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View Full Version : Aspiring Level Designer/3D Modeler seeks guidance


VagrantDeath
25-06-2009, 12:26 PM
Hi all, after seeing this years E3 and years of video game play I was finally compelled to do something with my life, never has a greater compassion to fulfill my dreams of breathing life into an idea been more relevant than now. I have a very good art background with traditional art and I know my way around Photoshop as I have been graphic designing for about 7 years. I've got a very basic, and I mean basic understanding of 3DSMAX, but as far as putting 3d models into a playable level is beyond me at the moment much less how to even go about designing a level. What tools should a beginner level designer/Modeler take into consideration?

thank you for your time!

-VD:rolleyes:

GDave
25-06-2009, 12:34 PM
Tricky icky, I'm a 3d modeller/general artist, and while I've worked on assets -for- levels, I've certainly never done any of the designing. in fact I can almost sense the designers running my test level in the engine and thinking "Don't quit your day job, Dave".

I speak from the bottom of a busy barrel here. But from what I've seen, Designers don't really need an advanced 3d/2d skill-set. Anybody can do a rough sketch and designers just need to get their ideas across, be it with words or images (usually both). They are the brains behind it all I guess. So being good at either 3d/2d will certainly be a bonus, but there are other people who will polish off their ideas into finalised pieces of art.

VagrantDeath
25-06-2009, 06:07 PM
Tricky icky, I'm a 3d modeller/general artist, and while I've worked on assets -for- levels, I've certainly never done any of the designing. in fact I can almost sense the designers running my test level in the engine and thinking "Don't quit your day job, Dave".I speak from the bottom of a busy barrel here. But from what I've seen, Designers don't really need an advanced 3d/2d skill-set. Anybody can do a rough sketch and designers just need to get their ideas across, be it with words or images (usually both). They are the brains behind it all I guess. So being good at either 3d/2d will certainly be a bonus, but there are other people who will polish off their ideas into finalised pieces of art.It is more of a personal vendetta! I developed my art skills at a young age and then started redrawing comic book characters. Over time I hated not being able to come up with my own original characters, or not being able to draw something as simple as Kirby (so simple, so perfect). I was frustrated with teen angst to no end it seemed, but I got better and better over the years. Now I've combined my drawing, painting and graphic design abilities to bridge gaps into new levels of creativity. Graphic Designing I took upon my self to learn as well as digital music production. Hell, I even learned to play the Guitar simply because I saw my cousin shredding Purple Haze one time!Me, I personally felt like I lagged behind the rest of the flock and would like to make up for lost time. Besides seeing E3 '09 coverage , I can honestly remember that playing Vice City when it first came out really set it off for me to want to persue such a path into Game Design, but it is something I have to do for myself.
Besides, I'm going to a Game Design school in the fall, I want to have a better understanding of these things before I start learning about them in a classroom! Thanks for the reply!

Hourences
26-06-2009, 01:03 PM
You have all kinds of level designers. The industry has no idea what a level designer is really. It is different everywhere. Some studios do want level designers with sufficient 3d and 2d skills. So it largely comes down to what you yourself like the most. The design/gameplay part, or the art part. Or perhaps the technical game engine part, or scripting, etc.

Your best bet is to get into game modding. Most level designers start this way and it is just the easiest way in. Look into the editors of Half Life/TF2/etc. and Unreal Tournament 3. Both have their own approach so mess with them and see which one you like the most. Use the premade art at first, and then you can still move onto making your own models later. Modeling your own stuff is much more difficult, so I would master the basics first.
You could also give the Fallout 3 editor a look by the way, again an entirely different approach than the other two. Unreal is by far the most popular engine in the industry right now though.

I wrote a book about level design. Not on how to build levels, but rather on why you want to make decisions - To view links or images in this forum your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
I also got a links page that has a number of other interesting articles on level design, and I also got a whole slew of free Unreal engine tutorials in case you decide to go with Unreal.

Communities like To view links or images in this forum your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts. have a strong focus on level design, with many professional level designers and environment artist hanging out there as well.

dev
29-06-2009, 12:36 PM
As Hourences mentioned, there are all kinds of designers when it comes to levels/art. In a "normal" art asset pipeline a company could possibly have:

1. A concept artist drawing a 2d representation of the design (example: a gate) to begin with.
2. A prop artist creating the gate asset in 3d based on the concept.
3. A level artist using the finished gate in his level.

What exactly is it that you want to work with?
Creating assets for levels or building the actual levels?


