What does a level designer do?
Level designers understand what makes good gameplay. They design the game – but only a portion of it, normally referred to as a ‘level’. They take the specification defined by the gameplay designer, and get into the detail - the actions, events, objects and environment. They also design the characters and the ways they behave.
The level designer first sketches ideas on paper or using 2D drawing software. They imagine the playing experience, putting themselves in the position of the player, mapping out all the possibilities. They need to think about the logic and flow of events and actions, the conditions that need to be met for certain things to happen and the challenges the player will encounter.
What are level designers good at?
- Creativity: come up with new challenges and missions
- Knowledge of gameplay: imagine the game, see it visually and develop the gameplay mechanics
- Knowledge of programming: understand programming, have some scripting language competence
- Physics: understand how objects respond according to the laws of physics
- Art: have a strong spatial awareness with 2D and 3D design skills
- Communication: work with other artists and the design team and share the vision with games developers
Tools of the trade
These are the some of the tools used by professional level designers, but you can develop your skills using free software. Go to build your games portfolio for a list.
- Graphics software (Photoshop, Adobe After Effects, Illustrator, Dreamweaver)
- 2D and 3D animation software (Blender, Maya, 3DS Max)
- Game Engines (Unity, Unreal Engine)
- Programming languages (C#, C++, Python)
Who does a level designer work with?
How do I become a level designer?
At school or college:
This is a role where both art and science are useful.
If you want to go to university, take A-levels, Highers, Level 3 BTECs or UALs in a combination of arts and sciences from the following subjects:
- Art and design
- Graphic design
- Graphic communication
- Computer science
- Creative digital media production
If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 qualifications will be relevant:
- Aim Awards Diploma/Extended Diploma in Games Animation and VFX
- BTEC Diploma in Graphics
- BTEC Diploma in Digital Games Design and Development
- BTEC Diploma in Computing for Creative Industries
- UAL Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
- AQA Technical Level Entertainment Technology: Video Games Art & Design Production
- OCR Technical Diploma in Digital Media (Digital Content for Interactive Media)
- UAL Diploma/Extended Diploma in Creative Media Production & Technology
- AQA Technical Level IT: Programming
- OCR Technical Diploma in IT (Digital Software Practitioner)
Play lots of different games. Think about how the levels and the design of them.
Build a portfolio:
Create work that you can show off to employers. This is essential. Go to build your games portfolio to learn how.
Create levels of a game using software provided by the publishers.
Look for an apprenticeship:
At the moment, there aren’t any apprenticeships for level designers specifically. However, it might be possible to find an apprenticeship as a 2D artist and move into games design from there. Go to how to become an apprentice to learn how to find apprenticeships in your region or approach companies directly.
Get a degree:
Most people in the games industry have a degree. Get one in games art, graphic design or any 3D digital art. Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses in games. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the games industry.
Go to games expos and conferences. Talk to people in the industry. Ask if there are any jobs going.
Search for jobs:
Use the UK Games Map to find out if there are games companies near you, then go to their websites directly and check out their open roles. Even if they are not advertising the right role, if you like a specific company it’s worth emailing them to let them know you are looking in case something suitable comes up in future. Some employers will take on a junior level designer if they have a strong portfolio, showing creativity, flair and software skills.
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