I'm approaching my final semester here and as always I'm attempting to be the best designer I can possibly be. I've actually gone through most of the design courses at this point, and I can program at least well enough to prototype. But I feel if there's any area I'm lacking in at the moment it's probably the Art department. I've taken some of the art classes here but I still feel like I could do more. So just as a matter of being well rounded, next semester I'll be taking Game Texturing and frankly I'm really excited about it. When you look at game textures outside of the game, or rather the model they're used on they can look a tad... bizarre.
As a quick aside, these games ARE NOT associated with UAT at all. I want to clear that up right away just to avoid any possible confusion. With that being said, this was a really cool project that I stumbled upon recently. It's called Final Fantasy VII Re-imagined. To me it's not only a cool concept but an amazing design exercise you could practice on your own. What if your favorite game was a different style of game entirely. We're not talking "Turn a FPS into a TPS", but instead an RPG into a beat-em-up like has been done with Final Fantasy VII. The game is just a demo but you can download it for free and give it a shot. It's really interesting to see how they translated everything over and kept the game as intuitive and smooth as they could. For instance, the materia system still exists and it's been incorporated into the combos as you make your way thorugh the game. There's something really satisfying about finishing a combo and having lightning smite your enemy on the final blow. You can download the demo here: Final Fantasy Re-Imagined
So here's a tip that frankly I'm not to fantastic at myself. Try and keep a small notebook with you no matter where you go. Something perhaps that can fit in a pocket and you can use to just quickly throw down an idea into. I have a couple notebooks that I use to do exactly that, though I'm not as diligent in actually carrying it as I should be. Inspiration is extremely fickle, in the very best of times. There will be days, weeks, or even months that ideas will just come to you without stop. On other occasions though, not so much. But you can't always just sit around waiting for inspiration to strike, and if you think an employer is going to just let you sit around waiting for it to strike you then you're out of your mind. A notebook though, should be able to at least catch those moments of inspiration the best you can. Maybe every idea won't be exactly what you need but they very well lead to an idea that you can use!
One of the artists in the development team I'm apart of, recently had a major issue. She had a portable hard drive that she kept everything on. Generally speaking this usually works very well, and lots of students here have a portable hard drive, USB or something that they carry with them. Otherwise things all go up to the cloud, and people pull things down as they need them. But here's the issue: What happens when those things don't work? You MUST have a back up plan.
Lets be blunt: if you are going to sit around and wait for greatness to find you then you are wasting time. I've met quite a few people who seem content to just wait for someone else to find them and recognize their "obvious greatness." It's as though you're sitting in the pitch black deep within a cave somewhere and just expecting someone to happen upon you. It's a ridiculous expectation, and one that will in all likelihood get you absolutely no where. Something that my teachers will admit to often is that you frankly learn about 10% of what you need to know actually in school. This isn't to discount what you learn in school, because frankly that 10% is important. School can't possibly teach you to handle every possible situation you will ever encounter, but giving you a torch to help illuminate the way in the first place is a huge help.
Most artists are taught very early on that if you want to create something and make it look convincing at all, then you need reference material. Doesn't matter if it's stylized, or in general isn't supposed to be photo-realistic you really should get some reference material. It is however, I feel it's something that doesn't get said to Designers often enough. Typically as a designer your job is to ensure that the gameplay always functions the way that we intend it. So when we whitebox a level we're building it specifically with the gameplay in mind. Every object you place in that scene should be structurally significant. For this, you can take some artistic liberties with the area you're creating but if want to create something you can truly call professional it should still be believable. Function trumps form but that doesn't mean that form isn't important. Assets should always be placed throughout a level thoughtfully and in a manner that doesn't make the player question why X-object is in Y-position or even why X-object is even there at all.
One element of some games that sometimes seems to be an afterthought, is the idea of visibility for the player. Primarily I'm talking about the visibility of the User Interface (UI) elements. Part of the reason for this perhaps, is that if the UI in a game is good enough you really don't have to think about it. The reason you don't have to think about the UI? Because it's easy to read, understand, and just continue playing the game. Deciphering what the UI is telling you should not be a chore. The difficulty of your game should never be artificially inflated because it's impossible to read information that you absolutely need to play the game.