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What Is a Level Designer and How to Become One

What Does a Level Designer Do?

A level designer uses special design software to create levels, which are also known as stages or maps, for a video game. As a level designer, your duties may include mapping the level, creating a layout, and using your artistic skills to create the look and feel of the stage's environments and locales. Your designs need to fit with the gameplay and story scenarios, so you frequently collaborate with other members of the design team, like environment artists. Your designs need to include any structural elements required by the storyline or game missions, so adhering to a game’s narrative is an essential part of your job.

What Are the Qualifications to Become a Level Designer?

The qualifications for a level designer vary depending on the needs and preferences of the video game company. Although technical skills, such as knowledge of 3D Studio Max software, are essential, there is no industry standard for educational steps that you need to take to start this career. You do not necessarily need to have game-code skills for this job, but employers usually seek applicants who understand 3D Studio Max, Maya, or another mainstream graphics program. You can earn certification in these programs from trade schools or the manufacturer itself.

What Is the Difference Between a Level Designer and an Environment Artist?

An environment artist’s responsibilities include placing actual objects in maps, creating proxies, and lighting levels, all according to a framework created by the level designer. As a level designer, you design the overall layout and elements of a level so that an environment artist can build upon and create it. You envision the entire level so that the story also moves visually as the game players progress through the levels. Therefore, as a level designer, you must have a grasp of the narrative aspects of visual storytelling, while the environment artist is mainly concerned with creating the actual look of the environment, not the narrative.

What Are Skills of a Successful Level Designer?

A successful level designer needs artistic skills and intimate knowledge of 3D modeling software. In this role, you also need an understanding of the principles of game design and how to create a framework for the level based on the gameplay and narrative of the video game. Some level designers come from an artistic background, and creativity and attention to detail are essential skills in this career. Time management is also vital in this job because you work on one portion of an extensive game at a time and need to finish them all according to schedule. Interpersonal skills are also essential for effectively communicating with other designers and video game artists.