When applying for a job in the game industry, chances are you'll have to do a work assignment before even getting an interview, for them to make sure you're The (Wo?)Man! That is, unless you're über and everyone knows who you are, in which case, you won't learn much reading this.
The thing about these work assignments are that you can never be really sure about what to expect, but there are some "unwritten rules" that you can think of to help prepare yourself. Now, these rules are just what I've managed to gather myself, so don't expect much of a basis for them:
- It's small enough for them to be able to review several ones, since you're not the only one applying for the job.
- It's small enough for you to be able to finish within a week. They can't really demand more.
And by these two rules, you can use your own references of your diciplin (artist, level designer, etc.) to make some conclusions. Like for Level Designers:
- You will not be asked to build an entire level.
- You will not be asked to learn a new editor and build anything.
I've personally done only two work tests for level design and they were both quite similar, becuase they both were about designing (not building) a level/area based on prerequisites from the company.
I've found it very hard to find real examples of work assignments for level design positions online. Most articles are more in the likes of "they could be like this, similar to that, imagine this" but not an actual and used test.
I will post the actual level design test I got from GRIN back in the spring of 2008. I do this with approval from GRIN GBG's Lead Designer at the time, the man who gave me the test.
And in hopes of being helpful for all aspiring level designers, I'll also post my reply to it. The result that actually got me the job.
I hope you like it.
The original (but PDFified) assignment can be downloaded here:
If you don't feel like reading the entire thing, here's a summary:
Design a level for four player co-op FPS, each player with their own set of tools (from a list in the document) and write step-by-step instructions on how to play the level.
- A fictional game
- The gameplay is about solving things together with the teammates
- Realistic setting
- Must draw a map
- Pretend the game is done using Half-Life 2's Source Engine
First of all, take note that even thought I'm a Swede, applying for a job in Sweden in an office with only Swedes, the test was still in English. All documentation is always done in English in the game industry. At least in Sweden.
After reading the assignment, I reached two conclusions:
- I decided to write a short document for the Game Design as well. I don't think anyone else that applied did that. It wasn't part of the assignment, but since I have a passion for game design, I felt I needed to clarify how I imagined this "fictional game".
- I was happy that we were to pretend it was for Half-Life 2 because I have experience modding for that engine. I therefore decided to actually build a playable mockup of the level as well for Half-Life 2.
I tried to keep the game design document short since it wasn't an actual part of the assignment and I didn't want the employer to get bored before even looking at my level design. It ended up as a four page document, describing the setting, playable characters, tools, enemies, actions and how I defined "realistic" in a game:
After I was done with the game design, I started sketching on a level design. Strangely enough, I never started over from scratch but I kept with my original idea during the whole process. I kept iterating on it, sketching varieties and whatnot.
The level was basically designed by first sketching it, then building it for Half-Life 2 and then creating the map. Building it helped me get the scale right and I could trace an overview of the actual map in Photoshop, making my map picture have a perfect scale. I reused this technique for another work assignment I've done for another company.
The actual map ended up like this:
I worked hard on making the map easy to read, clear and I made small icons with explanations on what they meant. Like enemies, covers, switches, etc. Afterwards I started making notes on it by writing them by hand. I chose to do them by hand because I wanted them to have a "friendly" appeal and to exaggerate the "notiness" of them. I don't regret that decision.
The playable version of the map can be found here:
I provided both the playable file and the workfile. I didn't expect them to play it or open the workfile, but it's a lot about appearance and I wanted to make it clear that I want to keep my way of working transparent to them. And of course, I was hoping for extra points for dedication.
In my Level Design Document I went through the entire map, Step-By-Step, by showing zoomed in areas of the map and describing it with text.
You can find all the images here (also shown in this post):
And the most important file of them all; the 17 pages Level Design Document here:
Why did I get the job?
Of course, interviews and showing who you are as a person are just as important as a work assignment, but putting that aside, let's focus on the results of my test.
An extremely important thing to know about work assignments are that your result is not simply quantifiable and it's not easy to say that one result is better than another. What it all comes down to is what the reviewer happens to like, personally. I was lucky in that way, because the lead at GRIN happened to like my way of thinking. If there had been someone else reviewing my result, I might not even have gotten an interview. Who knows?
I focused heavily on three things:
- Height difference
- Working in pairs
For me it's a natural choice to have a lot of height differences in the level, because a flat level is among the most boring things you can do.
Since it was supposed to be four player co-op, I had to come up with an interesting way to play it. I decided on having the players split up into two pairs from time to time, instead of having them all work in one group or splitting them all up.
With the help of the tools I'd divided amongst them, I made two players being able to see in dark places and two players could survive within areas with poisonous gas.
Afterwards I had the higher areas of the level be full of the gas and the lower parts being extremely dark, thanks to this I could have the players split up, helping each other progress within their own "kind of environment".
The Lead Designer told me he liked this approach very much at my first interview. I was very grateful, because I still think I took a chance there with such a different idea.
I think I was the one applying with most text with my 21 pages and to this day, I'm not sure this was good or bad. It was good that I managed to explain everything I guess, but I can imagine people scratching their heads before starting to read it. But really, have as much text as you feel you need. Don't try and shorten it just because you think it's too long.
In the end, my result landed me an interview. My interview (with only the Lead Designer) landed me another interview later on with the producer, lead level design and associate producer and finally, a month after that I got a call saying I got the job.
I hope you've found this post informative and helpful if you were curious as to how a work assignment for a level design position can be like. This is just my scenario, but still, it's a real one.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to comment.
Thank you for reading!
All links: 17/9/2009
When you're trying to get a job within the game industry, there are two things you need to do.
- Be able to present yourself in an attractive manner.
- Be ready to do a work assignment.