(For working in 3d on game asset, I would say that most people use either 3DSMAX or Maya combined with either Zbrush or Mudbox for highpoly modeling. And then photoshop for texture work)

GDave
29-06-2009, 12:40 PM
You have all kinds of level designers. The industry has no idea what a level designer is really. It is different everywhere. Some studios do want level designers with sufficient 3d and 2d skills. So it largely comes down to what you yourself like the most. The design/gameplay part, or the art part. Or perhaps the technical game engine part, or scripting, etc.Your best bet is to get into game modding. Most level designers start this way and it is just the easiest way in. Look into the editors of Half Life/TF2/etc. and Unreal Tournament 3. Both have their own approach so mess with them and see which one you like the most. Use the premade art at first, and then you can still move onto making your own models later. Modeling your own stuff is much more difficult, so I would master the basics first.You could also give the Fallout 3 editor a look by the way, again an entirely different approach than the other two. Unreal is by far the most popular engine in the industry right now though.I wrote a book about level design. Not on how to build levels, but rather on why you want to make decisions - To view links or images in this forum your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts. also got a links page that has a number of other interesting articles on level design, and I also got a whole slew of free Unreal engine tutorials in case you decide to go with Unreal.Communities like To view links or images in this forum your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts. have a strong focus on level design, with many professional level designers and environment artist hanging out there as well.

Holy hell, I've just realised who you are! I was reading your level design book on the train this morning. I've actually had it for a while now but only used to skim through it in the past.

Hourences
30-06-2009, 04:25 PM
Cool :)

Hope you are enjoying it.

VagrantDeath
02-07-2009, 03:35 PM
Sweet man, that really helped me out allot! And looking over your previous works dude, i played some of those video games u made graphics for! Thats pretty damn awesome!

VagrantDeath
02-07-2009, 03:42 PM
As Hourences mentioned, there are all kinds of designers when it comes to levels/art. In a "normal" art asset pipeline a company could possibly have:1. A concept artist drawing a 2d representation of the design (example: a gate) to begin with.2. A prop artist creating the gate asset in 3d based on the concept.3. A level artist using the finished gate in his level.What exactly is it that you want to work with?Creating assets for levels or building the actual levels?(For working in 3d on game asset, I would say that most people use either 3DSMAX or Maya combined with either Zbrush or Mudbox for highpoly modeling. And then photoshop for texture work)
Great question and input! I'm more interested in the actual level design it's self, not so much the little details such as prop development, although it falls under my 3d modeling agenda. As the beginning of the semester grows near, I am falling into a rut, I do not know if the 2 year task of getting my degree is worth it, seeing as how life on Earth is going to be a living hell for most people after 2012 so I've decided to direct my interests towards advanced body works as an Chinese advanced body practitioner....but i still wanna design games, I guess I'll have to do it 1970's style and independantly produce and develop my own game!...:-({|=

str8g8
04-08-2009, 08:56 AM
Hi

I've been in the industry for about 6 years now, and I did a games course before that and I definately recommend that route.

But my advise to you would be the same as to my nephew who is also thinking about a career in games: buy unreal tournament III and learn the editor and the art pipeline (basically making something in max or maya and exporting it through with the activex plugin and placing it your level). Basically unrealed3 is about as close to a professional devs toolset as you can get and will give you a greater insight into the process than almost anything else.

Remember it doesn't have to be in the style of unreal, you can make any kind of environment you want with these tools.

also: my first post :)

Fontainne
04-08-2009, 10:37 PM
I have a habit of whiteboxing (roughing out geometry) in Sketchup (To view links or images in this forum your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.), it's a fast, free way of rapidly prototyping level environments; and then importing into our tools.

I would also recommend looking up Unreal Tournament III as other's have suggested and getting familiar with UnrealEd, its a little eccentric and the learning curve is a bit steeper than it use to be because of the increased functionality, but it still stands as one of the better Level Editors out there. The advantage to learning Unreal and becoming very profecient at it is the prevelance that the engine holds at actual game companies. Knowledge learned here can translate into an actual job if you're good enough.

The Source Engine (half life) is also a great starting point. Download Hammer and just start tinkering.

Start Small. Stay Small. Most beginner level designers have a habit of coming up with ideas that are way outside of the scope of one person to build. Come up with bite sized chunks, and practice on these little small experiences. When you are comfortable with your tools and the concepts, build two dozen more mini-ideas. The fastest way to burn out on design is to develop a huge idea and toil over it for months without ever seeing an immense amount of progress. The advtange to developing bite-sized ideas is you get intense gratification when your done which fuels your design-o-meter and gets you exciting about the next thing. The first time I made a platform move in the original unreal Editor I was giddy for days. I then spent the next week just experimenting with different ideas around "moving platforms". In the end I had 10 one room puzzles based solely on moveable platforms.

Check out To view links or images in this forum your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts. for other "small" idea projects, and to get an idea for the scope/size of what you should be considering at the start.

