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How you got into the industry

Discussion in 'CBP General' started by TheSpoonDog, Apr 28, 2008.

  1. TheSpoonDog

    TheSpoonDog CBP3! Yarrr!

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    So... many of the CBP team members have been involved in the industry in some way or another. Some people like to know how, and I rekon this is a good place to just give a brief explanation of how you got your foot in the door :)

    ****************************************

    My story is pretty simple really and probably not the most inspiring :). I just made UT maps really.

    I studied "Resource & Environmental Planning" at University for about a year and a half of the four years I was meant to (the half year was spent more making UT levels on my flatmate's PC :lol: probably why I left). Then I worked at a chicken farm for half a year, bought my own PC, and made more levels... then thought I had better do something a bit more civilized, and went to study again - this time "Information & Communication Technology" (just IT, really)... again, for a year and a half of the 3-4 years I was meant to, learnt max during this time so I could make custom 2k4 stuff... before deciding I should do something a bit more related to what I did in my spare time.

    So I started a course in Multimedia (modeling, animation, film...). Less than two months into this course, I got rang up by the boss at Perception in Sydney (thanks Plutonic!), who asked if I wanted to go and work for them. Even though the course I was on cost a bit - it was a chance to work with Unreal engine and the starting salary they offered me was insane (in a good way) by New Zealand standards, so I didn't have to think about it really, and went over there.

    I spent two years working on Stargate, one year as "console lead", just because of my editor knowledge really and I was one of the original two level designers there, until it got canned and everyone got sacked :rolleyes: Then went back to New Zealand quite homesick and got a job almost immediately at Sidhe Interactive, thanks to the recommendation of a game designer who previously worked at Perception. Sidhe didn't really have the money to blow on Unreal, and were using Renderware, Gamebryo. No editor that was really useful, so I mainly used Maya.

    I worked there for two years, completing Jackass (PSP, PS2), Gripshift (XB360Live), Speed Racer (Wii, PS2). These games actually didn't involve a hell of a lot of "level design" per se, so I assisted with a lot of game design, made collision for the environments, wrote some MEL scripts...

    I've just recently left Sidhe as I write this, and am currently taking a break from the commercial game industry, doing a website for my brother's sports store, and just generally relaxing for a while as long as my money lasts, doing a whole heap of stuff that I've been meaning to do for a while. Sidhe was actually a good, realistic, well-managed company - just not great for a level designer who really doesn't want to step deeper into game design. Also, I felt I'd lost touch with the stuff I actually like doing best - modeling etc, creating levels from the ground up with a bit of art involved.

    So for now, it's back to a hobby for me, and I sense some fun times ahead :)

    ****************************************

    ...OK, so that was a bit more than brief! Would be great to hear some of the other guys' stories (*looks at Rob*).
     
  2. Mozi

    Mozi Zer0 as a number

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    I like telling this story... gather 'round children...


    I got in by spamming every single gaming company I could before I got out of college. Unfortunately, I always got hit by the famous catch 22 of, you don't have industry experience but the only way I can get industry experience is if I get in right, but if I can't get in then I won't have industry experience.

    I got turned down a lot for that and some places felt my levels are not suited for their needs etc....

    So I stopped looking for a gaming job and tried to find a real one. Got some good interviews and offers from IT firms in the area. One place I was keen on going to was in Boston for junior database admin.

    Then out of the blue there was a voicemail from a company in Albany called Vicarious Visions. The job was for intern designer a six month job. I called back talked to some folks then when I told them I am graduating they told me I can't do the internship. Bummer.

    However the next day I get a call back from Vicarious and they asked me if I would be interested in a full time game designer gig. I said yeah, sent them my levels and some other stuff for review.

    Next day had a phone interview and passed it, got flown up to Albany had the on-site interview, passed it and got hired!

    I still work at Vicarious Visions been here for three years now. Granted the company does no Unreal Engine (hence the unreal level design at home) work, I have had the opportunity to work on some really cool games so far, such as Spider-Man 3, Transformers, and the last Tony Hawk game. One thing is that my 3ds Max skills though not awesome, have improved as all the level design was done in Max.

