Meet the Trendy Team: Ben Burkart

In this week’s Meet the Trendy Team, we spoke with Lead Level Designer Ben Burkart about what he does at Trendy, his advice on getting into the industry, and Trendy’s lack of a certain delicious treat. He might even tell you, in his own words, what he’s currently working on.

Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. First of all, who are you, and what do you do at Trendy?

I’m the Lead Level Designer at Trendy. I started working at Trendy back in February 2010 in the very early stages of Dungeon Defenders. As the Lead Level Designer it’s my job to ensure that all of the levels going into our games follow a specific set of rules/quality, both visually and gameplay wise. Working with such an awesome team of level designers and artists makes that a lot easier ;)

Is this your first job in the gaming industry?

Trendy is actually my 3rd job in the gaming industry. I worked on Brothers in Arms Hell’s Highway at Gearbox Software, and Damnation at Blue Omega Entertainment.

What drew you to Trendy?

I was on the lookout for new job opportunities back in 2009 and most required moving across the united states, or even across the world! Jeremy originally contacted me through the epic games forums with the possibility of offsite paid work and the original dungeon defense prototype looked interesting so I jumped on board! After working off-site for about 2 years I moved to Gainesville FL to work onsite.

What’s your daily routine?

About 20% of my day involves going over other peoples levels, 10% of it goes to talking with the artists and going over what’s needed in the current, and sometimes future levels. The other 80% goes to eating cake obviously. Currently I spend most days working on ****** :O

What do you love the most about your job?

My job is all about creating worlds that other people can find both beautiful and fun to be in. While most people dream of these locations, its my job to create them!

What do you wish you could change about your job?

As much as I enjoy working, 10 hour days all year long can be pretty extreme. There’s also an overall lack of cupcakes at Trendy, you can never have too many cupcakes!

What are your top five favorite games?

- Unreal Tournament 2004
- Unreal Tournament 1
- Command and Conquer series (except for C&C 4)
- Dungeon Siege 1&2
- Guild Wars 2

Do you have any hobbies that you enjoy while you’re not working?

I’m a pretty boring individual while I’m not at work. I usually spend my free time with my wife (Which isn’t boring!!!) playing video games, and working on making custom levels for various games.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to enter the industry?

You can’t be afraid to work hard. The most important thing for people looking to get into the gaming industry is to focus on one specific discipline. Companies don’t care if you can program, and make fancy art if you’re applying for a level design position and they also don’t want somebody who is only decent at all of the above. The only way you’re going to get hired is if you can prove that you are the absolute best at a single job in the gaming industry. If you’re interested in programming go entirely into programming, if level design go entirely into that. Be prepared to work the long hours it takes to get good at what you enjoy because at the end of the day the only way you’re going to get hired is if you’re better than the other 500 people applying to a company (Which usually means competing with other professionals for the same job). Don’t be afraid to start out at a smaller studio and move your way up as well, very popular companies are far more competitive and will often times put a lot higher requirements on the quality of your work. If you want to be noticed you need to put a portfolio together with only your best work on it, a few awesome pieces will look a lot better than a few awesome pieces mixed with some poor pieces, quality over quantity 100%. Also don’t be afraid to reach out and communicate with developers from companies, some might ignore you but overall most are very friendly people who will be more than willing to give feedback and to help out! Don’t try and get a job as a game designer or a lead game designer, this is the number one position I’m asked about. Game Designers and Lead game Design job positions are not entry level spots, they are usually senior positions that people have worked up to over many years from another position.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

If anyone has any questions about anything level design related or just wanting feedback on any of your work feel free to contact me, I don’t bite!

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