Interview with Joel Burgess #2

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Published by Aberneth 12 years ago , last updated 2 years ago
Once again, Silver Rose Studios interviewed Bethesda level designer, Joel Burgess. This interview focuses on game development, and the education involved in game development.
1. What exactly are your duties? Do they include more than just object placement and interior design? Level design is a little different at every company. Ultimately, we're responsible for the player's moment-to-moment experience, particularly in combat spaces, so we handle the layout, scripting, and population of an area. Artists get involved polishing some of our clutter placement and lighting, and quest designers handle scripting where it's relevant to their work. We also do some writing; things like notes left by previous residents, usually where they include some hint at the backstory or gameplay of a space. 2. what are the office dynamics like? Is there a strict hierarchy, or is it more like a commune with a director type person at the center? Communal, I suppose. With Fallout, Todd and Emil drive the overall vision of the game, and encourage the rest of us to channel our creative energy in a direction that supports that vision. Shivering Isles ran much the same way, as did Oblivion. We have got a hierarchy beyond that - each department has producers who handle scheduling and tasks, and each group has a lead - but it's not a rigid power structure, it's all organizational. 3. What sort of degrees or university courses do you have to complete to get a job as a level designer? I got a bachelor's degree in Digital Media from the University of Central Florida, which included a few courses related to 3D art and game production. The program was fledgling when I was enrolled, so I'm sure they have a much different and more structured curriculum. They also started a graduate program called FIEA just after I left Orlando, which is supposed to offer a very specific game-oriented curriculum. While I know my degree has helped my career, I can't stress enough the importance of keeping on top of the industry on your own. Technology, techniques, and trends all shift so quickly in games, and any university program is going to be hard-pressed to keep up with it all. 4. What is the process involved in creating the master file? Do you all work off of the same file, little by little, or do you merge files? We use a proprietary version control system in the CS which allows us to merge our plugins with the master file. The system is really only suited to core game development. When working on Oblivion DLC content, for instance, we had to share plugins. 5. Who/what determines what parts you get do to in a game? Well, as touched on in the first question, LDs are responsible for the moment-to-moment gameplay for the player over much of the game. We divide the work up into locations. Some locations don't require level design - like most settlements and cities - but most of the rest are divvied up among us. Besides the obvious work of designing levels for these locations, we also are involved in other game systems, such as traps scripting, note-writing, or tweaking NPC behavior. These tasks are shared based on the individual strengths of each LD.
you can read the rest of the 15 questions here
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