If you have time, help me become a game desginer!

i know some people here have connections within the industry but the views of those who don’t will also be important (skip the next 3 pargraphs if you have no connections).

i’m almost 20 years old and for the past 4 years i have seriously wanted to become a videogame designer. before that it was merely a dream job, but the more i understand myself, the more readily i realize that it’s probably the only thing i can do. i do have the creativity to back it up, you’ll just have to take my word for it. i have over 10 original game ideas at various stages of completion (some are indeed near fully fleshed out and others are little more than the gameplay concepts). you can be sure that i do consider all aspects of the game design (gameplay, story/characters, environments, etc.) and how they effect eachother.

now, ideally my place would be working on the design of the game (what i mentioned before) and later on the level building. i do not want to be a programmer, but while i do have a bit of programming knowledge i do not know how important it is to developers that everyone know how to write code. so that is my first question: will i really need to learn advanced programming languages for a dev to hire me for a design position?

i have identified a number of developers that i think my ideas and artistic appreciation would work well with and benefit from. lets say a team within sega (i would of course learn japanese and have no problems with moving to japan), how impossible would it be to get in with such a company? my guess is that there is a lot of competition for those jobs and i would also guess that they don’t hire new designers very frequently.

alright, now the games i have ideas for are primarily made for me. each of these games would score new places on my top ten list if they were executed exactly as i have enivisioned them. but i have also taken into account much of what interests the mainstream and other gamer groups- though i would never compromise the integrity of a game to make it sell, i do look at things like ‘how to make something more cinematic’; something that could be shown in a commercial. i’d just like to know what you all value in games. how important is a deep and original story, really? is music just a nice touch or does it really help the atmosphere/action of the game? what about FMVs? one of the things i always strive for is to never take the player out of the experience; i want to avoid menus, avoid non-interactive cutscenes, avoid loading screens with a giant “LOADING…” pasted in the center of it. do you think that sounds like a good things to strive for or is it not really that important? anything else you’d like to add about what really makes a game stick with you?

finally what are your favorite development teams and why? and what are your favorite kinds of games (not genres, you’ll have to explain a little about the kind of game) and why?

i’ll throw out that sonic team (16 and 32 bit days), team andromeda, former smilebit, treasure, novotrade/appaloosa, and bethesda are some of my favorite developers for the utterly amazing worlds and intense gamplay they bring to the realm of gaming. my favorite kinds of games are ones that allow a lot of freedom of control, i just hate it when i think i should be able to do something but the game doesn’t allow it. i like fast games that let me go as fast as i can think. also games where the environment feels like it’s alive, not just a static plane for you to jump around on.

i think that’s about it, i’ll edit this if i remember anything else. thanks in advance :slight_smile:

I didn’t read all of your post but:
For your first question, no you will not need to learn programming at all.
However, I have yet to know ANY person that broke into the industry as a designer without having worked as a developer first.
So I believe that you first have to learn how to make 3D models, create 2D textures or even create great levels with programs like UnrealED which seems to be one of the more popular engines for developers lately. Keep in mind that to make great levels within such a program (the one in question or possibly the editor of any other modern engine) you will propably need modelling skills as well. The vast majority of “eye candy” seen in levels like that are actually models and not BSP meshes created within the editor (Those are used mostly for the layout and then are filled with static meshes for the eyecandy). And for the models to be complete you will also possibly have to learn to texture them.
If that’s not your cup of tea you could just do models, player models, characters, monsters, weapons and what not (texture them as well ofcourse if not learn to animate them as well for a “complete package” in the skill)

In my opinion you are better off learning one or more of the above things REALLY good (will take years ofcourse before you are competent like some of the talented modellers/level designers/artists in general out there) and then make a kick ass portofolio and just start applying to various companies for a spot of whatever you chose to become proficient at. If you get hired you will start proving yourself within the company and perhaps sometime be given the chance to actually create or co-create a game’s design.
A way to get yourself more noticed in order to get hired would be to join (or start) amateur game projects, an UT2k4 or other game’s MOD for example and if they become succesfull within the community and demonstrate great skills you can be almost certain people will notice (if not other companies then EPIC itself) It’s a different kind of portofolio I suppose (be sure to have a proper portofolio as well and also add the game project as part of it)

Anyway, keep in mind that I do not have any “connections” but I have taken part in a couple small projects (not proffesional in any way) and also know a number of people who have started like me and due to their immense talent and will have managed to break into the industry at various positions so I know how things work a little.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do, I do not write very well in english but basically the gist of this is:
Learn to be part of the development process (either as modeller, level designer, texture artist, etc etc)
Make a portofolio (just models, textures, whatever you do or also a game project you take part in) when you are competent enough and start applying for different positions.
Hopefully you’ll get hired.
Work to prove yourself within the company, and HOPEFULLY you will be able to lead your own projects.
Again, I’m 99.9% sure you CANNOT break into the industry as a designer right away. (Though you can be the designer of your amateur project whenever you get to it - it will be a while till you start it, I recommend that you learn atleast one of those things first before you setup a team so that you can actually show you put work into it other than just ideas - A lot of people have those see)

Also note this is mostly with the western mentality, I have no idea if things work different with japanese companies. However I assume that a kickass portofolio will work just as well for them.

