The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Level Designer, p2

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Part 2 of 2, by Cori Nicole May

I’ve made cutscenes, too. I discovered, in so doing, that I also have a terrible cinematic eye, and dramatic effect is not my forte. Fortunately, by some grace, in the meantime an entire department of cinematic designers has been created, and no one will ever be forced to watch my amateurish efforts again. I marvel at those who can do it, though; I love playing through the game and seeing the new cutscenes and staging that have been put in, the close-ups and pull-backs for special effects. I try to remember to tell the cinematics people how wonderful their work is, because I know how mediocre my previous attempts had been, in comparison. And the level artist and character artists too, for that matter. I just hope that makes up for the many times I have to go and whine about bugs and different interpretations of how something should look.

I occasionally get to have some input into voice acting as well, even if my pleas to have Russell Wong in the game fell on deaf ears. Well, ears who couldn’t afford Russell Wong, at any rate. And some times I pay for that. It took me a few weeks, but I eventually began to realize that my officemate was actually turning up the volume on his computer whenever Nathan Fillion was speaking, just to watch me swoon all over again. (Yes, I was the only female technical designer for a very long time. Yes, this did occasionally result in hijinx of this sort. But it also meant I got to read the Dragon Age novel before almost anyone else, as Mr. Gaider wanted to know if it was swoon-worthy.)

Swooning is my forte, actually. We have a particular voice actor on Dragon Age, whom I suppose must go unnamed, who makes me melt every time. Even though the character is a crazy psychopath who kidnaps you and all your friends in an attempt to… well, I won’t go on. This is a PG blog, after all, and Dragon Age is a mature game.

“Oh V******, take me, don’t take the others,” I’ll plead with the computer, “let it be just you and me.”

And he never does. This is my tragedy. I do, however, save his life at the end, just in hopes that some day we can live together forever and ever. Somehow this never happens, either. But in my version of the game, it does.

I script a lot of followers, too; romance followers are the best. Because then you get to scream at the computer, “Why won’t you have sex with me!” when a particular line refuses to show up in game. (One can get a little wiggy during the late-night hours.) And then everyone stares. I once found a bug in follower code, only through my determination to watch the sex scenes one night. Another evening, I found a similar bug, just because I wanted to make a … Um, maybe I shouldn’t talk about that? This is a PG blog, after all. I certainly shouldn’t talk about the … Nope, not going to talk about it. Have I mentioned that Dragon Age is the best game ever?

But the best part of being a technical designer is getting to watch all the pieces come together, into the amazing, beautiful final creature it comes to be. From blank walls and T-poses, you get gorgeous, soaring worlds and creatures both lovely and grotesque (just wait ‘til you get slimed by the B*********, blech), and a story that will make you weep and laugh, and weep until you laugh. I wouldn’t trade my job for anyone’s in the world.

Except occasionally a florist, on those days when the tools won’t run, or the build is broken, or you’re on your 80th hour of work that week and it’s 1 am on a Friday night, and you have no clean clothes, a filthy house and an empty fridge. But mostly, it’s the best job anyone could ever have.

Try it some day. You’ll like it.

Cori Nicole May sometimes feels barely qualified for the work she loves to do, but they keep letting her do it anyways. Perhaps because she goes ‘squee’ a lot, and the only videogames she likes to play anymore are Bioware’s. Also, they had to make a special cheat code on KOTOR, just for her, so she could get through the space fighting part, and she had to get a friend to come over to kill thresher maws in Mass Effect. In what remains of her spare time, she plays Dragon Age, just because she can.

Author: BioWare Community Team

BioWare Community