Combat Systems Designer

  • Combat Systems Designer

Before the Spartan soldiers face the Covenant aliens in Halo: Reach, a combat systems designer creates weaponry, armor, mechanics, and other game elements that combine to create a truly exciting gameplay experience. Everything from the Spartans’ active camouflage to Kratos’ Nemesis Whip (God of War 3) is the handiwork of a combat design team.


The combat systems designer is part of the combat team, whose responsibilities include character development, combat mechanics, game balance, creature artificial intelligence, and PVP (player versus player) systems.  He or she works with artists and programmers to help bring the combat team’s vision to life, and is under the direction of the senior designer and creative director.

The birth of a new video game is a long process that takes years to culminate in a published product. In a step-by-step approach, the combat designer will create and execute combat design documentation, research and prototype gameplay scenarios, place tangible objects within the virtual world, and balance gameplay. From the time the hero enters battle, the weapons and fight tactics he or she uses, the techniques of the boss, and the adjustment of difficulty to the skill of the player are the creation of the combat systems design team.

Skills & Education

A four-year degree is typically a requirement for game design and related programming careers. Specialized education in video game design or development is helpful, but some game development companies also consider candidates with degrees in engineering, computer science, or another technical field. Familiarity with scripting language like Java and C++ expected, as is knowledge of software like @Risk or MathCAD. Additional understanding of databases and SQL are often a necessity.

A diverse liberal arts education can also be helpful to the aspiring combat systems designer. Courses in ancient history, mythology, military history, and world cultures are an invaluable asset. Above all, you are expected to be passionate about video games and have an in-depth knowledge of the current titles, trends, and recent advancements in technology. If you recognize terms like MMO, NPC, and CRPG, then you are off to a good start.

What to Expect

Do not expect to be a major decision-maker in this position. As a combat systems designer, you will not get to pitch that game you’ve had in your back pocket. Those decisions are made long before your team is brought on board. Build your portfolio with a strong résumé of successful games, and then when you rise up the ranks to creative director, you will get your shot.

As with all professional environments, good communication is vital. It doesn’t matter that you are a brilliant designer if you cannot effectively communicate your ideas to the programmer. Understanding the importance of developing strong working relationships will take you far in your career. You will be collaborating with multiple individuals on numerous teams; a little respect and professionalism will go a long way. As in much of the entertainment media industry, most game designers get their next gig by making a good impression on the right people.


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