It took a year to do ? Post mortem from the start of my studies to the acquiring of my first industry job.
This isn?t written to toot my own horn or to fulfill my ego. What is written below are the truthful accounts of some of the events that occurred while I spent almost a year studying to get a design related job in the industry, the good and the bad.
The first step ? The completion of school and the choice to self teach.
I finished my high school education late 2005 and to much relief. The stress of cluttered exams and essentially tests that dictate your ongoing availability to study at universities and tafe is always very high.
But I guess I wasn?t as stressed as some people. I had a very fixed and direct idea of what I wanted to move into after high school. I wanted to become a game designer.
[For those still in high school who read this. Take my advice: If you plan to go into education straight after completing high school. For gods sake find a job that you believe you can enjoy and find out what you need to acquire that job. Don?t make the common mistake of so many of ?I?ll think about that later.? As a rule of thumb? have a basic idea by halfway through year 12 and a researched understanding by the end of your exams. If you decide to take a year or a few months off you have some more time.]
So I wanted to get into the game industry in Melbourne. I made it a task to research while in high school what schools were available to me in terms of game design. At that time there where 6 different educational courses on offer ranging from $6000 over two years, too almost $20,000 for two years.
I?ll be honest right now, Money was one of the prime reasons I didn?t delve into these courses or apply to them. Another was that I felt these courses where? to put it politely, diverting from the more practical tools a designer in this industry might need. Family had a lot to do with it as well at the time. My parents where going through some real tight financial issues. And asking them to even assist in paying for my further education was in impossibility. And I?m glad I didn?t ask because it only got worse from there and if I did ask for assistance. I would be curtain it would?ve broken the family economically.
So I opted to teach myself. At the time I told my teachers and I can still remember the insincere comments they made? oh they said I could do it, but in such a fake and dodgy way that I knew they thought this endeavor would lead to nothing.
I?m not a bitter man. But I enjoyed visiting my school this week and making them eat their assumptions.
Starting the study ? A long warm-up
I won?t lie, when it comes to teaching yourself, the start is always the hardest. You tend to procrastinate and muck around and THEN you start to do some work.
For me this translated to a 3 month...or shall we say ?holiday? between November to the end of January, Spending most of my time playing World of Warcraft and generally wasting time.
But, I ordered three books off Amazon.dot.com. One based on teaching you the unreal engine, one based on teaching you scripting and one purely theoretical. My objective now was simple.
I had become obvious due to previous efforts that getting a ?game design? position straight off the bat was an almost impossibility. So rather then mope about that I looked at the next best thing that I could start in and that was level design.
So I got to work on that. Making it an official project and calling it ?Before20? as I was 19 at the time, a little pun I made.
The first month was dedicated to learning the editor. The book I got for it ?Mastering Unreal Technology? was around 700 pages and had about 500 of them dedicated to the editor while another 200 went to learning Maya. I didn?t complete all the chapters in a month but I did learn all the necessities to make a good start [and wrote down 40 pages of condensed notes.]
I recommend this book because from it I essentially learned unreal ED in deep detail and Maya in enough detail to be understandable and useful.
So after a month of study I would spend the next few ongoing months making my level. Not just designing it but creating the meshes and textures for it. On the side of this if I got tired of making so many meshes in Maya I would write some more theoretical documents like ?What is fun?? and ?My favorite game?
As always I uploaded my work to the sumea website to showcase people my progression and passion.
Ups and Downs ?
In the last 12 months I?ve had some highs and lows. Usually the big high followed by a deep low. This is mainly due to applications and unsuccessful interviews with studios.
People tell you not to bet your hopes on something. And usually the case is that you don?t or at least try your best not to. But none the less even when you bet nothing on an interview you still feel very low with that knowledge that regardless of how much you put in and how much you tried, that you?re not good enough.
These downs do lead to bursts of depression. People who tell you they automatically bounce back, after being rejected from an interview and more so not being told why, are possibility one of the world's biggest lairs.
I?ve yet to find someone who feels no sadness over failing something. It's part of our nature to strive and succeed.
However; while it would take time, it never took me more then a week to bounce back and start working on my folio and self teaching once more. One time it even took me just one day to go from disappointed depression to striving once more.
Failure is hard on us, but it's hardly a long term thing in this context.
Near the end, the last few months ?
I learned an important thing from making that level that encompassed my own textures and meshes. There is a very good reason why large-scale games are made up of 70-150 people working on them. Trying to take on to many different development aspects was a foolish choice on my behalf. But it gave me a valuable lesion, which I don?t think all will learn. I now know the appreciation of just how much time the most simple of art assets can take.
Which this in mind and my birthday a few days passed I decided it was time to change my direction. I started to focus on purely the design and assembly of levels. This was demonstrated in the Unreal2004 level ?Two Miners?, also taking the time to create a ?level design document? to the best of my abilities.
It was these two assets that I showcased to Blue Tongue at my job interview. The job I was successful in obtaining.
Moving onwards ?
While it is true that I now have that job that I have been for so long working for. It must be reminded that the hardest is yet to come.
I may have gotten the job. But that doesn?t mean by any means that it's securely mine. Now I must retain it.
I?m not totally sure what to expect when I walk in on the 20th, whether it's going to be easy or a difficult challenge. This I guess we?ll just have to wait and see.
I?m trying to take steps to prepare myself best for the day. Been given 2 weeks between now and coming in I?m taking that time to learn up on the basic principles of programming. Using a book on Python, My objective is simply to cover as much as I can to make me a more rounded designer.
I want to keep this job through providing excellent service and maintaining a friendly and positive attitude. I don?t intend to suck up or weasel my way around the joint; that is not how I operate and conduct myself.
So, it has been a very long year, filled with a lot of challenges, obstacles and even some very depressing moments. But I?m happy to say that I got what I wanted by doing it the way I wanted to. It took a lot of will power.
So, all cylinders on high and full speed ahead!