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A Look at Video Game Level Design

Creating a new game is an intricate and long-winded process, and one of the major stages is that of design. The design team usually consists of a lead design and several video game level designers. This team is responsible for the concept and feel of the game. They create the playing fields in which the action of the game takes place. They have to understand and design the world for the particular game. The environment may be a laboratory, a ruined city, a faraway planet or a combination of several different worlds. If the game is fun and engrossing, then they have done their job well.

Of course, each time the game level changes, the design grows more complex. The environment designers on the video game team are sometimes called background artists. Their designs are much more than just backgrounds.

In many games, the environment is as important a part of the action as any of the characters, vehicles or weapons. The environment artists must be able to "see" the game's playing field from all angles at once so they can give the game a truly three dimensional quality. It's their job to put you in this environment, and make you feel as though you are actually there.

They also need to make their environments adjustable to fit the changing moods, times and storylines within the game. Level designers must work with all parts of the team to make this happen.

Video game environment design artists are very much like the set designers and set dressers in the movie industry. They have to know what décor and what items will be found in a particular environment and how their specific design fits into the overall plan for the game.

Software that a level designer should probably know is either Maya, 3DS MAX, or Softimage XSI for 3D work, and Photoshop for texture work.

Salaries for level designers depends on experience and where you work. In the first few years, you can expect to get on average $40,000+, with an increase to $60,000+ with experience under your belt.


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