MEET THE DEV – JULLIAN HYATT

What is your role at IllFonic?

I am a Level Designer.

What does a Level Designer do?

A level designer works with all other disciplines to make compelling and engaging play spaces that will make our gameplay shine and feel memorable! For example, a level designer collaborates with artists to make interesting environments that are fun to experience visually and during play, while with engineers, they’ll work together to make sure the gameplay mechanics feel good in every interaction and physical situation we create.

No, you can't fly this plane

What is your history with this role? Is it something you always wanted to do?

My first experience with level design started with the Left 4 Dead custom map tools in high school. I loved playing around, trying to make survival maps and campaigns (I never finished any of them) and that stuck with me up until now. In college, I was gonna specialize in systems design, but I realized there weren’t any entry-level design positions for that kind of thing, at least at the time.

However, systems design pairs very closely to level design, which I also loved. Thus, I specialized in both! It was tough, but luckily, I was able to impress IllFonic with my skills and landed the Level Designer position I have today. I even get to do some systems design stuff, so it all worked out!

What did you do before you became a level designer? How did you get into it?

Before being a level designer, I was pursuing a degree in computer science and game design. I knew since high school I wanted to make games because every time I thought about what I wanted my future career to be, it always came back to making games. I even did a capstone project on building a small text-based RPG and played around making some Left 4 Dead custom maps on the side which helped me get accepted into the one college I applied for. Luckily it worked out. I went right to college after graduating high school and throughout those years I worked a couple of small jobs, some on and some off campus, to sustain me until I could build my design skills and graduate.

What are some of the daily things that someone working on level design has to do?

Typically you have short meetings almost every morning where the level designers, artists, and occasionally other disciplines update each other on what’s currently being worked on, share any big decisions or changes that everyone should be aware of, showcase works-in-progress, and do what we can to stay informed and unblocked. A lot of people are working on the same level at the same time while gameplay and mechanics are still being created, tweaked, and finalized, so it’s super important that everyone stays on the same page to avoid wasting time and work. After that, you’d sync up and get the most recent version of the project and boot up whatever level you’re working on. Depending on what stage of development your levels are in, you can be doing anything from gathering reference and blocking out the major chunks of a level to adding details and gameplay objects in more developed levels. We also playtest a few times a week so we can evaluate if what we’re doing is working towards what we want or not.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I get inspiration from almost anything, really. Movies, cities, video games, dreams, books, Reddit, you name it. Frankly, anything that catches my eye or is memorable to me is something that can inspire and inform what I want to make. I’ll be like, “Whoa! There’s a cemetery that has a skybridge above it for some reason!” and I’ll tuck that experience away in case it’s useful in the future. Overall, I draw a lot of inspiration from video games, cool-looking buildings, weird architecture, and whatever relevant things I can find on google.

What are some challenges of working in video games and do you have any advice for people who are also facing these challenges?

I definitely think being able to collaborate, communicate, and take restrictions seriously can be a challenge. The way I like to design and build things doesn’t always mesh with the expectations of my work (mainly because I sometimes get carried away making weird, gamey, and experiential stuff). Try to be as open-minded as you can with your work, coworkers, and the ever-changing ecosystems of game development. That way you can grow, adapt, and learn to make the best, most professional content you can. It may be frustrating now but it’ll grow your wealth of experiences so you can make bigger and cooler things much faster!

Spin the bottle

As someone who is working on Predator: Hunting Grounds, is there anything you have worked on that you would like to share?

I’ve worked on a lot of things in Hunting Grounds but one thing that I wonder is how many players have found the little “Spin the Bottle” setup in Backwater and now Airstrip? I put it in BW since launch but I haven’t seen anything on anyone finding it.

We just came out with Airstrip, the latest new map in Predator: Hunting Grounds. What was your favorite part about working on this map?

I think I really enjoyed building the camps and outposts, especially set dressing them. I think I managed to squeeze in some cool locations and spaces that hopefully have some personality and flavor setting them apart from previous camps. If not, I’ll take the L and do better next time! Oh, also the white barrels! I think they’re pretty neat.

Do you play video games in your spare time, if so what are some of your favorite games?

Oh, for sure! I love my free time and my video games. I absolutely love playing anything Resident Evil and any kind of action-horror game for that matter. I also play a lot of Overwatch with the homies.

Is this a camp or an outpost?