Today, I'll the discuss the first thing.
Presenting yourself is preferably done with a kick-ass portfolio. Depending on your profession this will manifest itself in various ways. Are you a designer, programmer, 3d artist, animator or perhaps a level designer?
Let's assume you're new and you want your very first job as a game developer, then you'll have a real hard time becoming a game designer.
It's very hard to build a portfolio on your own as a game designer. You can write as many game ideas and game design documents you want, but chances are slim that any recruiter will actually read them. The best thing you can have are actual games made and those usually require more than designers to make, right?
What are you gonna do, put a lot of .pdf's on a site? Good luck. Have fun.
Personally, I think that all the game development programmes at Universities are great for this. That's the "path" I took and it helped me greatly, as I had a couple of projects in my portfolio before my first job. Sure, none of them were a success, but it's still better than nothing.
Take note however, that my first job was not as game designer, it was as a level designer. I'll get back to that soon.
Artists can "easily" create a fat portfolio by himself, assuming he's actually good enough. Same goes for animators. Both have their pretty galleries and show reels to show off, having a very tangible way of showing their skill.
Here's an example of a show reel by an animator friend of mine, currently working at Epic Poland / People Can Fly; Markus "Metal" Hammarstedt:
Programmers are tricky, because it really depends on what kind of stuff they code. But they still often create something... Concrete. So if luck is with them, they can share their creations in one way or another. Demoing physics on YouTube or having entire applications/games on a site.
Lastly, Level Designers are kind of like artists but still... Not.
A level designer can in most cases work independently and create level after level, hosting them all on a website, take some pretty screenshots and let it speak for itself.
Here's an example of an amazing level designer I had the pleasure to work with at GRIN, who's done just that; David "CozyDave" Lundvall:
You can also record some videos. Like I did with my bachelor degree project DM-Theatre:
The problem is; screenshots and videos don't actually relay the actual play experience. You can't tell how fun the level is, just how pretty and a rough estimation on its flow.
If you got ze über-skills a lot of people will play your levels online and you'll build up a reputation and if you're mega lucky, the guys employing will have heard of it. But... That's not likely. And no, that sure as hell didn't happen to me.
But it's still useful to have that portfolio with levels, just to show people that you know how to handle the tools, editors and have an understanding of art in level design.
The funny thing is, I didn't have a portfolio site or any levels created available to the public when I got my job at GRIN. Oh no, what I used was luck.
In two days I'll publish my actual work test I got from GRIN and what I did to land a job as a level designer at what was at the time; one of the most awesome developers in the world.
PS. Sorry all you audio guys, producers and all other professions that I left out. Still love you!
Getting less than great reviews, the Terminator Salvation video game doesn't seem to be a favorite amongst the reviewers out there.
Reviewers tend to write subjectively about their experience with the game, as should they. I decided to write an analysis of the game, looking at different aspects of the game and comparing them to basic game design and simple cognitive psychology. It discusses both bad and good things alike, even though it might be leaning more towards one of them.
Since it's pretty big with around 4500 words, I've decided not to copy-paste it into the blog as I doubt you'd have the patience to read it. Therefore I offer you three ways to do it:
- PDF-download: http://arcadeberg.com/files/arcade_berg-terminator_salvation_gd_analysis.pdf (29/6/09)
- Issuu-link: http://issuu.com/Kizo/docs/arcade_berg-terminator_salvation_gd_analysis (29/6/09)
- Read it here, embedded from Issuu!
And please, leave a comment letting me know what you think. I'd greatly appreciate it.
Bionic Commando demo available tomorrow via Xbox Live.
It’s a FREE Xbox Live Gold weekend too, so be sure to play the game – all the time!
Having downloaded the multiplayer demo recruits will be put through their paces by competing in Deathmatch battles on “Vertigo”, one of the game’s 16 multiplayer maps. This intensive training will provide invaluable experience before they take on the full mission with the release of Bionic Commando on Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3 across PAL territories on May 22nd .
Why am I telling you this? Because it's made by GRIN of course.
I got word from a friend back the University in Skövde, where I got my bachelor degree, that they're using my "Bach Degree Project in Media Arts: Computer Game Development C" as example when informing students who are about to get starting on their bachelor degree projects on how to do it.
I'm very happy to hear that!
Unfortunately, it's in Swedish but if you want to see it, it's available (8/12-08) here:
|Author:||Berg, Kenneth Arcade|
|Title:||Inger iterativ arbetsstruktur fler fördelar än nackdelar inom level design till Unreal Tournament 3?: Reflektioner kring arbetsprocessen bakom "DM-Theatre"|
|Department:||University of Skövde, School of Humanities and Informatics|
|Publication type:||Undergraduate thesis C-level 20 p. (Media Studies)|
|Keywords:||level design iterativ arbetsprocess unreal tournament 3 unreal editor unrealed bandesign dataspel datorspel|
|Abstract [sv] :||Rapporten är en reflekterande text som behandlar arbetsprocessen och omkringliggande mål för ett examensarbete inom medier som bedrivits mot Högskolan Skövde. Syftet med examensarbetet har varit att analysera huruvida en iterativ arbetsform inger fler fördelar än nackdelar vid level design till Unreal Tournament 3. Rapporten tar i diskussionsform upp delar ur hela produktionen för att redovisa utmaningar, framsteg och lösningar författaren bemött. En inblick ges för hur en iterativ level design-produktion kan utföras och för- respektive nackdelar gällande olika delar av denna specifika process. Slutsatsen som dras hävdar att det för med sig många fördelar att lägga upp arbetet iterativt. Detta diskuteras med vissa restriktioner då inget annat jämförbart arbete med annan arbetsprocess bedrivits av författaren som denne kan jämföra med.|