Level Up Industry Lesson: Game Designer

Welcome to the first installment of our Level Up Industry Lesson, this week we will be going over the role of the Game Designer. If you’re interested in entering the game development, 3D animation or film FX industries, but you’re not quite sure where to start, you’re in the right place.

Maybe you’re still trying to figure out if game design is the right path for you? In this Level Up Industry Lesson, we’ll be looking at:

  • Meet the Game Designer
  • Career Paths into Game Design
  • Resources & Industry Advice

Meet the Game Designer

Think about the last game you played that was memorable for you. What about it appealed to you most? The levels? The story? The challenge? Gamers can and will notice when a game was designed with the players in mind, and when it wasn’t. Not only is the goal to create fun experiences, but game designers are always thinking on how to improve upon these aspects, even in their favorite games.

It starts with an idea, written through a game design document.

This document is where the game designer writes his ideas in an outlined format. This can include: levels, puzzles, quest lines, art, animation and characters. The contents in this document will vary each studio and its projects.

The game designer manages the continuity of the game design document throughout each stage of development. The game designer works closely with the producer, who will consider what the proposed game’s needs are based on the budget. Alterations may be needed on the proposed game’s design document. As the game designer, your main concern is the player’s experience in each developmental stage, no matter how many changes are applied to the approved game design document.

For required technical skills, the two programs you’ll need to familiarize yourself with are Unreal Engine and Unity, which are both industry standard engines for game designers. A game designer will also need to know a general amount of programming. The level of programming required for game designers may vary from studio to studio, but it won’t hurt knowing the basics of a language or two, such as C# or Python.

Knowing how to effectively communicate with the programmers of your team provides a healthy backbone to the game, knowing that each department is on the same page. Additionally, a general understanding of computer animation (Maya, Zbrush) is also just as important to learn for the same reasons.

Career Paths into Game Design

Indie

Whether games are being developed by an individual or a small team, game designers are always needed. Working with an independent game developer allows game designers have the freedom to design games how they see fit, but within the studio’s financial means. Game designers who were armed with a “do more with less” mindset have made prestigious titles such as: Angry Birds, Journey, Amnesia, and Minecraft.

AAA

(otherwise called triple A) are the studios who have the financial means to create bigger budget titles. These studios typically have teams dedicated to each area of a game, which may offer more specialized opportunities within the game design field.

Roles as a Game Designer

  • Level Designer – Creates the level environment pipeline and progression of a game
  • UI Designer – Everything from menus inside the game (map, start, inventory screens) to the keyboard and mouse controls
  • UX Designer – UX works closely with UI designers, ensuring these menu or controls interactions run as smooth as possible
  • Economy Designer – To create an in-game economy that is functional and balanced is a requirement for any game that uses this mechanic – especially games such as Eve: Online or the Sid Meier’s Civilization series.
  • Content Designer – Designing playable content experiences in games, such as puzzles, boss battles and quests.
  • Systems Designer – The systems designer focuses on optimizing the efficiency of a game’s maximum performance.
  • Mobile Game Designer – A game designer who understands the game design concepts of mobile games.
  • Narrative Designer – Narrative goes beyond telling a story, mapping out how the player progresses through the story.

Resources & Industry Advice

Game development might be one of the more competitive industries, but by no means is it impossible to break into. Experience is the universal language that all studios, whether indie or AAA, can understand and appreciate. In an evolving industry, it is vital for game designers to continue to learn new techniques and learn emerging technology trends.

Being able to adapt to these constantly evolving roles is an essential art of being successful in this industry, especially since the responsibilities may vary from studio to studio. Collaborating with a team and the ability to communicate your ideas is not only required, but it is expected from a game designer. We had this in mind when creating our curriculum, which is why our classrooms simulate studio environment taught by industry experts. We can teach you the basics of game design, to more in-depth training in our Game Design & Production program.

There are numerous paths when you’re looking to break into the gaming industry. Game design is just one of these paths you can take, so stay tuned for our next part of this series: Level Up Industry Lesson: Game Production.