Game development Software question

I’ve been reading over job applications over at gamasutra and besides the problem with getting job experience alot of them would like people who know how to use level designing software like Maya or 3d studio max. This summer I’m doing my best to fill up my job portfolio with sample design docs, websites(both html and flash hopefully) and anything I can manage to create. What is considered a popular software that I hope is easy to learn? Preferably one that is on the cheap side. I read that 3d studio max was $400+ a while ago. Also, are the majority of software made for specifically first person shooters?

What sort of job are you aiming for?

3d studio and maya are only very rarely used as level design software. Most places nowadays have their own tools build for that, both internal tools, and publicly available (modding) tools.

If you want to make levels, just grab an unreal engine game. Or maybe NWN or something.

Dream job, game designer.
Right now I guess level designer or some position that I can hopefully move up to game designer at some point(which I know will not happen fast).

What experience/training do you have? Either way a level designer should definitely have Maya or Max experience. Seems like you’re aiming high, so good luck – I’m 4 years thick into the industry now and it took 3 to earn myself a lead position. I eventually want to be a professional designer as well, having designed and programmed several hobby projects (one of them a UT2004 mod that won a bunch of stuff in the MSU contest) but the professional road ain’t easy.

Design jobs are tough to come by. Your best bet is to get really familiar with modding games. There’s a lot out there and knowing the tools for the company, or type of company you want to work for will be very valuable. The only reason I was hired by Firaxis was because of my experience modding Civ 3 and Civ 4. Aside from that, you could always start through another avenue, e.g. programming or QA.

It’s worth having in that a lot of tools try and mimick their interface, but it seems to me that developers are trying to distance themselves from using 3d graphics packages as level design just due to the headaches involved. The last project I was on that used max as a level editor was MDK2 back in 99/00.

As for moving in to game designer, you have to have a skill before you can move there, most of the time. Programmer, or modeller, texture artist, something. Most places don’t recognize “designer” as its own job with its own skillset, though the industry is slowly getting better.

Getting better or not, though, there isn’t really a hard and fast rule for what actually has merit as game design experience except for game design experience, so it might be worth using NWN in order to actually design a module to show that you have some ability there. Short of that, making mods or little games along the line will also help.

The reason I encourage Max/Maya experience for level designers is precisely that: you may end up working with an engine whose editor you’re not familiar with. Those with Max/Maya experience will have a much easier time adjusting than those without, because editors tend to mirror the usage of those two programs. A lot of level designers also like to make their own models, and BSP can be inefficient and sometimes isn’t even an option. A level designer that can model as well is a lot more valuable to a company than a level designer that can’t.

edit: In response to your last question, what are you referring to when you say “software”? Do you mean game engines? If so, the answer is a weak Yes. I say weak merely because most game engines are made by companies that also typically develop FPS games with them (id, Epic, CryTek, Monolith), so they’re generally designed with that in mind. However, it’s usually not a huge chore to get other types of games running on them.

This is definitely true.

Maya Personal Learning Edition

3DS Max 30-day trial download

This summer I’m continuing learning how to use macromedia flash and learning web design with dreamweaver. I’m a decent programmer with C++ but it’s not something I like to do. Truthfully, alot of my actual “skill” at game design is from playing alot of games and analyzing them no formal training there.

I agree completely about the professional lifestyle, far worse if your on the east coast like me. I think I saw maybe 2 companies near me and being at college still limits me from applying full time anywhere now.

Yeah, I ended up moving down to Florida for my last job and there is NOTHING here. I was in the middle of California before, much thicker with industry jobs, and now I’m stuck here until I find work elsewhere. It blows.

I’d bet if you knew what a game designer’s real job was you’d dream of it less often.

It’s also worth noting that no game development is a dream job. In fact, it’s pretty much a giant nightmare. So much so that about 50% of game industry employees leave the industry within 6 years.

It’s frustration, long hours, failed goals, wishful thinking, disappointment, fixing other people’s shit, grunt work, fighting with managers/marketing, and getting screwed.

There is an extremely small percent, I’d estimate maybe a week out of the year, if you are lucky, where you can actually feel proud of something.

There’s a reason why a lot of game developers can’t stand to play their games after they get released. To us, playing those games is often having everything you couldn’t do thrown in your face.

My honest advice to everyone who wants to enter the game industry is simply “Don’t.”

Designing is where I’ve found the most enjoyment. Programming can have its moments, but coming up with a truly awesome design, at least for me, is euphoric. Especially when others read that design and say, “wow, that’s awesome.”

Unless you already have some experience modeling, you aren’t going to be able to learn it from scratch and then produce enough of a portfolio over the summer to make any difference. Not unless you don’t work over the summer and just spend all day every day in Maya anyway.

However, you could probably make a cool Unreal level or NWN mod of something. Flash games are ever more popular nowadays as well – if you’re good at that stuff, you might be able to get paid to make Nabisco Tower Defense or something. Doesn’t sound so bad really, you’d probably end up doing more game design than at a real game company.

And then you spend the next two years tearing it apart by committee until finally you release a misshapen mutant monkey mud-baby that is made entirely of compromises, smoke & mirrors.

But for the record, I don’t hate the work. I just think it takes a certain temperament to do it that most people don’t have when they raise their hand and say “I wanna be a designer.”

I’ve already done 2 years of design work on 3 separate games. I know what it’s like. I’ve done just about everything aside from 3D art, and design is where I’ve found the most enjoyment.

Hey Scry, care to discuss your path to design work in a bit more detail?

Design has always been the interesting part of gamedev to me because what I do on a daily basis seems most similar to design (namely: Given a vague, nebulously defined problem, come up with an approach to solve it. The process is likely to be iterative.)

That would be a pretty lengthy post. I’m not sure how to sum it up in a few sentences, but I’ll try. It is essentially the same thing, except you don’t think of it so much as solving a vague problem as creating gameplay/story ideas that are plausible to implement, then coming up with a method to implement them, and passing it back and forth between other designers until it gets solidified. If you’re lucky you get a few months to do this, although those few months can be trying times – everyone has their own idea on how to implement something. I think the size of the company (and therefore internal beaurocracy) is inversely proportional to your enjoyment level of the process.

Anyway, I’m sure there are articles that better sum it up than that.