CV

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Personal Information

Email: jacob.w.mills@gmail.com

Personal Statement

I am a dedicated level designer with experience on a diverse range of titles. I am currently working as a level designer at Ubisoft Leamington, on the open world in Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. I previously worked at Tt Games as a hub designer on the LEGO games franchise, after graduating from Queen’s University Belfast with a first-class Master’s in Computer Games Design and Development. I am looking for an opportunity to further expand my skillset by working on titles that prioritise gameplay and player experience, without compromising on narrative or artistic vision.

Games Industry Experience

September 2017 – Present: Level Designer at Ubisoft Leamington, Leamington Spa

As a level designer at Ubisoft I am the caretaker and knowledge holder for my levels, taking them from the conception phase all the way through to implementation and polish. On the TCTD2 base game, I worked on the open world, my role consisting of:

  • Researching my district to find suitable locations for activities and collectibles
  • Choosing locations for activities based on the unique appeal of the locale itself, potential for gameplay and surrounding technical constraints
  • Collating and presenting design documentation to leads and directors for approval
  • Whiteboxing the layouts for these areas, adhering to design guidelines and working with environment artists to ensure the design is feasible for art direction and world logic
  • Setting up the logic of activities, including scripting side missions (spawning enemies, updating objectives and checkpoints, triggering VO and other sequences, etc)
  • Iterating on all content to adapt to director feedback and updated requirements
  • Working with environment artists, technical artists, technical level designers and narrative designers (often situated in other studios worldwide) to ensure all content runs smoothly, adheres to art direction, and makes sense in terms of narrative and world logic
  • Maintaining the health of my content, including bugfixing and polish

March 2016 – August 2017:           Game Designer at Tt Games, Knutsford
February 2015 – March 2016:          Junior Game Designer at Tt Games, Knutsford
November 2014 – February 2015:   Junior Game Mechanics Programmer at Tt Games, Knutsford

Working in the hub design team, I often take ownership of an entire hub through the course of its development. I work with members of various other disciplines to ensure the hub is delivered on time and to a high standard. Specifically, my role consists of:

  • Researching the licence on which the world will be based.
  • Creating a blockout design of the entire hub in SketchUp, designing each event (puzzles, quests, races and other unique features) and condensing this into a design document for use as reference by every department involved. License holders approve these documents, so clarity and quality are essential to ensure that both their brand and Tt’s commitment are well represented.
  • Working with the environment art team to ensure the world is functional for gameplay.
  • Working with the tech art, character, animation, code and audio teams to ensure each event is realistically achievable to a high standard within the deadline.
  • Collaborating with other members of the hub design team to overcome design problems and brainstorm new features, or improvements to current features.
  • Working with animators and mechanics programmers to design and polish character mechanics for hubs. For example, in LEGO Dimensions, Sonic runs faster and sticks to walls in hubs, allowing him to run through loops; this required a constant collaboration between all departments involved.
  • Writing dialogue, primarily the first drafts to highlight what is required by the design, but sometimes polishing this to a release-ready standard (as is the case for the quest dialogue in Sonic’s adventure world in LEGO Dimensions).
  • Sitting in on voice recording sessions to provide context for the voice actors when necessary.
  • Implementing events using:
    • Tt’s level editor, LED, to place coins, props, characters and other features.
    • Flow, Tt’s visual scripting solution, to tie these interactions together and create puzzle logic.
    • Tt’s scripting language to control the behaviour of characters and other level elements.
  • Iterating on implemented features by addressing feedback from the team lead and game directors.
  • Fixing bugs flagged by QA and helping other members of the hub team troubleshoot their issues.
  • Optimising hubs to fit into memory on last generation platforms by monitoring events’ memory usage and reducing the footprint of other more general features (for example, reducing the density of pedestrian NPCs that appear), while minimising the effect these changes have on gameplay.
  • Training new team members on the use of the tools and our design practices.
  • Creating and maintaining documentation as new features are added to the game and engine.

Working on LEGO Dimensions since joining the team I have worked on the adventure worlds for Scooby-Doo, The Simpsons, The Wizard of Oz, Midway Arcade, Mission: Impossible, Sonic the Hedgehog, LEGO City Undercover, Teen Titans GO! and Beetlejuice. Dimensions won the Game category at the Children’s BAFTAs in 2016.

