First up, what's your name and current/previous roles
Hey I'm Beck Shaw and I'm a Senior Level Designer at Rebellion working on Zombie Army 4 and the Sniper Elite series.
What is your video game history/background and all time favourite game?
I've been playing games all my life and was very lucky to have most consoles growing up. I eventually made the switch to PC gaming in the very late 90's and fell in love with FPS games like Counter-Strike and Battlefield.
I play a huge variety of games but my main love is competitive multiplayer games. I'd say my all time favourite game is probably Counter-Strike but I love games like Half-Life, Team Fortress, Crash Bandicoot, Final Fantasy 7 and Forza Horizon 4.
What/Who inspired you to get into the Video games industry?
I started drawing little game maps when I was growing up and imagining my own kind of games. I loved games and I always thought it would be a dream to get to make them. I dabbled a little bit with map editors that came with games and then had the opportunity to study games design at University and went for it.
Whilst I was there I created a multiplayer Team Fortress 2 map and seeing other people play (and enjoy themselves!) in my level was awesome. I knew from that point I wanted to create more worlds for people to play in.
What training or qualifications did you need to get where you are now?
You don't need any real qualifications per se. You can break into the industry without ever going to university or doing an online course. But you'll need the skills to get into the role you want. For example, as a Level Designer, if you build yourself a portfolio of levels that you have built in your free time.
That could be enough to get into the industry so long as you show you understand how to build a good level. Personally, I had a degree in games design and I also had some levels I had made in my free time in my portfolio.
What do you enjoy most about working in the games industry
My job is great. I work with loads of amazingly talented people and every day my job is a little bit different with a new area of a level to work on or challenging bug to tackle.
What I enjoy most is release day and tuning in to peoples' streams and seeing them enjoy the game I helped create.
What has been your favourite contribution to a game or project?
Obviously, as a Level Designer, it has to be the levels. Seeing people playing my levels and doing things I hoped they would do is awesome. Seeing them do things I never expected is even better!
Outside of things the public see I often help out more junior members of the team with any problems they have and have helped train up a few new starters. They themselves have gone on to create some amazing work and as a team I'm realy proud of the work we pump out!
How do you find review embargo day on a project you have worked on? Nerves or excitement?
I'm excited! We've could have been working on a project for around two years or so, and for me, just seeing our hard work finally out in the wild is awesome!
Do you like to watch people stream/make videos on your projects? What do you tend to look for?
Yeah definitely. I normally stop by some stream, be they big or small, and just say hi and chat to them about the game.
Most are really happy to see a developer pop up in their chat and I'm just happy to see them enjoy our game!
If applicable, have you ever snuck an Easter egg or hidden message into a project you've worked on? Was it ever found?
I actually always forget to try and sneak in an easter egg. I know my name is in Zombie Army 4 somewhere and I think I've only seen one person find it.
One of the artists I work with used my name on a sign which I think is pretty cool!
How has the current 2020 COVID-19 situation affected your work in the industry
So Rebellion has really been great with the move to working from home due to Covid-19. I've been able to take my work equipment home with me and the transition has really been quite seamless. I'm able to perform all of my daily tasks and it's barely been a hinderance to be honest.
It can be a little more difficult giving help to more junior members of the team but we use Zoom and other forms of online communication to keep in regular contact with each other and we have daily catch ups so everyone is kept in the loop with regards to what each member is doing and the company as a whole.
It just so happens I was creating a ton of video guides and tutorials before all this craziness kicked off. Currently I've created over 80 video tutorials and many text guides for a bunch of the tools and systems Level Designers use at Rebellion. From this I've created a guide for new starters which they can go through and teach themselves about the Asura engine without needing someone sitting next to them. We've had a couple of new people start since and I think it's helped them teach themselves from home a lot which is great to hear.
Personally, I'm a gamer, so it's been quite easy for me to stay indoors. I still make sure to spend time in the garden, especially with the lovely weather we've been having, and I've been going for regular runs to keep myself active.
What advice would you give anyone looking to get into the games industry?
If you're wanted to become a Level Designer then I'd recommend doing just that - Build some levels! They can be for any game you like - Do you enjoy Far Cry? Then build a level or two in the level editor included with Far Cry.
If you're a big Counter-Strike fan then open up Hammer and build yourself a map and release it to the community. There are loads of games which come with level editors, make use of them, practice building levels, and once you're happy with a level release it into the wild and get some feedback and iterate on your designs.
Variety is key too. If all of your maps in your portfolio look and feel the same then it might be difficult to convince someone you should join their medieval RPG team if all you make are futuristic space station maps. So try to tackle different themes, games and types of games if you can.
Once you've built yourself a few levels and got a portfolio ready to go you can probably start applying for junior positions. Make sure your portfolio is easy to navigate, shows off your levels with good screenshots and maybe a short gameplay video.
We don't really have time to read walls of text but sometimes it's nice to see some of your thoughts, maybe you can talk about what went well in the level but also what you feel like you could improve upon. But keep any text short and to the point.
Also, don't be disheartened if you don't get the position at first. You can always ask for feedback on your interview or application and most developers will be happy to provide you with some. Take it on board and use it to improve yourself.
Beck is a Senior Level Designer at Rebellion working on Zombie Army 4 and the Sniper Elite series. Whilst he's not making games he's probably playing them over at https://www.twitch.tv/beckmech/ You can also find him over on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Beckmech