Getting Into Level Design2009.January.19

A co-worker recently sent along an email from a friend asking an age old question, “How do I get a job doing level design?” I’ve been picking away at a response to this for a few weeks now, and weirdly enough Steve just put up a similar post addressing the same question on his blog. His has more specific “get your first industry job” advice, mine is maybe more “how to learn to think like a designer”… for whatever that’s worth. Here’s what I wrote.

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Idle Castings

I was on another one of those “MP3 recordings of radio-format shows” recently:

Lots of boisterous nerdiness and interrupting of each other to talk about progressively more obscure old game music. If I meet any of you in real life, I promise not to interrupt you in the middle of a sentence. If I do, I am the ultimate jerk of the planet.

Maybe another new post coming soon.

Small is Beautiful2009.January.8

Hey neat, a mention on GameSetWatch and IGN. Welcome, new visitors!

Anyways, small is beautiful because lately it’s all I have time for. I’ve set up a project at Google Code to house some of the little prototypes I’ve been messing with during the past month… simple, 2D things where I get to dig around for interesting mechanics. It’s very gratifying to be able to get something new and potentially cool on-screen after only a few hours of work, and I recommend it. I’ll put up builds for download here for anything that pans out.

My current projects use PyGame, which integrates the Python language with SDL for graphics, sound and input – quite capable for this sort of work. There’s also LÖVE which does a similar thing with LUA, and of course the cool kids seem to be using GameMaker these days. Flash is as vibrant and viable as ever, and XNA seems to be getting good if you don’t mind being locked into certain platforms.

Hope everyone’s had a good 2008, and congrats to all the IGF finalists!

Purity: IGF build, hiatus2008.November.22

The good news is, I managed to submit Purity for the IGF deadline at the beginning of this month. Download the (Windows) build here.

purity screenshot

Sadly, the day job is now ramping up such that I can’t really justify spending any more time on Purity until the big project ships, sometime next year. As it was, Purity limped in over the deadline at about an alpha level of completeness and polish. I’m proud that I was able to do that in the time I could spare, but it’s really more of a gesture at what I’d like the game to grow into than anything.

All the same, I’d love to hear what people think of the game in its current state.

The Real Job: Trailer, Podcast2008.October.20

I’m guessing that by this point anyone who possesses rudimentary google skills and wants to know my full name, and the game studio I work for, can easily obtain such information. So it’s probably fine for me to mention these two things:

A brief teaser for the game I’m working on has found its way out into the world. Tantalizing. What could it mean? Wait and see!

Recently I was a guest on the weekly GameSpot podcast. I can’t remember saying anything particularly insightful, but if you like hearing me say “you know” a lot, this is right up your alley.

Oh, and thanks to Mr. Nowak for the recent mention!

What I Get Out of Indie2008.August.24

the Value of Independent Work to a Mainstream* Game Developer

* “mainstream” avec scare quotes – AAA, big budget, core gamer games – whether that’s even remotely “mainstream” is another discussion.

Some of us in the game industry have a secret. We do our profession’s equivalent of putting on a bat mask, going out at night and jumping around rooftops chasing bad guys. The reasons vary – all I can speak about here is what fuels my particular passion, and how it’s changed my outlook for the better.

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Mob Roulette2008.August.4

Time for a little experiment. Here’s the deal: most of my free time on weekends has been going to Purity, as I’m trying to get something decent to submit for the IGF deadline in November. This is well and good, but the casualty is you folks – my miniscule readership. Rarely do I feel I can justify the time it’d take to write an entry for this blog. So the experiment is this: I’m going to post some summaries for longer-form blog entries I want to write, you people tell me which sounds most interesting, and I’ll do that one next. I make no promises for the quality of the final post, even if you thought it sounded really exciting at the time… just like game development!

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Last weekend we saw Pixar’s latest animated feature, Wall-E. The film’s relative merits and flaws aside, I was reminded just how potent stylized characters can be, and how underused and ill-understood a tool abstraction is in game design today.

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Call to Arms 2008: Sellout2008.May.25

A coworker of mine has issued a Call to Arms of sorts on his blog, in which designers are encouraged to create designs that evoke a feeling or conflict not typically expressed in existing games. I’m strongly supportive of this sort of thing – in general violent conflict is a rut designers can fall into and we benefit greatly from spreading our wings outside of that occasionally, regardless of whether the result is marketable. So here’s my take on the conflict between Pragmatism and Romanticism: a game called Sellout.

Sellout is played with the Guitar Hero / Rock Band guitar controller – you could extend the concept to include an entire band, but I wanted to keep the focus small and personal.

Sellout puts you in the role of a busker on a populated street corner. Over the course of a session, different people will pass by who value very different qualities in the music you play. The core loop of the game is about choosing what sort of audience impulses you cater to.

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The neighborhood where my wife and I live has a good mix of small town, forest and mountains within close proximity, and we like to go for nice long walks exploring it – we’re still relatively new to the area, and it’s decent exercise.

One of my many strange and obsessive pastimes is to, upon returning home, trace out the walk’s exact route in Google Earth. Here’s a zoomed out view of various excursions from March and April of this year:

walking routes

(I suppose if I had a few hundred dollars to spare, I could just buy a GPS to automate the process… hmm.)

Apart from a general interest in maps, exploration and the like, I think part of the enjoyment I get from this is that it visualizes a fairly subjective, semi-tangible experience in a way that has its own simple beauty. Each of the colored route lines are a fingerprint of our path through the world, and through life, on a specific date. It is a microexpression of individuality.

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