In the follow-up to the first part of our recent Inside Crytek Interview, Junior Level Designer on Ryse, Clément Melendez, answers your questions about his day-to-day work.
How you get into becoming a Junior Level Designer on Ryse?
I created a bunch of personal projects in my spare time and eventually applied. I was hired as an intern first and eventually became a Junior. In general, someone getting hired as a Junior has potential but no or close to no experience, hence why he doesn't get a regular position right away. The reason that I ended up working on Ryse is because at Crytek each project does its own recruitment (assisted by the HR department obviously) and it just happened that I got an interview with the team that would eventually work on Ryse.
If you are using map "layers", what kind of "layers" do you divide the level into and how do you coordinate with other level designers when working on the same map?
The list of layers used in our levels is quite long, we try to divide elements as much as it makes sense to: separating assets from scripting, lighting from environment art, markup from cinematics, etc. It's mostly based on common sense and on who's going to work on what. For instance, since we have a lighting artist that will take care of the lighting of a level, we have to create some layers for him to work with, separately from the guys that will create the geometry, the gameplay, the cut-scenes, etc.
On Ryse, one level designer takes care of one level, so we don't really have to coordinate with other level designers (besides to try and make sure that all levels fit together nicely), but we have to do it with every other department that affects directly the levels. For that, the level designer's job is to make sure that all of the cool things that get put into his level don't break the stability, are organized as they should be and triggered when they should be etc.
How is the game shaping up?
Pretty well I think, but it's my first professional project so I can't compare it to anything else. As a gamer, I think the direction we're going in is interesting, and the vision gets clearer each day. I look forward to seeing what Ryse will be like when it comes out, and what players think of it.
Do you have a live asset system? So if someone makes a new asset it will be automatically pushed to your PC/CryENGINE folder?
We use a combination of builds and Perforce. You grab fresh builds every day to have all the latest assets and code that was compiled overnight, but you can also just open Perforce to grab the latest changes that your colleagues made. That's also where you submit your own changes/additions each day so that they are in the next build. So no, it won't get pushed automatically on my PC, because that could create lots of issues like overwriting your local changes, or breaking everybody's builds, and it's also impossible to update some files while you have them open. However, at any time you can see the history of a file on the server and grab a revision, so that you don't have to wait for the next build to get the update that you need.
What is the coolest level you have ever designed, and how did you get inspired? Have you ever experienced a creative block?
Tough question; since most of my personal levels were different from one another (different games, different things I wanted to learn) it's hard to point out which one I consider the best. But let's just take one for the sake of answering your questions: The Call of The Fireflies, which is a short mod that I released about 2 years ago. For that one, inspiration came from a Chinese legend and some reference from China's mountains, as well as my memories of old-time adventure games like Myst or Riven, in which you had to figure out on your own how a machine worked before you could do anything with it. Obviously the theme evolved as I built the level and looked at reference, but that's where it started from.
I've never ran out of things I want to create, like a new project to start when I'm done with another, but of course I've experienced those times when the thing you're working on just doesn't seem to motivate you at all. When that happens, I usually side-track a bit, like work a bit less on my level and try to keep my brain busy with other things like reading, playing games, doing crossword puzzles, driving to some new place or just thinking things through without the level editor open. After a couple of days I’m usually be back on my feet, either with an idea of a change to make that would improve the level, or even just with a fresher view of the level as a whole. Sometimes you spend so much time working on a map that you start forgetting what's cool about it, so getting other people to play helps you realize it might not be that bad and also gives you pointers about where you could do better. Before you know it, you're improving the level again based on that feedback, and that's enough to get your motivation/inspiration rolling again.
Recently, I've found it very efficient to work closely with an environment artist because anytime I'm lacking inspiration I can run my ideas by him and his feedback/suggestions usually remove the creative block in a matter of minutes, compared to the days it could take when I was doing it on my own in my modding days.
Thanks for sending in your questions! Stay tuned for the next Inside Crytek article.