Jack Chapman, senior level designer at PlayStation London Studio, talks about what he does at PlayStation London Studio, and explains what they look for, in case you want to get there too.
What is your job role and how would you describe your typical day at work?
I’m a senior level designer working at PlayStation London Studio, on a brand new title that we’re building from the ground up for PS5. The role of level designer can differ studio-to-studio, but it will tend to always involve spinning a bunch of plates all at once.
It’s rarely only just about blocking out levels, even though that is still what I enjoy most about the role. In my opinion, great level design is pulling in every facet of the game and channelling it into an interesting space that becomes the core experience, so naturally my role touches on so many different aspects of design whether its game design, combat design, narrative design etc. As a level designer, I must be involved with all of these different parts of the project so that I can create play-spaces that build upon all of the hard work that is going on from other departments at the studio. It’s a very rapid approach to development currently, with lots of iteration that is essentially us running an idea or testing out a hypothesis, seeing the results of that work, and then acting on that.
What qualifications and/or experience do you need to land your job?
I went to college in Darlington and studied a BTEC Creative Media Development course and then attended Teesside University, where I completed my Computer Game Design course. I would stress however that with the number of resources available out there now, university might not be the most optimal route anymore, or the only option available!
Like many people, I got my start in QA. If you have the opportunity to intern or work in production or QA at a studio, I really recommend going for it. It will teach you a lot of things that no university course or online tutorial can about game studio life. I can’t stress the importance of having as many touchstones as possible for research and reference, so don’t just play games. Watch movies, read books, listen to podcasts, go on tours, visit theme parks etc. The bigger your pool of reference, the more concepts and ideas you will have to pull from, which will result in more interesting work. Aside from that, have an attractive portfolio with strong pieces of work that demonstrate who you are as a level designer.
If you were interviewing someone for your team, what would you look for?
What I like to see more than anything is a fully functioning level that contains gameplay. As important as it is as a level designer to create interesting levels by constructing geometry, it’s just as vital to illustrate just how everything works in tandem with all the other moving parts of a project. Essentially, you can have the best looking level blockout in the world, but the most important part is how it plays. A good candidate should not only have a solid understanding of level design but also the analytical mind of a game designer. Go into detail why you made the specific decisions over others. I also look for how collaborative and team focused the individual is. You could be the most talented level designer in the world, but if you can’t collaborate with other developers from different disciplines, it’s not going to be a good fit. Also… you should love games!