maintaining consistent metrics and working with modular assets. However, the art pass and lighting are not exactly that ideal. As much as level designing is about blocking out stuff and quickly testing ideas, you should also ask yourself how the artists are going to translate some of your elements into functional assets and also keep consistency.

If you aren't targeting a specific company and are instead casting a wider net, then you have another issue. All of your levels are designed for old linear single player games. And while there are studios specifically doing that, there's far more opportunities in multiplayer and open world games. That's just the current situation in the industry. Most games have adopted some form of open world design and feature a fully fledged or limited pvp multiplayer.

My number one advice to anyone applying for a junior level design position today: get a multiplayer level and some sort of open world location. And they don't have to be complicated, but at least take them through the development process, from blockout to release. Get player feedback and incorporate it. 

And I know that there is a lack of SDKs being released for new games, but there are a still a few that do and have a shit ton of assets. Have a look at the CSGO SDK and Far Cry 5 Arcade editor.

I don't know what else to tell you. Don't be discouraged! Sooner or later you're gonna land a job, but consider what I mentioned above. I'm convinced it would increase your chances. Also, starting in QA/QC is always an option. Just keep at it and good luck!

 

 

Edited by Radu

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Hey Radu,

Sorry for the late reply been busy with work.

I have applied too all sort of company's in the UK, like Ubisoft, firesprite, Sony London, Cloud imperium games, splash games,  sumo digital ltd, Creative Assembly, codemasters, climax studios and many more. There were a two that I got invite to the studio and few I fail on the test which is fine helped me improve, while the rest said "unfortunately".

The most recent job I applied was Team 6 Game studio pass the level design test and got to the interview stage but they said today unfortunately they are moving on with someone else, they also said this "We can clearly see that you're an incredibly creative person and that you have some great ideas, something we like to see in a Level Designer! At the same time, we also see this as a possible bottleneck. You've mainly worked on your own projects and therefore you haven't build up (much) experience within a professional environment". which for me is due to not having any team members to build a project upon after leaving Uni 2018,  and been trying to break into the industry I really want to be apart of.

My target company I wanna be apart of is Naughty Dog like that my end goal, that the reason why I meanly did linear single player games, which is what I meanly play aswell. I don't mind doing multiplayer levels as love a new challenge aswell as learning new things. :)
 


So would it be worth doing a blockout level and then uses one of the SDK to make it fully playable level?

Also been thinking of getting dreams and build a level on there aswell. 

 

All I been doing is keep pushing forwards until one day someone will take a chance with me, not going to give up!! :) 

 

Thanks Radu for reply back to me :)

 

  

 

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For a moment I thought that maybe I was too direct with my feedback :D 

23 hours ago, jdanielx said:

The most recent job I applied was Team 6 Game studio pass the level design test and got to the interview stage but they said today unfortunately they are moving on with someone else, they also said this "We can clearly see that you're an incredibly creative person and that you have some great ideas, something we like to see in a Level Designer! At the same time, we also see this as a possible bottleneck. You've mainly worked on your own projects and therefore you haven't build up (much) experience within a professional environment". which for me is due to not having any team members to build a project upon after leaving Uni 2018,  and been trying to break into the industry I really want to be apart of.

To me it reads as if they are worried about your ability to take feedback and move a level in a direction that might not necessarily be what you would like. The advantage of people from a multiplayer community is that they have to test their levels with several people and be receptive to feedback. As much as we have a vision of what our levels should be and play like, others will play in ways we might not have anticipated or find exploits to some ideas we liked. The question then is how to solve those problems while also retaining some of our original ideas. And sometimes we can't. Sometimes you have to throw something you like out and think of something else. Working in a professional environment is a lot like that. 

Of course, they might be also thinking about your ability to work on something other than linear single player games. And I would say it's a justified concern. You want to know that your colleagues aren't going to lose motivation because the project isn't aligned to what they prefer. I commend you for aspiring to work at Naughty Dog, but it might be a bit harder than anticipated. For starters, it's a studio with notoriety. The level of competition to getting a job there is super high. I don't know if I would even dare to hope to land a job there right out of school with no prior experience. I don't mean to discourage you by saying that, but you need to get a bit dirty before you can compete with the people applying there.

I would recommend to do a small open world location in Far Cry 5 Arcade. Even though the editor is a very simplified and limited version of the tools being used on the actual job, the workflow is more or less the same. I recently talked @Roald into making something similar. You can check it out in his portfolio: https://www.roaldvanderscheur.com/log 

As for multiplayer, Mapcore is the top dog when it comes to CSGO maps. So if you would design a 2v2 or classic 5v5 defuse map, you could test it with us and get feedback on it.

Dreams is cool. I've seen a lot of awesome things being built by people, but I'm not sure how relevant the workflow is. If you can design something that could fit in some game and do an art pass on it, make it presentable, sure. Though, I would highly recommend my previous suggestions.

Edited by Radu

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See I know there a lot of iterations when it come to LD stuff and I know there be times where the level don't fit with the overall game experiences so it will need to be redone and throw the old out, I don't mind that knowing that it going to make the overall game better for the team and improve myself, like I told them that I don't have industry experiences however I really wanna be apart of a team to carry on growing aswell as be apart with amazing team. so this is why I don't get why they said that to be honest. 