    But now I am coming to a point where I may want to find a studio that uses Unreal tech now that I have broken the catch 22 of industry experience.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2008
  3. evilmrfrank

    evilmrfrank Banned

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    I started out making Unreal levels when I was about 12 years old, about the year UT came out. I didn't have the internet so I was stuck teaching myself how to do everything. I started applying to game companies when I was about 15 and got my first interview when I was about 16-17 with Nintendo(even though I wasn't so experienced at the time) I soon gave up trying to apply to game companies till I had some more decent maps under my belt. I went to Devry University for Game Design and didn't learn squat and soon found out I knew more than my own professor did so I dropped out of college. A month after I dropped out I got a phone call from Gearbox Software saying they were interested in me. After 2 phone interviews they snatched me up and I moved down to Plano Texas where I am to this day :) I definetly faced the same issues as Mozi where game companies aren't willing to give people a chance when they have no actual experience in the gaming industry.
     
  4. Angel_Mapper

    Angel_Mapper Goooooooats

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    I had received a job offer from the company that made America's Army, but I was in the Navy at the time and couldn't take the job. I really, really ****ing hated being in the Navy after that.

    But CliffyB actually got me my start. I had submitted a map to his 0wnage site, it didn't get it but he asked why I wasn't already working for a game company. I told him I was trying, and he said he'd refer me to a company in the bay area. A few days later I got an email from Robert Daly at Secret Level, and a few weeks later started doing contract work for them. They liked me enough to hire me on full time a few months later, and I moved down to San Francisco to work for them. Ironically, a few months after I got there we started working on the XBox port of America's Army.

    Interestingly enough at the company I'm with now, Pipeworks Software, Robert is the studio head. We'd kept in touch since he left Secret Level, and the contract I'd been working at the time was ending around December 06, so he offered me a job here.

    The circle is complete.
     
  5. Hourences

    Hourences New Member

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    I dropped out of school when I was 18 as I found it really boring and inefficient, and started focusing on level design for UT1 full time. Got into ONP and Xidia, and modded my portfolio together. I applied to a number of studios but I was always out of luck. Either the studio was really interested but in the USA, or it was some really small time studio, or they didn’t offer me a job. In the end I managed to get hold of a simple freelance job at Streamline Studios for like 3 months modeling very low poly buildings for a race game. Things got interesting after that. Streamline got in touch with Psyonix who got in touch with Epic. They showcased ONS to Epic, and Epic wanted to see a demo, so they asked Streamline to create the demo level. Streamline in turn asked me to create the level as I was just done modeling the houses. The whole thing got rolling pretty quickly after that and I ended up working for Epic on an individual basis after that first level. Entirely unrelated, at the same time Tonnberry, an old mapping colleague from UT1 and ONP, got in touch with Epic and asked if they weren’t interested in an official 1on1 map pack for UT2003 and they said yes. So we teamed up with a few long time mapping friends and made a number of levels for that pack. Epic liked it and figured they wanted to add those levels to upcoming UT2004 instead. Rankin was one of those levels.
    Once the UT2004 contract was over, it landed me a job at Sony’s Guerrilla Games studio, my first onsite job. Stuff really kicked off at that point and I never had to struggle for a job anymore since. Getting hold of your very first job is definitely one of the most difficult steps, and the sheer luck you sometimes need can be extraordinary frustrating.

    Now working at Starbreeze on some big unannounced EA game. Fifth or sixth year in the industry.
     
  6. Sjosz

    Sjosz (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

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    Started doing spare time level design after a classmate in secondary school showed me that there was a level editor for the original UT. I didn't know of any community at the time, so I just learned things by myself mostly when I wasn't doing any schoolwork. After secondary school I never really knew what to do next, so in an attempt to go with what I'm good at I signed up at university to do English language & culture. In the first year of that course I found that doing 2 literary essays a week and reading poetry and learning old English was really boring, at which point I realised that all I did to get away from that world was build another level in unrealed. I dropped out of university after I realized that I was doing the wrong thing, and took a sabbatical year from all worries, living home and doing a side job while delving even further into level design.

    I'd started applying at companies at some point including the company Hourences worked for at the time and I'd scored an onsite position there if I hadn't asked questions about the contract's contents. About a month before I'd enroll in a private course for game design in Amsterdam one of the companies I'd sent out an application to got in touch. The week after I was on a train to Germany to speak with them face to face, and I signed the contract while I was there.

    Since then I've only switched companies once and I'm now working at Chemistry in Sheffield, UK. I'm just a few weeks away from starting my 3rd year in the industry.
     