Lagi and Abadd and possibly others from here can enlighten you more on these subjects and also possibly correct things I have said wrong.

will i really need to learn advanced programming languages for a dev to hire me for a design position?

I think not.It’s funny you post this topic because in the past week I’ve been trying to inform myself on how to get to work in videogaming.I’ve talked with some game developers mainly from Myst IV : Revelation’s team and I’ve learned quite a few things about the industry that I never knew before.

Like Al3x said you must always be on the lookout;portfolios are the best of ways to prove yourself.Put your skillz “on papper”.

I used to make some map editing in UT myself with a friend of mine.And it’s little things like that that turn out to be important experiences for someone who wants to enter this industry.

Talking about developing teams/companies : I would love to join Cyan (creator sof Myst and Riven) or Ubisoft Canada or Crystal Dynamics.
Those are the main three.Then pretty much anything in Japan since I always dream of living there for sometime anyways.

Sounds like you and I have the same goal, Mega, though we’re going about it different ways.

I basically plan to go the programming road. I’m already a year into a pretty hardcore, highly ranked computer science major at the University of Illinois. My plan is to hopefully get into some development studio as a code monkey, and gradually work my way up from there. Also, this way I leave myself a bunch of options. Once I graduate, I can start searching for jobs right away, go to graduate school or even go to a game development/design school like Full Sail or DigiPen.

Plus, because I’m approaching this from a “dream job” perspective, I don’t expect to get into the industry right away, or even for years. If that happens, I’ll be able to fall back on my code monkeying skills to keep me alive until I can get the job a really want.

That’s my plan.

Well, it’s my plan at this point.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: not to say anything about your game designs or whatnot, but “great ideas” are a dime a dozen, and I’m not just saying that. Do NOT base your entire career path on a couple of ideas that you have. There is a HUGE difference between conception and implementation. If you can’t do the latter, there’s no point. Period.

I only say that so we start off grounded in reality. I know plenty of people in the industry that get approached on a weekly basis by people with “great ideas,” a lot of which actually are. Where you need to differentiate yourself is in proving your ability to be able to implement your ideas.

If the position you wish to go after is “designer” (real quick note: there is no such thing as a “pure” designer, you’re either involved with level design, writing, art, etc… the closest things to pure designers are producers and directors, and even they have more responsibilities than just design), then I recommend starting off as a level designer.

How does one go about doing that? Make levels/mods for every game you can. Not just throw away mods. Do something interesting. Make your levels atmospheric and unique. Have reasons for putting things where you do that show you have an understanding of how to guide the player’s consciousness into doing what you wanted them to do.

You won’t need programming skills, but a basic understanding of at least scripting language will be a great help. Also, a working knowledge of 3D programs will help you for sure.

Other than that? The only sure way to get into the industry is to have a friend in the industry that can vouch for your skills. But make sure you have the skills first.

edit: just read Al3xand3r’s post, and he’s right. The one thing, though, is that it’s harder to get into a Japanese developer than a western one. Not impossible, as recent accomplishments of someone I know can attest to, but extremely difficult.

thanks for the input guys, your comments all helped me get a better idea of what’s coming my way.

i have made a couple maps for unreal tournament but i’ll need a better computer before i tackle UT2k4. if any of you still have unreal tournament, i can point you to the first map i ever made, unfortunately the second and third were lost. the encouragement to create a portfolio of my works has made me decide that i want to finish an in-progress assault map that i had started a while ago. if i do finish it i think you guys might be interested- it’s inspired by shelcoof :smiley:

Well I suggest you start atleast reading on the new UnrealED’s capabilities, It’s going to be quite different than the old UT. Basically now the bsp meshes as I mentioned earlier are mostly used for the general layout and then they are littered with static meshes (models) to add detail and eye candy. So unless you don’t mind being restricted by the available official maps’ static meshes you will need to be able to create your own models too for use with the maps.
If you are interested in starting to learn how to model reply here and I’ll give some info on where to start.
I’m only saying these cos I don’t think the original UT’s maps are gonna be any good for a current portofolio. Old tech see… Very different mapping process even tho the editor has remained similar in this new version too.

Also, don’t be in a hurry to create a portofolio. First practice, practice practice practice practice and PRACTICE until you feel you are competent enough to go up “against” the better people that do the same thing as you (ie when your maps don’t lack in anything and maybe are even better compared to the official ones) and then start putting effort for a portofolio… My 2 cents. There’s lots of resources online to help you through. I’m saying these cos I don’t know how good you are in it yet since you hadn’t mentioned it until now.
If you are already (real) good you could try joining one of the many Mod projects out there. It’s a good experience and will teach you how to work with a team, how to create maps with the ideas of others (you won’t always have the freedom to do what you want even if it’s your job at some point anyway) and many more things. Even the chance to work with people better than you and learn from them. And it’s also a good motive to keep doing what you want, when you have a short term goal (ie the completion of the maps for the mod, rather than a long term goal of getting a job)
Just don’t hurry, do it all properly and don’t expect results fast.

