Posted by : Jameson Durall Saturday, October 15, 2011

I recently spent some time back at Full Sail on the Advisory Board to look at the current curriculum and give feedback on how they can improve the game development programs.  When I attended over a decade ago, there was only the Game Development program which is geared heavily toward programming.  I've always preached that having that technical background helped me become a better Game Designer and tried to encourage others interested in the program.

This time I focused my attention on the Game Design Bachelor's Online program which has a curriculum that is focused Game Design with no programming focus at all.  Evaluating this curriculum took a major change in mentality for me since I've been so used to a programming curriculum for over 10 years.  This experience really got me thinking...what do people entering the industry as a Game Designer need to do to showcase their skills and make themselves stand out to employers?

When I'm looking to hire a Game Designer for an entry level position, I prefer to see a gaming education so I know they have a solid foundation that we can build on.  Their resume's are usually filled with class projects, but I also want to try them out so I can ask them questions about what their part was in the final product.  But, this is on almost every what do I want to see to make them stand out?  I think for me it still boils down to tangible skills that can translate easily to tools used by any game studio.

While someone focusing on Game Design may not have a background in programming...scripting gameplay in an Editor like UDK or Unity is a must in my opinion.  I want to see that they have the ability to get in and do meaningful work to create content instead of just planning gameplay and expecting others to develop it.  Show me examples of gameplay situations that you designed and created and be ready to talk about why they are fun.  This skill set also helps them prototype ideas early in development and create crude gameplay spaces to help get their gameplay ideas across easily.

If I look at a resume and see that someone is an EXPERT at using a popular game development editor then I know that no matter what tools we are using, they should have the skill set to pick it up easily.  This means not having to do extensive tools training and being able spend our time focusing on getting them working with the team and developing their skills instead.

If you really want to make yourself shine, take that editor and do something with it that is way outside of what people think it's capable of.  I remember we hired a Designer once who took the Unreal Engine and built a fully functioning Qbert clone.  It really stuck with me that he was able to script and create this kind of gameplay an toolset and engine that is generally focused on First Person Shooters.  It not only proved his technical prowess but also his ability to think outside the box.

The scary truth for these beginning Game Designers is that there aren't a ton of jobs out there and doing whatever they can to make themselves stand out is becoming more and more important.  Is there anything more important for this than being able to showcase your skills in a tangible way?

One last bonus tip I will throw out there is the importance of a well written cover letter.  Never make a generic cover letter that you send out to a number of companies.  It should explain to the reader how your entire life has lead up to this moment and why you are the right person for this exact job.   Talk about their games and why you want to help make them and be honest about your desire to join their company.

7 Responses so far.

  1. Would you feel the same way towards someone who focuses more primarily on proprietary software (CryEgine3 for instance) or someone who uses a more universal software set (such as UDK)?

    One last question( :-P ), if you where faced with hiring someone who designs levels geared to a more simplistic approach -but utilized the environment / destruction- vs someone who was more dynamic -complicated LD, but very thorough- for a Red Faction game, who would you choose?

  2. I honestly don't care what editor you use, as long as you learn it well. They are all similar enough that you can pick up another one once you have the skill set. I usually just mention UDK because several game studios actually use it and there is then zero ramp up time.

    There is a place for both of those people so I wouldn't necessarily pick based on that criteria. Even in a single project you want missions to feel different and sometimes having people with approaches like this gets variety in there on its own.

  3. Terry Vallo says:

    Fair enough, what about someone with say dual degrees? I have thought about going back to college again after graduation for another Bachelors in say Game Art, but I have been curious if this would benefit me or hurt me in the long run? I love to do 3D modeling, and I love working with an environment.

  4. If you want to design then I don't see a reason to get a degree in Game Art. I would instead focus on level design and put a focus on creating good levels with nice visuals when you have the time. :)

  5. Riverborn says:

    I'm currently attending the Game Design Online program at Full Sail. I was wondering if you could talk about what changes (if any) will the implemented to the program.

  6. I honestly couldn't say if anything is going to be changed. We just looked at the curriculum and gave feedback on the content and methods.

    I will say that I was really pleased overall at what I saw with it being my first time actually digging into the online degree content.

  7. Riverborn says:

    Well that is good to know. I was wondering did the level look exactly like Qbert? or was it more like the regular Qbert level with unreal meshes?

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