How to Become a Game Designer- A Simple Description of the Complex Way
What Does a Game Designer Do?
The duties of the game designer directly depend on the size of the company, the type of game, and the structure of the team. For example, in a studio that creates a small mobile game, the game designer deals with every aspect of design. And in large teams, the role can be divided between:
- level designer;
- quest designer;
- an open-world designer;
- gameplay designer;
- system designer;
- narrative designer;
- UX designer;
- economics designer;
- technical designer;
- and so on.
The role of a specialist can be even narrower. For example, the Red Dead Redemption 2 development team included people who specialize exclusively in the design of horse-related systems.
But in general, game designers come up with ideas for mechanics and systems. If the creative lead likes the idea, designers work out the design document in detail and make a list of necessary assets for programmers and artists. When the basic features are ready, the designer uses special tools to think over their interaction and calculate how different variables will change.
Level designers create an environment: players move around the world and explore it using the opportunities provided by game designers. Usually, a graybox (or block mix, block out white box) is used to create levels – simple geometric shapes without textures. Level designers can also script individual collisions or connect missions with each other in the open world.
Both game designers and level designers should work with a large number of different specialists within the company – animators, artists, programmers, and screenwriters. It is also worth considering that all the work of game designers and level designers goes through many iterations: mechanics and levels are constantly tested and changed so that the result is the best possible.
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How to Become a Game Designer
To get a job as a designer, you need four things:
- game designer’s thinking;
- soft skills;
For now, we will focus on the last two. The key advice that Brown received from many surveyed developers sounds quite simple and obvious: make your own projects. You have to show others that you are coping with creating a game design or level. When you do this, add developments to the portfolio.
For example, Perses is a very short shooter with a completely destructible environment. Thanks to this project, Zachary Pryce got a job at Ubisoft – after that, he participated in the development of Watch Dogs: Legion. If you want to become a game and logo designer, your portfolio created with a WordPress portfolio template should have small projects that will show your ability to create interesting mechanics or systems.
Today there are many available tools for creating games: Unreal Engine 4, Unity, Game Maker, Construct, Dreams, and Tabletop Simulator. In addition, you do not need to make full-fledged games: a vertical cut, a project from a game jam, or a prototype is enough. You can use games that you created together with other people, but you will need to explain what aspects you were responsible for.
You will also need to show how the development process went: you should have clear documentation from which you can track how you came up with an idea, were engaged in the design, and developed and implemented your ideas. This will be proof of your designer skills.
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The level designer must create a full-fledged level. To do this, you can use Unreal Engine 4, Unity, or modding tools and level editors for existing games. If you make a level that suits the company you are getting a job in, it will increase your chances of success.
When forming a portfolio, be guided by three principles:
- each project must be completed (albeit short);
- quality is more important than quantity;
- videos and images must be present.
If you want to get the necessary experience, you can, for example, get an internship. This can turn into a full-fledged job if you prove yourself. Another way is to get a job as a tester. This will give you an understanding of how the game studio works from the inside. Nevertheless, you must be active and offer ideas yourself to move further up the career ladder.
Keep in mind that your first job probably won’t be in Blizzard or Bungie – first, you should gain experience in smaller studios.
Another way to gain experience is to go to university or courses. Now there are a huge number of different educational institutions around the world that teach game design. Such training will give you the necessary theoretical knowledge and possibly basic programming skills. You will make projects that can be added to your portfolio. For example, Perses is Price’s project, which he was engaged in while studying at the University of Staffordshire.