Yeah you must be pacient.Try learning with a slow pace.

Oh and Ill be wanting to see your work :slight_smile:

Abadd’s right in that if you do want to work as a designer, you’ll probably want to start off as a level designer. One of my former coworkers got hired as one with no prior experience, but he had made several mods of his own during his own free time which he was able to show his potential employer. It basically told his future boss that he really loved this sort of work, enough to do it even when he wasn’t being paid.

Regarding the making of your games, one thing you will learn if you enter the game industry is the word compromise. And I’m not just talking about finances. A game does not spring fully formed from the mind of one person. It involves a lot of teamwork and massaging other people’s egos because everyone is going to have their own ideas about what works best and they’re not always going to agree. What a game started out as is not necessary what comes out at the other end of the production line and until you sport a name like Shigeru Miyamoto you’re probably not going to get your way a fair portion of the time.

I just mention this because you said the games would be on your top ten list if executed exactly as you’ve envisioned them. If they are ever made, they won’t be. There’s a lot of give and take based on what the design team can realistically do (maybe there’s a feature you all would like implemented but after several months of trying you just can’t get it to work right) and what they want to do, which might not necessarily be what you want to do. And that’s not counting any crazy requests that’ll come from corporate/marketing/legal or other departments of any given game company.

right, that’s actually the one thing i’m most looking forward to- developing ideas with those just as crazy as i am. but do the ideas have to start in teams? i have one friend that has a flair for this kind of design and he and i meet occasionally and discuss the ideas that we had thought up in the meanwhile.

i can work great in a team but i would prefer a work environment where one person (not just me) steps forwards and pitches the idea to the team (everything they’ve thought out, telling them what they want it to be like, random fragmented ideas) and if the team likes it, then everyone gets in and starts brainstorming.

in unrelated news, does anyone know a way to contact novotrade/appaloosa (the makers of ecco the dolphin)? myself and another ecco fan wanted to ask them something but the e-mail address listed on their official site doesn’t yield anything.

Thing is after “brainstorming” your original idea may morph into something very diferent than YOU originally wanted.

And that right now you need to think about actually getting good at something so that you may get hired :stuck_out_tongue:
Worry about those things later :slight_smile:

Rune is right… but I also have to add that compromise isn’t always with like-minded creators. Depending on what side of the fence you’re on, you may have to make changes that your publisher demands of you for marketing/sales reasons. You may envision making the perfect cooking sim game, but if retailers don’t want it, well, things are going to get changed whether you like it or not.

The thing about making games is that on one side of the argument, you’re making art. There’s no doubt about it. On the other side, you’re making entertainment, and entertainment must be made to satisfy the audience. The first one will hardly ever make money. The second one means a ton of compromise. Either way, it’s a tough call.

Like characters names changing, that sort of thing. Just don’t go into a pussy fit like a certain games developer we know.

I don’t mean just “small” things like that.The only way to really make something based on YOUR idea is too be rich and afford a team who doesn’t mind “doing a game for you”.

To Gehn’s point: Let’s say you have an idea for an RPG, and you have very clear images of what the characters look like. But, let’s say you have a lead artist who has a different image of the characters. Unless, say, you’re the producer, who gets final say? And what if your artist can’t do the style that you’re imagining?

You have to build a game around your team’s strengths and skills, rather than just purely on your own imagination.

maybe i’m completely wrong on this, but the whole compromise/change thing doesn’t seem like it will be AS big of a deal if the design phase goes as i imagined it.

you don’t make the game as you go along, right? it’s ALL planned out before anyone starts up their editors (aside from maybe some pre-lim examples).

if we could settle all of the compromises/changes before hand, i wouldn’t have any problem. and changes/compromises are not necessarily a bad thing! i have a few developers in mind that i know my ideas would feel right at home with, so getting in with the right dev is of great importance to me. and in the very worst case scenario where nothing is clicking between the guy’s idea and the rest of the team, it could be scrapped for the time being and they would just start on something else.

You can get people to like your idea in the begining but it’s impossible for you to describe everything you picture in your mind beforehand.

[quote=“Megatherium”]you don’t make the game as you go along, right? it’s ALL planned out before anyone starts up their editors (aside from maybe some pre-lim examples).

if we could settle all of the compromises/changes before hand, i wouldn’t have any problem.[/quote]

Abadd probably knows this end of the process more than I do, but in my experience, the product described in the initial design document is usually not the end product. No matter how well you plan, change happens. It might be a case of running out of time/money/staff, belated requests from your publisher (or marketing if you work for the publisher), or maybe someone just had a brainstorm you actually like but was not in the original design. Other times it’s just a case of the original design not working as well as you thought it would so a particular module has to be revamped, replaced, or discarded.

So while you could dicker all the major points before the game gets started, something’s bound to crop along the way to derail even the best laid plans.

i’m fine with change in general, there’s just a few things i would refuse to do to one of my games. i think there are enough successful developers that hold those same integrities to not be met with adversity at every turn.

but if that means that that game not being made at that time, so be that!