We’re back for another round of Inside Crytek: our very own interview series which features different members of the Crytek team. First you can get up close and personal with them, and afterwards you get to ask the questions!
To submit your own questions to today’s interviewee, simply post them under the link to the article on our Facebook page, GFACE, or MyCrysis. We will then forward the best and most original questions, and next week the answers will be posted online.
Part 3 features Clément Melendez. Clément is from France and has been at Crytek since January 2011. He has a lot of previous modding experience and currently works as a Junior Level Designer for Ryse.
1. Why did you want to work in the games industry and how did you get started?
I got Half-Life for my 13th birthday and noticed on the back of the box that it came with “a way to create your own worlds”. When I actually installed the game, I skipped playing it and started toying around with the level editor instead. I’ve been doing levels since then, first as a sort of fun hobby, becoming more professional about it over the years. It was hard to convince people (family, school counselors, unemployment advisors, etc.) that I’d manage to make a living out of it someday; it took about ten years but I eventually felt I had learned enough to look for a job.
2. Why Crytek?
Two main reasons: the fact that I had a few friends working there already, and the fact that I had been using the CryENGINE for over a year and enjoyed it a lot. When a friend told me they were hiring entry-position level designers, I figured: working with people I love, using tools I love? Of course!
3. What are the best and worst parts of your job?
The main thing that hit me by going from self-taught amateur to pro was how little of my time would be dedicated to actually building levels, compared to attending meetings, tracking progress, convincing others, adapting to changes in the vision of the game, taking care of the stability of your level when everybody affects it, etc.
You eventually find ways of organizing your days that will let you both achieve actual work and take care of those things though; it’s a learning process. I came to realize that a good professional level designer doesn’t only have to have a good sense of level design/layouts/pacing/etc. (all those things you can teach yourself by modding), but that a big part of it is how well you can work within a constantly evolving team environment. No matter how much I had read about level design, it still came as a shock, and I’m still adapting to that. Sometimes I enjoy the exhilarating feeling that comes with this kind of environment; sometimes it bothers me to not have as much time as I’d like to do my part of the work. So yeah, the worst part of my job would be that I never seem to have enough time to do what I want to do as well as I would like to.
There are too many great things about my work to list; it is my dream job after all. I love the excitement of the early days of a design when you do brainstorming with people from every department and start building the vision of the level. I love seeing features coming together in a level when all departments work together and in a matter of days it changes so much you can barely recognize it. I love finding clever ways of reusing resources available to try and turn them into fresh-looking things, or to prototype gameplay mechanics. I just love seeing the fruit of everyone’s efforts coming together day by day in front of my eyes.
4. What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on Ryse.
5. What music do you listen to at work?
It varies, but my favorites are Tom Waits, Fink, Beirut, Coco Robicheaux, old Blues records, a bit of Jazz, some rock/pop classics, and a bit of French music too.
6. What inspires you in your work or in life?
I’m always inspired by things that are done very well or that are very clever (in any medium), which is why I read a lot and keep trying out every indie game I can get my hands on, for instance. But obviously also by anything interesting I see in my day to day life or in travels. There are places, landscapes, architecture, people, pieces of art, that are just very inspiring, even more when your mind is trained to level design and you’re looking for that kind of stuff. It’d be hard to pinpoint anything in particular though; I just keep my eyes open for inspiration everywhere.
7. What types of games do you like, and what is your favorite game of all time?
I am pretty eclectic when it comes to games, so I’d rather list the categories of games I don’t usually play: sports games (not interested in sports except when I participate in them myself) and simulations (flight, racing, etc.) although I enjoy racing games that are user friendly and more about fun than driving perfectly. I guess the games I enjoy the most in general fall into the action/adventure genre.
The favorite game question is one people in this industry get a lot over the years, and that I have never really managed to answer. There are many games that I loved over the years but I can’t say one is my favorite because they get outdated and I wouldn’t enjoy them as much now. Still, just to mention some, the Max Payne series has meant a great deal to me since it was modding those two games that taught me the most about level design, and helped me meet the most inspiring people I know.
8. What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Reading both fiction and non-fiction, playing light board games (nothing too time consuming/geeky), playing video games obviously, cooking, watching documentaries, and spending some time with my wife and baby boy. I am also very attached to the ocean, so whenever I go back home I try to spend a good part of my time on the coast, chilling out.
9. Do you have any tips for people wanting to get started in the industry?
Go all the way: don’t abandon things half-way through, don’t release anything you’re not proud of at the time. Stick to it, give it enough time and effort, and you’ll be able to convince people, first your peers, then your employers, that you are the right person to do the job. It takes a bit of luck I believe, but for the main part it’s all about how much effort you put into it and how seriously you take it. Also be nice to people, this is the kind of industry where having friends will make getting in much easier, but the opposite can be true as well. Also, don’t spend all your time talking about what you’re going to do, just do and you can talk about it afterwards; don’t fall into the trap of wasting all your time hyping up your projects publicly instead of making them awesome.
Don’t forget to submit your fan questions to Clément!
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