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Skills of a level designer

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    Skills of a level designer

    Level design is a big job; it is my understanding that there are specialists for not only level building, but for lighting, textures, static meshes, and scripting.

    I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the basics of UDK. Hypothetically, what skills would I need to present to a potential employer? Do I need to be able to do all of the above (lights, meshes and textures from scratch, scripting, etc) ?

    I'm not above learning these things of course but I am on a timetable.

    #2
    Start by defining what "level design" means to you.

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      #3
      Okay. Level design, to me, means building the world that the player sees and interacts with, including the environment, doors, enemy placements, objectives, and similar.

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        #4
        Partly wrong.

        The level designer's job is to layout the game space in order to plan the player's experience. That includes defining encounters, objectives and the like.

        It is NOT the level designer's job to actually model the environment beyond the "whitebox" stage.

        Short version: the task of a level designer is to make the level fun, not make it pretty.

        Next question: Which of the above do you want to do?

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          #5
          Huh. Guess I had the wrong idea. To be honest, I'd like to be a designer by, as you said, making the levels fun. However, I would not mind getting my hands dirty making it pretty.

          My question is how do I show prospective employers that I can do either (or both) of these things? I was told I needed to show that I can use their tools (UDK for instance) so I've been practicing with that.

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            #6
            Well, it's always good to have multiple skills, but the two tasks I've defined above are completely different jobs in a game company, so you'd have to choose what you want to do. Depending on that, you'll need to learn different skills.

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              #7
              Do you think you could give me a brief run-down of what's needed for both jobs?

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                #8
                For a level designer, you'd need to show how you plan your levels (2D maps, whiteboxes), show that you don't come up with stuff randomly (e.g. "why do I place 3 enemies here and 5 there"). Make custom maps of existing games.

                For an environment artist, you'd need to show your skills in modelling and texturing, how you would do a level dressing, how clean is the topology of your meshes, how efficiently the UVs are unwrapped, etc.

                And if you don't know what I'm talking about, you've got a long way to go before you can realistically start to apply anywhere.

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                  #9
                  Nah I think I get the gist of it. Thanks for your help!

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                    #10
                    If you want to be level designer then you need to learn different Level Editors and the terminologies used while designing a map. Level Editors like UnrealED(UDK Editor), Hammer Editor for source, CryEngine Sandbox Editor are some of the examples. You don't need to have full knowledge of modelling tools like 3D Studio MAX, Maya etc but you must have some idea about them like basics. Also you must have some decent drawing skills to quickly draw mockups of your level. The most important thing is you need to play a lot of games and look them from a level designer's point of view.

                    For a Environment Artist/Level Artist one must have an in-depth knowledge of 3D MAX or Maya, Photoshop for texturing.

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                      #11
                      Level designers design the levels (and craft barebones for them). You need to know the setting, the story, the gameplay, the items/weapons/etc. and the possibilities the engine at hand can do.

                      Level developers on the other hand are the ones who take "blocks" and build the designers idea with them. These "blocks" originate from environment artists.

                      You can do all these by yourself too. In this situation I'd call you a developer.

                      (This is my view on the process. All these roles mix however they want to and need to.)

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                        #12
                        http://www.peoplecanfly.com/blog/201...designer-pt-1/

                        this is pretty useful

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                          #13
                          Wow I wasn't expecting so many replies!
                          Originally posted by razormax
                          If you want to be level designer then you need to learn different Level Editors and the terminologies used while designing a map. Level Editors like UnrealED(UDK Editor), Hammer Editor for source, CryEngine Sandbox Editor are some of the examples.
                          Right now I've been focusing my attention on learning UDK, and I think I have a pretty solid handle on it. I did look at Blender (a freeware Maya equivalent), but since I'm on a schedule, I've been putting my time towards UDK. Do you think that's...if not sufficient, then at least the correct direction?

                          Originally posted by musilowski
                          Level designers design the levels (and craft barebones for them). You need to know the setting, the story, the gameplay, the items/weapons/etc. and the possibilities the engine at hand can do.
                          What is your opinion on what Razormax said? It seems to me, according to what everyone is saying, like both the job and the title of level designer/developer/artist are amorphic, changing to suit the needs of the company, project, and staff.

                          Originally posted by JmPrsh153
                          http://www.peoplecanfly.com/blog/201...designer-pt-1/
                          this is pretty useful
                          Thanks! EDIT: That article makes it sound like one person does everything. I didn't think that was typical

                          Comment


                            #14
                            First of all it really depends on the company as to what you will need to be able to do, and what skills you'll need. The smaller the company the more roles you'll need to fill. As a level designer, you may have to not only come up with your design doc, level layouts, create the game play in what ever engine/platform you are using, but need to contribute on making assets to populate the level, set up lighting etc. Where as if you were to work for one of the big AAA studios like Epic or Ubisoft for example, your job becomes much more specific and specialized.

                            If you are more interested in creating the game play and the minute to minute experience then you probably should focus more on creating well planned out level deign docs and (depending on who you talk to) gray/white/black box levels, as if its fun to play when it's all checkers, it'll be that much better when you are handed the pretty assets from your art team (assuming you have one haha).

                            These guys do a good quick overview of what goes into making a level.

                            World Of Level Design

                            11 Day Level Design Process Video

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by dyslexicfurby View Post
                              What is your opinion on what Razormax said? It seems to me, according to what everyone is saying, like both the job and the title of level designer/developer/artist are amorphic, changing to suit the needs of the company, project, and staff.
                              Yes, partly I already mentioned that in "knowing what the engine can handle". You need to know what the engine is capable of and what a person can do with the editor/tools provided to create levels on the engine (compare Unreal Engine and Unreal Editor + additional tools). This does not mean that a designer can't learn and use the tools to their full abilities.

                              As I said, it is a very fuzzy line in between these titles, and all are used to describe each other in some places. My post showed just my view, and it is not a "fact". You can be a developer who designs or a designer who develops. Environment artists on the other hand are quite clearly the folks who create the assets for designers/developers to use in their levels.

                              In the past creating levels was a more straight-forward process when compared to the tools, techniques, workflows and such used today (though the pipeline could've been complicated for the people working at the time years ago). Back then one person could create levels from start to end way more easily than with today's standards (compare Unreal Engine 1 and 3 and their tools, possibilities and necessities).

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