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I'm an architecture student in my last year. I've always been interested in videogames design. I use 3d Max and Photoshop on a daily basis, and I was thinking about aiming for a career in videogames, starting as a level/environment designer.

How should approach it? Is it worthy to spend some time learning UDK or CryEngine? Should I try a smaller but more general software? I know some programming already.

Finally, will my skills as an architect be something valuable in the indusrty?

Thanks in advance.

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I'm not convinced you would need to be extremely experienced in terms of programming for level design - most (from what I have seen) AAA game dev houses know that artists are not programmers. Your background in architecture would be extremely valuable for some games (particularily FPS and MMO) - look at the extreme scale of the architecture in games like WoW, Halo or Mass Effect. Finally, why the close vote? Game dev is NOT only programming - this is completely on topic in my opinion. –  Jonathan Dickinson Sep 10 '12 at 7:30
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The most important thing that you have to do is to be able to show something. You need to build up a really strong portfolio, and this is gonna take a long time. There are a lot of people out there who would like the same job and they usually come from a moddeler/animation background so they will usually outclass you in any tool (they'vebeen using it for years) until you've spent hundreds, or even thousands, of hours using those tools as well. However being an architect you do have some pretty unique insights which, if you act smart, could be helpful to get noticed.

I would advice to try out a few tools. You need a modeling program to create the 3D models. As mentioned Blender is a fine and free option that is actually used in the game industry, but try out a few tools and use the one you find most comfortable to work with. The methodologies and techniques are often shared between products so you can quickly learn how to use another program if a job requires it. Getting prepped is not about learning tools but learning techniques. (Also don't worry to much about licensing, your boss will worry about that, unless if you want to go Indie, I think all tools allow snapshots for your portfolio but it's not a bad idea to skim the EULA).

For actually designing levels. So placing enemies, etc.. you can indeed use UDK or CryEngine or another game engine that has a neat level editor. Again all the above holds: techniques are more important than tools.

Unrelated to your question, but do a bit of soul searching. Why do you want to be in the game industry, it's great here but you have a slight disadvantage to make up in a really competitive industry. I don't want to discourage you, follow your dreams! But why did you want to become an architect in the first place and why change paths now? I image these are hard questions for yourself, you have so much options at the end of your study, be sure to check each one. Ask yourself where do you want to be in 10 years? (*note that you almost always get that question when applying for a job :P). Good luck!

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If you are ok with:

  • paying money or finding a job in the industry
  • make you work useless and confined in 1 single environment and confined in only the platforms supported by that engine

you will be fine with a commercial solution, otherwise if you want the maximum flexibility and you have the know-how, you probably want to code your own stuff and avoid spending money and legal issues.

Also all the software that you mentioned offers legal problems when it comes to using them on the job, some of them offers more complex issues, because for example the UDK, it's not really free for every use, if you are going to use it in the place where you work, you have to pay, no matter what you are producing with it. There are also nasty things like the standard Autodesk EULA allows Autodesk to basically fetch your computer for data without explicit warnings ans in "silent mode".

If i was you, i would switch to Blender and Gimp, this 2 are really powerful software, with a rich set of APIs and 0 legal issues, and they are free.

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