Additionally, Level Design certainly isn't just about building geometry, get familiar with basic coding so when you are ready to build out an experience you are familiar with common scripting theories and you can create the logic for your level without hitting your head against the wall. Even with UnrealEd's Kismet stateflow editor, without understanding common logical terms like if/else, do/while, and for loops, it can be daunting to task.

I also like to build prototypes in the processing engine (processing.org) and Flat Red Ball (To view links or images in this forum your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.) before I go all out with a new idea, but there are other simplier interfaces and languages. Check out Kudo Game Lab on Xbox live, it may seem kiddie, but it provides an interesting approach and constructing logic for a game.

VagrantDeath
21-09-2009, 08:25 PM
Wow, thanks you guys, thanks for allllllllll of the input! I didn't take that lame ass asian bodyworks course (the easy way out) instead i hunkered down and today IS MY FIRST DAY starting my Video Game art and Design course! I'm so generous and happy and thankful and excited. Uncle sam really came threw for me on this one, im lugging around a huge drafting board and hundereds of dollars in supply. The cool part about this school versus the commercial harvested nationally known one is that they provide a sweet dell notebook with the top of the line graphics engine for realtime-renders, im so stoaked and i hope to one day meet some of you as i know im going to go places in life! Thank you Fontainne, thank you St8g8, thank you Hourences, thank you GDave, and thank you Dev, thank you all for your expert advice and opinions!

VagrantDeath
21-09-2009, 08:30 PM
Wow, thanks you guys, thanks for allllllllll of the input! I didn't take that lame ass asian bodyworks course (the easy way out) instead i hunkered down and today IS MY FIRST DAY starting my Video Game art and Design course! I'm so generous and happy and thankful and excited. Uncle sam really came threw for me on this one, im lugging around a huge drafting board and hundereds of dollars in supply. The cool part about this school versus the commercial harvested nationally known one is that they provide a sweet dell notebook with the top of the line graphics engine for realtime-renders, im so stoaked and i hope to one day meet some of you as i know im going to go places in life! Thank you Fontainne, thank you St8g8, thank you Hourences, thank you GDave, and thank you Dev, thank you all for your expert advice and opinions!

The Extruder
29-09-2009, 11:22 AM
Just make sure that you realise that in most companies, a person with the job title of "level designer" is NOT the person who does the artwork. Level designers generally tend to be part of the game design team, who make rough mockups of the levels for the artists to work from.

It seems to me that it's mainly studios that make PC games in the USA that use the term level designer to describe an artist. Most companies seem to use the terms "Environment artist", "World Artist", "World Builder".

Wouldn't want you to end up doing the wrong job!

Contrivance
29-09-2009, 03:41 PM
In my book, a level designer should see themselves as more of a designer who implements things, rather than an artist. An eye for what looks good is important, but that's more for making sure your rough mock-up has pleasing shapes/silhouettes that an artist can run with. And few artists want to be handed a simple box with the instruction "Make a pretty building".

Also since we're designers first and foremost, we're more interested in lay-outs, flows, scripting, the psychology of goading/nudging/luring the player around our levels, and the overall fun of the game experience. A pretty level makes for a nice screenshot, but it doesn't tell much on a portfolio. What we actually like to see are the work-in-progress images, showing what you started with, and what you ended up with, and some of the steps in between . Blueprint views are good, so we can see the lay-out. Notes on what the initial concept was, what inspired you to make the level and what you were aiming for, and all the problems you faced, solved, and had to work-around is insightful. Keep that in mind when putting a portfolio together, and don't just fill it with pretty screenshots. :)

[HP]
19-10-2009, 09:02 AM
Definitely give both Hourences books a go, they definitely helped me having a even better understanding of this industry.

NovoGeek
22-10-2009, 07:54 AM
Thanks for those "Hourences" links ... I bought the PDF versions this morning and from preliminary scanning they look like very good books.

I will delve into them a little more deeply later on. :D

Hourences
24-10-2009, 06:28 PM
Thanks! :)

Glaurung
07-11-2009, 05:00 PM
I think i've come very close to what you were aspiring to - i consider myself both a level designer and an artist (though the artistic side developed later for me), and while it is rare (most companies seem to separate the two), there are places which will let you really delve into both.

And if doing both is something you are good at and really enjoy, you can bring a lot more to the table - setting up play in a level so that you get one spectacular view at just the right time.

all the advice in this thread seems to point you in the right direction, here's my extra 2c

Aside from your coursework, the best thing i think you can do (it was the best thing for me, and what my first resume was based on) is to make your own levels - unrealed and radiant for me, hammer etc. - and then watch other people play them with no prompting. Aside from building a portfolio, you learn so much about the types of considerations you need to start to make as a designer.

best of luck