Interview Level Designer - Laure Gilli

Would you like to know more about the profession of Level Designer at Kylotonn? Laure Gilli tells you more. 

How would you define the job of Level Designer at KT? Can you tell us more about your role at Kylotonn? 


As a level designer on racing, and more precisely at Kylotonn, my role is to design the areas where the player will be driving, moving around, etc. So we design the circuit, the road or the area... and everything that will have an impact on the gameplay. For example, we have a determining influence on everything around the roads: rocks, vegetation, or whatever. We set up the road, and then the graphic designers come and dress it up. We are constantly going back and forth with the designers.
As Associate Lead, I also spend a lot of time helping my team, providing support, reviewing  (edn: examine the work for quality and give advice) their work, etc.

The main objective of an LD is to bring the player in a state of "flow" (you know, it's this state where you launch a game, you start at a certain time, you look at your watch thinking "it's ok, I only played 20 minutes! "and in fact you've played for 3 hours straight without realising it): this means that the level must be neither too easy because otherwise you'll get bored, nor too difficult to avoid creating frustration, which is the worst feeling a player can have for us.

Can you tell us about your background?


Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be! But I am bad at maths. Since high school, I’ve been modding on Counter Strike, I created maps. And when I discovered that it was a profession, I thought to myself "since I can't do my first passion, I'll do my second"!
At first, my parents didn't quite agree, they didn't think it was a "real job". So we made an agreement, I had to do a BTS in computer science first to get a "real diploma" and reassure them. After that, I was accepted at the IIM in La Défense (near Paris), where I specialised in game design. In the fourth year, I went to Dublin to develop my skills in Narrative and object-oriented programming, because it's very important for a designer to understand what devs do. And finally, I did my final internship, where I went from level designer intern to Associate Lead in 2 years! 


Can you explain how the levels are created? Or in your case, how a piece of map is created?


We always start by taking a huge amount of references, until we know the place perfectly. Then we take the satellite data of the place, we trace the roads, and depending on what we want to do, we will either modify, add or delete some of them. And then we draw the roads, and we dress them up with the graphic designers. We work by production region, and a LD will be in charge of a region.

I can take a concrete example, with the road network of Hong Kong Island: in real life, Hong Kong Island is an ultra dense city in terms of road network. It wouldn't make much sense to take it as it is. So our main role as LD is to rework the road network, so that it's fun and interesting, but so that the player, when he drives over it, thinks "oh yeah, I'm in Hong Kong!” We're not trying to copy and paste Hong Kong Island, but we don't want to distort the island either. We spent, and still spend a lot of time on Google Map. There are areas of Hong Kong Island that I know by heart, if one day I go there I'll know how to find my way around without maps and without a phone (laughs)! !


We also do the interiors of buildings.We call it "blocking" or "blockout". We represent an interior with what we call "primitives", but basically they are cubes. In short, we make the architecture of the room with big grey cubes of the right proportions. For example, we'll put cubes to signify a piece of furniture (to block the player's path for example). Then, we send it to the graphic designers who take care of making it look nice. It doesn't matter if the designers replace our cube with a desk or a planter, as long as the object is equal to the proposals we made.

In short, what we can say is that everything we do is ugly, but it's functional (laughs), and it's up to the designers to make it pretty, we work in constant collaboration with them. (laughs)Et c’est aux graphistes de rendre ça joli, on travaille en collaboration constante avec eux.


What do you like the most about your job?


Well...My team! The LD and TDU team is just amazing. Every morning when I know I'm going to see my colleagues I'm so happy to spend the day with them and it's so good, we're so close.
In terms of LD, it's really the "fingers in every pie" aspect because we have an impact on a lot of points of the production. I've talked about roads and blocking, but I've also done AI, racetracks, etc... And that's what I love, this balance between tech and art. I love getting my hands dirty and I hate documentation, so it's a great balance.

Tell us about your typical day? 


The day always starts with a first daily (ndlr: courte réunion ayant lieu tous les matins) between the LD and the graphic designer, where we talk about what we did the day before and what we're going to do today, and we describe the problems if there are any. Then I have a second daily meeting with the AI developers, this time, for the same reason. And then... I start working! So I work on my current task, and since I've become Associate Lead, I spend a lot of time reviewing the work of my team and helping them with any problems they may have. I also have a lot of meetings, and I get on with my tasks when I have gaps in my schedule. 

What qualities do you consider essential for your job? 


First of all, being very, very pragmatic. You have to be critical of your work and that of others, and not take criticism badly by knowing how to question yourself. You also need to be curious, to know how to take an interest in what is happening with others. There is always a game that will revolutionise on a small or large scale, you must always look everywhere.
Not resting on your laurels and knowing how to work in a team is also important. You have to know how to communicate with others, and not be afraid to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, it's normal and you shouldn't be afraid to ask for help around you. 

What was your favorite project to work on?


TDU is still a very interesting project, it's a huge open world and it's great to shape a world from scratch. It's kind of the baby of the whole team and it's a very important game for me.
Otherwise, my student project, which is called Elypse. It's a pretty difficult metroidvania platformer. The team was really great, and they kept the project going! By the way, the game is coming out this year, so my first two games are coming out this year and I'm really proud to see what the game has become and the work that has been done. (ed. note: you can watch the trailer here!) !)

The last word ?

We need more women in our jobs. I think there is a real problem in the video game industry. Yes, things are evolving, but it’s not over yet. We still have issues in universities as well, and it’s important to be able to question ourselves. It's 2023, life is changing, you have to know how to adapt. Women are not there because there is a real underlying problem, not because of a lack of will. The only way to improve this is through education and by having more women in the industry, as well as talking about it. It’s important.
In a nutshell, come join us girls!


And now the real final word: goat(my team will understand)

WRC is available from November 3 on PlayStation®4, PlayStation®5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Steam PC and on Nintendo Switch™.

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