Inside the Vault presents one of our level designers, Daryl Brigner.
What’s your job at Bethesda?
I’m a Level Designer. I design the layout for specific areas/dungeons. This usually consists of where enemies are, where and what the loot is, and what the basic flow of the dungeon is.
What other games have you worked on?
My first game was Call of Duty 2: Big Red One on the PS2, and Xbox. I joined halfway through the project, when they were just starting the multiplayer, so I designed three of the multiplayer maps. It was a lot of fun, and some really long hours.
My second game was Call of Duty 3. I was in charge of doing most of the design, and building, of one of the single-player levels — the one called “The Corridor of Death.” If the level was too hard for you, blame my scripter, not me 🙂 But, if you thought it was ugly… yeah, that was my fault.
What is the best part about working as a level designer? The worst part?
Well, I never get tired of creating worlds for people to explore. So, I’d have to say the best part is the freedom to do what I want. When you’re designing your own world/dungeon, the only limitation is your imagination. And, that brings me to the worst part.
Not having any idea what you are going to do with a certain dungeon/space, but still having to get it done. This can be very stressful. When I’m faced with this dilemma like this I go to my fellow Level Designers for ideas. We always come up with something, but it’s still aggravating to have your mind go blank when you are searching for ideas.
How did you get into the industry? Do you have any tips for breaking in?
Well, I went Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, Michigan for a degree in Computer Science. I knew I wanted to do something in games, and I also knew I wasn’t good at art. I decided the only option was programming. Well, a year or so there and I realized that programming, real programming, required you to know, and love Math. I think you see where I’m going with this…
The moment I finally realized that I wanted to be a level designer was when I was sitting in my dorm room, on my computer, making an in-game version of our dorm building for my friends and I to play in Soldier of Fortune 2 (this was before you could get arrested for this kind of thing). This girl walks in, started watching and said, “Wow, you’re pretty good at that; you should do that for a living.” That’s when it clicked. I had been designing maps for games as a hobby since I was 13, and had never once thought of it as something I could do for a living.
So, that’s when I decided the best place for me to go was The Guildhall at SMU in Plano, TX. I had looked a several schools, but The Guildhall’s curriculum seemed to be the best choice for level design.
After attending The Guildhall for a year and a half, I got hired at Treyarch. That’s when I realized that one of your biggest assets in getting a job in this industry is your contacts. A couple of my classmates had been hired by Treyarch after only a year of being at The Guildhall. After they were there for a few months they realized Treyarch was looking for more level designers. Since they had worked with me previously at The Guildhall, they recommended me, and I flew out there for an interview, and was hired soon after.
What would you say is your personal favorite game of all time?
My personal favorite is probably the original Quake. It’s the one that got me into level design. I was introduced to it by one of my parent’s friends. My parents probably didn’t really appreciate that I was playing this violent game, but since it was one of their friends that showed it to me, it was ok just this once :).
Later, I was at Walmart with my mom not long after that and I found a level editor for Quake called QED. This introduced me to the world of modding. I begged my mom for the 20 bucks to get it, not realizing that there are a TON of better editors, for free, on the internet already. Never again have I seen a level editor for sale at a store like that.
What games are you looking forward to?
Right now I’m looking forward to STALKER: Clear Sky, LittleBigPlanet, and Borderlands.
What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
Just knowing that I get to come into work and do one of my favorite things in the world.
Worst job you’ve ever had?
I’ve actually never really had a bad job. I guess I’m lucky that way. The toughest job I’ve had though was working for my dad setting modular homes with a 100-ton crane. I didn’t actually get to control the crane (unfortunately). My job consisted of rigging the crane up, and down, and helping everyone whenever they needed it. It never got old watching this gigantic crane pick up this huge half of a house and slowly set it onto the foundation. I cringed every time a worker would walk under that thing — still scary thinking about it.
Any other hobbies and interests? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Playing games, watching movies, and, believe it or not, making levels for other games. I’ve recently made a small map pack for Portal called Ren_Test3 It’s been featured on our site here along with my previous map. I have a lot of fun making those Portal maps because it’s less about the aesthetics and more about the puzzle design.
I’ve also done a few mapping tutorials for Half-Life 2, and will probably do some more of them in the future. They are four beginner tutorials and can be found if you just Google “Renstrike Mapping Tutorial”.