What I Learned at GDC: Indie Games Summit

Sorry about this post being pretty late, but I will have the rest of the What I Learned at GDC 2011 series posted within the next two or three weeks as I finish up my finals.

Today I’d like to talk a little bit about what I learned at some of the sessions from the Indie Games Summit. While I was not able to go to all of the sessions for the summit, I did go to a few in which I learned some valuable information for independent developers, or even students. This post will be a culmination of several different talks, including “Making Monthly Games” by Luke Schneider (Radian Games), “Retro City Rampage” by Brian Provinciano (vBlank), and “How to Win the IGF in 15 Weeks or Less” by Andy Schatz. I know that there were a lot of other great talks, but these were the ones I was able to make it to and took back the most from. If you didn’t get a chance to see them, I’d definitely recommend to check out all three on the GDC Vault if you can!

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Level Design Qualifications

Seeing as how I only have a year left before I graduate, I decided to take a look at where I stand in terms of level design qualifications. The responsibilities and skills of a level designer vary depending on the company, so it can be hard to gauge if you have all the necessary skills to get the job. I browsed the internet for job openings for entry-level level design positions, and decided to share my findings, as well as how you can use job postings to become better at what you do. While this post will focus on level designers in particular, this can apply for any career in game development. I recommend taking a look early on, i.e. before you graduate, so that you can discover which skills you need to work on to help you land the job.

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The Problems with Student Projects

Having been at the university for more than a year now, and with only about a year left before I graduate, I’ve seen a lot of student projects come and go. I’ve worked on several myself, but through my time here, I’ve noticed some fundamental problems with student projects. These problems are entirely treatable, so long as the motivation to correct them is there, but it seems they are ignored more often than not, and because of this, the game suffers. All too often, student projects fall apart and are never completed, but I don’t think most of the students on these unsuccessful projects truly understand what went wrong. This post will focus on some of the larger, more destructive problems surrounding student projects, along with ways to combat them. Now, this is not to say that this is a complete list of everything that could go wrong on a student project, but rather, a list of the more prominent ones, as there are literally hundreds of things that could bring about the demise of a game – far too many to go into. Read on to learn more.

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What I Learned at GDC: The Role of a Level Designer

On the Monday of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, there was an excellent session called “Level Design in a Day,” which I was lucky enough to attend all of. The session lasted from 10am to 6pm, and featured individual talks by Ed Byrne of Uber Entertainment, Forrest Dowling of Irrational Games, Joel Burgess of Bethesda, Neil Alphonso of Splash Damage, Jim Brown of Epic Games, and Coray Seifert of Arkadium. While each talk focused on a particular aspect of level design, the majority of them took the time to define what exactly the role of a level designer is. For this post, I’d like to focus on what that role is, as described by the aforementioned individuals.


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Portfolio Site Renovated

I spent the day today renovating my portfolio site, so if you haven’t seen it yet, check it out in its usual spot: www.praliedutzel.com

The new design should be semi-permanent, at least until I get sick of looking at it and redesign everything (I think I may have web design ADD). Implementing the anchor with the game controller was key for me, as this is my new logo and I plan on updating my business cards to include it soon. The site now includes my LinkedIn and Twitter profiles, so feel free to add me if you haven’t already. The game design section of the site now features the two main projects I am working on: Energy, a student project, and Monster MadRush, which is my own personal project. Even with game design, it’s better to show than to tell, so I’ve removed those extensive game documents and now only show snippets of game docs in the form of a screenshot. For my own game, I will be doing the same for pieces of code I feel are important, since I will be coding the game myself. The level design section finally features updated screenshots, pre-production snippets, Kismet sequence samples, walkthrough videos, and updated descriptions. Only one new level was added, due to time constraints, since the site renovations were supposed to go live before GDC, although that didn’t happen due to issues with the host.


The site can now more easily be updated, and I plan on having all new levels updated over the remainder of this semester to replace the ones that are there now. If you notice any issues with the site, or just have a suggestion to make it more accessible, please let me know! Well, that’s enough about the web site; prepare for “What I Learned at GDC” articles being posted tonight and over the course of this busy spring break!

A GDC 2011 Postmortem

I just got back from my first Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, and if you didn’t get the opportunity to go, I definitely recommend it next year. I worked as a Conference Associate, and it was a wonderful experience that I would recommend to anyone in the industry already, indie developers, or even aspiring game developers. So now that it’s over, I thought I’d take a look back and comment on my experiences, and what I would do better next year.

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Tips & Tricks: Business Cards

To be honest, this post is a bit late since GDC is only a few days away, but I thought I’d post a bit about business cards. Business cards are really an industry standard, and if you don’t have any yet, you really should get to work on that. Business cards help others to remember who you are, what you do, and give examples of your work if you have a portfolio site listed. They’re part of the art of self-promotion, something that is definitely going to help you get noticed.

Keep reading to learn more on business cards in the games industry!

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Tips & Tricks: A Guide to Resumes

GDC is almost here, and like most of you, I’ve been preparing my portfolio and resume. Until today, I did not have a game design resume, but with only a year left before I graduate and the opportunities for internships upcoming, I wrote mine up and will be posting it onto my portfolio site soon. Writing resumes can be a difficult task, so I figured a guide, similar to my Guide to Portfolios, would be helpful for those in game development.

Keep reading to view the full guide to writing resumes!

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Tips & Tricks: Let’s Build a Level!

I have an assignment for my advanced level design class where we have to create a level with only three or four lights. I found this assignment to be rather enjoyable, and thought I would share exactly how I built the level. So if you’re interested in my level design process, or just curious how limited lighting can be implemented, keep reading!

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Tips & Tricks: A Guide to Portfolios

With the opportunities for GDC, E3, and summer internships fast approaching, I’ve been receiving a lot of questions about game development portfolios. I created my portfolio site in the fall of last year, and while I am far from happy with it (You are your worst critic, after all), I have received many compliments on it. As I conjure up new ideas to renovate my site, I decided to put together a guide to help other game development students create awesome portfolios.

Keep reading for the full guide to portfolios!

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