During a quiet period as Dimensions transitioned to its second year I worked on LEGO Marvel’s Avengers from July 2015 to January 2016. I was responsible for the Manhattan hub, designing and implementing most of the events myself while training new team members who worked on the remaining districts.

June 2012 – July 2013: Software Engineer in Test at Sony Computer Entertainment, London

I had the good fortune to join SCEE in the run up to the PS4 release. During my time here, I:

  • Taught myself the PS Vita SDK and wrote a one-player touch-controlled Pong variant.
  • Worked with developers and testers to ensure stable releases of the SN Tools to licensees.
  • Tested new PhyreEngine updates, maintaining the test plan and writing a suite of Python scripts to automate the installation of various permutations of the engine for testing.

October 2008 – December 2008: QA Technician at Free Radical Design, Nottingham

I was responsible for testing an unreleased blockbuster game title for the PS3 and Xbox 360, finding and logging bugs, glitches and gameplay quirks across the entire game.

Other Work Experience

September 2013 – May 2014: Demonstrator at Queen’s University Belfast

During my final year of university, I supervised practical sessions for second year students, assisting them with each week’s tutorials, answering their questions and explaining any concepts they were unclear on.

July 2011 – September 2011: InStep Intern at Infosys, Pune, India

Working in the R&D department, I was tasked with researching and implementing a suitable user interface for a semantic search engine. I presented my findings and work to project leads at the end of the internship, having made the most of this incredible opportunity soaking in an all-new culture.

Education

2009 – 14: MEng Computer Games Development – Queen’s University Belfast, 1st Class Honours

Module MarkModuleMark
Level 4: Algorithms: Analysis and Application81High Performance Computing83
Individual Research Project74Advanced Software Engineering66
Innovation and Entrepreneurship62
Level 3:Game Design II80Real-time Visualisation80
Aspects of Game Engine Development73Artificial Intelligence79
Concurrent Programming78Agile Development75
Level 2:Games Programming89Programming in C and C++85
Software Engineering86Networks and Communications80
Data Structures and Algorithms79Multimedia Systems86
Professional Practice70
Level 1:Computer Architecture95Fundamentals of Programming89
Introduction to Multimedia77Programming Challenges94
Introduction to Multimedia II90Game Design70
2008: A Levels – Maths, General Studies – A; Computing, Physics – B; Further Maths (AS Level) – A
2006: GCSEs – Maths, English Literature, English Language, Science (Double) – A*; 3 As and 3 Bs

Projects

Game a Week 10 – Go Right

This game is a 2D platformer with a twist; at the press of a button, the camera flips around and views the world from the opposite side. I used this to introduce a dual-world mechanic, where things are presented and behave differently between worlds:

  • Moving platforms travel in the opposite direction and some platforms only exist in one world.
  • The default world is snow-themed, the other world has a more electronic, techno feel.
  • The music in each world reflects the visual style, but the tracks meld seamlessly at any point.

I used the duality theme throughout the game to create some light puzzle gameplay. I collaborated on this one with a few friends who made the sprite art and music, introducing the additional challenge of efficiently coordinating with them as well as conceiving, designing and implementing the game within the one-week deadline. Despite these challenges, I’m very proud of the result I achieved in just a week.

Game a Week 3 – Blink

The concept for this game came from thinking about how restricted fields of view are rarely used in 2D games but are an implicit requirement in almost all 3D games; I wanted to make a 2D game that relied on the player’s inability to see everything at once. This game has a top-down viewpoint, the player controlling the avatar with the keyboard, directing their field of view with the mouse. The level is populated by enemies who are only visible when within the player’s sight-cone, but only move when they are outside of it. To inform the player of unseen imminent danger, the enemies emit white-noise when nearby, getting louder as they creep closer. This results in a unique lo-fi horror experience, an excellent proof of concept the potential of which I’m excited about exploring at some point in the future.

Game Development Skills

Design SkillsWorld design, puzzle design, character mechanics, design documents
Game Engines Tt Engine, Unity, PhyreEngine
LanguagesC++, C#, C, Java, Python, JavaScript, ActionScript, Lua, Lingo, Prolog
Source ControlTortoise SVN, Perforce, Git

Interests

I have been a keen video gamer since my parents won a Mega Drive when I was 2 years old. At university I developed an eager interest in all aspects of game and level design, which I’m still yet to get over. As a pretty typical nerd I enjoy reading books and watching films, particularly sci-fi and fantasy. I listen to a weird variety of music and try to maintain a modicum of fitness by running.