Earning a living and making games: 11 Levelord tips

    What can I advise for those who want to professionally develop games? After 25 years of work in this area, I definitely have something to say. → English version of the article: “ Making Games for a Living ” → Read also: “ A Simple Muscovite Levelord: Interview with the Creator of Duke Nukem ” ( russian version )


    1. Remember that Levelord says to you here and now: “I like to eat pizza, but I do not want to work in a pizzeria!” When you think that you want to create games and make money on it, ask yourself: “I understand that developing games and playing them is not the same thing?” I am often asked the following question: “Levelord, how can I become a level designer, just like you?” I always ask in response: “So, how many levels have you already created?”. They reply to this: “Not a single one so far, but I really want to earn a living by creating games!”
    2. Creating games sometimes brings great pleasure, sometimes you get tremendous returns from all this, but the rest of the time it is very demanding on the performer and hard work. There is nothing nicer than releasing a game in the development of which you participated. But by this moment, it leads a long and difficult path, which least resembles an entertaining walk.
    3. You will work with other people and do what you originally did not plan to do. If you are in a large company, then be prepared for the fact that you will work in a large team, and for the fact that your contribution to the common cause will be very modest. If you find yourself in a small company, then do not be surprised that you have to solve problems from different areas of game development.
    4. Be prepared for feelings of despair and hopelessness. You worked on something for a long time, but in the end, what you created turns out to be useless to anyone. In the final industry, this is a common thing. This is a job that has its own plan, and the fruits of your hard work do not always fit into it. Yes, by the way, be prepared for the loss of your own ego. You may be the first in your field, but you most likely will not do alone what you know best. What you create does not belong to you. It belongs to the game. Maybe someone else will finish what you started. Perhaps you have to finish for someone what he started.
    5. Get ready for the fact that you have to implement not your own ideas, but the ideas of other people. Most often you will have to work on what has grown out of other people's ideas. These ideas may come from a game designer, from your leader, or from a group of people on a committee. Be prepared for the fact that you have to work on what you consider complete stupidity, or even something completely unnecessary and useless.
    6. Even before you even think about asking how to find a job in the gaming industry, you need to have a large portfolio of your work. If you are an artist, then you must have drawings that you can show to a potential employer. If you are a level designer, then you must create many levels. Are you a programmer? Be prepared to demonstrate code examples. Musician? Make music.
    7. Most of your portfolio should consist of finished projects. Nobody is interested in unfinished works. Here, in fact, it’s even worse. Unfinished projects show a potential employer that you are not striving to complete even your own work. Your portfolio should look like a portfolio of a professional, since that is what you want to be.
    8. Take part in public life! Appear on forums and in those places where gamers and game developers communicate. Make these people see your portfolio. When I hired level designers, I, in search of new talents, first of all looked in such places. In addition, often I didn’t look anywhere else, since it was in this way that I hired most of my level designers. I knew that they had a talent and passion for work because they and the fruits of their labors were right in front of my eyes.
    9. Getting a job should not be your main goal. Your main goal should be to satisfy your passion, regardless of whether you are paid for it or not. If I, 25 years ago, were not hired as a level designer, I would still be creating levels for games myself. You should have a sincere and strong attraction to what you think you want to do.
    10. Nobody will hire you if you don’t know anything. Most games allow you to create levels, develop graphic resources, perform code modifications, and so on. On the Internet you can find completely free development tools that are no worse than their professional versions. Fans, for example, can use Unity for free, a platform that provides almost everything you need to develop AAA games. The same can be said of Unreal. To find something like this, search the Internet for the words “free open source game development tools”. When I created a couple of my hidden object games, working alone, I paid nothing for the development tools! In addition, there are many educational institutions in the world where you can learn what you are interested in.
    11. Do not expect to be hired as a game designer. A game designer is one who has the idea of ​​a good game. Usually, such a person carries out general management of the project creation process. Everyone, absolutely everyone, believes that they have a great idea for a game (or even ideas for several games). There are so many great ideas. But it’s hard to put them into practice. You cannot, for no reason, wake up in the morning and become a game designer. This takes years of work. This is perhaps only possible in small indie companies or in some special cases.

    Did my advice stop your desire to make a living by creating games? If you really want to fulfill your dream, do not let me lead you astray. And you will not let anyone bother you if you strive passionately for this. Game design is one of the most exciting things I've ever done.

    Sometimes it happened to me so hard that I almost decided to give it all up. Even now, I remember something that deeply saddens me. But the burdens of the work are worth the pleasant that it brings. For example - this is the release of the game, this is an opportunity to see it on store shelves and hear how they talk about it.

    Have you read up to this point and still long to make games? If so, go ahead!

    Special thanks to Habr and RUVDS! They were such good friends and colleagues. If you are interested in looking at small fragments of past projects and levels, I will post updates to Facebook Levelord Games .

    And finally, I invite you on June 1 to the St. Petersburg Museum of Soviet Slot Machines at the Duke-con festival in honor of the 22nd anniversary of the first release of Duke Nukem 3D. The museum will also host my lecture, admission is free, you can sign up for a lecture here .

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