With naughty dog I see it as my end goal but for now I wanna be apart from another studio first learn as much as I can before going to try my luck with them haha. 

Alright then I will get both games and start creating levels from Far cry 5 arcade and CSGO, and see what I can create with them :)

Am going to do some digging about dream I was told by another LD to do it but not sure about it.

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8 minutes ago, jdanielx said:

See I know there a lot of iterations when it come to LD stuff and I know there be times where the level don't fit with the overall game experiences so it will need to be redone and throw the old out, I don't mind that knowing that it going to make the overall game better for the team and improve myself, like I told them that I don't have industry experiences however I really wanna be apart of a team to carry on growing aswell as be apart with amazing team. so this is why I don't get why they said that to be honest. 

I think a big reason for it is that, in your portfolio documentation, I didn't see any mention of how the levels evolved or if you tested them with actual players. I want to know what things worked and didn't, if you found solutions, how you moved forward. Saying that you understand something isn't the same as showing it in your actual work/documentation. 

Here's a cool example by someone from ND: http://www.mikebarclay.co.uk/blocktober-2020/

Taken from the blog post, stuff like this:

"The key objective locations changed a lot throughout production as we iterated, made changes to narrative flow and playtested. As players found their way through the space or, as was more common early on, got lost, we would shift pieces of the level around and make adjustments often. The total number of iterations made to a level this size would be in the hundreds, if not thousands, and the end result that you see in game is drastically different to the early drafts of the space."

"I moved the domed building (a synagogue) closer into view as I found it really helped the flow of exploration. It was the most commonly visited first location statistically and I used that to gently push players into discovering secondary locations such as the ruins traversal puzzle and guitar store by placing them between the start position and the synagogue."

"Spacing between these points of interest was important. As we were iterating on the space we had to make sure the map was evenly populated with things to do, to reduce any sense of “dead” areas. Sometimes a specific location was a great fit for a piece of content and other times we had to shift whole buildings to maintain this spread."

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Man that there is some good work :D , I always thought having along texts explaining is too much in a portfolio but having a before and after with little texts is good?

Unless if I was to make the multiplayer level get player to play it and put that in my portfolio that how people player and giving me feedback

I used to do that in my portfolio but didn't have enough picture to show for it and was told by a lead that they will only spend few mins on there so get straight to the point sort of thing.

 

Also been thinking if it worth trying to steam my work aswell on twitch/facebook, and maybe if am luck because a LD steamer 

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I am just an hobbiest myself and just like you trying to find my entry as a Level Designer somewhere. For me personally its multiplayer LD what drives me and since I found Mapcore and became part of the community I learned a lot from the people and experiences. I think, being part of an community, playtest with them, talk to them and giving them feedback really helps you develop as an Level Designer and person. Because it is not just about the LD skills but also about people skills like communication, recieving and giving feedback, presentation and etc. Working with other people (like environment artists) also helps a lot on developing these skills and shows you can work together with other people (which is required in a studio). 

I think it is good to not just do LD, but also experiment with doing some environment art and finishing a project from start to finish. Because this means you have to plan/schedule a project from start to finish. It helps you understand what a artist will be up to, so what he will recieve from you as an LD and how you would translate a greybox to a arted finished map (gathering good references, working on interesting geometry and composition). Also you will get trough topics like optimisation and polishing which is something for later, but you should already think of at the start of doing certain maps (especially in Source :P). And other than that, having finished good looking pieces on your portfolio will defenitly get their attention! even though you just did the Level Design part. And who knows, maybe you find out you like environment art more afther all or both! Maybe joining a mod team somewhere is something for you, it is a interesting way to work with other people from different disciplines.

As Radu was saying, he convinced me on doing a map for FC5 and helped me on giving some direction like he would be my lead LD and I report back to him. This basicly helped me plan and document my project like you would do in a professional setting. I am not sure what is the best way, but I think its about showing what decision you made and why you made them during your project and what direction you plan to go with your project. Draw conclusions from your research and player feedback and show how you changed course towards the right direction because of this information and perhaps what you learned and would do better next time. I don't think recruiters go in-depth at first, but when you got their attention and got a interview planned, they will defenitly dive deeper into these kind of things. Also I had to work with a different tool and type of game which was a great new (learning) experience. I would defenitly recommand you trying out this editor, it is really easy to learn and you can build full maps really quickly. 

I think it would be worth it doing some Multiplayer LD. Mapcore is mostly focused around CS:GO, which is quite a tough game to build maps for as this game is super competetive. BUT I think you would learn a lot from it and would probably enjoy being in contact with other Level Designers. The easiest way would be playing some CS:GO and trying to get a good understanding of how the game works and why it works (if you didnt yet). Then try out some stuff in the editor, maybe watch some tutorials and such and see if you can come up with some cool layout ideas. The wingman gamemode would defenitly be the easiest to start with as it is more casual. There are two (discord) communities who provide playtests and feedback which might interest you.
Mapcore:  https://discord.gg/unqF28r
Source Engine: https://discord.gg/KBT9MD

 

Oh and there is this topic:

 

 

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I'd really suggest trying to finish your projects, the greyboxes are a nice start but I imagine a portfolio without any fully completed work would be a turnoff to potential employers

Edited by ThunderKeil

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