The Level Designers – Part 4
Part 4 of our mass interview/feature with level designers has Jeremy Statz from Raven Software and Richard “Levelord” Gray from Ritual answering our questions.
What did you do for studies ?
Jeremy : After spending most of my high school time reading and working on my own projects, I went to college with the intent of majoring in computer science. After a semester it proved annoying, and I went on to a tech school, studying photography and commercial art. After a semester there I’d been offered a job at Raven, left, and haven’t regretted it
Richard : I went to the University of California, Los Angeles and got an engineering degree in computers
What brought you to the gaming industry ?
Jeremy : Shortly after graduating high school I had the opportunity to work on levels for the Malice commercial TC for Quake, jumped at it and before too long had something I could pick up and buy for my efforts. Around this same time I worked on the X-Men TC… and at some point had sent an e-mail to Raven responding to a question and inquiring about design positions. Out of the blue a few months later I got an e-mail saying they were hiring, and since I lived nearby went in for an interview. They liked my example maps and I was offered the job a couple days later.
Richard : DOOM! …and the editor DEU. What a magic time that was! I miss making levels at home under no pressure, …in my underwear
How did you start making levels ?
Jeremy : I’d been building levels, and doing some texture work and programming, for years in some way or another. Initially for things like Duke Nukem 2 and Wolf 3D, and then on to Doom, Heretic, Hexen, Quake, etc. I mostly built deathmatch levels, nearly my only single-player map being map19 of Memento Mori 2.
Richard : I couldn’t believe id actually allowed access to DOOM and that someone would make an editor in their freetime and release it for free. I still remember downloading DEU, loading in E1M1 and removing a wall. I couldn’t believe I could actually make my own versions of gaming hell.
Which program(s) do you use to make levels ?
Jeremy : Currently I use QERadiant for most of my design work, and Raven’s scripting utility BehavEd for scripting single-player levels. I also do a lot of shader work, and usually use Editpad and Paint Shop Pro 6 for that.
Richard : Mostly QERadiant
For which game did you like most to make levels ?
Jeremy : In a lot of ways Doom is still the most fun to make maps for. You don’t have to deal with a camera view or anything and can just concentrate on the layout, and deal with straight numbers. The enemies are stupid and it’s established that you can place them purely for the sake of being interesting rather than worrying about whether it makes sense for them to be there or not. =)
Richard : That’s a toss-up between DOOM, again because of the freeness of doing non-professional levels with no time constraints and such, and Duke Nukem.
Making Duke was a real strain sometimes, but it was indeed fun
Which levels for what games do you like so much that you regret you didn’t make them ?
Jeremy : ‘The O of Destruction’ from Doom 2. Cool level.
‘Peak Monastary’ from Unreal Tournament. A fantastic DM environment that I’m always terrified I’m going to fall off of. I love maps that let me fall to my death if I’m stupid. =)
That level with the Zero-G power core area from Strider.
The ‘Haides’ level from Thunder Force 3, with the walls and stuff that moved. That was panic-inducing the first few times I played it.
Richard : None 😉
Where do you get your inspiration for making levels ?
Jeremy : Various places. Usually they’ll start with a situation of concept that I really want to experience in a game, something memorable either for what it looked like, what it does when I get there, or what I’m doing at the time. Where that idea comes from can be anything really…
Richard : That semi-sleep state just before falling asleep and just after waking up.
I also like a sip or three of vodka now and then. I like to look through boks and watch movies, too
Where do you make the difference in making levels for single player or multiplayer ?
Jeremy : With single player levels, personally, I want the experience of playing through it. I want to play through a map, and when I get to the end say “That was cool” and then be interested in what’s coming up next. Linearity or lack of it, clever AI or no, that’s what I’m looking for. I try to build levels that do that, which leads to a lot of failed experiments along the way, but hopefully pays off in the end. =)
So, for single player I’m usually trying for a series of interesting situations that naturally lead the player along.
This carries over into multiplayer levels for me, which is why I mentioned ‘Peak Monastary’ up above. It’s a really cool, memorable environment that encourages interesting gunfights. When I jump off one of those narrow catwalks backwards, firing my weapon at somebody chasing me and just barely land on another catwalk ten feet below, I’m having a great time. I might fall to my death doing that, but hey, my bad choice to jump.
Which I guess means for multiplayer I want one interesting environment with a layout that lets fun gunfights happen.
Richard : I much prefer making multiplayer levels because the focus is on geometry and scripting. Making singleplayer levels, especially nowadays, is extremely complicated
Who do you find to be the best level creator and why ?
Jeremy : Haven’t a clue.
Richard : Most of the people I admire are the ones I have worked with
What is the most fun about your job ?
Jeremy : When everything’s done and I can finally see what people think, and get an understanding of what went right and wrong
Richard : Casting geometry and most of the first third of a level’s developement.
That is when I am concentrating on the original cool thought. The rest of the development cycle tends to be more fixing and coxing things into being