I always wanted to work abroad in order to learn from new methodologies and discover new cultures. In January 2010, I left France to the United Kingdom and joined Climax (Silent Hill Origins, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories). I was working on the pre-production of an ambitious third person action/adventure using the Unreal Engine 3.
As you might know, it’s quiet common in the games industry that some projects don’t worked as you would have expected. And despite many hours of non-stop, and all the energy this incredible team put in it, this project that I worked on never made it to the shelves.
I was a Level Designer at Climax. This involved:
– designing and building greybox levels by working closely with concept artists,
environment artists and the narrative writer
– working with creative leads to conceptualize and document levels
– supporting the team to solve technical issues with creative solutions
Designing and building greybox level
I was working in a level team composed of a level designer (myself, sometimes another level designer), a concept artist and an environment artist.
The concept artist gave references that helped me to build the level by using basic shapes (BSP or Maya). Then, once the gameplay was signed off, the environment artist would add meshes and I had to make sure that it didn’t affect the gameplay.
Rather than just using texts and cut scenes, we pushed the level to tell a story by, for example, placing objects in a certain way and let players imagine their own story.
Working with creative leads to conceptualize and document levels
During the first months, I had to write documents that explain the level. The goal of those documents was to give a clear description of the level to the team and the publisher.
Those documents explained:
– The set up of the level (story)
– The gameplay mechanics that are used and introduced in this level
– The mood of the level (intention)
Those documents are composed of schemas, text description and references (photos and concept arts).
Supporting the team to solve technical issues with creative solutions
I wasn’t only working with the environment team but with all the team of the game by sharing my knowledge of the Unreal Engine and the features developed for this game.
Indeed, I helped senior level designers with some features of the game. I also taught the team how to use the Unreal Editor and showed them tips (shortcuts, features …).
Team leads also gave me technical tasks that needed to be done to achieve a milestone such as streaming, saving, consoles (frame rates, rendering …) or building test levels to show a new feature to the publisher.
I learnt a lot about level design at Climax. I improved my skills to immerge a player in my levels, by building better greybox levels that reflects the mood of the level, but also introducing elements of storytelling. I also learnt to get inspired by real places in order to create fictional but believable places.
Helping the team is something that I really like to do. It helped me to improve my skills in Unreal but it also allowed me to meet more people and be really part of the team, not being “that guy in the corner”.
I learnt a lot from this experience, both design wise and technically, and I wish I could tell you more about the project (if it is ever possible ).