  7. Anuban

    Anuban Your reward is that you are still alive

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    You are all really lucky (of course your preparation had a great part in this I know but still ...) and I am so jealous of you I hate you all. :lol: But seriously that is so awesome and it is really inspirational. It looks like LD work is the way to go currently if you want to break in the industry. I just wish I would have finished the first level ever I tried to make way back when UT03 first came out ... maybe by now I would be part of this group. Oh well no point in looking back. But really what I want to do is write the plots for the games ... or voice over work. Now if someone could help me get into the industry to do this stuff that would be great. Especially the writing part.

    Oh yeah btw Mozi are you going to get the 360 version of UT3 as well? Just curious since I see you are proudly displaying your Gamercard.
     
  8. Mozi

    Mozi Zer0 as a number

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    Probably not.
     
  9. Anuban

    Anuban Your reward is that you are still alive

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    But you are definitely getting Gears 2 I would bet. :) Heck I am getting the 360 version so I can play split screen with my roomie and also for the new content and plus I know it is going to be a much more solid product than the current UT3 (PC or PS3). But cool ... I know for you it is more about making levels than playing and it still looks like there will be no modding (as we know it) for the 360 version. Anyway back on topic ... I was just curious. Also these are great stories and I would love to hear more.
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2008
  10. virgo47

    virgo47 Waiting for next UT

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    Hehe, I'm not in the industry. I'd love to, but I'm sort of old to risk my Java experiences and go for job that's hard to find in Slovakia. I'm starting my second family ;-) so I don't want to leave Bratislava and so I don't invest too much time into level creation anymore. So gaming industry will be my unreal dream.
     
  11. Hyrage

    Hyrage New Member

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    Starbreeze? o_O, awesome Hourences! Great Dev Team <<<

    To anyone,
    However, if you are around Montreal, the Campus Ubisoft is probably what you need to get in.
     
  12. Kantham

    Kantham Fool.

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    I hate that ****. How much you paid for them courses?
     
  13. Hyrage

    Hyrage New Member

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    I can't wait to get his answer, but I can give the Information for the Campus Ubisoft, Montreal: it's 85 canadian $ by session (total of 3 sessions). It's a joke, but the difficult thing is to get selected. The Campus offers 3D animation, 3D modeling and Game Level Design.

    Better have a great Portfolio, great interview, speak french :)mad:) and your most beautiful smile.
    Their Final Project is often interesting and I can tell you that they lastly used Hammer (Half-Life 2) to make the 3 last Final Projects I know from them (2007-2008). All the formations are working together to make a mod what simulate the Game Industry, many teachers come directly from Ubisoft.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2008
  14. Kantham

    Kantham Fool.

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    Lol a neibor.
    Yeah I heard a lot about UBI montreal - I even thought about trying it. Level design is a hobby for me.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2008
  15. Axeman

    Axeman New Member

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    Very cool of you folks to share your stories. I would really enjoy a job in the gaming industry, but my inability to relocate (having two children I don't want to keep moving around) has hindered my ability to get a job when I've been contacted.

    I must say that I thoroughly enjoy everyone's work that has posted here. I look forward to the great levels that CBP3 will offer.

    Keep up the stellar work.

    -Axe
     
  16. Hyrage

    Hyrage New Member

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    So true, having a family gives sometimes a few trouble. I hope the best for you ^^. On my side, I do not have a family yet, but I do not have and want any car LOLLL (near Montreal, you don't need it anyway), so I'm also limited to relocate myself around the world lol. Metro and bus for the win ^^.
     
  17. cooloola

    cooloola A good samaritan

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    Well it's quite nice to read all of the stories.
    Anyway I've got a question. What's the difference between level designer and level artist? And what do companies require from both of them? Thanks in advance.
     
  18. Sjosz

    Sjosz (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

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    Level artists generally are only concerned with the art direction, creation and implementation of art in levels, the layout of which is mostly only the concern of the level designer. Does that answer your question?

    However, the term level designer is loosely used and has different meanings throughout the industry. At one place, as a level designer, you'd be expected to make and implement the art as well as the layout and scripting, whereas in other places you are meant to solely keep track of the layout, optimization and scripting....
     
  19. Angel_Mapper

    Angel_Mapper Goooooooats

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    Design in general means so many different things to so many different companies, it's really hard to tell exactly what you'll be doing from company to company. Here, I'm more of a hybrid (dual classed: level 10 Designer / level 6 Programmer with a +3 to Artistic Talent), the actual level layouts are a small part of what I do.
     
  20. cooloola

    cooloola A good samaritan

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    So the LD does the layout, the scripted events, and the item placement, and the level artists' do the rest (architecture, lighting, etc...)?
     

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